Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Evening at an Old Haunt

My Wednesday lasted several hours longer than it usually does - and for an excellent reason.  I spent last evening at Seton Hall University School of Law, where I served as one of the judges for the 2017 Eugene Gressman Appellate Advocacy Moot Court Competition.  This marked the second consecutive year that I have been lucky enough to participate as a judge in the competition.  I hope that - whether next year or at a later date - I am afforded a third opportunity. 

Apropos of nothing other than scheduling, the arguments that we the judges listened to last night were in the "Sweet 16" of this year's competition, as opposed to last year when I was a judge in an earlier round.  I was impressed again this year - as I was last year - by the preparation of the soon-to-be lawyers and, more than anything else, by their advocacy.  Once again this year, the 3-L student who wrote the "problem" that was the basis of the oral argument did an excellent job.  She not only provided the competitors with substance - regardless of which side of the argument he or she was one - but she provided the judges with quite a lot of issues to consider and with a lot of bases for questions.  

As a Moot Court judge, I tend to ask a fair number of questions.  While that is undoubtedly a by-product of having spent close to twenty-five years on the receiving end of questions, whether arguing a motion before a Law Division judge or an appeal in front of an appellate panel, it is also intended to get the young man or woman who is standing up in front of a panel of strangers a bit more comfortable with the task at hand.  

In my experience, it can be a bit unsettling to argue one's point passionately and articulately only to have the audience to which you are presenting your case stare back at you without comment.  I have always made it my goal - in every competition in which I have served as a judge - to try and help the competitors by creating an atmosphere in which they know that the judge who is speaking to them is engaged in the process - as are the competitors themselves. 

My hope this year, as it was last year and as it has been in every competition in which I have served as a judge, is that I held up my end.  The student competitors did not disappoint.  Regardless of how comfortable (or not) any one of them is on his/her feet, or how satisfied (or not) any one of them is with the result, they never do. 


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