Advocacy Moot Court Tests New York’s Justice System

BY PHIL TEDESCO

One hundred HLS students spent lunch September 13th in the Ames Courtroom for the first Supreme Court Advocacy Moot Court of the year, part of a series sponsored by the Dean’s Office and organized by the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society.

Andy Rossman, a litigation partner at Akin Gump, practiced his argument on behalf of the New York County Democratic Committee for the case New York State Board of Elections v. Margarita Lopez Torres, which the Supreme Court will hear in early October.

Margarita Lopez Torres is challenging the system by which parties nominate candidates to be justices on the New York Supreme Court, which in New York are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. New York is the only state that nominates them by party convention, and Lopez Torres has argued that these constitute sham elections in violation of the First Amendment because party bosses pick the candidates.

Presenting his argument defending the system’s constitutionality, Mr. Rossman faced a lively and challenging panel of judges, which included Tom Goldstein, a Supreme Court litigator; David Schleicher, an election law expert and Climenko Fellow; HLS Professor Mark Tushnet, a constitutional law scholar; and Brenda Wright, the Legal Director of the Democracy Program at Demos.

After thirty minutes of argument, several students in the audience posed questions to Mr. Rossman, and the judges critiqued his performance. Students agreed that the event was both stimulating and entertaining, as the judges revealed the complexities of the arguments in their questioning while managing to get a few zingers in the mix.

Two other moot courts are already scheduled for this semester. On October 7th, the Attorney General of Texas will practice his argument in Medellin v. Texas, an executive powers case. Later that month, the lawyer representing an accused enemy combatant will practice his argument challenging detention before the Fourth Circuit’s en banc rehearing of Al-Marri v. Wright.

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