Ames Moot Court Competition

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The Ames Moot Court Competition is the annual upper level moot court competition at Harvard Law School. It is designed and administered by the Board of Student Advisers and has been in existence since 1911.[1]

Format and History[edit]

As currently structured, the official competition begins in the fall (usually October or November) of students' 2L year with a round-robin qualifying round. Each team at this stage consists of four participants, who each argue twice in teams of two. The four teams with the highest scores advance to the semi-finals in the spring. Each team is then allowed to add two participants, for a total of six people per team; two members of each team present oral argument in this round, typically before a panel of one federal appellate judge, one district judge, and one state court judge. In the competition's final round, held in the fall of the 3L year, the two remaining teams argue a case before a panel that usually consists of one U.S. Supreme Court justice and two judges from the United States courts of appeal. Prizes are awarded for the best brief, best oralist, and best overall team.

The competition originally was organized around the school's now-defunct law clubs. The competition occurs primarily in students' 2L year because the faculty found that, for students who did not finish at the very top of their first clear class, "it [was hard] for them to take the same interest in their work, particularly in the work within the law clubs, participation in which depends entirely upon their own volition." Thus, to encourage students to continue working hard, the Ames finalists received prizes of $200 for first place and $100 for second place. After several years of a single-elimination tournament, the format changed to a round-robin that more closely resembles the current qualifying round structure.[2]

The final round competition is one of the most popular events at the Law School each year, especially because a justice from the U.S. Supreme Court usually presides. The Ames Final Round has occasionally been televised on C-SPAN; for instance, the 1995 finals, featuring Justice Stephen Breyer as the presiding judge, is available online here.

Many have found the Ames competition to be a demanding but rewarding experience. Chief Justice Mary Mullarkey of the Colorado Supreme Court, an Ames semi-finalist in her time at Harvard, wrote that "what was most rewarding was the opportunity to work as a team with other students. We could debate, argue, and challenge each other as we analyzed the case and prepared the briefs. The process was much more satisfying than the routine of classroom lectures and solitary examinations. The Ames competition provided a realistic view of what practicing law could be like."[3]


Previous notable winners include:[4]

Recent winners:

  • 2012 -
    • Best Overall Team & Best Brief - The Gordon Hirabayashi Memorial Team (Yaira S. Dubin, Emma L. Freeman, Benjamin F. Jackson, Michael D. Lieberman, William H. Milliken, Michael J. Springer)
    • Best Oralist - Emma L. Freeman
    • Runner-Up - The William J. Stuntz Memorial Team (Ryan Doerfler, Cormac Early, Conor Mulroe, Josh Segal, Vivek Suri, Allison Trzop)
    • Judges - David Souter (Supreme Court); Reena Raggi (Second Circuit); Mark Wolf (District Court of Massachusetts)
  • 2011 -
    • Best Overall Team - The Belva Ann Lockwood Memorial Team (Caroline Anderson, Matthew Greenfield, Stephen Pezzi, Mitchell Reich, Stephanie Simon, Noah Weiss)
    • Best Oralist - Matthew Greenfield
    • Best Brief & Runner-Up - The Hon. John McCarthy Roll Memorial Team (Avis Bohlen, Adam Hallowell, Jessica Palmer, Yvonne Saadi, Matthew Scarola, Benjamin Watson)
    • Judges - Sonia Sotomayor (Supreme Court), Frank H. Easterbrook (Seventh Circuit), Peter Rubin (Massachusetts Court of Appeals)
  • 2010 -
    • Best Overall Team & Best Brief - The Hon. William Wayne Justice Memorial Team (Jason Harrow, Philip Mayor, Jason Murray, Amanda Rice, Zachary Schauf, Yujing Yue)
    • Best Oralist - David Denton
    • Runner-Up - The Griffin Bell Memorial Team (Dustin Cho, David Denton, Taylor Hathaway-Zepeda, Luke McCloud, Lindsay See, Benjamin Snyder)
    • Judges - John Roberts (Supreme Court); Diana Murphy (Eighth Circuit); Julia Smith-Gibbons (Sixth Circuit)
  • 2009 -
    • Best Overall Team - The Charles Sumner Memorial Team (Anna Fecker, Candyce Phoenix, Colleen Roh, Hillary Schrenell, Hagan Scotten, Tobias Tobler)
    • Best Oralist - Hagan Scotten
    • Best Brief & Runner-Up - The Clarence Darrow Memorial Team (Paul Bailin, Ryan Buschell, Nicolas Cornell, Kathryn Nielson, Ray Seilie, William Sullivan)
    • Judges - Richard Posner (Seventh Circuit), Diane Wood (Seventh Circuit), Barrington Parker (Second Circuit)
  • 1989
    • Best Overall Team & Best Brief - A. Bartlett Giamatti Memorial Team (David Blank, Mary Cliff, Michael Dorf, Michael Grossman, Matthew Kreeger, Sylvia Quast)
    • Best Oralist - Michael Dorf
  • 1988
    • Best Overall Team - Paul A. Freund Team (Steve Demm, Meir Feder, Greg Nevins, Richard Rochman, Alicia Strohl, Jeffrey Wintner)
    • Best Oralist - Richard Rochman


  1. ^ BSA Website
  2. ^ A Centennial History of Harvard Law
  3. ^ 27 Harv. Women's L.J. 367 (2004), available here
  4. ^ "Past Winners of Ames Competition". Harvard Law School Board of Student Advisors. 

External links[edit]