Newswise — UC Berkeley School of Law announced today that U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor will preside over the final arguments of its honors moot court competition on Wednesday, Feb. 2. Judge William Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who teaches a course on federal courts at Berkeley Law, and Associate Justice Carol A. Corrigan of the California Supreme Court will complete the judicial panel.

“These are three extraordinary jurists,” said UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley. The participation of the prestigious trio in the James Patterson McBaine Honors Competition will serve as an “invaluable learning opportunity” for aspiring lawyers, he said.

William Fernholz, director of appellate programs at the law school, said Justice Sotomayor’s involvement has stirred a palpable excitement among students.

“Justice Sotomayor is extraordinarily charismatic and uniquely alive in her questioning during oral arguments at the Supreme Court,” Fernholz said. “She is a role model for any student engaged in the study and practice of law.”Berkeley Law assistant professor Melissa Murray, who clerked for then-Judge Sotomayor on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, said the justice “routinely went out of her way to mentor young people and young lawyers.”

Sotomayor is the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court justice. During 2009 confirmation hearings, the nation learned of her determination, fierce intellect, and remarkable ascent to the bench from an upbringing in a New York City housing project.

“I believe that over the next 20 years Justice Sotomayor will emerge as a truly central figure in American jurisprudence; she's that good,” said Dean Edley. “Our students will carry this memory with them for the rest of their lives."

Once enrolled in the annual honors competition, second- and third-year law students submit legal briefs and present oral arguments on real and substantive issues on behalf of hypothetical clients. This year, finalists will argue Busch v. Marple Newton School District, a complex First Amendment case that challenges the district’s ability to limit what students and parents can say in class.

Joseph Rose, a third-year law student and co-director of the competition, said students are “thrilled and honored” to have Justice Sotomayor judge the final round of the moot court. “Her participation will definitely keep the students on their toes,” said Rose. Competition co-director Jackie Setili, also a third-year law student, said “The competitors put in a lot of work over the course of the year and to have the opportunity to present in front of such a prestigious judge panel is a fantastic reward.” The contest format is modeled after U.S. Supreme Court procedures. All competitors must prepare both an appellate brief and an oral argument. The two finalists will have 30 minutes for oral arguments and the petitioner has 5 minutes of rebuttal. After arguments, the judges will announce the four awards, including: best oral argument and runner-up, and best written brief for each competing side (petitioner and respondent).

The Feb. 2 McBaine Moot Court Competition final round will be held in Wheeler Auditorium on the UC Berkeley campus from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. The event is open to the public. Learn more about the competition here.

About University of California, Berkeley, School of Law:For over a century, Berkeley Law has prepared lawyers to be skilled and ethical problem-solvers. The law school’s curriculum—one of the most comprehensive and innovative in the nation—offers its J.D. and advanced degree candidates a broad array of nearly 200 courses. Students collaborate with leading scholars and practitioners working at more than a dozen interdisciplinary centers, institutes, and clinical programs within its Boalt Hall complex.