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Moot Court Competition Finalists Argue Before Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Featured in The New Yorker

Gressman Moot Court finalists with Justice Sotomayor

Seton Hall Law School hosted Justice Sonia Sotomayor on April 10. During her visit she served as the keynote speaker for the Diversity Speaks Annual Distinguished Speaker Series in which she shared perspectives from her memoir, My Beloved World. Later that day, she presided, alongside Judges Michael A. Chagares ’87 and Julio M. Fuentes of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, at the Eugene Gressman Appellate Moot Court Competition final round. The New Yorker magazine attended the competition and published a feature story in its May 12 issue.

Teams Karol Ruiz ’14 and Christopher Keating ’14 - both, Center for Social Justice Scholars (pictured, from left) - and Justin Ferrone ’15 and Brian Spadora ’15 (pictured to the right of Justice Sotomayor), argued their cases before a packed audience in the Law School’s Larson Auditorium. The story appears in the May 12 edition of the New Yorker’s famed “Talk of the Town.”

The reporter describes an energetic presentation:

Justin Ferrone, a second-year student whose summer plans include an externship at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York, was the first up, arguing on the petitioner’s side. Within minutes, he had cited a judgment that Sotomayor rendered while she was a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. ‘Well, was I right?,' Sotomayor responded, to general laughter. Ferrone was not thrown entirely off balance. ‘With all due respect, Your Honor, I think your position is wonderful,’ he said. Ferrone’s co-counsel, Brian Spadora, a second-year student and a former newspaper reporter, also cited a phrase from one of Sotomayor’s earlier decisions. Sotomayor corrected him. “I think that was my colleague’s line,' she said.

’It’s a good line; you should take credit for it,’ Spadora replied.

Karol Ruiz, who was brought to the U.S. from Colombia as a young child and now advocates for the rights of other children in her position, found a deep connection to Justice Sotomayor when she read the Justice's autobiography:

When Sotomayor wrote, in 'My Beloved World,' about the generosity of her grandmother, it put Ruiz in mind of her own family, she explained. ‘She was the first Supreme Court Justice to use the term ‘undocumented immigrants,’ and she used it in her first opinion,’ Ruiz said. ‘I grew up an undocumented immigrant, and she really inspired me to show her what we can do.”

The profile also describes the competing teams’ excitement after they presented their arguments before the Justices. While Ferrone and Spadora described their own experiences, Chris Keating ’14 most likely spoke for the entire assembled audience when he said, “It’s amazing, making eye contact with Justice Sotomayor,’ he said. ‘You’re thinking, This Justice is actually listening to the words that are coming out of my mouth.'

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