HLS Shines at Immigration Moot Court Competition


From left to right

Last weekend, HLS made a second consecutive showing in the finals of the NYU Immigration Law Moot Court Competition, establishing Harvard as an early powerhouse in the two-year-old contest. After a day of preliminary rounds, 2Ls Andrea Saenz and Abraham Wise advanced to elimination rounds, defeating best brief winner University of Detroit – Mercy in quarterfinals and Wayne State University in semifinals.

In finals, Harvard faced moot court juggernaut Brooklyn Law School, whom they had defeated in a preliminary round. This time, however, Brooklyn slipped past them, and HLS took 2nd place.

“It was a huge thrill,” said Wise. “My big goal was to get to argue in front of those appellate judges, since I don’t know when I’ll ever do that again, and we got there. I doubt anything cooler will happen to me in law school.” The final round panel was Judge Kermit Lipez of the 1st Circuit, Judge Stanley Marcus of the 11th Circuit, and Acting Chair of the Board of Immigration Appeals Juan Osuna.

The problem presented an issue of the circuit court’s ability to review an immigration judge’s discretionary decision, and the asylum eligibility of a woman sold into a forced marriage. Teams were required to argue both sides throughout the competition.

Saenz also won the award for best oralist of the competition. “I was definitely surprised, since the week before I was still waving my hands around and making Al Gore reaction faces,” said Saenz. “It feels great to have done this competition on a subject that’s meaningful to both of us and represent HLS so well for a second year.” Last year, 3Ls Eun Young Choi and Vicki Chou took 1st place at the inaugural competition.

Saenz and Wise are former section 2 colleagues who sat near each other in Prof. Gerald Neuman’s Immigration Law class last semester and decided the competition would be fun. Almost all the attending schools had formal moot court programs and brought a coach or two. “We had no coach, so we asked everyone we could think of for help,” said Saenz. ” We talked to the winning Ames oralists and got mooted by our friends in the Harvard Immigration Project, Prof. Neuman, and Prof. [Debbie] Anker. It turned out just right.”

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