BY JONAS BLANK
The Gunther Team
It depends on who you ask, but some say 3L Greg Lipper will lose Ames.
Ask his teammates, however, and you’ll get a different story.
“Either we’ll have won, or we got robbed,” said 3L Mark Freeman of his team’s chances. The Gerald Gunther Memorial Team is named after famed liberal constitutional law scholar Gerald Gunther, whose textbook is one of the best known on the subject. Gunther died this July at age 75.
The Gunther Team consists of 3Ls Lipper, Freeman, Beth Mellen Harrison, Josh Solomon, Norina Edelman and Louis Tompros.
Team members said the choice of Gunther’s name was appropriate, as five of the six members are liberals. In this year’s case, Morales v. Gallows, the Gunther Team represents the more left-wing side as well. The case pits a tenant against a Christian landlord who seeks to exclude non-married cohabiting couples from her building. The petitioner’s name, Christina Morales, is meant to be a clever pun invented by the Board of Student Advisers, which administers the competition.
The Gunther Team prides itself on a tough work ethic. “We pulled all-nighters the night before our briefs were due,” Lipper said. Freeman added that, in total, the team has used all but 40 minutes of the total time available before brief deadlines, turning in their work at the absolute last minute.
Late nights and hard work are all part of the fabled Ames Competition, an annual event which has become both a social and legal spectacle of sorts for the Law School community. The competition mimics the appellate process, with teams filing briefs and making oral arguments before actual judges. Teams compete in three rounds: quarterfinals in the fall, semifinals in the spring and the finals the following fall. To make it this far in the competition, would-be litigators have to be among the best in their classes.
By this point, Gunther members say, there’s still a lot left to do.
Such as? “Learn the law,” jokes Tompros. Freeman, who serves as one of the team’s two oralists along with Lipper, added that, “Greg and I will have to learn not to say stupid things.” But the team’s self-effacing humor belies what is no doubt rigorous and carefully-honed preparation — as soon as they’re done interviewing, they will be rehearsing in front of a video camera to catch every possible nuance of their performance.
Asked to comment on the dire predictions of his chances — immortalized both in the name of an IM flag football team and The RECORD’s own Fenno column, Lipper sought to set the record straight.
“[The flag football team] is a bunch of people I lived with 1L year,” he said. “Last year they were ‘The Fighting Greg Lippers.’ So this year, I harassed them to name the team after me again.”
So what does the Gunther squad think of their opponents?
“The other team speaks for themselves,” Lipper said.
“The other team calls us ‘the lifestyle team’” said 3L Mary Catherine Martin of the Byron White Memorial Team. The team is named after the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice and football Hall of Famer who turned down a position on the Yale Law Journal to play professional football with the NFL.
“I don’t think we’ve even pulled an all-nighter” added 3L Carlos Lazatin.
In contrast to their hard-charging opponents, the White Team — featuring 3Ls Martin, Lazatin, Jeffrey Lerner, Rita Lin, Nathaniel Reinsma, and Matthew Stephenson — takes their Ames practicing slow and steady.
“We’ve been having to do a little bit each day rather than a few bursts,” said Stephenson, one of the team’s oralists, for whom “a little a day” means about three or four hours.
By now, Stephenson says the team is focusing solely on refining its oral arguments. “We just need a little more practice,” he said. “These guys [the non-oralists] just throw questions at us. They hit us with everything they can think of. It’s like batting practice.”
It’s been a long but entertaining journey for the White Team, which, like their opponents, is made up almost entirely of Law Review or Section II members (and several who are both). All agree that one of the most important factors in choosing an Ames team is getting along with each other.
“Fit was a big factor for us,” said Lazatin. “We knew we were going to spend large amounts of time with each other.”
The White Team also prides itself on its diversity. Representing the conservative side petitioner in this final round — as the team says it has had to in every round — is a group of two liberals, two moderates and two conservatives. The team is similarly split along religious and regional lines, with two Protestants, two Catholics and two Jews. Two members each also come from the West, Midwest and East.
If the White Team wins, they will take home $750 along with the glory of being this year’s Ames champions.
“We’re not in it for the money,” said Lazatin. “I don’t think we’re getting a living wage if you work it out by the hour.” He added that the losing team takes home $650, making the entire Ames competition essentially a battle for $100.
Does Stephenson (who seems prone to sports similes) have anything to say about the Gunther opponents? “It’s like being a pitcher facing another famous pitcher,” he said. “I’m not worrying about the pitchers, I’m worrying about the hitters.”
Still, when asked, White Team members made the boast: Greg Lipper will lose Ames.