In the showdown round of the Ames Moot Court Competition on Nov. 17, two teams of 3L students presented arguments before a distinguished panel of judges headed by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
The students tried to persuade the judges to change the law of the land in the fictional case of United States v. Garfield. The petitioner, Otis Garfield, who claimed in an online dating profile that he had been awarded the Navy Cross for service as a SEAL in the first Gulf War, was convicted of violating the Stolen Valor Act, which punishes lies about receiving military honors.
The questions the teams had to address on appeal were whether the Stolen Valor Act is invalid as applied to the petitioner under the First Amendment and whether the petitioner is entitled to resentencing because the district court deprived him of his right to speak at sentencing, in violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
This year’s judges included Chief Judge Frank H. Easterbrook of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, and Peter J. Rubin ’88 of the Massachusetts Appeals Court, who taught a course, Criminal Investigations and Police Practices, at the law school this fall.
The petitioner’s team, The John McCarthy Roll Memorial Team, was named after the late jurist who served for almost 20 years on the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Roll was killed by a gunman in Tucson last January at a constituent outreach event for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The respondent’s team, The Belva Ann Lockwood Memorial Team, was named after a trailblazer in the legal profession and the first woman to graduate from a national law school.
Blogging the final round
A minute-by-minute account of Ames 2011
The Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review provided a live blog of the questions and arguments made during the final round of the 2011 Ames Moot Court Competition. Throughout the night, CRCL members reported on the proceedings while readers responded to polls, answered trivia questions and submitted comments. Some of the exchanges are excerpted below.
|8:09||All rise …|
|8:16||Judge Easterbrook: Is there a First Amendment problem with the Olympic Committee preventing the use of the Olympic rings?|
Oralist Jessica Palmer: The difference relates to the nature of the U.S. government attempting to preserve a symbol, but the symbol in this case is a military medal.
Jessica Palmer, counsel for petitioner, Otis Garfield
|8:19||Not sure if it’s coming through on the live feed, but everyone in the room is just terrified of Easterbrook right now.|
|8:31||Ouch. Sotomayor and Easterbrook hammering the next oralist on misstating a holding. Not a good start.|
|8:36||Who is winning so far?|
Petitioner - 0%
Respondent - 5%
Justices - 95
|8:37||Judge Rubin: If we apply Rule 52 [Harmless and Plain Error], and it’s plain and obvious, it still has to affect substantial rights, and the integrity of the proceedings? If you go to Rule 52, do you just lose?|
Oralist Adam Hallowell: We satisfy the plain error framework also. Proper approach in this case is presumption of prejudice in allocution.
Adam Hallowell, counsel for petitioner, Otis Garfield
|8:37||Any mere mortal would have been shaken by all this. Hallowell has ice water in his veins.|
Judge Easterbrook is citing “Catch-22” in a mock Supreme Court case.
Could anyone have imagined “Catch-22” coming up in this proceeding?
Absolutely - 33%
Are you serious? - 67%
|8:59||Judge Rubin: Is it possible that the First Amendment concerns more than that? That there are self-expression concerns? Can we regulate people’s daily lives? If we can, what’s the point of the First Amendment?|
Oralist Caroline “Carly” Anderson: Court has regulated prescriptions of falsity without any harm element.
Caroline Anderson, counsel for respondent, United States
|9:03||First oralist for the respondent making a strong showing. She has memorized the Supreme Court report and the U.S. Code.|
|9:04||Applause rings the overflow room as Carly sits down.|
|9:15||Judge Easterbrook says close-mindedness is meant to be addressed through allocution and should be reviewable.|
Oralist Matthew Greenfield: The defendant could have showed on appeal that he would have said something different had he been able to allocute. But in this case the defendant said he was not sorry for what he did, so it’s not at all clear whether he would have said something different.
Matthew Greenfield, counsel for respondent, United States
|9:21||What abolitionist is credited with giving one of the more famous allocutions in 1859 before he was sentenced to death for leading the raid at Harpers Ferry? John Brown|
|9:45||Justice Sotomayor congratulates students on their performance and invites the audience to try it at home.|
Rubin acknowledges all the members of the two competing teams. Sotomayor adjourns the court.