The black-robed justices who filed solemnly into a courtroom at the University of Florida law school Thursday morning were not the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, but they were announced as if they were.
“All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the court is now sitting,” a bailiff boomed out as students, law professors and attorneys with Holland & Knight — the law firm that sponsored the event — stood respectfully.
But when Florida’s chief justice, Jorge Labarga, took a seat behind the long desk at the front of the room, along with four of his colleagues from the state’s high court, and said, “I’m actually Justice Roberts” — referring to the chief justice of the nation’s high court — laughter and applause erupted throughout the room.
Ignoring the outburst, Labarga continued. “We’re here today to decide over … ah, the case of …” he flipped through a file before him, “Chilton State University and Jane Doe.”
Over the more than two hours that followed, two law students representing that fictional university and two students representing a fictional female student presented arguments explaining why the university had, or did not have, responsibility under the federal law known as Title IX to investigate her allegations that she was raped at an off-campus event by a male student who had a leadership role at the university that they both attended.
Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. The law also addresses sexual harassment and rape of students.
In the fictional case presented at UF’s 33rd Annual Raymer F. Maguire Appellate Advocacy Competition, events, characters, circumstances and questions of law — discussed by the students and the justices — sounded strikingly