UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State Law Civil Rights Appellate Clinic met with one of the top Supreme Court advocates in the country this semester, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, and filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit as counsel on behalf of a Jane Doe.
Clement, now a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, has argued more than 90 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He visited Penn State Law on Nov. 9 and delivered a public talk on the 2017-18 Supreme Court term. He then met privately with members of the clinic.
"I loved my visit to the law school," said Clement. "The building is beautiful and state of the art, and the conversation with my friend, Professor [Michael L.] Foreman, was great fun and followed by insightful questions from the audience and engaging conversations in the reception afterwards."
Earlier in the semester, in August, the Third Circuit Court appointed the clinic as counsel for Jane Doe, a pro se plaintiff representing herself. Doe brought a claim against the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) for refusing to grant her reasonable accommodation on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
The clinic filed its brief on Nov. 30, asking the Third Circuit Court to find that Doe’s case fell “squarely within the capable of repetition while evading review exception to the mootness doctrine.” In short, this means the district court should have allowed Doe’s claim to proceed. The clinic also asked the Third Circuit Court to grant Doe an injunction allowing her to take the LSAT with reasonable accommodations “while allowing the LSAC to hold her score until the district court [could] reach the merits of her claims.”
The brief was written by clinic associates Michael Baska, Melissa Blanco, Yerisbel Jimenez, and Arman Marukyan, all third-year students, with the help and supervision of Associate Dean of Clinics and Experiential Learning Michael L. Foreman, director of the clinic.
“It was a great pleasure to advocate on behalf of an individual who was discriminated against for her disabilities, especially since she is a pro se plaintiff,” stated Marukyan.
The clinic gave these student advocates the opportunity to help a pro se plaintiff, while also teaching them what it’s like to advocate for clients in civil rights appellate cases.
“The clinic gave us the opportunity to not only refine the skills we have learned through our legal writing courses but also to perform the greatest task lawyers perform throughout their careers: advocate,” said Blanco.
Baska added, “Not only were the legal aspects of the brief interesting, but it offered us a chance to experience the hardships of those with disabilities.”
The Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, one of nine legal clinics available to Penn State Law students, provides intensive training in appellate advocacy by involving students in noncriminal civil rights cases before state appellate courts, federal courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Students conduct research, draft briefs, assist in case selection, develop substantive legal positions, and plan appellate strategy.
“The Civil Rights Clinic really taught me about the tough but rewarding work it takes to advocate on someone’s behalf,” said Jimenez. “It was by far one of the highlights of my law school experience!”