U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is due to visit the University of California at Berkeley next month to preside over a student law competition.
Sotomayor will be the chief judge on a panel hearing the final round of arguments by law students in the McBaine Honors Competition, the UC Berkeley School of Law's annual moot court contest scheduled for Feb. 2.
She will be joined by 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William Fletcher, who teaches a class on federal courts at the school, and California Supreme Court Justice Carol Corrigan.
"These are three extraordinary jurists," said law school dean Christopher Edley. He said the trio's participation will make the session an “invaluable learning opportunity" for students.
The moot court competition is intended to simulate the arguing of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Each competitor must prepare a written brief and 30 minutes of oral argument on a cutting-edge topic selected by the competition organizers.
This year's case is a free-speech lawsuit filed against a school district by an Evangelical Christian mother after school officials, citing the constitutional separation of church and state, refused to let her read Bible verses to her kindergarten son during a classroom show-and-tell session.
The two finalists who will argue on Feb. 2 will be chosen after preliminary rounds, quarter-finals and semi-finals held this month before panels of lawyers, local judges and faculty.
Sotomayor, a former federal appeals court judge in New York, was President Obama's first appointment to the Supreme Court, named by him to the post in 2009. She is the court's first Hispanic justice.
"I believe that over the next 20 years Justice Sotomayor will emerge as a truly central figure in American jurisprudence; she's that good,” Dean Edley said. "Our students will carry this memory with them for the rest of their lives."
Faculty and student representatives said students are thrilled and honored to have the participation of Sotomayor, who is known for her lively questioning of lawyers.
"Justice Sotomayor is extraordinarily charismatic and uniquely alive in her questioning during oral arguments at the Supreme Court," said William Freehold, a faculty member who directs the school's appellate program.
"She is a role model for any student engaged in the study and practice of law," Fernholz said.
"Her participation will definitely keep the students on their toes," said Joseph Rose, a third-year law student who is co-director of the moot court competition.
The contest's other co-director, third-year law student Jackie Estelí, 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 final round of arguments will be held in Wheeler Auditorium on the Berkeley campus from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 2. It is free and open to the public.