Just weeks before the Supreme Court convenes its 2014 term, legal scholars, judges, lawyers and legal journalists from across the country came together on Sept. 19-20 at William & Mary Law School to examine cases on the docket for the Court's upcoming term. Hosted by the Institute of Bill of Rights Law (IBRL), the Supreme Court Preview is one of the Law School's preeminent annual events.
The two-day conference commenced with a Moot Court session, followed by expert panels focusing on different areas of the law.
"It was a remarkable mix of Supreme Court advocates," said Neal Devins, Goodrich Professor of Law and director of IBRL. "The business panel kicked off with three different lawyers (two of whom were former solicitors general) discussing cases they were litigating before the Court. The panel on same-sex marriage featured two lawyers who have petitions before the Court, and it was fantastic to hear them debate why they thought their respective case was the better one to get to the Court. There is simply no substitute for hearing the lawyers arguing before the Court discussing their cases. That happened repeatedly at this Preview."
Underscoring Devins's point, participants this year included 15 advocates who have argued more than 350 cases before the Supreme Court (and will argue about a half dozen more in the upcoming term), three former solicitors general, two federal appellate judges, journalists, and renowned scholars of law, including five Law School faculty members.
This year's Moot Court case, a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, offered "an insightful look into the workings of Supreme Court debate," according to first-year law student Emily Gabor. After hearing arguments from advocates Michael Scodro (of Jenner & Block LLP and a former Illinois solicitor general) and Andrew Pincus (of Mayer Brown LLP and an attorney who has argued 23 cases before the Supreme Court to date), the "Court" delivered a narrow 5-4 decision upholding the contested provisions of the health care reform law. "The advocates only made it a few sentences into their opening statements before being peppered with questions from the judges. I learned a lot about the vigor and strength of arguments required of attorneys fighting for an issue at that level," Gabor added.
The Supreme Court's 2014 term begins on Monday, October 6. Those in attendance at IBRL's 2014 Supreme Court Preview already have a privileged insight into the upcoming issues and cases, as well as the internal dynamics that drive the Court.
Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America's oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.