Since 1987 the William and Mary Law School has hosted an annual Supreme Court Preview. Held each fall just before the U.S. Supreme Court convenes, the Preview brings together legal scholars, lawyers and court journalists from across the country to exams the cases scheduled to be considered by the Court in its upcoming term. The two-day event features a Moot Court session and numerous panel discussions.
“This year's Preview was one of the best,” said Neal Devins, Goodrich Professor of Law and director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law (IBRL). “With two former Solicitors General, four federal appeals court judges, and panelists who argued several hundred cases before the Supreme Court we had an unbelievably talented group of panelists this year. More than that, the 2008 elections put into focus how much the Supreme Court might change over the next four years.”
Just like its namesake, the preview is called to order by the session’s ‘bailiff.’ For the Preview, this honor goes to a William and Mary law student.
“What struck me was the solemnity of it, how quickly the crowd went from being out of order to after a minute of announcement the concentration of everyone immediately heightened,” said this year’s bailiff Matthew Myer.
Myer is a first year law student and a student fellow at the law school’s Institute of Bill of Rights Law, the event’s sponsor. Myer noted the evening was his first time in a courtroom – moot or otherwise.
“It was a lot faster paced than I thought it might be and more intellectually rigorous. I was actually curious how many hours each [panelist] prepared,” he said. “I was struck by the difference in method of presenting their case between the first and second counsel – I was trying to note some of those things…it makes me want to be at that level – it sets something to strive for.”
Annually the Preview attracts some of the best and most seasoned Supreme Court litigants. This year’s moot case - FCC v. Fox Television, a case regarding the use of indecent language on broadcast television - pitted Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law and Tom Goldstein of the law firm Akin Gump. Many years, the attorneys presenting the Moot Court arguments are the litigants that will present the case before the real Supreme Court providing both the attorneys, and the journalists who will cover the real sessions, a “dry run” at the cases.
In addition to hosting the event, William and Mary provided several noted scholars including law professors William W. Van Alstyne, Timothy Zick and Davison Douglas. Other Moot Court judges and panelists included USAToday reporter Joan Biskupic, who has been a part of every Preview since their inception, Robert Barnes, Supreme Court writer for the Washington Post; and David Savage, the long-time courts reporter for the Los Angeles Times; several federal appeals court judges including Marsha Berzon, Michael McConnell and Diane Wood and numerous legal scholars including Linda Greenhouse, of Yale Law School; Pam Karlan, of Stanford Law School and Paul Clement, of Georgetown University.
“After 21 years, the Preview has become an institution in the best sense of the word. Panelists love to return and the lawyers who argue before the Supreme Court consider it an honor to be invited to the program. Of the two dozen presenters this year, 15 or so had participated in other Previews - with four journalists having participated in every Preview. And the new participants were great, including three federal court judges and Paul Clement,” added Devins.
The panel discussions included a look at potential impacts of the 2008 Presidential Election on the court as well as looks at civil rights, business and election law. The Moot Court case and the panel discussion on the presidential elections were taped by the cable network, C-Span for later broadcast on their “America & the courts” series.
Myer said that, as a fellow, he had been heavily involved in the planning of this year’s Preview, noting that his role as bailiff had been “a highlight.”