Annual law school Supreme Court preview

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September 26, 2008

2:03 AM

__This article was also authored by Sarah Ross.__

Federal court judges, lawyers and scholars don’t usually play games. This weekend, they will.

Federal court judges, lawyers, scholars and journalists will meet today at the Institute of Bill of Rights Law’s Supreme Court Preview taking place at the College of William and Mary’s Marshall-Wythe School of Law. This annual event, now in its 21st year, has historically served as an exciting peek into the judicial landscape of the upcoming year.

“The Preview invites over 20 scholars, journalists, judges and public office holders to discuss the upcoming term for the Supreme Court,” Todd Garvey J.D. ’09 said. “The biggest event [is] a moot court [trial] of ‘FCC v. Fox Television Stations,’ a case involving free speech in the media.”

Throughout the two-day event, participants will also give input on panels “speaking to certain significant constitutional questions” on the docket for the upcoming Supreme Court term, said law professor William Van Alstyne.

The Preview is open to a limited number of students and Williamsburg community members.

“Audiences watch and all panels are open at the event,” Garvey said. “For anyone who is interested in the Supreme Court, this is a premiere event in terms of looking into the future of the institution.”

Director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law and event organizer Neal Devins said this experience could be useful and interesting to students interested in American law.

“One of the interesting and relevant issues that the panels will discuss is the potential consequences of McCain or Obama on Supreme Court in the upcoming presidential term,” he said. “The audience gets to see the actual lawyers who argue before the court, how they talk and what they’re about, which is very useful.”

Each session will feature the expert panel’s comments predicting how the Supreme Court will rule, a feature that nationally renowned scholars and journalists consider when writing articles about the upcoming cases.

“If you were just interested [in seeing what the Supreme Court is likely to do], you couldn’t do better than the preview,” Van Alstyne said. “We do very well [at predicting the outcome of court cases]. If you wanted to compare it to a batting average … well, I would guess they bat about .750.”

This year’s panel sessions include criminal law, election law, civil rights and the legal legacy of President George W. Bush. The preview’s first session, the moot court trial, will cover the appeal of the “FCC v. Fox” ruling, in which the Federal Communications Commission, then under current rector Michael Powell ’84, fined the Fox Network after singer Janet Jackson’s exposed breast appeared during the halftime show at the Superbowl in 2004.

“The moot court case involves indecency and FCC’s power to influence it,” Devins said. “The Court issues important decisions that affect [students’] lives. The people at the moot court this year have argued gun rights, abortion, gay rights — issues that are obviously of interest to all of us.”

Coincidentally, current Board of Visitors Rector Michael Powell ’85 headed up the FCC at the time. His treatment of the incident drew criticism of the FCC and was a defining moment in his career.

Over its 21-year history, the Preview has attracted distinguished outside professors and has recently been forced to limit what members can return.

“It’s a very well established event. The first invitations to speakers were extended a year ago,” Devins said. “For anyone interested in the court [or] becoming a lawyer, this is a wonderful program and opportunity. To meet the players, journalists and lawyers — it’s a unique link into the court and American government.”

The student division of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law is hosting a Constitution Day Program open to all at 3 p.m. today in room 119 of the law school.

“It’s a talk about the solicitor general’s office, the second most influential legal office in the federal government,” Garvey said. “It provides an inside perspective into the workings of the office, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come.”

The Supreme Court Preview begins at 6 p.m. tonight in the McGlothlin Moot Courtroom and runs tomorrow from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. in room 119 at the law school.

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