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Supreme Court Litigation Clinic: Clinical Practice

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. - - Special instructions: General Structure of Clinical Courses - - The Law School's clinical courses are offered on a full-time basis for 12 credits. This allows students to immerse themselves in the professional experience without the need to balance clinical projects with other classes, exams and papers. Students enrolled in a clinic are not permitted to enroll in any other classes, seminars, directed research or other credit-yielding activities within the Law School or University during the quarter in which they are enrolled in a clinic. Nor are they allowed to serve as teaching assistants who are expected to attend a class on a regular basis. There is a limited exception for joint degree students who are required to take specific courses each quarter and who would be foreclosed from ever taking a clinic unless allowed to co-register. These exceptions are approved on a case-by-case basis. Clinic students are expected to work in their clinical office during most business hours Monday through Friday. Students are also expected to be available by e-mail or cell phone when elsewhere during those hours. Because students have no other courses (and hence no exams or papers), the clinical quarter begins the first day of classes and runs through the final day of the examination period. Students should not plan personal travel during the Monday to Friday work week without prior authorization from the clinical supervisor. The work during a typical week in a clinic is divided into three components. First, as they are for practicing attorneys, most of the hours of any week are taken up by work on client matters or case work (this time includes meetings with instructors to discuss the work). Again, as is the case for practicing lawyers, in some weeks these responsibilities demand time above and beyond "normal business hours." Second, students will spend approximately five-to-seven hours per week preparing for and participating in weekly discussions or other group work in their individual clinic (scheduling varies by clinic). Third, over the course of the quarter each clinic student (with the exception of those enrolled in the Criminal Prosecution Clinic) is required to prepare for and attend approximately five inter-clinic group sessions. Students will be awarded three separate grades for their clinical quarter, each reflecting four credits. The three grades are broken into the following categories: clinical practice; clinical methods; and clinical coursework. Grading is pursuant to the H/P system. Enrollment in a clinic is binding; once selected into a clinic to which he or she has applied, a student may not later drop the course except in limited and exceptional cases. Requests for withdrawal are processed through the formal petition and clinical faculty review process described in the clinic policy document posted on the SLS website. Students may not enroll in any clinic (full-time or advanced) which would result in them earning more than 27 clinical credits during their law school career. The rules described here do not apply to advanced clinics for students who are continuing with a clinic in which they were previously enrolled. For information about advanced clinics, please see the course descriptions for those courses. For more information about clinic enrollment and operations, please see the clinic policy document posted on the SLS website. Elements used in grading: Written work, editing of other student's written work, attendance, class and moot court participation. Writing (W) credit is for students entering prior to Autumn 2012.

2014-2015 Autumn
09/22/2014 - 11/21/2014
Notes: Professional Skills Requirement for Law Degree. Writing Requirement for Law Degree. Professional Writing Requirement for Law Degree.
09/22/2014 - 11/21/2014
Notes: Professional Skills Requirement for Law Degree. Research Requirement for Law Degree.
2014-2015 Spring
03/30/2015 - 05/29/2015
Notes: Professional Skills Requirement for Law Degree. Writing Requirement for Law Degree. Professional Writing Requirement for Law Degree.
03/30/2015 - 05/29/2015
Notes: Professional Skills Requirement for Law Degree. Research Requirement for Law Degree.

Instructors for this course (Past and Present)

Jeffrey L. Fisher
Thomas C. Goldstein
Pamela S. Karlan
Brian Wolfman