FAQs for Observers
What is a “moot”?
A “moot” is a practice session in which counsel presents oral argument before a panel of “Justices” in preparation for an appearance before the Supreme Court. The Justices offer critiques of the argument as well as general comments to help maximize counsel’s opportunity to present an effective, informative oral argument. The moots are designed not only to aid counsel in further refining their arguments but also to familiarize counsel with the general proceedings of the Court.
How many moots does the Institute hold each year?
During the last Term (October Term 2018), the SCI held 72 moot courts, providing assistance to counsel in 99% of the cases argued before the Court. While the number of moots varies from year to year, in recent years, the SCI has conducted moot courts for advocates in nearly every case on the Court’s argument docket.
When and where do the moots take place?
The moots are generally scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, at 10:00 am, 1:00 pm, or 3:30 pm, during the week prior to the actual oral argument before the Court. The moots are held at the law school campus in the SCI’s moot courtroom, which is located in Room 2003 of the Hotung International Law Building. Moot sessions typically run two hours.
What is the format of a moot?
The moots are divided into two parts. The first part is formal in character and the second part is an informal discussion. We ask both counsel and the Justices to stay in role during the first part of the proceeding, in order to maximize the value of the formal moot. We keep track of the time and notify counsel when time is up, but then allow the formal questioning and answering to proceed until the “Chief Justice” concludes that time would be better spent in the second part of the moot, which is the informal discussion. The formal question/answer session typically lasts about an hour. During the informal discussion that follows, counsel and the Justices have the opportunity to discuss the case, including the relative effectiveness and ineffectiveness of all aspects of counsel’s argument. The discussion is simultaneously candid and constructive.
Who attends the moots?
Counsel and the acting Justices attend the moots. As part of the SCI’s educational mission, all students enrolled at Georgetown Law are permitted to observe moots, with counsel’s consent. Attendance by observers is by invitation only, and only those observers who have ascertained that they have no conflict of interest and will maintain the strict confidentiality of the moot are permitted to attend. The SCI defers completely to counsel’s wishes with regard to attendance by observers. If you are a student or faculty member at Georgetown Law and would like to observe a moot court, click the Moot Court Schedule, enter your NetID and Password to review a list of scheduled moots, and follow the instructions to request an invitation to a moot you’d like to attend.
Who are the “Justices”?
The “Justices” for the moots are typically drawn from a mix of backgrounds, including members of the Georgetown Law faculty with considerable experience arguing before the Court; attorneys from D.C. firms with Supreme Court oral argument experience; recent Supreme Court law clerks (beyond the two-year time bar); alumni of the Solicitor General’s office; and, in appropriate cases, current members of the Solicitor General’s office. The Justices, accordingly, include many of the finest Supreme Court advocates, all of whom donate their time. If you are an experienced Supreme Court advocate located in the D.C. area and would like to participate, please contact Debbie Shrager, at 202-662-9630 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What about confidentiality?
The SCI has an absolute confidentiality rule that covers the moot court itself, and a more limited rule of reason regarding making adverse comments about the advocate’s position in the case before it is decided. Thus, if you have attended or participated in a moot court, you should not, without the approval of the advocate, post an entry on a blog or publish an article in a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication while the case is pending in the Court if the entry or article could reasonably be regarded as contrary to the interests of the advocate. Every moot court participant and observer is instructed to ensure that all understand the importance of holding these moot court proceedings in strict confidence, given the nature of the exchanges. Likewise, we guard the privacy of our Justices. We appreciate their service and in no way wish to violate their trust. Therefore, we do not identify our Justices for specific cases to outside sources.