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William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I was a judge at the Desmond Moot Court competition last night, a light, pleasant task that I enjoy every year. The Desmond is UB's upperclassman competition, and determines who makes the Moot Court Board. The sign in is always convivial-- the lawyers who show up to act as judges are lawyers who enjoy the give and take associated with oral argument, and everybody feels pretty good about being involved in a law school project that allows us to feel intellectual about our glamor profession. This year's case was Locke v. Davey, the appeal from the Ninth Circuit's decision overturning the State of Washington's statute barring state scholarships to students pursuing studies in theology. It's an interesting issue, and the kind of thing that is fun to kick around, so we all felt like real Constitutional Law jocks, which doesn't happen to most of us most of the time.

A few weeks back I had occasion to make some phone calls for scouting reports about an adversary, and two of the lawyers that I'd spoken to were sitting with me on my second panel of the night. Both had been at some pains, when I spoke to them last, to make it clear that the dope they were imparting was of a strictly confidential nature, and that it was of paramount importance that it not be traced back to them. It was nothing that amounted to any sort of breach, of course-- more in the nature of critical assessments of an individual's character, but sensitive stuff. It had been helpful, and when I was able to, alone with each of them, I put a hand on an arm and murmured, "Thanks for your help on that". Hilariously, as we were walking out both of them started talking about it with me, in a way that immediately completely blew whatever pretense there might have been, but I'm keeping faith-- you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?

The level of advocacy displayed by the students was quite high, by the way, and several of them were jaw-droppingly impressive.

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