Ninth Circuit Clinic
Loyola offers third-year day students and fourth-year evening students interested in appellate advocacy the opportunity to participate in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic. Students in this two-semester clinic are appointed by the Court to represent clients with appeals pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in civil cases and immigration cases, under the supervision of Adjunct Prof. Paula Mitchell.
In a typical year, students in the clinic draft and file the opening brief on appeal during the fall semester. The answer brief will be filed in December, and the students spend their spring semester drafting the reply brief and preparing for oral argument, which usually takes place in April.
In this year’s clinic, students Monique Alarcon, Eliza Haney, and Dale Ogden worked tirelessly representing their client, Jim Davis, a California prison inmate. Davis sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for violating his right to religious freedom. A devout Muslim, Davis faithfully practiced his religion while incarcerated for almost two decades. But in 2009 and 2010, the CDCR instituted a total ban on inmates using Muslim prayer oil as part of any religious ceremony at the prison where Davis was incarcerated. The total ban meant that prayer oils could not even be kept and used by inmates while they visited the prison chapel.
As far as Mitchell is concerned, the students are receiving the same experience as any lawyer would. “The clinic allows students to experience both the thrill and the pressure of high stakes litigation. Appeals can be very challenging. The students this year had to learn how to communicate to our client that they are committed to winning his case, while at the same time managing his expectations and making sure he understands that there are no guarantees that he will prevail on appeal.”
The students filed the opening brief in Davis’s case in October, and the Office of the Attorney General filed their Answer Brief on behalf of the CDCR in December. The students were scheduled to argue the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2016, but in the end, after reading the opening brief, the CDCR agreed to settle Mr. Davis’s case out of court—and for an amount that was considerably higher than previously offered.
“This settlement is a testament to the strength of the well-researched arguments raised in our opening brief,” Mitchell said. “I could not be more proud of our students. And it was a tremendous victory for our client. Anyone who has ever litigated against the CDCR will tell you how rare it is for the Department of Corrections to agree to settle a civil rights case brought by an inmate.” Davis was very pleased with the result, as well.
Students in the clinic also file amicus curiae briefs in cases pending in the Ninth Circuit. Instead of participating in the oral argument this spring semester, the students in the clinic are slated to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of United States Congressmen Sam Farr (D) and Dana Rohracbacher (R) in a medical marijuana case that is pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The student experience:
Under the supervision of skilled appellate practitioners, students refine their understanding of how to raise winning arguments on appeal. In strategy sessions, the team evaluates the various arguments that could be raised on appeal and reaches a consensus about which arguments are most compelling. “As far as practical experience for those interested in appellate work, it doesn’t get much better than briefing and arguing a case before the Ninth Circuit," said Dale Ogden ’16.
Completed applications will include:
1. A brief statement explaining your interest in the clinic
2. Your current resume
3. An unofficial LLS transcript or grade printout
4. A writing sample of no more than 25 pages
5. Names of two references/recommenders
Any questions? Contact Prof. Paula Mitchell at Paula.Mitchell@lls.edu