(Chief) Justice at the Law School

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Did you know that John G. Roberts, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was at the Law School a few days ago judging the final round of the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition? Neither did we.

But he was! Roberts and three other appeals court judges heard two cases presented by law students. The Times calls Roberts an “acknowledged master” of appellate argument, which Roberts explains as when “the judges are debating among themselves and just using the lawyers as a backboard. One of the real challenges for lawyers is to get involved in that debate.” (Bwog’s still fuzzy on the details.)

After Roberts finished critiquing the students, the other judges took their turn critiquing Roberts. “Two of the appeals court judges said the Supreme Court might work a little harder to establish clear principles.”

The article is a bit technical and hard to follow if you’re not law school-bound, though the law school’s own recap is not as jargony and features lots of photos. Imagine all this, right under our undergraduate noses.

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  1. Baby Protector  

    He eats babies. That is why he doesn't' support stem cell research. He should not have been allowed at the law school. Now it seems like Columbia supports baby eating also.

  2. listen...  

    justice is fat
    not blind

  3. way  

    to miss the news Bwog.

  4. law student

    appellate argument basically works like this: you slave your ass off on a long, tedious, well-researched argument. you submit it to the court, then show up to make your case with an eloquent, well-rehearsed speech. then they ask you irrelevant questions that you're not prepared for, and you look like an idiot.

  5. CLS Flunky  

    You would've been bored to tears. I got to the law school and I was bored.

    Moot Court is meant to simulate apellate advocacy. Unlike at trial, there are very specific issues in play (in this case, it involved class action certification and statutory interpretation). Both sides prepare meticulously researched briefs that lay out their argument in annotated detail and submit them to the court.

    Then, the counselors come before the court and engage in a 15 minute oral argument, where the court gets to pepper them with any question they feel like. It's a pretty intense experience. This is what you've probably heard about (with the traffic light in the Supreme Court that informs lawyers how much time they have left).

    The funnier moments included Roberts pointing out that he'd briefed and argued both of the cases that formed a large part of the argument on one issue, and the appellate courts taking a shot at the supreme court, while Roberts acted mock indignant.

    Generally geeky and technical. We'll keep you appraised of worthwhile events.

  6. do the bwog  

    editors check the columbia main page? the story's been posted on it since the day it happened. lazy, lazy.

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