Baylor Law Students Help Lawyers Prepare for Arguments Before the TX Supreme Court
Baylor Law students Carson May, Molly Maier, and Tori Coates assisted a lawyer from the Waco firm of Scanes & Routh prepare for an argument before the Texas Supreme Court. The case, Worsdale v. City of Killeen, Texas involved the issue of requirement of ‘notice’ under the Texas Tort Claims Act.
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Tyler Talbert, the Waco lawyer who argued the case on behalf of the plaintiff, first sought assistance in preparing for his arguments before the Texas Supreme Court from Baylor Law Professors Jim Underwood and Mike Berry who had Molly Maier participate as she is writing a law review article on the same subject. Another professor who assisted Talbert, Greg White, later included May and Coates in the preparation. The students read and edited the briefs, and participated in practice oral arguments. Rigorous, practical legal training is the hallmark of Baylor Law’s program, and the trio of Molly, Tori, and Carson are just recent examples of how the program prepares future lawyers. Coates and May have been active and successful in Baylor’s Interscholastic Moot Court programs, and are now participating in Interscholastic Mock Trial teams, and Maier is Editor-in-Chief Elect of Baylor Law Review.
Coates and May attended the oral argument on February 21st. During the oral arguments, Court members asked several questions that the Baylor Law students had anticipated and posed during the practice sessions.
“As an aspiring litigator, I could not be more grateful for this experience or my Baylor Law education. As I read the briefs and pleadings to prepare for our moot court round with Mr. Talbert, I was able to identify the issues and provide thoughtful feedback,” stated Tori Coates, who added “Mr. Talbert is certainly one of the best litigators I have ever had an opportunity to witness. His command of the material and the courtroom was inspiring, and I look forward to helping him prepare for his next oral argument. I am thankful for Baylor law school faculty members like Professor White who make unique opportunities like this possible.”
Fellow student Carson May believes that his time at Baylor Law has been preparing him for opportunities like this case, and more. “When I was first approached with the opportunity, it felt quite daunting. However, when I started pouring through the briefs and the relevant case law, I realized that this was precisely the kind of work that Baylor’s Moot Court program trained us for.” Adding, “Our time at the Texas Supreme Courthouse was a surreal experience. The opportunity to witness first-hand our advice and contributions being utilized before the Texas Supreme Court was a truly unique experience reaffirming why Baylor Law’s Appellate Advocacy program deserves the reputation it has.”
The Texas Tort Claims Act is a set of statutes that waives governmental immunity under certain conditions and allows people who claim they have been harmed by wrongful acts, known legally as torts, to sue for damages. These wrongful acts can include acts of negligence by a government agency or their employees. Before the passage of the Texas Tort Claims Act in 1969, governmental agencies were generally immune from being sued without the specific permission of the government.
In the case before the TX Supreme Court that Baylor Law professors Underwood and Berry helped Talbert prepare for, with input from Maier, May, and Coates, a serious car accident occurred because there were no barricades and signs notifying drivers of a huge obstruction at a construction site. There was some question about whether the City or the County owned the road, and the City investigated the accident. The plaintiffs sued the City claiming that the City was responsible for the dangerous road condition that caused the serious car accident. The case before the TX Supreme Court hinged on a specific requirement of the TX Tort Claims Act – that the plaintiff must give ‘notice’ before proceeding with a lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed formal written notice was unnecessary because the City, which investigated the accident, had actual notice of the accident and the alleged cause.
After oral arguments, another recent Baylor Law graduate who works as a Briefing Attorney at the Court, Elin Isenhower (J.D. ‘18), led the students on a tour of the Court’s chambers and shared with them an insiders-perspective on the workings of the Court.
The Court may decide the case before it recesses for the summer in late May, but the schedule for a decision is dependent on the Court. There is no actual deadline for decisions at the Court.
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