Last weekend, federal court judges, lawyers, journalists and students gathered at the William and Mary Law School for the Institute of the Bill of Right’s annual Supreme Court Preview.
The preview spanned the course of two days, beginning Friday evening with the annual Moot Court trial and continuing Saturday with a series of panels centered on topics that will be brought before the Supreme Court in the next term.
“In this setting, what everybody does is stand back and try to put aside their internal perceptions, and tell as objectively as they can what the court is doing and why it does it and where the process may go,” SCOTUSblog writer Lyle Denniston said of the event. “It’s really unique.”
The preview, now in its 23rd year, is nationally noted for attracting well-known Supreme Court experts and scholars, such as last year’s guest of honor, former Supreme Court Justice and College Chancellor Sandra Day O’Connor.
“One of the main attractions of this preview event compared to others that are held around the country is the caliber of practitioners that William and Mary draws,” USA Today journalist Joan Biskupic said. “We get lots of people who are actually arguing before the Supreme Court on any given term, and the Moot Court that we do, 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.”
Although the event is attended primarily by law students, undergraduates were allowed to take part in the weekend as well.
“Some of the material is very hard to digest because it’s very complex,” Denniston said. “But if you pay close attention and go to all the panels and attend the Moot Court that’s held on Friday night, you will not only get a superficial perspective, but an in-depth perspective of one court term.”
This year’s Moot Court case, Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, is based on a 2005 bill introduced by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger which banned the sale of certain violent video games to minors.
The EMA argues that, by restricting the sale of such games, the government is violating the First Amendment rights of their creators.
“Again, under the First Amendment, there is a world of difference between an industry restraining its speech and the government intervening for them,” Stanford Constitutional Law Center Director and mock-EMA advocate Michael W. McConnell said.
The debate on this First Amendment issue was centered on what constitutes speech.
“Video games are not pure speech, as a general matter,” Morgan Lewis, Supreme Court lawyer and mock-advocate for the state of California, said. “Parcheesi is not speech; a basketball is not speech.”
Ultimately, the Moot Court voted 6-3 in favor of the law’s reversal. The actual case will appear before the Supreme Court Nov. 2.