Academics: Professional Training

Appellate Litigation Clinic

Professor Stephen Braga; 8 Credits

This yearlong clinic allows 12 students to engage in the hands-on practice of appellate litigation through actual cases before various federal circuit and/or state courts of appeals. The students are teamed up and assigned to handle primary responsibility for work on at least one appellate case during the course of the year. In addition, the students work together as a small law firm to provide secondary-level assistance to each other.

Clinic students identify the issues to be raised on appeal through factual analysis and legal research, prepare opening and reply briefs persuasively advocating for the client’s position on those issues and, in a number of cases, personally present oral argument on the issues to the appellate court. Because of the requirements contained in the student practice rules at these courts of appeals, this clinic is only open to third-year students.

Students are expected to attend a weekly class that covers key topics of appellate practice and procedure, and will participate in group discussion of issues relating to the cases pending in the clinic generally. Student teams also meet individually with the clinic director for guidance on preparing the appeals for which they are primarily responsible. Finally, all students will have the opportunity to participate in multiple moot courts designed to enhance their argument skills.

Through this process, clinic students receive real, professional training in the arts of oral and written advocacy, as it is practiced in some of the highest courts in the nation. The clinic’s caseload is expected to include both civil and criminal cases, as well as cases involving government agencies.  Occasionally, students will work on amicus briefs, petitions for rehearing and petitions for writs of certiorari.      

Razavi and ValentineBuilding a Record of Success

Students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic had back-to-back cases heard before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in March 2014, part of an ambitious slate for the recently expanded clinic. (Pictured, from left, are clinic director Stephen Braga and clinic participants Jacky Werman '14, Ethan Simon '14 and Robert Dressel '14.) In April the clinic won a reversal for their client, Nathan Webb, in Webb v. Smith (aka Webb v. Brawn), an illegal search and seizure case before the Fourth Circuit. Students John Gunter '14 and Benjamin Wood '14 worked with the client, with Gunter representing him in court. Opinion | More on the case, including audio of the arguments

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