About the First Year Ames Competition

The First Year Ames Moot Court serves as the academic focus of first-year students’ second semester of Legal Research and Writing (LRW).  All first-year J.D. students participate:  the work of briefing and arguing a case is an essential part of a Harvard legal education and helps students develop critical skills in argument and logic.

In the First Year Ames Moot Court, students work in pairs to compose briefs on the merits of a hypothetical appellate case.  Cases are assigned by students’ Legal Research and Writing instructors, the Climenko Fellows.  The Fellows, together with members of the Board of Student Advisers who serve as teaching assistants, teach students how to research and write their briefs and help them prepare for oral arguments.

Students’ briefs are graded by their Climenko Fellows.  Students do not receive formal grades for their oral argument performance, but they do receive feedback from their judging panel (consisting of a faculty member, an attorney, and an upper-level student).

2016 First-Year Ames Case Descriptions:

Beckett v. Wingate Rifle Co. presents a question of first impression for the Nevada Supreme Court, which must decide whether a gun manufacturer may be held liable for the wrongful deaths of those shot with its high-powered weapon. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant, but the plaintiffs, on appeal, have pressed their theories of negligence in the marketing and distribution of Wingate’s weapon. Wingate hopes to persuade the Court that it should adopt the majority rule against imposing special common law duties on gun manufacturers. Appellants, meanwhile, will need to convince the Court that summary judgment was inappropriate, and that the principles of tort law and public policy are on their side.

United States v. Hark presents several appellate issues stemming from Archibald “Archie” Hark’s conviction for distributing more than 100 grams of heroin. After the jury delivered its verdict at trial, Hark moved for acquittal on the basis that federal drug enforcement officials, including Agent Paul Lopez, had induced him to deal the drugs and that, therefore, he was entrapped as a matter of law. Three days after trial, Hark moved separately for a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence—several affidavits casting Agent Lopez’s testimony into doubt. The district court denied both motions. On appeal, Hark hopes to persuade the Ninth Circuit that the district court erred in rejecting his motion for acquittal for entrapment as a matter of law and in refusing to grant him a new trial. The Government must persuade the court that the lower court was correct in both its rulings.

Weston v. Good TV, Inc.: Sally Weston, a 13-year-old girl, cut off two of her fingers while attempting to slaughter a chicken as a contestant on Good TV’s newest reality show, Kid Nation. Weston then sued Good TV for damages, and in the process attempted to disaffirm the liability waiver she and her mother were required to sign for Weston to participate in the show. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant. On appeal, Weston hopes to convince the California Court of Appeals that she successfully disaffirmed the liability waiver or that the waiver was invalid as a matter of public policy. She also hopes to persuade the Court that she was not an employee of Good TV and thus that Good TV’s liability is not limited by California’s workers’ compensation regime. Good TV, by contrast, must persuade the Court that summary judgment on all issues should be upheld.

Pierre v. Troy Preparatory Academy, Inc.: Plaintiff Jeffrey Pierre suffered four broken ribs and a concussion following a hit in football practice at the hands of team manager and fellow student, Nathan Berry. Prior to the damaging hit, football coach Brock Hennessey had instructed Berry to “teach [Pierre] a lesson.” Plaintiff brought suit against the school for battery under the theory of respondeat superior, willful and wanton misconduct under the theory of respondeat superior, and willful and wanton misconduct. The trial court granted summary judgment for Troy Preparatory, holding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Berry was an agent of the school or that Troy Preparatory’s actions caused the Plaintiff’s injuries. Plaintiff appeals that judgment and must persuade the Court that the district court erred in granting defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Troy Preparatory must persuade the Court that summary judgment should be upheld.