Supreme Court Justice Breyer Presides Over Berkeley Law Competition

For Immediate Release

Contact: Susan Gluss, 510.642.6936,

Berkeley, CA—April 2, 2009…UC Berkeley School of Law’s top students will have an opportunity that few attorneys experience in a lifetime during a prestigious moot court competition this month. The school announced today that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer will preside over a distinguished panel of judges during final arguments at the James Patterson McBaine Honors Moot Court Competition. Judge Michael McConnell of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and Judge David Tatel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will complete the panel.

“This is an all-star panel,” said Berkeley Law’s Director of Appellate Programs William Fernholz. “Justice Breyer is a major intellectual force on the Supreme Court. Judges Tatel and McConnell are leading lights of the Court of Appeals; both were mentioned as possible Supreme Court nominees during previous administrations. We would be lucky any year to have one of these judges preside over the final round. It’s like hitting the jackpot to have all three join us.”

To participate in the annual honors competition, second- and third-year law students must submit legal briefs and present oral arguments on behalf of hypothetical clients. This year, finalists will argue ACLU v. NSA, an actual case that considered the legality of warrantless wiretapping under the Terrorist Surveillance Program. The students must grapple with exceedingly difficult issues that include the extent of the president’s powers in wartime and the rights of U.S. citizens who are suspected of contacting terrorist groups overseas.

“It’s the most difficult case chosen for the competition in over a decade,” said Fernholz.

Katie Cameron, a third-year law student and co-director of the competition, said she was “absolutely thrilled” that Justice Breyer was judging the final round. “Most attorneys never get to argue in front of the Supreme Court—ever,” she said. She credits Breyer’s participation with more than tripling student involvement this year.

The contest format is modeled after U.S. Supreme Court procedures. The two finalists will have 30 minutes to present oral arguments and the petitioner has 5 minutes of rebuttal. After arguments, the judges will confer and then announce the four awards, including: best oral argument and runner-up, and best written brief for each competing side (petitioner and respondent).

The McBaine Moot Court Competition final round will be held in Wheeler Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14. Although the event is free and open to the public, online registration is required. To register, and to learn more about the event, please go to: For a map of campus, go to:

Note: For more information about the event or to arrange an interview with the jurists, please contact Nancy Donovan at or (510) 643-1346.

About University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
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