Student Cole Hodge argues his case in the 2019 Advocate's Prize competition while opposing counsel Joshua Anderson and Kaleb Byars look on.

Anderson, Byars take away top honors in Advocate’s Prize competition

A team of two second-year College of Law students won the final round of the 2019 Advocate’s Prize Moot Court Competition Tuesday in what judges referred to as a “very close competition.”

Joshua Anderson and Kaleb Byars argued their winning case on behalf of the petitioner in United States of America v. Daren Russell, while second-year student Cole Hodge argued on behalf of the respondent.

This year’s case centered upon whether the 15th Circuit Court erred in upholding a search of the defendant’s apartment and upholding that evidence that a prior criminal conviction could be admitted.

U.S. Court of Appeals judges John Rogers, of the 6th Circuit; Robin Rosenbaum, of the 11th Circuit; and Ralph Erickson, of the 8th Circuit traveled to Knoxville to judge the final round. At the conclusion of the arguments, Rogers, who served as the presiding judge, told the three students that presentations from both sides of the case were very strong.

“You’ve made it very difficult for us to make this decision,” he said.

The annual Advocate’s Prize competition enables students to prepare for courtroom experience through their presentation of an oral argument in front of a panel of professional judges.

Judges prepare for the competition by reviewing a student-written bench brief so that they are familiar with the facts and the case law and can ask questions pertaining to the issues raised.

Students are then judged on a variety of factors, including content and persuasiveness of argument, knowledge and use of legal authority and poise and effectiveness in responding to questions from the bench.

A total of 11 teams entered the competition working to advance through two preliminary rounds that began last week. The teams’ appellate briefs were graded by three judges, and their oral arguments were scored by 10 judges. 

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s proceedings, Hodge was awarded best brief, Anderson and Byars were awarded second best brief, and Byars was named best oralist of the competition.

Law students Allen Aguirre-Rivera, Bailey Barnes, Jamarcus Bradford, David Cantrell, Lydia Dowdy, Paul Estep, Mitchell Frye, Matt Holman, Richard Mayberry, Nicholas Millington, Morgan Murphy, Philip Reed, Tomi Robb, Katie Sanders and Mason Shelton faced off in preliminary competitions throughout the week leading to the final event Thursday.

The College of Law’s Moot Court Board, including students Erika Ivey, Virginia Whitener, Elizabeth Peterson, Elana Samuels, Sean Roberts and Sean Bright, coordinated and hosted the competition.