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This past weekend on November 4th and 5th, the Florida Justice Association Research and Education Foundation with the support of FJA’s Young Lawyers Section held its annual Honorable E. Earle Zehmer Memorial Mock Trial Competition at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In the end, Stetson University’s College of Law–Plaintiff team– won the competition taking four out of the five ballots.

Ten teams competed and were judged by more than 50 practicing trial lawyers serving as scoring jurors with 13 seated judges from Broward County presiding over each of the rounds. Local judge Gary Farmer presided over the final round of the competition. Trial lawyers Jamie Holland, Holland Law, and Monica Besbris, Kanner & Pintaluga P.A., chaired this year’s events.

“As a trial lawyer myself, I was impressed by the level of preparation from the law students. Advocacy is such an essential part of our job as lawyers and I have no doubt that these students are headed in the right direction towards becoming zealous advocates. We really wanted to give the students authentic courtroom experiences this year. Having current sitting judges presiding over the rounds and practicing trial attorneys serving as jurors truly elevated the rounds for the competitors. As a young lawyer, getting the chance to be in the courtroom doesn’t come easy, but competitions like this weekend show that the next generation of lawyers is ready to change that.” – Monica Besbris, Chair

Additionally, nearly 50 students participated from law schools around the state including Florida State University, University of Miami, Barry University, Stetson University, and St. Thomas University.

Each team had six weeks to prepare their cases; from witness preparation to exhibits, opening statements, and closing arguments. This year the featured case, Fitzgerald v. Nita & Western Railroad, centered on a wrongful death civil trial involving a train collision with a car.

This was a hard year for our jurors and judges – every team put up an impressive fight. However, the final round pitted St. Thomas University College of Law’s defense team against Stetson University College of Law’s plaintiff team. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff, crowning Stetson the winner. Congratulations to our 1st and 2nd place winners:

1st Place
Stetson University College of Law—Plaintiff Team
Javier Peña- Best Advocate Final Round
Camille Obert
Olivia Urban
Conner Yost

2nd Place
St Thomas University College of Law— Defense Team

Roberto Asencio
Alexis Urquiza
Bradley Ginnett
Idan Livnat

Claudia Aravena was awarded Best Advocate in the preliminary rounds and Javier Peña received the Best Final Round Advocate Award.

We want to thank all our participants, volunteers, and judges for joining us for this incredible weekend and thank you to the many sponsors who made this event possible.

Thank you: 2023 E. Early Zehmer Memorial Mock Trial Competition Sponsors

Lunch Sponsor
Kanner & Pintaluga

Best Advocate Sponsor
Levin Papantonio Rafferty

Best Final Round Advocate Sponsor
The Haggard Firm

Business Sponsor
Client Legal Funding, A US Claims Company

To learn more about the E. Earle Zehmer Memorial Mock Trial competition, please visit the Florida Justice Association Research and Education Foundation’s website at

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