What a Nice Footnote in a Court Opinion

Congratulations to two Duke law students, Hadley Dreibelbis and Philip Golodetz.


From Kent v. Hennelly, decided yesterday by Judge David C. Norton:

At the hearing, the court heard arguments from Hadley Dreibelbis and Philip Golodetz, two law students from Duke University School of Law's First Amendment Clinic. Impressed with the poise of their presentation and the acuity of their arguments, the court congratulates Ms. Dreibelbis and Mr. Golodetz on what is sure to be the first of many successful court appearances.

A gracious and doubtless well-deserved compliment, which I couldn't help but pass along.

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  1. That will look good on a resume.

  2. That was a nice thing to do. I understand why courts don’t call out bad lawyers more than they do, but it would be nice if they’d praise good ones a little more to show what they WANT done.

  3. At my first argument, the judge looked at my motion papers as if it were a hot steaming turd I had just excreted on his desk, and things went downhill from there.

  4. In a moot court competition, my partner and I utterly dominated our syntactically challenged adversaries.

    To wit, neither of our two opponents could complete a sentence without contaminating the listening environment with verbigerative annoyances such as “you know,” “um,” “like,” “I mean,” “uh,” and “I mean, like.”

    Whereas our two sisters could not cite cases in support of their position without checking and fumbling through their notes, my partner and I mellifluously made our points without resort to note peeking.

    We lost. Later, I asked one of the judges how we could have lost, he responded, “just because you have a better grasp of the facts and the law doesn’t mean you are going to win.”

    I asked a second judge the same question. He replied, “you used too much 4th of July oratory.”

    No wonder folks have such little confidence in The Brethern.

    1. As for what the first judge said . . . That’s happened to me (often) in real life, but it’s not supposed to happen in Moot Court. I was a Moot Court judge and we graded on who better prepared/presented even if their case was a loser.

      1. It is definitely easier to do well when you’re confident in your position, though, and an actually well balanced problem can help with that. Sometimes when the problem is lopsided, I think it affects the performance of the person. Though to be fair to problem authors, it isn’t easy to craft a good problem.

    2. Libertymike: On reflection, might it be possible that the judges, who didn’t have a horse in the race, evaluated matters more objectively than you did? Could it be that you weren’t as “mellifluous[]” as you thought?

      Might you have thrown in a word like “verbigerative” in your argument, without realizing that it itself could have been an “annoyance[]”? Might you in fact have used too much 4th of July oratory? Could you have exaggerated your adversaries’ disfluencies, and missed your own? I speak here just of the normal human tendency to evaluate one’s own performance with less than perfect objectivity.

      1. I agree, self-awareness is key. It’s one of the things that make Moot Court valuable (assuming of course you have conscientious and objective judges). It’s amazing how many experienced lawyers seem to realize how they come off.

        I know for a fact my final Moot Court presentation sucked. We were supposed to be in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing the reversal of an affirmance of a reversal of . . . with one minute left I got confused and started arguing the other side. The judges, previously sleepy, suddenly came awake, and I thought I was finally making an impression, but . . .

        1. Did you do “off brief” arguments? Where you had to switch sides between rounds? Those always sucked.

          1. That was the next week. I found myself better prepared than my partner because I had done some arguing of that side already.

            1. Even when you know you’re doing off brief, it’s the worst. Our team did a practice round in front of an audience of 1-2Ls for a moot court competition. I was practicing off-brief, and I started going into my on-brief spiel for about 30 seconds before I realized…

    3. “just because you have a better grasp of the facts and the law doesn’t mean you are going to win.”
      Quite a compliment and sign of good judging. Too bad many people believe talented talking, and even better grasp of facts should matter more to decision than the underlying facts themselves.

      1. Also the law. You might have a great grasp of the nuances of the cases and their distinctions or history, you might know all the relevant points of statutory construction and legislative history, and you might know what every other jurisdiction is doing…but at the end of the day the law might be something well-settled and straightforward and you can’t talk your way around it.

    4. Who are “The Brethern?”

  5. That’s very nice. When I was in criminal defense clinic, I mostly experienced soul crushing.

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