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Federal Judges Test Advocacy Skills of Grimes Finalists

Chief Judge Merrick Garland among esteemed panelists hearing the case.


Three federal judges, including Merrick Garland of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, handed 2Ls Jenny Moore and Brooke Hartley victory April 19 at the 57th Annual Wendell F. Grimes Moot Court Competition at BC Law.

In a closely matched contest, the winning team, arguing for the respondent, prevailed over Brooks Kenyon and Matthew Rapkowski, for the petitioner.

Chief Judge Garland, together with Chief Judge Patti B. Saris from the District of Massachusetts and Judge Paul J. Barbadoro ’80 from the District of New Hampshire, also named Hartley Best Oralist.

“The competitors did BC Law proud. Both teams responded extraordinarily well to difficult questions from a very active bench,” said Rosemary Daly, director of advocacy programs at BC Law. “This is experiential learning at its best not only for the competitors but also for all of the students who see great jurists in action.”

This year’s problem asked students to consider whether the domestic relations exception applied in federal cases and whether the actual malice standard should apply to defamation claims by a limited-purpose public figure. The issues were particularly challenging. Kaitlin Vigars, who co-chaired the competition with classmates Erin Garrity and Charlene Ochogo, said that even the judges who benched the elimination rounds of this complex case during the two-month run-up to the finals “consistently expressed how impressed they were with the students’ arguments.”

She concurred with Daly’s observations about the competition’s value to the BC Law community. “The judges were an outstanding, lively panel who really pushed the Grimes finalists to advocate for their clients, Vigars said. “Their skillful questioning really got to the heart of the issues, and I think left everyone watching with a better understanding of the underlying law.”

The moot court competition is named in memory of the late Professor Grimes, a beloved figure on campus, and has grown to be one of the largest in the country, fronting 32 two-person teams. Judges sitting for the final argument have included Supreme Court Justices Thurgood Marshall, William Brennan, Potter Stewart, Antonin Scalia, and Samuel Alito, as well as Chief Justices of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Edward Hennessey and Herbert Wilkins.

Pictured, left to right: Brooks Kenyon, Matthew Rapkowski, Merrick Garland, Dean Vincent Rougeau, Paul Barbadoro, Patti Saris, Jennifer Moore, and Brooke Hartley