Yeshiva University News » 2005 » March » 15

Seth Waxman, far right, talks with two Cardozo student leaders.

Mar 15, 2005 — Former Solicitor General Seth Waxman spent two-days immersed in law school life, sharing his invaluable experience by discussing his recent Supreme Court victory, leading a Moot Court master class, teaching Constitutional Law, and delivering a public lecture at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law on March 7 and 8.

In a glowing introduction before the opening lecture, Prof. Susan Crawford described Waxman as “extraordinarily generous.” “Seth makes us all proud of our profession,” Crawford said.

Known for his “teaching, leading, and helping,” Waxman, a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and one of the country’s premier Supreme Court and appellate advocates, lived up to the reputation by graciously inviting the audience to interrupt with questions and injecting a bit of humor into his speech. “I could listen to that forever,” Waxman said of Crawford’s introduction. “It’s really my pleasure to be here.

Waxman’s lecture “Who (or What) is the Solicitor General’s Client?”, part of Cardozo’s Bauer Distinguished Visitor Program, covered the role and responsibilities of a solicitor general, which includes arguing in front of the United States Supreme Court and insuring that the government speaks in one voice on questions of law. “It probably was a job whose aspirations could never be filled,” Waxman said. Admitting he was unsure where to begin in the role, his response was to “show up for work everyday and figure out how it’s done,” he said, adding that arguing in front of the United States Supreme Court is “great, wonderful fun.”

Continuing the visit, Waxman, who has delivered more than 40 oral arguments in the Supreme Court, began his second day at Cardozo by teaching a Constitutional Law class. Jokingly promising a higher grade to anyone who asked a question, including the Hon. Olivier Dutheillet de Lamothe, Justice at the French Constitutional Council who was in attendance, Waxman led up to a discussion of his recent Supreme Court win in the juvenile death penalty case Roper v. Simmons.

He discussed the eighth Amendment and various cases involving the death penalty, before talking about the preparation for Roper v. Simmons, in which the court ruled on March 1, 2005, that the death penalty is unconstitutional for anyone who commits a crime when they are under the age of 18. “We needed to write the perfect brief,” Waxman said. Representing Christopher Simmons, who murdered a neighbor when he was 17-years-old and was sentenced to death, Waxman looked to “evolving standards of decency” and social science research that suggests personalities and moral character are too unreliable in someone under 18, to make his case.

After leading the class and having lunch with a group of students, Waxman served as the judge during a Moot Court master class. Second-year students Rachel Lubert and Rebecca Hagenson, national Moot Court champions, presented oral arguments in front of Waxman and fellow students.

“This was really a pleasure,” Waxman said. “It’s quite obvious why you won.” He also offered practical advice from his first-hand experience, encouraging the students to prepare and recite their most important one or two points right off the bat. Admitting that justices probably don’t want to be considered pupils, he nonetheless encouraged everyone to think of judges as students when answering their questions. “This is all about teaching,” Waxman said. “It’s about trying to explain something.”

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Cardozo's Jeremy Sussman and Andrew Pak, Henry G. Manne Moot Court Competition winners, with the competition's namesake, Henry G. Manne (center). Photo Credit: Greg Staiti, George Mason University.

Mar 15, 2005 — February was an extremely successful month for Cardozo’s moot court, as second-year students Rachel Lubert and Rebecca Hagenson of the Moot Court Honor Society won Vanderbilt University’s prestigious National First Amendment Moot Court Competition and Jeremy Sussman and Andrew Pak, also 2Ls, took top honors at George Mason University’s Henry G. Manne Moot Court Competition for Law & Economics.

“This has been a very successful year for moot court and we are just happy to be able to contribute and represent the school as Cardozo deserves,” Lubert said.

The victory at the 15th annual National First Amendment Moot Court Competition was described as “bittersweet.” Lubert and Hagenson had to not only overcome 35 other teams from law schools around the country, but also the death of their friend and team editor, Liza Suckle, who passed away only days before the competition.

“We really had no expectation of success, only the hope to honor Liza’s memory,” Lubert said. “We competed for her and hope only that we made her proud.”

The team, who also won runner-up best brief, argued a hypothetical First Amendment case that presented the issue of whether school officials could punish a student for a drawing depicting violence. They were required to argue both sides of the case: for the petitioner in the final-round and for the respondent in the semifinals.

Arguing in front of judges from the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, and the Hon. A.A. Birch of the Tennessee Supreme Court, was humbling but also enjoyable. “We work so hard in preparation and it is so difficult to put yourself out there in competition, that just by doing it you’ve generally satisfied your expectations,” Lubert said.

The Sussman and Pak team, who took first place, certainly went above and beyond their expectations at the Henry G. Manne Moot Court Competition for Law & Economics. Held at the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, steps from the White House, the team had to analyze the legal and economic implications of a complex, antitrust price fixing problem. According to Sussman, the competition challenged them to learn basic economic theory and antitrust law, a class neither have taken yet, and apply it to a question with no obvious answer.

Pak, who also won best oralist, said that although the competition is only in its third year, “I have no doubt it will become an important competition in years to come.”

A highlight of the competition was the opportunity to argue in front of high-profile judges, including the Hon. Pauline Newman, US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the Hon. Stephen F. Williams, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit; the Hon. Adrian Duplantier, US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana; as well as Henry G. Manne, founder of the Law and Economics Center at George Mason University and for whom the competition is named.

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