The Tennessee Court of Appeals held oral arguments at Nashville School of Law November 8, bringing two cases to the appellate courtroom for students to observe firsthand.
President and Dean William C. Koch, Jr. welcomed the crowd, which included students, alumni, members of the court staff, and others to the School. He emphasized how the opportunity to witness authentic court proceedings is a valuable experience for students.
“These are people who are going to be plying their trade for clients,” Dean Koch said.
Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr. said the court made an effort to “identify cases that had interesting issues and very good advocates” and thanked those attorneys for bringing their cases to the School. Judge Clement is a graduate of Nashville School of Law and serves on the School's Board of Trust.
The judges, which also included Judge Andy Bennett, Judge Richard Dinkins, and Judge W. Neal McBrayer, sat in two different panels of three for the cases. They participated in a question and answer session following the oral arguments, offering advice to the students, much of which focused on the questions that are asked of attorneys during oral arguments.
“Rule one of appellate practice is answer the question. Don’t asked why it’s being asked, don’t get offended that it is being asked,” Judge Dinkins said.
Judge Clement also contrasted the role of the briefs and the oral arguments.
“The written briefs are the attorneys’ opportunity to communicate what they want to say to the court. Oral argument is an opportunity for the judges to ask questions,” he said. “I am affording the attorney to persuade me.”
Attorney Phillip Jones, who argued one of the cases attorneys said that it took him years to appreciate the role of questions in oral arguments.
“I compliment the school for allowing students to learn while in school what it sometimes takes lawyers a decade to learn, and that is questions are filtering, a chance to fail or succeed,” Jones said.
The School hosted a reception for the members of the Court in the lobby prior to the oral arguments.