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Civil Rights Appellate Clinic files amicus brief with U.S. Supreme Court

The Penn State Law Civil Rights Appellate Clinic filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP on behalf of six national organizations including the National Employment Lawyers Association, American Association of Justice, AARP, The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco Law Center.  

The brief addresses an important but unresolved issue in employment law: the scope and protection of a key anti-retaliation provision within Title VII. In its amicus brief, the clinic asked the Court to interpret the provision consistent with Congress's intent of protecting all workers against retaliatory conduct. 

Professor Michael Foreman is counsel of record and orchestrated the collaborative effort among the national civil rights organizations and the team of Penn State Law students. “So many fine legal minds working together enrich the quality of the finished product exponentially,” he said, emphasizing that appellate advocates who work alone miss out on the benefit of other people’s creativity. The clinic operates in a way comparable to the best appellate firms in the country, with teams of attorneys working in small groups on one case.

“We were very pleased to join the amicus brief in the Thompson case produced by Professor Foreman and students in the law school’s Civil Rights Appellate Clinic. We were extremely satisfied with the quality of the work reflected in the brief!” said Daniel B. Kohrman, the senior litigation attorney for the AARP Foundation. 

Students learned quickly that appellate advocacy sometimes requires putting their personal lives on hold. Clinic students began working on the amicus brief on August 20, the first day of classes. The clinic submitted the brief just three weeks later on September 10. 
“Compiling this brief in a short amount of time was very challenging.  But submitting the brief to the Supreme Court of the United States was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in law school and the process was an excellent exercise in teamwork and cooperation,” said Isaac Wakefield '11, who is also an associate editor of the Penn State Environmental Law Review.

For law students who have spent their academic careers reading Supreme Court cases, actually submitting something to the court was quite a thrill.
LL.M. student Sarah Humphries said, "We all read decisions from the Supreme Court in law school. But the clinic is different. In Thompson, the Supreme Court read something from us.” 


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