Speeches

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
Herman Moot Court Competition
Jan. 26, 2017

Good afternoon.

Thank you Neil (Scott, J.D. Candidate, Class of 2017) for that introduction and for all the work you and your Moot Court Governing Board colleagues undertook to coordinate this year’s Moritz College of Law Herman Moot Court Competition.

I know that your colleagues include two of my former externs, Shane Wiegerig and Tyler Simms. Both of them are smart, committed, and hard-working men who will do the profession proud.

It’s a pleasure to be asked to serve as a judge and to score the final arguments. It was also a pleasure to serve on the panel with Professor (Mary Beth) Beazley and my colleague Justice Judi French, who knows a thing or two about moot court from her time at Moritz.

Moritz is to be commended for offering this opportunity and many others to increase and hone the advocacy skills – both in oral and written form – of its aspiring lawyers.

(To 2Ls) Congratulations to the 2Ls that participated.

Through this experience, you took some important steps about turning theory into practice and learning about yourselves along the way. You should be proud.

I think it is important that we take a moment to recognize all the people who helped get you here.

Your law professors, including Professor Beazley, who spent many days guiding you so that you know how the importance of “a phrase that pays,” as well as the case law and policy considerations that judges carefully consider during argument and when reading your briefs.

The attorneys or judges, who volunteered their time to judge each round of the competition and deliver honest feedback so your argument would be even better next time around.

Your partners, roommates, and “friend groups,” who provided emotional support and maybe pizza or a distraction when you needed it.

Let’s give them a big round of applause.

The Herman Moot Court Competition has been called the Moritz version of March Madness.

And like March Madness, it has a “win you move on, lose you go home” finality to it.

That kind of pressure is not out of bounds, especially given the career field you are entering.

I won’t argue that every case means life or death in the judicial system. But I can guarantee you that your client’s case will have ramifications for that person’s life that may seem like life or death. It’s appropriate that you realize that importance now, in a simulated environment.

There are many similarities between moot court and sports.

Just like sports teams:

You’ve practiced.

You’ve drawn up a game plan.

And you’ve suited up. You all look very nice, by the way.

Also, just like sports, moot court can teach you many skills, including:

Being part of a team.

How to think on your feet.

Performing in front of a crowd.

Good sportsmanship: We call that decorum in the courtroom.

Whether you end up as a practicing lawyer, I believe that you will find that what you learn from your moot court experience will apply to whatever you decide to do next in your academic and professional careers.

There can only be a few that advance to next year’s Travel Teams. But whichever of you make it, I have no doubt that Moritz will be well-represented next year if the quality of arguments displayed today are any indication. I wish you the best of luck.

I want to leave you with words of wisdom I have borrowed from famous sports figures.

“Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.” (Football coach Lou Holtz)

“True champions aren’t always the ones that win, but those with the most guts.” (Olympic soccer player Mia Hamm)

“Somebody’s gotta win, somebody’s gotta lose. Just don’t fight about it. Just try to get better.” (Baseball great Yogi Berra)

“I failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeeded.” (Basketball’s Michael Jordan)

And: “Champions are not made in the gym. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” That one is from Muhamad Ali, and it is a good reminder that no matter what your successes have been here at Drinko Hall, a champion, at least in the law, is the person with the desire and the dream. For yourself, for your client, and for the profession.

As champions, don’t ever stop challenging yourself, and your colleagues, to make our profession greater. Not necessarily richer. Or even better liked. Better. Better for us, and better for our great nation.

The great track and field sprinter and Olympian Wilma Rudolph said it best: “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to participate as a judge and to speak with you this afternoon. God bless.