Supreme Court Litigation Clinic: Clinical Coursework
The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic will expose students to the joys and frustrations of litigation before the Supreme Court of the United States. The bulk of the clinic will be run as a small law firm working on live cases before the Court. Students will participate in drafting petitions for certiorari and oppositions, merits briefs, and amicus briefs, compiling joint appendices, and preparing advocates for oral argument, as well as commenting (the technical term is "kibbitzing") on drafts of briefs being filed by lawyers in other cases. The precise nature of the cases will depend on the Court's docket, but in recent Terms, the clinic's cases have involved federal criminal law and procedure, habeas corpus, constitutional and statutory antidiscrimination and employment law, bankruptcy law, and the First Amendment. Our aim is to involve students as fully as possible in this type of litigation. The Clinic begins with an intensive introduction to the distinctive nature of Supreme Court practice, including the key differences between merits arguments and the certiorari process, the role of amicus briefs, and the Supreme Court Rules. After that, seminar meetings will be devoted primarily to collaborative work on the cases the clinic is handling. While students will be primarily responsible for working in teams on one case at a time, they will also be expected to acquire familiarity with the issues raised in other students' cases and will both edit each others' substantive work and assist each other and the instructors with the technical production work attendant on filing briefs with the Supreme Court. The course will involve substantial amounts of legal research. The Supreme Court operates on a tight, and unyielding deadline, and students must be prepared both to complete their own work in a timely fashion and to assist one another and the instructors on other cases. The instructors will not ask students to do any kind of "grunt work" that they themselves will not also be handling, but grunt work there will be: proofreading, cite-checking, dealing with the joint appendix, and the like. The nature of the work product means that while students will average thirty hours per week on their case-related work, that work will surely be distributed unevenly across the quarter. Unlike most other courts, the Supreme Court has no student practice rules. Thus, students will not be able to argue cases before the Court. But they will participate in moot courts on their cases, as both advocates and Justices. Each student will also have the opportunity to travel to Washington to see the Court in session, preferably with respect to a case on which the student has worked. Ideally students will already have experience with persuasive doctrinal writing, through a course like Federal Pretrial Litigation or through intensive supervision during their summer jobs or other clinics. Admission to the Clinic is by consent of the instructors. Students will need to submit a writing sample that reflects their facility with doctrinal legal arguments and the name of at least one reference who can comment on their legal analytic ability.