Students Present Papers at Middle District Academic Symposium


A group of University of Miami Law Review members traveled to Orlando for the Middle District of Florida's 50th Anniversary Symposium to present case notes to federal judges and lawyers from the district. Third-year students Erika Concetta Pagano, Brian Stewart, Sam Wardle and Nicholas Williams – along with Emily Horowitz, former Editor-in-Chief of the University of Miami Law Review and a Post-Graduate Student Service Fellow – took part.

Members of law reviews at the University of Florida and Florida State University also participated in the symposium, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Middle District of Florida. In addition to judges and lawyers discussing the history of major civil and criminal cases, students from the three Florida law schools were asked to write and present notes about cases decided in the Middle District.

Horowitz said later that she was grateful to have had the opportunity to participate. "Presenting our case notes in front of the judge who authored the case we wrote about is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that few law students ever have," she said of the event, which was attended by more than 150 lawyers and judges from the Middle District and 15 law students from the three schools.

Pagano and Horowitz's case was Shelton v. Secretary, Department of Corrections. The landmark case championed the mens rea requirement in Florida's drug statutes. The pair said they had chosen to write about that decision because of its timeliness and ties to everyday interactions. "Presenting in the presence of the judge who wrote the Shelton opinion was a humbling and incredible experience," Pagano said. "I am honored to have taken part in the symposium and to have represented the University of Miami community."

Stewart chose to write about a case, Tyne ex rel. Tyne v. Time Warner Entertainment Company, that addressed the appropriate balance between First Amendment rights and privacy rights. Relatives of the lost crew of the Andrea Gail – a fishing vessel sunk during a tempest in the North Atlantic in 1991 – sued Warner Bros. for using the names and likenesses of the crew in the film The Perfect Storm without permission and without compensation. The court held that filmmakers may fictionalize aspects of real events and real people without permission, so long as they do not do so for a strictly commercial purpose. The court also held that the right to privacy in Florida is a strictly personal one and that such claims may not be maintained by third persons.

"It was an incredible honor to be a part of the Middle District's historical celebration," Stewart said. "Seeing the development of the law in Florida over the last fifty years, especially relating to the efforts of dedicated lawyers and judges who worked so hard to achieve desegregation and promote racial equality, was truly inspiring for those of us who hope to shape the law over the next fifty years."

Wardle's case was United States v. Lyons, which dealt with the trial and conviction of Antonino Lyons, a Cocoa Beach man charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. During Lyons' trial, the prosecution withheld critical evidence that proved that many of the witnesses who testified against Lyons were lying. Lyons was convicted, but his conviction was reversed three years later, and Lyons was subsequently declared innocent of all charges.

"I was incredibly honored to join Emily, Erika, Brian and Nick in representing the UM Law Review at such a distinguished and important event," Wardle said.

Williams selected a case known as Safety Harbor Spa & Resort as the topic of his comments, which referred to an interpretation of Stern v. Marshall. A bankruptcy judge, Michael G. Williamson, had ruled that Stern should be read narrowly. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy debtor's parent company objected, on the basis of Stern, to an injunction entered by Judge Williamson. Ultimately, he overruled the objection to his constitutional authority and held that the parent had consented to bankruptcy jurisdiction by allowing its subsidiary to voluntarily file for bankruptcy.

The Miami Law students were able to participate in the symposium following an invitation to Horowitz last year from Jon Philipson, a clerk for Anne C. Conway, Chief Judge of the Middle District of Florida. Conway contacted Horowitz in her capacity as editor of the University of Miami Law Review, asked her to write a case note and to choose four other Review members to do so as well.

"The symposium moved and inspired me," Williams said. "I was reminded of the importance of history and the backbone of our federal courts – district court judges."