Baylor Law students Matt Czimskey and Matt Smith both liked representing the Petitioner in the fictional Mills v. United States in the Law School's 2010 Dawson & Sodd P.C. Moot Court Competition and hoped to do so in the finals. They thought they could give a more passionate argument to judges regarding a case that dealt with a controversial and relevant topic: the enhanced interrogation techniques used on al-Qaeda terrorists.
They didn't get their wish. In the competition finals on Oct. 4, the pair instead represented the Respondent. But both gave compelling, well-researched arguments, and when the judges voted, Czimskey and Smith were proclaimed the winners. Richard Sterling and Michael Morgan represented the Petitioner in the finals.
"From both sides of the argument, you had to balance the individual rights and liberties of a confirmed terrorist against those of an American CIA agent who arguably did as he was told," Smith said. "Arguing from the Respondent side was particularly difficult because you were advocating for putting in jail an American who simply followed his orders and gained valuable intelligence information from a terrorist."
Czimskey and Smith began their road to the finals almost three weeks ago, when the opening rounds of the intramural event got under way. The competition began with four rounds for the students of the Appellate Advocacy and Procedure class, a required course in the third quarter. At the completion of the fourth round, the top 16 teams advanced to compete in bracket-style competition, with a team being eliminated each day. The top 16 teams are awarded the distinction of barrister.
"The competition as a whole was very tough," Czimskey said. "Everyone who argued the case put in countless hours preparing and it clearly showed. It was difficult in the beginning to argue every day, but once you got on a roll it felt like it almost played to your advantage."
For the finals, the teams had a weekend to prepare. Smith said that was a good thing, because after arguing for the Petitioner for three rounds, he and Czimskey suddenly had to switch to Respondent.
"The finals were a nerve-racking experience," Smith said. "Sitting in the auditorium before the finals began, as more and more people filed in, was a little bit stressful. However, once you got up and began making your argument, you kind fell back into your rhythm, and only focused on the judge's questions instead of the people in the audience."
Czimskey concurred, especially about the stress level. "It felt like days passed by before the judges finally entered the courtroom. Not to mention, I argued last, which gave me even more time to think about it and get nervous. But the interaction with the judges was a great experience, and I am very thankful I got the experience that came from it."
Serving on the judges' panel for the finals were Tom Grey, Chief Justice of the Tenth Court of Appeals for the State of Texas; Vicki Menard, judge of the 414th District Court; Gary Coley, judge of the 74th District Court; Alan Mayfield, retired judge of the 74th District Court; Pat Simmons, judge of the 77th District Court; Willie DuBose, retired judge of the 385th District Court; and Baylor Law students Drew Pate, Marc Tolliver and Reggie Blakely.
As winners of the competition, Czimskey and Smith received $1,250, while finalists Morgan and Sterling received $900. The third-place team received $300. In addition to naming a winning team, the top 10 speakers for the competition also were selected. These students, who have achieved barrister rank, are (1.) George Cowden, (2.) Kyle Counce, (3.) Kathryn Childress, (4.) Atasi Bhavsar, (5.) Lauren Freeland, (6.) Grace Taylor, (in a tie for 7/8) Matt Smith and Will Thomas, and (in a tie for 9/10) Christy Samansky and Aubrey Morgan.
Czimskey earned his BSEd: health and human performance from Baylor. He played baseball for Baylor, and then went on to play a couple years of Minor League baseball in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Smith received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, where he majored in history, minored in Spanish, and had a concentration in business.
The Dawson & Sodd P.C. law firm of Corsicana sponsors the fall competition. The firm's two partners are both graduates of Baylor Law School. Matt "Mad Dog" Dawson served as professor of Baylor's renowned Practice Court program from 1971-1983, while Glenn Sodd is a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and was named one of the top 100 general trial attorneys in the U.S. by Town and Country magazine.
See scenes from the competition