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Scholars, practicioners & journalist share insights on Supreme Court

  • Supreme Court Preview
    Supreme Court Preview  Panelists Walter Dellinger of O'Melveny & Myers and Carter Phillips of Sidley Austin debate constitutional issues over lunch.  Photo courtesy of the W&M Law School
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William & Mary Law School's Institute of Bill of Rights Law held its annual Supreme Court Preview on September 24-25, 2010.   Distinguished experts from around the nation joined Law School faculty to discuss the Court’s upcoming term.

Participants included five of the Law School's own scholars: Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas and Professors William W. Van Alstyne, James Dwyer, Allison Orr Larsen and Timothy Zick.  Others participants included journalists, advocates, scholars and federal judges. 

“This was perhaps our best Preview yet,” said Neal Devins, Director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law. “Fourteen of our panelists have collectively argued about 200 cases before the Court and several of them spoke about cases they are arguing this term.  With two federal court of appeals judges, three former Solicitor Generals, and top Supreme Court journalists participating, the range of insights and expertise was awesome.  More than that, seven different student groups cosponsored breakout lunches with the panelists, so we had much more student involvement this year than ever before.  One of the main purposes of the Preview is to provide our students with an opportunity to meet the lawyers who argue before the Court and the journalists who cover the Court.”

“One of the main attractions of this Preview is the caliber of practitioners that William & Mary draws,” said participant Joan Biskupic. “We get lots of people who are actually arguing before the Supreme Court on any given term, and the Moot Court, featuring one of the big cases of the term, is argued by lawyers who themselves might, in a couple of months, be arguing a similar kind of case.”  Biskupic is the author of three books about the Court, the most recent of which is American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (2009).

The Preview commenced on Friday afternoon with a panel discussion on Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act. Participants included Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, Chuck Cooper of Cooper & Kirk, Walter Dellinger of O'Melveny & Myers, and the Honorable Jeffrey Sutton, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Joan Biskupic served as moderator.

A moot court featured Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a case that focuses on First Amendment issues and the state's ability to limit the sale of violent video games to minors.  The moot court was argued by experienced Supreme Court advocates Ted Cruz of Morgan Lewis and Michael W. McConnell, Mallery Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center.  The moot court justices were Jess Bravin of The Wall Street Journal,  Linda Greenhouse, Research Scholar at Yale Law School, Adam Liptak of the New York Times, David Savage of The Los Angeles Times, Biskupic, Cooper, Dwyer and Van Alstyne. 

The first night's events concluded with two panels. The first focused on Justice Elena Kagan and her role as she begins her time on the Court.  The second took a retrospective look at the Court during the tenure of Chief Justice John Roberts.  

Saturday’s events highlighted major themes that will be addressed by the Court this term, including criminal, individual rights and business cases.  Over lunch, participants wrestled with specific issues in breakout sessions.  One such session was entitled “Enemy Combatants and Obama,” in which panelists discussed the difficulties President Obama has had in closing Guantanamo Bay and the question of enemy combatant litigation in general.  Two other lunchtime breakout sessions addressed election law and the role of the Solicitor General and the Court.

The Preview concluded with two afternoon panels.  The first, on federalism, included participants Ted Cruz, Walter Dellinger, and Michael McConnell; Linda Greenhouse served as moderator.  The second addressed First Amendment issues and featured Pam Karlan, Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School, Adam Liptak, and Michael McConnell; Timothy Zick served as moderator. 

“The supreme court preview is one of the most outstanding events on the law school’s annual calendar and probably the preeminent event of its kind in the nation," said Douglas.  "Once again, we had a splendid discussion of the supreme court and its upcoming docket.”