In one of the most venerable traditions at Harvard Law School, the Ames Moot Court Competition—teams of six students demonstrate their skills in oral advocacy before an illustrious panel of judges. Making the final round of Ames—the cumulation of months of rigorous preparation, carefully crafting briefs and replies, and agonizing over and fine-tuning positions—is one of the school’s greatest honors. Over the years, numerous U.S. Supreme Court justices have presided at the final argument, beginning with Justice Owen Roberts in 1940. Most recently, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. presided over the competition in 2017.
“Her questioning at Ames was very similar to her questioning in real oral arguments. She was tenacious. She was not trying to make her own point. She was trying to get an answer to her question and so she would keep on asking.”
—Melissa R. Hart ’95, Associate Justice, Colorado Supreme Court, the John Marshall Team (1994)
In the history of Ames, eight teams of students have had the unique privilege of arguing before the iconic Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’56-’58. She first presided over the Ames Competition in 1982 while she was serving as a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. During her time as a Supreme Court justice, she returned to Harvard to oversee the finals three more times, in 1994, 2004 and 2013.
After Justice Ginsburg’s passing on Sept. 18, 2020, several Harvard Law School Ames alumni reflected on the experience of arguing before one of the most influential advocates in American history.