Harvard Law School Moot Court records
- 1825 - 1873
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Extent1 collection (24 volumes in 2 Paige boxes)
Under Professors Story, Ashmun and Greenleaf, the moot courts became even more central to the curriculum. Moots were held once a week, usually on Friday afternoons; in later years, as the number of students at the Law School grew, the frequency increased to two or three times each week. The professor wrote a statement of facts the week before a case was to be heard, and two counsel were assigned to each side, one from the Senior class and one from the Junior class. Each student at the school was assigned to a case in rotation according to class standing. Every student present, regardless of his role, took detailed notes on the proceedings, often transcribing in full the statement of facts, the briefs and the judge’s opinion. Professor Story presided over many of the moots. Many of the cases he gave out had been or were to be argued before him in the U.S. Circuit or Supreme Court. Professor Greenleaf also presided over moots, and he often gave out cases that arose before him in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Cases given out by Story generally focused on subjects like commercial law, agency, and equity, while those given out by Greenleaf were more varied.
During the 1850’s, moots continued to be of great importance at the Law School. They were generally held twice each week, and the cases were often actual ones that were pending or had been recently decided. Lawyers from Boston would often attend these sessions to take notes on the proceedings. However, in the years immediately preceding the Civil War interest in the moots decreased, as did their frequency.
Under the leadership of Christopher Columbus Langdell, the utility of the moot court system was questioned. With the extension of the program of study to three years, professors were already overburdened, and in November 1879 the Law School faculty voted to suspend the moots for the rest of the year. In 1880, rather than abolishing them completely, the faculty made the moots a voluntary exercise, and began to hold only four per year. Interest in the faculty-sponsored moots continued to wane, while participation in moot courts held by various student law clubs increased. This pattern continued until the faculty decided to discontinue the moot court system. The last moot was held on March 10, 1897.
- Series I: “Official” Volumes of Moot CourtRecords
The volumes are arrangedchronologically.
- Series II: Moot Court Records Kept by Individual Students
The volumes are arranged chronologically.
- Series III: Moot Court Docket Lists
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Harvard Law School. Moot Court Records, 1825-1873: Finding Aid
- Harvard Law School Library, Cambridge, MA 02138
- EAD ID
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Harvard Law School Library's Historical & Special Collections (HSC) collects, preserves, and makes available research materials for the study of the law and legal history. HSC holds over 8,000 linear feet of manuscripts, over 100,000 rare books, and more than 70,000 visual images.
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