The Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic represents all sorts of clients at various stages of Supreme Court proceedings. About half the clinic’s cases are criminal, and about half are civil. In the past several terms, the clinic has represented a wide variety of clients, such as workers raising claims under federal anti-discrimination laws, the Civil Service Reform Act, and the Fair Labor Standards Act; criminal defendants with constitutional claims under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments; Native American Tribes defending their sovereignty and religious practices; and public interest and trade associations seeking to impart their expertise in amicus filings, such as the California Medical Association, the National School Boards Association, and police and other public safety unions. The clinic also has been involved in cases concerning the free exercise of religion, bankruptcy law, the Voting Rights Act, the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause, and international treaties.
Since its inception, the clinic has handled over two dozen criminal cases on the merits, and dozens more at other stages. Highlights include Riley v. California, where the clinic persuaded the Court unanimously to hold that the Fourth Amendment prohibits police officers from searching smartphones seized incident to arrest without a warrant; Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, where the Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause applies to forensic lab reports; and Kennedy v. Louisiana, which held that the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause prohibits imposing capital punishment for any crime against an individual in which the victim does not die. The clinic also regularly helps criminal defendants defeat petitions for certiorari filed by states and the federal government. Here is a complete list of the clinic’s merits work in this area (the clinic’s briefs, along with other filings, are available through each hyperlink):
- *Peña-Rodríguez v. Colorado, 137 S. Ct. 855 (2017): The clinic represented a man challenging his conviction on the ground that jury deliberations were infected by racial bias and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury requires courts to consider post-verdict testimony from jurors when offered to prove a violation of that constitutional right. The Court agreed by a 5-3 vote, holding for the first time that the Sixth Amendment trumps rules of evidence that generally forbid piercing the secrecy of jury deliberations.
- *Ohio v. Clark, 135 S. Ct. 2173 (2015): The clinic represented a criminal defendant arguing that the Confrontation Clause forbade the prosecution from introducing accusations a child made to his preschool teachers without subjecting the child to cross-examination. The Court unanimously disagreed.
- * Heien v. North Carolina, 135 S. Ct. 530 (2014): The clinic represented a man whose car the police stopped based on a misunderstanding of local traffic law and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the seizure violated the Fourth Amendment. The Court rejected this argument by an 8-1 vote, holding that the Fourth Amendment permits stops based on “reasonable” misinterpretations of traffic codes.
- *Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014): The clinic represented a man whose smart phone was searched incident to his arrest and successfully petitioned for certiorari, arguing that the Fourth Amendment prohibits searching the digital contents of smart phones without a warrant. The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision involving privacy in the digital age, unanimously agreed.
- *Fernandez v. California, 134 S. Ct. 1126 (2014): The clinic represented a man claiming that the police violated the Fourth Amendment when they searched his home based on the consent of his co-tenant because he told the police before he was arrested that they could not come in without a warrant. The Court rejected the argument by a 6-3 vote, holding that the consent of the co-tenant was sufficient to validate the search.
- *Salinas v. Texas, 133 S. Ct. 2174 (2013): The clinic represented the defendant in this criminal case and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Fifth Amendment prohibits the prosecution from using a person’s silence during a pre-arrest police interview against him at trial. Only two Justices disagreed with that argument on the merits, but three others joined those to affirm the judgment below on the alternative ground that an interviewee must expressly invoke his right to remain silent during the interview in order to rely on it later at trial.
- *Chaidez v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 1103 (2013): The clinic represented a grandmother and longtime lawful permanent resident of the United States who seeks retroactive benefit of the Supreme Court’s recent Padilla decision holding that persons receive ineffective assistance of counsel if their lawyers fail to warn them that pleading guilty to a criminal charge will subject them to deportation. The Court granted the clinic’s petition for certiorari. While the Court agreed 7-2 with the court of appeals’ ruling that Padilla is not retroactive across the board, it also expressly left open alternative, more specific arguments that the clinic advanced.
- *Greene v. Fisher, 132 S. Ct. 38 (2011): The clinic represented a state prisoner seeking a federal habeas corpus relief and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that a Supreme Court decision handed down before his conviction became final, but after the state courts rejected his appeals, entitled him to a new trial. The Court unanimously disagreed, holding that federal law now prohibits habeas relief based on cases announced after the last state-court consideration of the issue.
- *Bullcoming v. New Mexico, 131 S. Ct. 2705 (2011): The clinic represented the defendant in a criminal case, arguing that that the prosecution violates the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause when it introduces one person’s forensic lab report through the in-court testimony of a different analyst. The Court agreed by a 5-4 vote.
- *United States v. Tinklenberg, 131 S. Ct. 2007 (2011): The clinic represented the defendant, arguing that the federal Speedy Trial Act was violated in his case. The Court unanimously agreed, holding that the court of appeals had erroneously refused to exclude all of the days beyond ten calendar days while he was being transported to competency determinations.
- *Magwood v. Patterson, 130 S. Ct. 2788 (2010): The clinic represented petitioner, an Alabama state prisoner, and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that he should be released from death row because the circumstances of his crime did not render him eligible for capital punishment. The Eleventh Circuit had held that Magwood had waived his ability to bring any such claim, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision by a 5-4 vote, reinstating Magwood’s right to avoid execution for a noncapital offense.
- *Dolan v. United States, 130 S. Ct. 2533 (2010): The clinic represented petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that federal courts lacked the power to enter a restitution order beyond the statutory time limit for doing so. The Supreme Court disagreed by a 5-4 vote, holding that the time limit is not binding.
- *United States v. O’Brien, 130 S. Ct. 2169 (2010): The clinic represented an individual convicted under a federal statute requiring mandatory minimum sentences for using firearms in relation to crimes of violence, including a thirty-year sentence for using a machinegun in relation to such a crime. The Court granted review at government’s request to determine whether the machinegun finding was one that the jury need to find beyond a reasonable doubt or one, as the government argued, that the judge could find by a preponderance of the evidence. The Court unanimously rejected the government’s argument, affirming Mr. O’Brien’s eight-and one-half-year sentence. See coverage on ABC Online and SCOTUSblog.
- *Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the prosecution in a criminal case violates the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause when it introduces a forensic laboratory report in place of live testimony from the analyst who performed the testing. The Court agreed on the merits by a 5-4 vote, thus requiring a majority of states across the country, as well as the federal government, to alter the way they present forensic evidence.
- *Flores-Figueroa v. United States 129 S. Ct. 1886 (2009): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that a person does not commit federal aggravated identity theft unless he knows that the false identification he uses belongs to another person. The Court unanimously agreed.
- *Cone v. Bell, 129 S. Ct. 1769 (2009): The clinic represented the petitioner, a state prisoner under a death sentence, and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that lower federal courts improperly rejected his claim for habeas relief based on the prosecution’s suppression of key evidence and its misrepresentations to state and federal appellate courts regarding the case’s procedural history. The Court agreed by a 6-3 vote, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
- *Waddington v. Sarausad, 129 S. Ct. 823 (2009): The clinic represented the respondent, a state prisoner, arguing that he was entitled to federal habeas relief because the jury likely interpreted the instructions in his case so as to allow it to convict him without finding all of the elements of accomplice liability. The Court disagreed by a 6-3 vote.
- *Herring v. United States, 129 S. Ct. 695 (2009): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Fourth Amendment requires courts to suppress evidence that the police obtain in unlawful arrests based on negligent recordkeeping. The Court disagreed by a 5-4 vote.
- *Jimenez v. Quarterman, 129 S. Ct. 681 (2009): The clinic represented the petitioner, arguing that the time period for seeking federal habeas corpus relief restarts when a state prisoner has his direct appeal reinstated by state courts. The Court unanimously agreed and reversed the decision below that had dismissed petitioner’s claims.
- *Kennedy v. Louisiana, 128 S. Ct. 2641 (2008): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause prohibits a state from imposing the death penalty for the crime of child rape. The Court agreed on the merits and held, by a 5-4 vote, that the Eighth Amendment does not allow the death penalty to be imposed for any crime against an individual in which the victim does not die.
- *Greenlaw v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 2559 (2008): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that a court of appeals may not increase a criminal defendant’s sentence when the government does not appeal the sentence. The Court agreed on the merits by a 7-2 vote.
- *Virginia v. Moore, 128 S. Ct. 1598 (2008): The clinic represented the respondent, arguing that a search that the police conduct pursuant to an arrest based on probable cause but that nonetheless violates state law violates the Fourth Amendment. The Court unanimously ruled for the Commonwealth.
- *Burgess v. United States, 128 S. Ct. 1572 (2008): The clinic represented the petitioner, arguing that a person convicted of a federal drug crime may not have his sentence enhanced on the basis of having previously committed a “felony drug offense” when the prior offense at issue was a misdemeanor under state law but was also punishable by more than one year. The Court unanimously ruled for the government.
- *Burton v. Stewart, 127 S. Ct. 793 (2007): The clinic represented the petitioner, arguing that state prisoners are entitled to retroactive benefit of the Court’s holding in Blakely v. Washington that “aggravating facts” subjecting them to longer sentences must be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court dismissed the case after argument on jurisdictional grounds without reaching the question presented.
- *United States v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140 (2006): The clinic represented the respondent, arguing that a trial court’s unjustified refusal to allow a criminal defendant to be represented by his counsel of choice violates the Sixth Amendment and requires automatic reversal on appeal. The Court agreed by a 5-4 vote.
- *Georgia v. Randolph, 547 U.S. 103 (2006): The clinic represented the respondent, arguing that the Fourth Amendment does not allow the police to search a house without a search warrant when one resident consents to the search but another resident objects. The Court agreed by a 5-3 vote.
- Whitfield v. United States, 543 U.S 209 (2005): The clinic represented the petitioners and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that, in order to convict someone for conspiracy to commit money laundering, the federal government must prove an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. The Court unanimously ruled for the government.
(*denotes that clinic instructor argued case)
Since its inception, the clinic has handled numerous civil liberties cases on the merits, and dozens more at other stages. Most well known is the clinic’s work in the marriage equality cases, Windsor v. United States and Obergefell v. Hodges. But the clinic also represents clients seeking vindication of many other civil liberties. For instance, the clinic has represented person challenging pregnancy, sex, race, disability, and age discrimination. It also represents those pursuing redress for police or other official misconduct, and seeking redress under statutes such as the Voting Rights Act, the First Amendment, and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Here is a list of completed cases (the clinic’s briefs, along with other filings, are available through each hyperlink):
- *Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730 (2017): The clinic represented a man convicted under a state law barring any person on the state’s sex offender registry from accessing any social media website. The clinic argued that the law violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause, and the Court unanimously agreed.
- *Endrew F. v. Douglas County Sch. Dist. RE-1, 137 S. Ct. 988 (2017): The clinic, in conjunction with Stanford’s Youth and Education Law Project, represented a child with autism, arguing that his school was not providing him with sufficient services to provide a “free appropriate public education” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The clinic successfully sought certiorari, and the Court unanimously held that the IDEA imposes a “markedly more demanding” duty on the school district than the lower court and majority of others around the country had been requiring.
- Manuel v. City of Joliet, 137 S. Ct. ___ (2017): The clinic represented a man who claimed he had been wrongfully arrested and jailed for nearly two months based on fabricated evidence. Reversing the lower court, the Supreme Court agreed 6-2 with the clinic that the Fourth Amendment provided a proper basis for bringing a civil rights lawsuit based on such official misconduct.
- *Green v. Brennan, 136 S. Ct. 1769 (2016): The clinic represented a man claiming that his employer constructively discharged him because of his race, in violation of Title VII. After the court of appeals dismissed his claim as untimely, the clinic successfully petitioned for certiorari and prevailed 7-1 on the merits, establishing the rule that the time for bringing a constructive discharge claim under federal employment discrimination law does not begin running until the employee serves notice of his resignation.
- Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 1039 (2015): The clinic represented several same-sex couples from Kentucky, contending that the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to license and recognize marriages between such couples. The Court, as part of its consolidated decision resolving similar lawsuits from three other states as well, agreed by a 5-4 vote.
- United States v. Windsor, 133 S. Ct. 2675 (2013): The clinic was co-counsel for Edie Windsor, a gay woman forced to pay an inheritance tax on the estate of her deceased spouse, arguing that the section of the Defense of Marriage Act barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages violated the Fifth Amendment’s Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses. The Court agreed by a 5-4 vote.
- *Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders, 132 S. Ct. 1510 (2012): The clinic represented a man that the police erroneously arrested for failure to pay a fine and then strip searched on his way into jail and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the jail violated the Fourth Amendment by conducting that search without any reason to believe it might find any contraband. The Court disagreed by a 5-4 vote, holding that such strip searches are constitutional.
- Brown v. Plata, 131 S. Ct. 1910 (2011): The clinic represented plaintiff-intervenor the California Correctional and Peace Officers Association, arguing that the Prison Litigation Reform Act required the State the reduce its prison population by tens of thousands of inmates in order to provide constitutionally adequate health care services to prisoners. The Court agreed by a 5-4 vote.
- *Sossamon v. Texas, 131 S. Ct. 1651 (2011): The clinic represented an inmate of a Texas prison whose rights prison officials had violated under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that he should be able to recover money damages from the state for the violations. The Court disagreed by a 6-2 vote, holding that states’ sovereign immunity protects them from having to pay such damages.
- United States v. Stevens, 130 S. Ct.1577 (2010): The clinic represented a pit bull breeder and documentary filmmaker who was the first and only person ever convicted under a federal statute prohibiting the sales of depictions of “animal cruelty.” The clinic argued that the statute violated the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause insofar as its definition of animal cruelty swept far too broadly, covering popular movies and hunting and fishing magazines, and other popular media. The Court agreed, invalidated the statute, and reversed respondent’s conviction by an 8-1 vote.
- *AT&T v. Hulteen 129 S. Ct. 1962 (2009): The clinic represented women who took pregnancy leaves prior to the enactment of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), which forbids discrimination on the basis of pregnancy the same bases as sex discrimination. The women, who retired from their jobs during the past decade, argued that their employer violated the PDA by giving them smaller pension benefits than other employees who took other kinds of disability leave during the same periods. The Court disagreed by a 7-2 vote.
- *Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, 128 S. Ct. 2395 (2008): The clinic represented the petitioner, arguing that an employer, not an employee, bears the burden under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of proving that it took adverse action against older employees based on a “reasonable factor other than age.” The Court agreed by a 7-1 vote.
- *Riley v. Kennedy, 128 S. Ct. 1970 (2008): The clinic represented the appellees, arguing that the Alabama Governor’s use of an appointment to fill a vacancy on the Mobile County Commission was a change in voting practice requiring “preclearance” from the federal government under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The Court disagreed by a 7-2 vote and held that under the particular circumstances at issue, preclearance was not required.
- Crawford v. Marion County Election Bd., 128 S. Ct. 1610 (2008): The clinic represented the petitioners, arguing that Indiana’s “voter ID” law violated the First Amendment by unreasonably burdening the right to vote. The Court held by a 6-3 vote that even though future lawsuits might show that the law violates particular individuals’ rights, the law is not unconstitutional on its face.
- Wilkie v. Robbins, 127 S. Ct. 2588 (2007): The clinic represented the respondent, arguing that the federal Bureau of Land Development and certain federal officials violated RICO and his constitutional rights by extorting an easement across his ranch from him. The Court rejected the argument, holding 7-2 that these allegations did not state any federal cause of action.
- *Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 127 S. Ct. 2162 (2007): After successfully seeking certiorari, the clinic represented the petitioner, arguing that each time an employee receives a smaller paycheck than her coworkers because she is a woman, the paycheck gives rise to a Title VII claim for pay discrimination. The Court rejected that argument, holding by a 5-4 vote that disparate pay claims must be brought within 180 days of the date the employer initially set the disparate pay levels.
- Domino’s Pizza v. McDonald, 546 U.S. 470 (2006): The clinic represented the respondent, arguing that a plaintiff may advance a claim for race discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 even when he never entered into a contractual relationship with the defendant. The Court disagreed, holding unanimously that the agent of a party to a contract cannot state a claim under § 1981, because he himself does not have rights to make or enforce under the contract.
- *Spector v. Norwegian Cruise Line Ltd., 545 U.S. 119 (2005): The clinic represented the petitioners and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to foreign-flagged cruise ships operating in United States waters. The Court agreed by a 6-3 vote.
- *Smith v. City of Jackson, 544 U.S. 228 (2005): The clinic represented the petitioners and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act recognizes claims for actions that, while not intended to have a discriminatory effect, nonetheless unjustifiably and disproportionately disadvantage older workers. The Court agreed by an 8-0 vote, but ultimately held that the petitioners’ particular disparate impact claim lacked merit.
(*denotes that clinic instructor argued case)
Other Merits Cases
Above all, the clinic instructors are legal generalists. And that shows in the clinic’s docket, which has ranged (to name just a few) from bankruptcy to maritime to international to environmental law. With help from other faculty members inside and outside the Mills Legal Clinic, the clinic dives into unfamiliar terrain on a regular basis and achieves great results. Meanwhile, the students acquire a lifelong skill: the generalist’s ability to master a new and difficult legal problem in service of a client. Here are completed merits cases showing the clinic’s wide variety of work (the clinic’s briefs, along with other filings, are available through each hyperlink):
- *Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions, 137 S. Ct. 1562 (2017): The clinic represented a lawful permanent resident from Mexico and successfully sought certiorari, contending that the Government had wrongly ordered his deportation. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed, holding that a conviction for statutory rape involving a victim sixteen years or older does not constitute the aggravated felony of “sexual abuse of a minor” under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
- *OBB Personenverkehr AG v. Sachs, 136 S. Ct. 390 (2015): The clinic represented an American citizen who contended that the “commercial activity exception” of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act allowed her to sue a foreign-owned train company in the United States for an accident suffered while traveling on a Eurail ticket purchased in this country. The Court unanimously rejected one of her arguments for establishing such jurisdiction and declined to address her other one.
- *Oneok, Inc. v. Learjet, 135 S. Ct. 1591 (2015): The clinic represented hospitals, educational institutions, and other entities that bought natural gas directly from producers and later brought suit under state antitrust law for manipulation of prices that led to the 2002-03 energy crisis. The Court held 7-2 that the Natural Gas Act did not preempt those claims.
- *Air Wisconsin Airlines v. Hoeper, 134 S. Ct. 852 (2014): The clinic represented an airline pilot who sued his employer for defamation. The employer obtained certiorari, arguing that the Aviation and Transportation Act granted it immunity because its statements, even if recklessly made, were materially true. The Court unanimously agreed.
- *Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S. Ct. 746 (2014): The clinic represented a group of Argentinian citizens who filed suit in the United States, claiming that a subsidiary of Daimler AG collaborated with Argentinian state security forces to detain, torture, and kill them and their family members during the country’s “dirty war.” The clinic sought to defend a court of appeals ruling holding that Daimler could be sued in the United States. The Court, however, unanimously reversed the court of appeals, holding that a foreign corporation is not subject to U.S. jurisdiction for injuries allegedly incurred outside of this country.
- *Moncrieffe v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 1678 (2013): The clinic, in conjunction with the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, represented a lawful permanent resident of the United States and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that a state-law conviction for what may have been nothing more than social sharing of marijuana is not an “aggravated felony” that requires automatic deportation. The Courtagreed by a 7-2 vote.
- *Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, 133 S. Ct. 1326 (2013): The clinic, along with Stanford’s Environmental Law Clinic, represented a nonprofit environmental group arguing that the Clean Water Act required timber companies to obtain permits for discharges of polluted storm water runoff from logging roads into navigable waters. The Court agreed with the clinic that federal courts had jurisdiction over the case, but it ruled 7-1 that EPA’s view that no such permits are required was reasonable and thus entitled to deference.
- *Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, 133 S. Ct. 735 (2013): The clinic represented an individual whose floating home was seized when the City where it was moored contended it was a “vessel” and thus subject to — and in violation of — maritime law. The Court granted certiorari and ruled 7-2 for the clinic’s client, holding that a floating home is not a “vessel” and therefore is subject only to state and local law.
- *Freeman v. Quicken Loans, 132 S. Ct. 2034 (2012): The clinic represented three couples who contended that their mortgage lender violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) by charging them fees for which they were provided no services in return. The clinic successfully sought certiorari, but the Court ruled against its clients on the merits, holding that persons may not sue lenders for overcharges under the RESPA unless the alleged overcharges involved “kickbacks” to a third party.
- *Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority, 132 S. Ct. 1702 (2012): The clinic represented the family of an American citizen who was tortured and killed in the West Bank and sued the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority for the conduct, arguing that not only natural persons but organizations on behalf of which they act can be held liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA). The Court unanimously rejected the argument, holding that the TVPA’s cause of action against “individuals” is limited to natural persons.
- Golan v. Holder, 132 S. Ct. 873 (2012): The clinic, in connection with Stanford’s Fair Use Project, represented a group of composers and other artists seeking to invalidate the Copyright Restoration Act and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Act violated the Constitution’s Copyright Clause and the First Amendment. The Court disagreed by a 6–2 vote, holding that Congress has the authority to restore copyright protection to works previously in the public domain.
- Samantar v. Yousuf, 130 S. Ct. 2278 (2010): The clinic represented Somali torture victims who sued a former Somali governmental official, seeking redress for their injuries under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The defendant argued that he was immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, but the Court unanimously rejected the argument, allowing the plaintiffs’ suit to go forward.
- *Abbott v. Abbott, 130 S. Ct. 1983 (2010): The clinic represented the father of a boy who was taken from Chile to the United States by his mother, in violation of a Chilean “ne exeat” law requiring one parent to get the other’s permission before taking a child out of the country. After the father filed suit against the mother and lost in a district court and federal court of appeals, the clinic successfully sought certiorari, and argued on the merits that the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction required the United States to return the child to his country of habitual residence. The Court agreed by a 6-3 vote, holding that the Convention requires signatory countries, including the United States, to respect and enforce “ne exeat” rights.
- *Jerman v. Carslile, McNellie, Rini, Kramer & Ulrich LPA, 130 S. Ct. 1605 (2010): The clinic represented petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that a debt collector’s legal (as opposed to factual) error cannot exempt it from liability for abusive or deceptive debt collection practices under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The Court agreed by a 7-2 vote.
- Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, 130 S. Ct. 1237 (2010): The clinic represented a group of freelance writers whose work was posted on various electronic databases without their permission and, along with other plaintiffs, sought redress under federal copyright law. After a federal court of appeals dismissed the case on the ground that some of the works at issue had not been registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, the Supreme Court unanimously reinstated the case, establishing that such registration is not a jurisdictional requirement.
- *Whitman v. Department of Transportation, 547 U.S. 512 (2006): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Civil Service Reform Act does not preclude federal employees from bringing constitutional and statutory claims in federal court before they have exhausted the administrative grievance process. The Court unanimously agreed and remanded the case for further proceedings.
- Bank of China v. NBM, LLC, 546 U.S. 1026 (2005): The clinic represented the respondents, arguing that civil RICO plaintiffs alleging mail and wire fraud as predicate acts must establish that they reasonably relied on those improper acts. After the clinic filed its brief on the merits, the petitioner withdrew its challenge to the lower court opinion.
- *Tum v. Barber Foods, 546 U.S. 21 (2005): The clinic represented the petitioner and successfully sought certiorari, arguing that the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to compensate workers for the time spent walking to work stations from the place where they must obtain and put on mandatory safety equipment. The Court agreed in a unanimous decision.
- *Rousey v. Jacoway, 544 U.S. 320 (2005): The clinic represented the petitioners and successfully sought certiorari, arguing debtors may exempt personal IRA’s from their estates for purposes of filing petitions for bankruptcy. The Court unanimously agreed.
(*denotes that clinic instructor argued case)
Petitions for Certiorari
The clinic files about a half dozen petitions for certiorari each year. According to a recent study, the clinic’s success rate is higher than any law firm or public interest office in the country. Relying on the same expertise—our understanding of the factors that influence the Court’s system of discretionary review—the clinic regularly helps clients preserve victories by opposing certiorari. The clinic currently has the following petitions for certiorari pending before the Court:
- Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital, involving whether Title VII’s ban on employment discrimination because of sex encompasses discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation.
- Blackorby v. BNSF Railway Co., involving the standard for when an employer violates the whistleblower protections of the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
- Pickering v. Colorado, involving the prosecution’s burden of proof in a criminal case when the defendant raises a defense that would negate an element of the alleged offense.
- Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach, involving whether a First Amendment claim for arrest in retaliation for exercising the right to free speech can succeed if there was probable cause to arrest the speaker.
- Robinson v. United States, involving whether, or under what circumstances, police officers in a state that allows people to carry firearms in public may search a person they have stopped based on their belief that the person may be armed.
- Currier v. Virginia, involving whether criminal defendants who consent to sequential trials retain their protection under the Double Jeopardy Clause against having to defend against allegations for which they have been acquitted.
- Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, involving whether the Alien Tort Statute permits not only individual but also corporate liability for violations of the law of nations. (Petition granted on April 3, 2017.)