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Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor Presides Over Ames Moot Court Final at Harvard Law School

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor judged finalists in Harvard Law School's Ames Moot Court Competition on Nov. 15.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor judged finalists in Harvard Law School's Ames Moot Court Competition on Nov. 15. By Courtesy of Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons
By Jo B. Lemann and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard Law School students convened before United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Nov. 15 to argue a mock appellate case on administrative law for the finals of the school’s annual Ames Moot Court Competition.

Sotomayor was joined by California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin H. Liu and U.S. District Court Judge Rachel P. Kovner ’01 — a former Crimson executive editor — in a packed Ames Courtroom. Together, they judged the finalists, who had withstood a series of elimination rounds starting with 54 teams of HLS students.

Held annually since 1911, the Ames Moot Court Competition — administered by the HLS Board of Student Advisors — is one of the school’s most storied traditions. Past winners include University Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’75, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg ’95, and former Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78.

Supreme Court justices often preside over the event. Sotomayor previously judged the competition in 2018 and 2011.

This year’s mock case dealt with the question of whether or not a court could vacate a government agency’s order if the agency had overstepped its authority. In particular, the case was brought on by a contracting company seeking to prevent the Occupational Safety and Health Administration from requiring them to hire a personal protective equipment coordinator.

The Judge Laurence H. Silberman Team — comprised of Jessica A. Flores, Eric Bush, Max G. Alvarez, Brandon A. Sharp, Hayley R. Isenberg ’19, and Richard F. Dunn II ’19 — won “Best Team,” with Dunn named the “Best Oralist.” The Patsy Takemoto Mink Memorial Team — consisting of former Crimson President Derek K. Choi ’18, Kunal Dixit, Phoebe M. Kotlikoff, Yusuke Tsuzuki, Daniel Q. Flesch, and Monica Y. Wang — won “Best Brief.”

Isenberg, a third-year law student, said the competition was “the most real kind of lawyering” she got to do in law school because of how collaborative it was and that it was “probably the best experience” she’d had there.

“I’ve just been so blown away by my teammates and also by the other team that we competed against. They were incredibly cordial and kind and thoughtful and extremely impressive as well,” she said.

Sotomayor announced the panel’s decision and thanked participants for their work.

“Watching the skill of all of you, for me, is inspiring,” she said. “You keep me doing what I do.”

Sotomayor added that she rarely presides over moot court competitions because of the work that goes into preparing for them but that the students had lifted her spirits in a time when her work is often “difficult.”

“Watching your devotion to your craft, to learning and mastering it, and doing presentations that rival what I see before me in court, tells me we have a younger generation of lawyers who will follow the banner of justice,” Sotomayor said.

—Staff writer Jo B. Lemann can be reached at Follow her on X @Jo_Lemann.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at Follow him on X @neilhshah15 or on Threads @kne.els.

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