How UVA Law Fared at the Supreme Court This Term

Faculty, Clinics Notch Successes, Influence Jurisprudence
Supreme Court clinic at the court

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic won a unanimous verdict in Culbertson v. Berryhill in January. Photo by Jesús Pino

July 2, 2019

The University of Virginia School of Law faculty and clinics made an impact at the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2018 term, winning arguments and influencing jurisprudence. Here are highlights:

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic argued two cases before the justices this term. The clinic won a unanimous ruling in Culbertson v. Berryhill, which clarified attorneys’ fees for Social Security claimants. Professor Dan Ortiz, the clinic’s director, presented oral argument for the sixth time in his career. The clinic also brought Quarles v. United States, a sentencing enhancement case. Additionally, the justices agreed to hear the clinic’s 17th case since its inception in 2006, Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., which tackles a 19th-century copyright doctrine, in the 2019-20 term.

Professor Toby Heytens ’00, serving as Virginia’s solicitor general, won two cases for the commonwealth handed down the same day: Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, which addressed standing in a redistricting lawsuit, and Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren, which tackled federal preemption over state law. Heytens and his team were named co-winners of the National Association of Attorneys General’s 2019 Supreme Court Best Brief Awards for the brief filed in Bethune-Hill.

The Environmental and Regulatory Law Clinic filed an amicus brief in Warren co-authored by Professor Cale Jaffe ’01, the clinic’s director, on behalf of regional stakeholders defending Virginia’s ban on uranium mining against claims that the law violated the Atomic Energy Act. The court voted 6-3 to uphold Virginia’s law. The clinic had been involved with the case since its movement through federal appeals courts.

The court cited UVA Law professors more than any other school’s faculty in the past two terms, and their scholarship was referenced again this term:

  • Professor Douglas Laycock was cited in three different opinions in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, an establishment clause case involving the Bladensburg Peace Cross for which Laycock also wrote an amicus brief.
  • The court, in an opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, cited Professors Caleb Nelson and Ann Woolhandler in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt, a sovereign immunity case.
  • Justice Neil Gorsuch cited Professors Aditya Bamzai, John Duffy, Saikrishna Prakash and Woolhandler in his concurrence in Kisor v. Wilkie, an administrative law case.
  • Thomas cited Nelson and Professor G. Edward White in his concurrence in Gamble v. U.S., a dual-sovereignty case.
  • Thomas cited Nelson in his concurrence in Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. v. Albright, an administrative law case.
  • Thomas cited Nelson in his concurrence in a cert denial in McKee v. Cosby, a defamation lawsuit.

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