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Justin Jenkins (‘14) and Professor John Korzen make first Eleventh Circuit appearance by Appellate Advocacy Clinic

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Justin Jenkins (’14) and Professor John Korzen (’91) argued on behalf of Appellate Advocacy Clinic clients in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta on Jan. 14, 2014.  The two arguments were the first ever for the Clinic in the Eleventh Circuit.  The Eleventh Circuit hears appeals from federal district courts in three states:  Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

Jenkins argued in the case of Lookout Mountain Wild Animal Park, Inc. v. Stearns Zoological Rescue & Rehab Center, Inc. et al., a dispute between two non-profit zoos over the ownership of certain animals. The Eleventh Circuit appointed the Clinic to represent the defendants in the plaintiff’s appeal from a judgment in the Middle District of Florida.  The plaintiff sued the defendants for breach of contract and related torts, including conversion, civil theft, and fraud in the inducement.  The jury decided the breach of contract claim and ownership of the various animals, while the district court allowed directed verdict in the defendants’ favor on the tort claims.

Jenkins and Bethany Corbin (’13) researched and drafted the defendants’ brief to the Eleventh Circuit.  One of Jenkins’ responsibilities was drafting the statement of facts, which required him to review closely the 820-page trial transcript and many pages of exhibits.  He and Corbin also had to research Florida law and Eleventh Circuit law.  To prepare for oral argument, Jenkins had three formal practices judged by other Clinic students, and he reviewed again all of the briefs in the case and the record.

For Jenkins’ oral argument, the panel consisted of Eleventh Circuit Judge Gerald Tjoflat, Eleventh Circuit Judge R. Lanier Anderson, and Middle District of Florida Judge Susan Bucklew, who was sitting by designation.  The judges’ questions suggested that they agreed completely with the contentions made in the Clinic’s brief and by Jenkins at oral argument.

“I was extremely impressed with how conversational and poised Justin was,” Professor Korzen said.  “The judges asked him many questions, and he handled them all very smoothly, mixing in facts from the record and references to several Eleventh Circuit and Florida authorities.  It was great for the Appellate Clinic to make such a great impression in our first arguments before that court.”

Korzen argued in Bryant v. United States, in which the Clinic represents the plaintiffs, former Marines and family members who developed cancer and other diseases after being exposed to contaminated drinking water at the Camp Lejeune military base in North Carolina.  The cases were consolidated and transferred to Georgia as part of the multi-district litigation process.  After the government moved to dismiss the case based on a North Carolina statute of repose, the district court denied the motion and certified the case for immediate appeal.  One issue – whether a federal environmental statute (CERCLA) preempts the statute of repose – is now before the Supreme Court in another Clinic appeal.

The second issue is whether statutes of repose can even apply to diseases under North Carolina law.  With the CERCLA issue pending in the Supreme Court, the Eleventh Circuit will likely await that Court’s decision, and Korzen focused on the second issue at oral argument.  He had two of the three judges Jenkins had, Judge Tjoflat and Judge Buckley.  The third judge, Eleventh Circuit Judge Charles Wilson, took the place of Judge Lanier.

Jenkins’ argument was the second by a Clinic student in a federal circuit this academic year, and the 21st argument by an Appellate Advocacy Clinic student since 2007.  The Clinic is for third-year law students who have taken Appellate Advocacy.  The Clinic is involved in seven other appeals this year, including two in the United States Supreme Court, two others in the Eleventh Circuit, two in the Fourth Circuit, and one in the Supreme Court of North Carolina.  An information session about next year’s Appellate Advocacy Clinic will be held in late February or early March. Contact Professor Korzen any time for more information about the Clinic.