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Panel Reviews Key Cases in Supreme Court’s Current Term

February 14, 2016 — The second half of the U.S. Supreme Court’s term will feature cases on some of the most contentious issues the court has considered, according to a panel of Supreme Court experts who recently spoke at Georgetown Law.

“It will be interesting to see how hot the temperature in the room gets,” said Jeff Wall, co-head of the appellate practice at Sullivan & Cromwell. He noted that the court will hear cases on abortion and affirmative action, two particularly divisive issues on which several justices have strongly held views. 

Wall was one of five attorneys with extensive Court experience who spoke at the Mid-Term Preview, an annual event organized by the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law.  

The Institute has been offering previews of the Court’s October term since 2011. “The mid-term preview was suggested by students about three years ago,” said Georgetown Law Professor Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Institute. “Today two student organizations — the ACLU and the Federalist Society — co-sponsor the event with the Institute.”  Gornstein, a constitutional law expert, has argued 36 cases in the Supreme Court.  

Rounding out the panel were Lori Alvino McGill, a partner at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; Tejinder Singh, a partner at Goldstein & Russell; and Will Consovoy, a partner at Consovoy McCarthy Park.  The panel was moderated by Tom Goldstein, a partner at Goldstein & Russell and a founder of SCOTUSBlog, a widely cited independent source for information and insights on U.S. Supreme Court cases.

Front Row Seat

Before an audience of 150 students and guests, panelists led a discussion of four cases covering some of the most ideologically divisive issues facing the court: public employee unions and free speech (Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association), restrictions on access to abortion services (Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt), exceptions for nonprofit religious employers to the contraceptive mandate under the Affordable Care Act (East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell) and immigration (United States v. Texas).

“The caliber of the attorneys on the panels is remarkable,” said Matt Brown, a 3L who is currently president of the Georgetown Law student chapter of the Federalist Society. “Hearing from individuals who have argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court allows students to have a front-row seat on discussions of some of the most important, hot-button legal issues.”



The Mid-Term Preview is but one of the programs sponsored by the Supreme Court Institute, which is perhaps best known as the place where advocates hone their arguments and make final preparations before they appear at the U.S. Supreme Court, just a few blocks away.  Nearly every case argued before the Supreme Court is given a test run at the Institute, allowing attorneys to fine tune their reasoning and sharpen responses to likely questions from the justices.  The Institute is non-partisan and offers its services — including the use of a replica Supreme Court chamber — on a first-come first-served basis. 

For Georgetown Law students, the Institute’s moot courts and other programs provide unique insights into legal strategy and the Supreme Court’s decision-making.  Every student enrolled in the J.D. program at Georgetown attends a moot court as part of the first-year Legal Research and Writing curriculum.  The Institute’s other programs and activities provide practicing lawyers and academics with opportunities to exchange ideas about the Court and support each other in their work. 

For more information on the Supreme Court Institute, visit its webpage

The SCOTUSBlog has useful discussions of these cases available at the links below:

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt
East Texas Baptist University v. Burwell
United States v. Texas

A webcast may be viewed here.

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