Sotomayor presides over 106th annual Ames Moot Court finals (video)

Students argue gun control case in the state of Ames

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor was at Harvard Law School on Nov. 13 to preside over the 2018 Ames Moot Court Competition.

Justice Sotomayor was joined on the bench by Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod ’92 of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Susan Carney ’77 of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the fictitious case, Groves v. Gallant, a constitutional dispute over the right of a convicted criminal to “keep and bear arms” and the right to publish instructions for 3D-printing guns on the Internet.

The two teams of 3Ls—the Grace Murray Hopper Memorial Team for the petitioner and the Clarence Earl Gideon Memorial Team for the respondent—clashed over the constitutionality of two revised statutes, specifically whether one violates the Second Amendment as applied to the petitioner, and whether the other violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

This year’s teams (oralists are marked with an asterisk) were:

The Grace Murray Hopper Memorial Team: Petitioner

  • Benjamin Lewis
  • Eliza McDuffie
  • Jacqueline Sahlberg
  • Catherine McCaffrey*
  • Erika Herrera
  • Max Gottschall*

The Clarence Earl Gideon Memorial Team: Respondent

  • Nick Aquart*
  • Daniel Morales
  • Jeff Adler
  • Gabrielle Belzil
  • Lily Kim
  • Marlan Golden*

Hundreds of Law School students and affiliates gathered in Ames Courtroom and in multiple overflow rooms in Austin Hall to watch the oralists for each team argue their case before the all-women bench.  Prior to the start of the event, Sotomayor and the other judges visited and talked with students gathered in the overflow rooms.

In announcing this year’s winners, Sotomayor lauded the finalists in the competition and said the teams were “a hair apart.” She said: “I was impressed by each and every one of you. You were prepared, you didn’t let us rattle you. You did everything we want a well-prepared lawyer to do.”

This year the judges awarded the petitioners team, The Grace Murray Hopper Memorial Team,  “Best Brief” and “Best Overall Team.”  Maxwell F. Gottschall, of the Grace Murray Hopper Team, was recognized as this year’s “Best Oralist.”

Sotomayor, who previously judged the competition in 2011, said: “Every time I come to one of these and I see the extraordinary performances of the students at these exercises, it fills me with hope about the future. It shows me that you are being trained to think and to respond in extraordinary, lawyerly, professional ways, and that you carry in your hands our future in a really good way.”

While delivering her remarks at the end of the argument, Judge Elrod commented on her experience in the Final Round as a member of petitioner’s team in the 1991 Ames Moot Court Competition. While her team did not win the competition, she recalled that one of the judges they argued before that night was Judge Patrick Higginbotham, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Sixteen years later, in March 2007, Elrod was nominated by George W. Bush to a seat on the Fifth Circuit that had recently been vacated by Higginbotham; Elrod went on to replace him in October of that year. Recounting this turn of events, Elrod joked with Ames students that although they may not win this year’s competition, it’s possible that one of them could go on to replace one of this year’s Ames judges one day.

Gallery: Harvard Law School’s 2018 Ames Moot Court Competition

Since the early 1900s, the Ames Competition has showcased the most talented oral advocates to attend HLS. Each year, two teams of 3Ls participate in the Final Round, having started the competition in the fall of their 2L year, and progressing to the Final Round on the strength of their research abilities and excellent written and oral advocacy.

For more on the history of the Ames Moot Court Competition at Harvard Law School, including a case summaries and briefs, visit the Board of Student Advisers website.

For photos, video and other coverage of the competition you can also browse the Ames Moot Court Competition archives on the Harvard Law School website.