Clinic Course for Current J.D. Students
In the fall of 2012, a group of 16 students will join the Appellate Litigation Program. These students will brief and argue cases before federal appellate courts under the supervision of Professor Steven H. Goldblatt and two highly qualified supervising attorneys, both of whom will be earning graduate degrees in advocacy. The Program also represents indigent people before the Board of Immigration Appeals and files amicus curiae briefs in the Supreme Court of the United States and other courts. The nine-credit, year-long Program satisfies the legal writing requirement.
Briefing and arguing appeals requires intensive training in appellate practice, procedure, research, issue formulation, and writing. The training emphasizes improving analytical skills and clarity in both writing and oral advocacy. In general, each student, in conjunction with one of the Program attorneys, will produce two major documents for filing (e.g., briefs, motions, petitions for writs of certiorari). Only a number of the Program's students will appear before appellate courts for oral argument. All students, however, will receive training in oral advocacy during the year. Whenever possible, students interact directly with clients through visits, phone calls, and letters.
The caseload of the Program is generally composed of civil rights, immigration, habeas corpus, and a variety of other civil cases. A Lexis or WestLaw database search will yield a representative sample of the types of cases that we undertake. Although the breakdown varies from year to year, these cases, regardless of type, often raise important constitutional and statutory questions. In the past, the Program has argued several cases on the merits in the United States Supreme Court.
Professor Goldblatt is an experienced appellate lawyer, having appeared before the United States Supreme Court, many federal circuit courts of appeals, the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and state appellate courts. He is also a director of the Supreme Court Institute. The two appellate advocacy fellows are lawyers selected on the basis of outstanding academic records, excellent writing skills, clerkship experience, and prior litigation experience. They work closely with students in developing their written and oral advocacy skills.
The staff is committed to teaching the finest appellate advocacy. The students learn to analyze a set of facts, develop legal issues, and produce a superb written product. Supervision is often in a 2- or 3-to-1 student/attorney ratio. Using videotape and moot court techniques, we teach each student the art of oral advocacy. Several students will appear before federal appellate courts.
By virtue of its docket of cases from federal circuit courts of appeals and other courts, the Program gives students first-hand experience with the operation of a small appellate law firm and the administration of justice in both the federal and state courts.
A nine-credit, year-long clinical program is a significant commitment. It offers students more than just exposure to a branch of law; it is an opportunity to be a lawyer and to work in a partnership under the guidance of experienced lawyers. Students joining the Program will be required to put in substantial work, including preparing for oral argument, writing briefs, and attending the two-hour weekly seminar. Evening division students who can devote the time necessary to attend the scheduled Wednesday afternoon seminar, attend at least three Supreme Court Institute moot courts, which are generally held in the afternoon, and can undertake the commitment needed to work on live-client cases during the day are encouraged to apply.
Under the supervision of one of the attorneys, you will work in a team or alone on at least two written projects during the year. Your goal will be to produce a written and oral product that meets the highest professional standards.
The weekly seminar emphasizes student participation and covers a broad spectrum of issues confronting appellate litigators, such as brief writing, the nuances of oral argument, appellate jurisdiction and procedure, standards of review, and the meaning of professional responsibility in the appellate context. Case assignments generally are completed by the end of classes in April, although some work during exams may be necessary. In that event, steps are taken to ensure that students have adequate time to complete these assignments and prepare for their exams. Students are also cautioned that work on cases may be necessary during holidays or breaks. We attempt to work around exam and break schedules, but this is not always possible.
Students are also expected to attend at least three Supreme Court Institute moot courts during the year. These moot courts provide an excellent opportunity to watch lawyers working on the preparation for oral argument before the highest court in the land and then have the opportunity to see how well the lawyers were able to anticipate the questions posed at the actual argument. Students meet with Professor Goldblatt after the moot court and the real argument have taken place to discuss the experience.
Overall, you can anticipate a time commitment of roughly sixteen hours per week. That number indicates how total hours worked would average out at the end of the school year. The time actually devoted to the Program will be concentrated around the time of writing assignments and oral arguments. When briefs are due, substantially more than sixteen hours per week should be expected. Fewer than sixteen hours is the norm when briefs are not due. It is relatively easy to plan around these assignments because you will know about them well in advance.