A student stands in front of three judges in Moot Court.

Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition

About the 2023-2024 Competition

This year marks the 99th anniversary of the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court, founded at Columbia Law School in 1925 by the Story Inn, a chapter of the legal fraternity Phi Delta Phi. The competition is named in honor of Harlan Fiske Stone 1898, who was a member of the Story Inn while a student at the Law School. Stone was named dean of Columbia Law School in 1910. He served in that capacity until 1924, when President Calvin Coolidge appointed him attorney general of the United States. He was named to the Supreme Court of the United States the following year and was elevated to chief justice in 1941.

This year’s case centers on whether a student athlete should be considered an employee of a university where he plays collegiate sports, and whether federal prohibitions on medical marijuana preempt state law. The final round of the competition was held on Thursday, March 21, 2024. Oral arguments will be delivered by four outstanding student finalists: Dakota Fenn ’24; Jamie Herring LAW ’24, BUS ’24; Christopher Morillo ’24, who won best final round brief; and Matt Winesett ’24, who was awarded the Lawrence S. Greenbaum Prize for best oral presentation.

For more information about this year’s competition, see the Student Directors’ Blog.

1. Whether Alexander P. Brown, a college student at Woodward University who received an athletic scholarship from the university and sponsorship money from an associated alumni organization, should be considered an “employee” of the university for the purposes of Nev. Rev. Stat. § 678C.850(3).

2. Whether Woodward University’s compliance with Nev. Rev. Stat. § 678C.850(3)—which requires employers to attempt to reasonably accommodate their employees’ medical cannabis use—is preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. § 801, et seq.

Plaintiff-Appellee Alexander P. Brown, a resident of Pennsylvania, brought this federal action against Defendant-Appellant Woodward University, a private university in Nevada. Brown briefly attended Woodward during the fall 2022 semester on an athletic scholarship and played for the Woodward men’s basketball team. Brown lost his place on the team—along with his scholarship and all associated benefits—after he disclosed that he was prescribed medical marijuana for a medical condition. Brown is challenging his termination from the team under Nev. Rev. Stat. § 678C.850(3), a Nevada state law that requires employers to attempt to reasonably accommodate their employees’ medical marijuana use.

In June 2021, when Brown was a highly regarded high school basketball player, Woodward’s basketball coach Benjamin Wade contacted him to offer a full athletic scholarship at Woodward, covering the cost of tuition, school supplies, and basic living expenses. Coach Wade also mentioned that the National Collegiate Athletics Association (“NCAA”) had recently changed its rules governing compensation for student-athletes for the use of their names, images, and likenesses (“NIL”). Historically, the NCAA had strict amateurism rules that prohibited student-athletes from receiving any money related to their participation in sports. The new policy continued to prohibit NCAA member schools from paying athletes, but it allowed student-athletes to enter sponsorship agreements with third parties.

Brown accepted the offer from Coach Wade. After graduating from high school in the spring of 2022, he moved to Las Vegas so he could participate in student-led training with the other members of the team over the summer. He matriculated at Woodward in September 2022, and official team activities began in early October. As a varsity athlete, Brown was subject to several conduct policies and time commitments. His activities at Woodward were heavily supervised by coaching staff. For example, he could not register for his desired major because the classes conflicted with his practice schedule.

Upon his matriculation at Woodward, Brown also entered into a partnership agreement with the Wildcat NIL Collective. The Collective is a business entity established by Woodward fans and donors to sponsor and help arrange endorsement deals for Woodward athletes. The Wildcat NIL Collective is legally separate from Woodward University, although the two entities work closely together in areas such as fundraising and ensuring compliance with NCAA rules. From late September through early October 2022, Brown participated in a promotional video, autographed memorabilia, and appeared at a fundraising banquet for the Wildcat NIL Collective, earning a total of $950.

In mid-October 2022, Brown was asked to disclose any medications that he was taking to Coach Wade and the coaching staff. Brown revealed that he had a prescription for medical cannabis, which is permissible under Nevada state law. Woodward maintains a drug-free-campus policy, and NCAA rules prohibit the use of cannabis, including for medical reasons. Within days, Brown lost his place on the team and his scholarship was revoked.

Brown filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Woodward later moved for summary judgment on two grounds: first, that Brown was a student-athlete and not an employee of Woodward for purposes of state law, and that Brown could not access the employment protections of Nev. Rev. Stat. § 678C.850(3); and second, that the university was not required to comply with Nev. Rev. Stat. § 678C.850(3) because the state statute was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act, which prohibits the possession and use of cannabis, including for medical purposes. Brown cross-moved for partial summary judgment on the same issues. After the district court held in Brown’s favor on both questions, thereby allowing the case to proceed to trial, Woodward filed an interlocutory appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr. smiling

Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr. was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in December 2010. He earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard University in 1988 and a J.D. from New York University School of Law in 1991.

Lohier served as a law clerk for Judge Robert P. Patterson Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York, and a senior trial attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. He then worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York.

Lohier is a member of the Council and of the Executive Committee of the American Law Institute, vice chair of the New York University School of Law Board of Trustees, member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers, and an adjunct professor of law. He also is a past chair of the Defender Services Committee and current member of the Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, as well as a commissioner of the Supreme Court Fellows Program.

Judge Richard J. Sullivan smiling

Judge Richard J. Sullivan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

Judge Richard J. Sullivan was sworn in to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in October 2018. Before that, he served as a trial judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Prior to becoming a judge, Sullivan was general counsel and managing director of Marsh Inc. and served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York.

Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Sullivan was an attorney at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, a law clerk to Judge David M. Ebel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and a New York City Urban Fellow. Sullivan is on the executive board of the New York American Inn of Court and the Center for Law and Religion at St. John’s University School of Law. He is the chair of the Committee on Judicial Security for the Judicial Conference of the United States and is a member of the Conference’s Advisory Committee on Evidence Rules. Sullivan is an adjunct professor at Columbia Law School and is a graduate of Yale Law School and the College of William & Mary in Virginia.

Judge Arun Subramanian smiling

Judge Arun Subramanian ’04, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

Judge Arun Subramanian was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 13, 2023. Before that, he was a partner, pro bono chair, and member of the firmwide executive committee at the trial litigation firm Susman Godfrey.

Prior to joining Susman Godfrey, Subramanian served as a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ’59 on the Supreme Court of the United States, Judge Gerard E. Lynch on the Southern District of New York, and Judge Dennis Jacobs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Subramanian served on the Advisory Committee for the Federal Rules of Evidence from 2021 to 2023, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Columbia Law Review Association, which oversees publication of the Columbia Law Review.

Subramanian received a B.A. summa cum laude in Computer Science and English from Case Western Reserve University. He received a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was the executive articles editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Acknowledgements From the Co-Directors

Many thanks to Sophia F. Bernhardt, lecturer in law and director of Legal Writing and Moot Court Programs, for her enthusiastic support and guidance and to Amanda Sen Villalobos, lecturer in law and associate director of Legal Writing and Moot Court Programs, for her keen insights and attention to detail. Their help was invaluable both in constructing the problem and in organizing the competition. We owe thanks more broadly to the numerous reviewers who lent their eyes and red ink to our work in progress, including Philip M. Genty, Everett B. Birch Innovative Teaching Clinical Professor in Professional Responsibility; Dan Richman, Paul J. Kellner Professor of Law; and Martin Edel, lecturer in law. Thank you to all of the judges who have challenged competitors to bring out the very best in their arguments. Finally, we are enormously grateful to the competitors, who have brought this problem to life with their ingenuity and obvious talent. Their unflagging interest and dedication are the lifeblood of this competition.

Sam Gordon ’24 and Julia Konstantinovsky ’24 are co-directors of the Harlan Fiske Stone Moot Court Competition of the Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison Moot Court Program.

Spotlight February 17, 2023

Black and white photo of a man seated wearing justice's robes

“The law itself is on trial in every case as well as the cause before it.”


Cast in Stone

Born on a farm in Chesterfield, New Hampshire, on October 11, Stone grows up in Amherst, Massachusetts. (Stone’s family on his father’s side originally arrived from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635.) 


Stepping Stone

Graduates from Amherst College, where he plays on the football team and becomes acquainted with fellow student and future President Calvin Coolidge, who will later nominate Stone to the Supreme Court. His classmates predict Stone will “proceed to be the most famous man in [the class of] ’94.”


A Stone’s Throw Away

Graduates from Columbia Law School, joins the New York City firm of Wilmer and Canfield (later Satterlee, Canfield, & Stone), and, in 1899, begins teaching at Columbia Law as a lecturer in law. In 1905, he resigns from the faculty to devote himself full-time to private practice.


The New Stone Age

Returns to Columbia Law School as dean and resumes teaching. An inspiring educator who champions the increasingly popular “case” method, he teaches courses in trusts, contracts, mortgages, criminal law, and property. Students regard him as a friend and honor him by calling themselves “Stone-agers.” After repeatedly clashing with Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler, Stone resigns in 1923 and joins the Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell.



Pushes back against Barnard College Dean Virginia Gildersleeve, who lobbies for women to be admitted to the Law School. In a letter to Gildersleeve, he tells her the faculty believes it is “inadvisable” for any law school to be coeducational. “What I would like to see is a serious undertaking to establish an independent school for women. This, I believe, is the proper solution of the problem,” he wrote her. (The Columbia Law faculty votes to admit women on the same terms as men in 1928.)


Set in Stone

Appointed by President Calvin Coolidge as U.S. attorney general. His most enduring legacy as attorney general is selecting 29-year-old J. Edgar Hoover as acting director of the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation. Hoover, who becomes its director by the end of the year, leads the agency (renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935) until his death in 1972.


Rolling Stone

Nominated to the Supreme Court, where former President William Howard Taft is chief justice, Stone is the first nominee to have a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. On the high court, he soon aligns himself with the titanic left-of-center justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes. 


Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Delivers an eloquent and important dissent in United States v. Butler outlining two principles for declaring statutes unconstitutional.One is that courts are concerned only with the power to enact statutes, not their wisdom,” he writes. “The other is that while unconstitutional exercise of power by the executive and legislative branches of the government is subject to judicial restraint, the only check up our own exercise of power is our own sense of self-restraint.”


Leaving No Stone Unturned

In Stone’s opinion in United States v. Carolene Products Co., his footnote No. 4 becomes what is universally recognized as “the most important footnote in constitutional law.” He writes that legislation should be “subjected to more exacting judicial scrutiny” when it is “directed at particular religious, or national, or racial minorities” who are victims of “prejudice,” which spawns the principle of judicial review known as strict scrutiny. 


Hits a Stone Wall

Stone is the lone dissenter in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, maintaining that a group of Jehovah’s Witness children have the right to not salute the flag—in defiance of a Pennsylvania flag salute statute—because they believe the action to be against their religious beliefs. (They consider the flag a graven image.) Stone maintains that the Pennsylvania statute violates the students’ rights to freedom of speech and religion, and he reads his entire dissent from the bench.


Etched in Stone

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who attended the Law School from 1905 to 1907) appoints Stone to succeed Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes Sr. 1884. The poet Archibald MacLeish writes that Stone’s elevation, on July 3, to chief justice is “so clearly and certainly and surely right, it resounded in the world like the perfect word spoken at the perfect moment.” Prior to his appointment, Stone writes the majority opinion in United States v. Darby Lumber Co., holding the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be a valid exercise of federal power under the commerce clause. The Darby opinion made Stone “the intellectual leader of the Court’s center,” according to Stone biographer Alpheus T. Mason.


Squeezing Blood From a Stone

The Supreme Court hears another flag salute case from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. By a 6–3 vote, the justices side with Stone and overturn Gobitis. Justice Robert Jackson’s majority opinion echoes Stone’s lone dissent in Gobitis three years earlier.


Engraved in Stone

Stone passes away on April 22 at 73, a few hours after having a cerebral hemorrhage while presiding over a session of the Supreme Court. Some 2,000 people attend his funeral at the Washington Cathedral, and he is buried at Rock Creek Cemetery. One of his eulogists is Alben Barkley, a senator from Kentucky and future vice president, who says, “No associate justice or chief justice . . . held a more abiding place in the affections of the American people and in the affections of all who knew him intimately and personally.” The Columbia Law Review memorializes him in September with the article “Harlan Fiske Stone: Teacher, Scholar and Dean.” 


Long-standing Stone