Often described as an “icon” and a “force of nature,” Maria Marcus, Joseph M. McLaughlin Chair and Professor of Law Emerita, is stepping down as advisor to the Moot Court Board.
Though Marcus retired from the faculty in 2011 after 33 years teaching law, she continued to coach the inter-school moot court team until the spring of 2021.
The “Marcus Method”
Fordham Law faculty, alumni, and students gathered on Zoom to celebrate Marcus’s indelible influence and legacy and to send their best wishes and congratulations upon her retirement. They also shared their favorite memories about being mooted under the “Marcus method” and how her guidance and work ethic shaped them into the legal professionals they are today.
Dean Matthew Diller spoke glowingly about Marcus’ career, which included arguing six cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of New York State as one of the leading women Supreme Court advocates in the 1970s.
He also fondly remembered how warm she was when he joined the Fordham Law faculty in 1993. “She welcomed me with open arms and offered me advice, and that was critical at key points on my own journey as my own journey had its various bumps,” Diller said. “And I remember early on, having dinner with Maria and her amazing husband Norman in their wonderful and beautiful apartment, filled with fascinating things.”
“Maria, I want to thank you for the friendship and guidance that you gave to me many years ago,” Diller continued to say, “and, of course … you’ve continued to be a dear friend since then.”
Marcus expressed her gratitude multiple times and recounted her own favorite memories from her nearly 40 year-long career with Fordham. She also described her successor, Brendan Moore Chair in Advocacy and Professor James Kainen, as “half angel, half Superman.”
“Consequently he is exactly what’s needed for this program,” Marcus added.
Kainen later responded that he is “neither angel nor superman,” but is ready to step into such big shoes. “The only reason I feel remotely qualified to succeed Maria—because no one will ever replace her—is because there is so little to do substantively,” Kainen remarked. “We already have the Marcus method.”
“The fact that it would take somebody who is part angel, part Superman to succeed you is telling of the lift you had in establishing this program to be what it is—and the impact that you have had on all of us,” said Fordham Law Alumni Association President Palmina Fava ’97. “And the greatest takeaway that I have had from my years of knowing you is that you taught each of us to find our own voice.”
“You empowered me to find my own voice,” Fava continued. “It’s a lesson that I have relied upon in my 20-plus year career. It’s a lesson that I impart to others.”
Ashley Slater ’21—moderator of the retirement celebration and outgoing editor-in-chief of the Moot Court Board who participated in the 2019 Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition—noted how sad it is to see Marcus leave her role as faculty coach. However, she emphasized how extremely happy she and her fellow alumni are for all she has taught them through the years. “I will always thank Professor Marcus for reminding me, ‘If you’re having fun, everyone else will too,'” she added.
Judge Richard Sullivan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, remarked how he has seen dozens of students enter the profession and succeed because they were taught by Marcus. “I have had so many lawyers appear in front of me, who are excellent practitioners of law, who are ethical,” he said, “but also incredibly effective because they have learned from the Maria Marcus School of Advocacy.
“That legacy is going to continue for many more decades, and I have no doubt that the Fordham Moot Court program will continue to shine because the Maria Marcus method is ingrained in that program,” Judge Sullivan added.
Adjunct Professor Michelle Mancino Marsh ’96, who teaches the moot court appellate class, was a student in Marcus’s criminal law during her 1L year and later practiced with Marcus’s late husband Norman.
“I’m proud to say you have been my friend and my husband’s friend for more than 25 years and, most recently, I’m also your colleague,” Marsh said. “I thank you for that as an adjunct professor of appellate advocacy at Fordham. It’s been a dream of mine, an honor, and a privilege to learn from you, and I promise to help in some small way to continue your tradition of excellence.”
Evening student Greg Cook ’90 said being on the moot court team was one of his dreams while in law school. He ended up playing important roles on the Jessup and national moot court teams at a time when evening students were often not part of the program. “I’m so ever grateful to Professor Marcus [for]really break[ing]what had been something of a tradition and [having]the night students be a part of the moot court team,” Cook said.
Lauren Moskowitz ’05 admitted that she went into law school thinking she was going to pursue corporate law. However, being part of the moot court program changed everything. “Moot court single handedly changed the entire trajectory of my career on criminal procedure,” Moskowitz said. “The first person I wanted to tell when I got my shot to argue to the Supreme Court was Professor Marcus.”
One moot court memory that has stuck with Ted Hassi ’95 was facing the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the final round of national competition. “I still remember in that final round, the first question she asked me … took me two steps back because it was really a very insightful question—probably one that you might have asked,” Hassi said. “But, really, thank you for all that you did. You helped shape my career in a way that I can’t thank you enough for.”
Katherine Anne Boy Skipsey ’20, who competed on the Jessup team, ranked eighth in the world in the preliminary rounds with the help and leadership of Marcus in 2019. “At the time, I thought that speaking for 22 minutes was impossible,” she said. “But, little did I know that a year later, as part of the federal litigation clinic, one of my cases I had to argue before the Second Circuit [lasted]almost 50 minutes.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if it hadn’t been for all the great preparation I got from Professor Marcus,” Boy Skipsey continued. “I would like to say that you are not just a professor who has taught us and led us into great careers, but you have become a cultural symbol for moot court.”
Gabrielle Vazquez ’07 said being shaped by Marcus as people and young attorneys was an “eternal gift.” “I think a lot of it has to do with the time in which you meet us, and the confidence that you instill in us when we have no idea what we’re doing—but you somehow see in each of us a promise that we don’t necessarily see in ourselves,” she said. “You managed to bolster us and strengthen us in a way that’s just incredible. And you can see that in the results of all of these teams across all these years.”
Marcus closed out the celebration, thanking everyone for their time, presence, and thoughtful memories. “I love being here, hearing these things, and seeing how all of you have done so beautifully,” she said. “I think the national team’s success was a particular highlight in 1995, but there were so many highlights—it’s hard to count them all.”
“That’s because you, the students, put in the work. You, the students, applied what you got from, I’m sure, many professors,” Marcus continued. “And I’m just so delighted to hear of your successes. I’m very grateful.”