OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi law students and members of the public had a rare opportunity to observe real cases being heard before a panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently at the university’s Robert C. Khayat Law Center.
The court sat at Ole Miss for three days in early November. With 19 cases on the docket, the judges heard eight oral arguments, including an appeal from a conviction of conspiring to manufacture methamphetamines. Judges E. Grady Jolly, Edith H. Jones and James E. Graves participated in a question-and-answer session with Ole Miss law students as a conclusion to the hearings.
During the question-and-answer, students were able to ask each judge questions about the cases, court procedure or their personal experiences.
“It was wonderful having the judges here,” said Richard Gershon, UM law dean. ” It was a great opportunity for students to watch them work.”
For Tiffany Hodges, a second-year law student from Winona, the outcome was gaining confidence from the overall experience.
“As I sat, watching and listening, I was overwhelmed with gratitude,” Hodges said. “In that couple of hours, I realized just how well my professors have prepared me. Although it was my first time seeing real oral arguments, the scene was shockingly familiar.”
For law students, it’s an experience that resonates greater than what the general public experiences because they are studying the law, Graves said.
“They have an opportunity to hear oral arguments and the back and forth between the lawyer and the judges,” the judge said. “It’s a good experience and educational. And it’s better than just reading a cold case and a book.”
Since October 1983, the Fifth Circuit sits at UM every three years, and Jolly, an Ole Miss alumnus, was on the original panel that traveled to the university. “We wanted to give every member of a law school class the opportunity to experience actual hearings,” Jolly said.
The court sits at other law schools at the request of universities in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. However, most cases are heard in New Orleans.
“Court staff has handled the logistics well,” Jones said. “It’s as if we are operating in our own offices when we are not on the bench. And the food is just as good as the food in New Orleans.”
The judges enjoyed coming to Ole Miss and the experience of connecting with students and professors while sharing their knowledge and experience as appellate court judges.
“It’s been fun – the opportunity to interact with students and professors – to see what they have questions about,” Graves said. “I’ve also learned a lot from sitting with my two colleagues, so it’s been a great experience for me.
“Ole Miss has been extremely hospitable. It’s a pleasure to come here because everyone is so nice and we work extra-hard to get prepared for this. So the students gain more insight to what we are doing.”
For more information, visit the UM School of Law.