Brennan to Preside Over Moot Court's Final Round

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court William J. Brennan Jr. will preside over the final round of the Law School's Ames Moot Court competition, Ames officials said this week.

Brennan will visit the Law School on November 19 to review student-written briefs and hear oral arguments in the prestigious mock trial competition. Brennan will also meet law students and professors at a reception.

Traditionally, a Supreme Court justice each year heads the three-judge panel which evaluates students' presentations. Last year, Harry A. Blackmun '29 served as chief justice at Austin Hall, and Sandra Day O'Connor sat on the bench in 1982.

Brennan, a 1931 Law School graduate who is considered a liberal member of the conservative-dominated court, received an honorary doctorate from the University in 1968. He will join federal circuit court judges A. Leon Higginbotham and Stephen G. Breyer.

The two six-member teams competing for the top honors in November have survived a rigorous series of elimination rounds that began in 1982, when they were first year students. In addition to deciding the winning team, the justices award prizes for the best brief and the best individual oral argument. The winners' names are permanently inscribed on a plaque in the Law School library.


The law students will square-off in a fictitious dispute drafted by Tyler Professor of Law Laurence H. Tribe '62. The case involves a federal statute that redefines child abuse to include the withholding of vital medical treatment from children with severe birth defects.

One side represents a doctor whose license was revoked for honoring parents' wishes that he not administer life-saving treatment to their child. The other side will argue the state's case.

Robert Thomas, a resident pre-law tutor in Kirkland House who will present his team's oral argument, said that the competition can become almost all-consuming for the participants. But "it's an irresistable opportunity" to get to appear in court with a Supreme Court justice. Thomas said, adding that he's a little nervous about his day in court with Brennan.

Last year, Blackmun refused to rule on the merits of the Ames case in order to avoid setting a legal precedent in moot court, Schiff said. While Brennan may avoid voicing an opinion on the legal issues involved in this year's case, the competition could influence future legal rulings, because attorneys engaged in similar disputes may draw on students' arguments.