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KHHS grad to compete in world moot court competition

Jim Burleson of Keystone Heights and Jessica Fernandez of Miami will represent North America during the World Finals of the 2014 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Toronto this October.  Photo courtesy of Florida State University College of Law.

Jim Burleson of Keystone Heights and Jessica Fernandez of Miami will represent North America during the World Finals of the 2014 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Toronto this October. Photo courtesy of Florida State University College of Law.


BY DAN HILDEBRAN

Monitor Editor

Jim Burleson of Keystone Heights and Jessica Fernandez of Miami will represent North America during the World Finals of the 2014 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Toronto this October.  Photo courtesy of Florida State University College of Law.

Keystone Heights High School’s 2004 salutatorian will represent Florida State University’s law school in the world finals of a moot court competition this fall.

Jim Burleson lettered in basketball and tennis while at KHHS.  He was on the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Academic All-State team.

He later earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Stetson.

Burleson, along with his partner, Jessica Fernandez will compete in the world finals of the 2014 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Toronto.

The tournament, in which teams submit briefs and present oral arguments, focuses on the emerging field of aviation and space law.

Burleson said he became interested in the specialty as a first year law student when he discovered a new group on the law school campus: the Aviation and Space Law Society.

“So, I first learned of the field there,” he wrote in an email, “did some research, and really dove into it. Plus, my teaching assistant for my legal writing and research class 1L year, Tanya Cronau, competed in the same competition in 2011–that’s actually how I first learned of it–and her team went on to win the World Finals in South Africa.”

Last summer, Burleson served an internship at the Federal Aviation Administration’s office of chief counsel, working in commercial space transportation.

In the North American Regional Finals, the teams were presented with the fictional dispute between two rival countries: Akera and Mheni, argued before the International Court of Justice.

“There is an underlying issue in the case of a disputed archipelago between the two countries with a large reserve of oil and gas resources,” wrote Burleson.

He added that Akera launched a series of precision navigation and timing satellites to allow its ships to navigate safely through the dangerous waters in and around the archipelago to get to the oil.

A few years later, Mheni launched its own satellites for “testing new communication technology” and shortly thereafter, Akera’s satellite signal started experiencing interference. This signal interference allegedly caused an Akeran unmanned aerial vehcile to crash, killing two Akeran military personnel, and destroying a building on a military base.

Mheni denied any responsibility for the interference or the UAV crash. After seeking other international measures for resolution of the issue without success, Akera launched another set of satellites to broadcast a more protected signal to avoid the interference.

When Mheni’s satellite received this signal, it misinterpreted the data which caused the satellite to fall out of orbit and burn up in the atmosphere.

Akera brought claims for damages for the loss of access to its satellite signal and the crash of the UAV and resulting deaths and property damages, as well as a claim seeking a declaration from the court that it acted in conformity with international law when it disabled Mheni’s satellite.

During the North American finals at Georgetown University, each of the 14 teams had to submit two briefs, one for each of the parties, and then present oral arguments for each round of the competition.

The Florida State team argued as Akera in the semi-finals against the University of California at Davis.  Burleson and Fernandez then had to argue for Mheni in the finals against McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law.

In addition to the pair winning the North American title, Burleson was named Best Oralist for the competition.

While in Toronto the FSU team will face competitors from Asia-Pacific, Europe and Africa.

Burleson said he is particularly excited about the finals because the judges for the competition will be actual judges from the International Court of Justice. According to the Manfred Lachs Moot Court, the participation of the ICJ judges makes the Manfred Lachs competition one of the most prestigious in the world.

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