Students’ U.S. Supreme Court Brief Sparks Benchmark Ruling

Students' U.S. Supreme Court Brief Sparks Benchmark Ruling
Oneok v. Learjet’s Stanford legal team (from left to right): Brittany Jones, Gary Dyal, Jenna Williams and Ali Karol

On April 21, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in favor of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic’s clients in an important preemption case, Oneok Inc. v. Learjet, Inc., 13-271. The case arose from the Western energy crisis about a decade ago, caused in part by a conspiracy in the natural gas industry to manipulate prices. Various entities, such as nonprofit hospitals and educational institutions, that were harmed by the anticompetitive conduct brought state-law antitrust claims. The natural gas companies argued that the claims should be dismissed on the ground that the Natural Gas Act precludes state-law causes of action that deal with subjects also falling within the jurisdiction of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Clinic students Ali Karol (JD ’15), Gary Dyal (JD ’15), Jenna Williams (JD ’15), and Brittany Jones (JD ’16) researched and wrote a terrific brief arguing that the state-law claims should go forward. The students then helped clinic co-director Jeff Fisher, prepare to argue the case and traveled with him to Washington, D.C. for the argument itself. The Court’s opinion – written by Justice Breyer and joined by Justices across the Court’s ideological spectrum – closely tracked the students’ brief and promises to be a significant touchstone for years to come. ◊