Exciting Quarter for the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic experienced a terrific fall quarter.  After beginning with a bang by presenting oral argument in three cases in which the clinic filed briefs last year, the clinic turned its sights to writing briefs in six new projects:

1. A brief on the merits in Freeman v. Quicken Loans, Inc., involving whether the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act’s prohibition against charging unearned fees applies only to kickbacks or also where the entity making the loan simply pockets the fraudulent charge.  Emily Curran (’12), Alex Aronson (’12), Teddy Kider (’12), and Craig Lavoie (’13) led the effort.

2. A brief in opposition to certiorari in Alvis v. Espinoza, urging the Court to forego review of a decision holding that police officers could be held liable for shooting and killing an unarmed man following an unconstitutional entry into an apartment.  Amy Burns (’12), Sam Dolinger (’13), Denise Drake (’13), and Dan Galindo (’12) led the effort.  As recently reported, the clinic was successful in persuading the Court to deny certiorari in this case in its opinion released January 17, 2012.

3. A petition for certiorari in Chaidez v. United States, presenting the question whether the Court’s decision in Padilla v. Kentucky — which held that a person receives ineffective assistance of counsel when her lawyer fails to warn her that pleading guilty to a charge will trigger automatic deportation — applies retroactively to people whose convictions became final before it was announced.  Beth Neitzel (’12), Kristin Bell (’13), and Will Johnston (’13) led the effort.

4. A brief on the merits in Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, involving whether plaintiffs seeking damages under the Torture Victim Protection Act may sue not only natural persons but also organizations responsible for the human rights violations at issue.  Alex Aronson (’12), Kristin Bell (’13), and Sam Dolinger (’13) led the effort.

5. A petition for certiorari in Pickering v. Colorado, presenting the question whether the Due Process Clause requires the prosecution in a criminal case to disprove a defense that would negate an element of the charged offense.  Denise Drake (’13), Dan Galindo (’12), and Craig Lavoie (’13) led the effort.

6. A brief in opposition to certiorari in Fast v. Applebee’s International, Inc., urging the Court to forego review of a decision holding that an employer may not take a “tip credit” under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum-wage laws when an employee spends more than twenty percent of her time doing work that does not produce tips.  Kathryn McCann (’12), Will Johnston (’13), and Teddy Kider (’13) led the effort.  In a decision recently released, the Court ruled in favor of the clinic’s opposition and denied certiorari in this case.

Finally, in a wonderful postscript to the quarter, the clinic received word in late-December that the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of its client in Magwood v. Patterson.  The clinic got involved in the case two years ago, persuading the Supreme Court to review the Eleventh Circuit’s decision holding that Mr. Magwood, a prisoner on Alabama’s death row, was procedurally barred from raising his claim that the offense for which he had received a death sentence was not actually a capital crime.  After the Supreme Court overturned that decision, the clinic submitted briefing on remand to the Eleventh Circuit on the substance of Mr. Magwood’s claim.  On December 20, 2011, the Eleventh Circuit agreed with the clinic’s argument and unanimously ordered the State to remove Magwood from death row.

Professor Jeff Fisher and lecturers Tom Goldstein and Kevin Russell oversaw all of this work.  As always, Joanne Newman provided excellent and invaluable support. Professor Pam Karlan, Co-Director-of the Clinic was visiting away this past quarter. We welcome her back with great joy.