Easha Anand: Assistant Professor of Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

Bringing years of appellate experience to her cases and students

In Easha Anand’s first-ever appellate argument, she convinced an en banc panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that her client’s life without parole sentence should be vacated based on a pair of U.S. Supreme Court decisions dealing with the treatment of defendants who were juveniles at the time of their crimes.

But, based on a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court case—Jones v. Mississippi—a panel of federal judges later reinstated the original sentence.

“I’ve had to deliver a lot of bad news to clients in my life,” she remembers. “But there is nothing like delivering bad news after good news.”

Easha Anand: Assistant Professor of Law and Co-Director, Supreme Court Litigation Clinic 4
Easha Anand

Anand was undeterred. Although she had left the firm where she had handled Riley Briones Jr.’s case pro bono, she brought the case with her to her new position as Supreme Court and appellate counsel at the MacArthur Justice Center. She teamed up with her former colleagues to move for—and win—an order for compassionate release. Now Anand brings that same spirit of advocacy to Stanford’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, where she serves as co-director with Professors Jeffrey Fisher and Pamela Karlan. Anand, assistant professor of law, joined the SLS faculty full time this summer after serving as a visiting professor in the clinic last year.

Anand says she was drawn to Stanford for the chance to work with students—and with Fisher and Karlan, whom she calls “legends.”

“This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” she says.

Anand graduated in 2008 from Yale University, where she studied mathematics and philosophy. She worked briefly as a journalist before becoming an investigator on capital defense cases, including at the Habeas Corpus Resource Center in San Francisco. She represented men on California’s death row, gathering evidence to prove their innocence or argue in favor of a lesser sentence.

“The job was grueling in all the ways you’d expect and life-affirming in ways you wouldn’t,” she recalls.

The work also inspired Anand to enroll at UC Berkeley School of Law. After graduating in 2014, she clerked for 9th Circuit Judge Paul J. Watford and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor before joining Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, where she initially handled Briones’ case. At the MacArthur Justice Center, which she joined in 2020, she litigated cases involving all aspects of the criminal legal system, including those involving excessive force by police and prison conditions. In one case, she represented a man who had been in solitary confinement for nearly three decades. The Supreme Court denied review in the case, but the state of Texas released him into the general prison population after an extensive media campaign.

“That was an important lesson—to think about cases not just in terms of what happens in court, but what happens outside of court,” she says.

Devi M. Rao, director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s Supreme Court and Appellate Program, says Anand’s work on the Briones case in particular “exemplifies her dedication and tenacity—her desire to always seek justice in an often unfair system.”

In the clinic, Anand, Fisher, and Karlan take on cases that offer unique pedagogical opportunities for their students and also those in which “we can help level a playing field,” Anand says.

In October, Anand argued a whistleblower case on behalf of the clinic before the U.S. Supreme Court—her first time to appear there as an advocate. But, although arguments at the High Court are often seen “as the coin of the realm,” she says, there is much more to appellate and Supreme Court litigation, a point she tries to emphasize to her students.

“In many ways, the cases I’m proudest of are the ones I’ve kept out of the Supreme Court, to preserve a victory below,” she says. “We do a lot of work protecting cases from certiorari.”

Even losses can be victories. In June, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 against a union the clinic represented in a case in which an employer sought damages for a strike.

“Even though we lost, we lost the case in a way that preserves the right to strike going forward,” Anand says. “That’s a lesson for our students: Sometimes a win looks like a narrower loss than the other side is seeking.”

Karlan says Anand is “a first-rate lawyer who brings integrity and human decency to her work.”

Her extensive experience will also be a benefit to the clinic’s caseload.

“I’m most excited about how Easha works with our students and co-counsel,” Karlan says. “I’m also excited that her vast network of contacts in the criminal justice and civil rights worlds will help us to find great cases for our students to work on.”  SL