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With These UT Students, the Argument Is Moot

Published: November 11, 2009
With some trepidation and even more excitement, the students in UT professor Alisa Smith’s Appellate Advocacy/Moot Court Competition class are preparing behind a podium. Come Friday, they’ll be among the more than 50 students coming to UT for the Southeastern Regional Moot Court Tournament.

“It’s really a great experience,” said Steve Cohen ’10, a UT criminology major and law and justice minor who participated in the competition last year in Savannah, GA. “Last year I was brand new. Having that experience makes me more confident this year and gets me excited for law school.”

For the third year UT is participating in the tournament which includes a mock Supreme Court argument involving the Fourth and Eighth Amendments.

“It’s not an argument to a jury, and it’s not a trial,” said Smith, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice. “It’s a very intellectual, formal discussion about a topic in the law.”

The students have to become familiar with court cases, which average about 700 pages in length, knowing them backward and forward in order to argue for or against the court’s previous decisions. Stetson Law School students help judge and mentor the UT students during the semester, giving them pointers and instilling confidence.

“It’s like no other class I teach,” Smith said, commenting on how the students take the meaning of team work to the extreme, hosting mock practices at their homes, meeting early before classes or late after the day is over. “It’s like a family.”

For Ashley Ettaro ’11, public speaking isn’t one of her strong suits.

“It makes me a wreck,” Ettaro said. “But I’m a criminology major and eventually I want to be a lawyer, so this is helping me develop my oral arguments and be a better public speaker.”

Smith said students finish her class, and the competition, with a level of confidence that will be invaluable whatever profession they choose.

“From the beginning to the end, the metamorphosis is like from caterpillar to butterfly,” Smith said.

This is the first time UT has hosted the regional tournament. The preliminary, quarter-, and semi-final rounds of the tournament will be held in Plant Hall on Nov. 13 and Nov. 14. The final round will be held in the afternoon on Nov. 14 at the Second District Court of Appeal courtroom at the Stetson University College of Law in Tampa. The winners of the tournament will proceed to the national tournament, hosted by Florida International University College of Law, in January 2010.

“In order for it to work well you need a huge legal community,” who do the judging, Smith said. “It a wonderful opportunity for UT to host the tournament and for the legal community to come to the University and see what UT is about.”

For more information about the southeastern regional tournament, contact Smith at (813) 258-7283, or visit .

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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