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Civil Rights Appellate Clinic files brief in the United States Supreme Court

The Civil Rights Appellate Clinic filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the National Employment Lawyers Association.
U.S. Supreme Court

UPDATE: Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Penn State Law Civil Rights Appellate Clinic Amicus Brief

The Civil Rights Appellate Clinic at Penn State Law at University Park filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States in March 2022 in support of Latrice Saxon, a ramp supervisor for Southwest Airlines. She filed a lawsuit against Southwest Airlines, claiming they were not paying the correct overtime compensation to ramp supervisors. Southwest aimed to enforce its arbitration clause and dismiss the suit under the Federal Arbitration Act. The clinic’s argument stated the Federal Arbitration Act does not apply to her because her position is exempt.

Justice Thomas delivered the Court’s opinion, which was in agreement with the clinic. “The question presented is whether, under §1 of the Federal Arbitration Act, she belongs to a ‘class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce’ that is exempted from the Act’s cov­erage. We hold that she does.” You can read the full opinion here

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law in University Park Civil Rights Appellate Clinic recently filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court of the United States. The brief, written on behalf of the National Employment Lawyers Association, supported Latrice Saxon in her lawsuit against Southwest Airlines. The clinic argued airline cargo loaders are not subject to the Federal Arbitration Act, because that class of workers falls under an exemption in the statute.

“Working on this Supreme Court brief was a challenging experience, requiring meticulous drafting and editing, long hours, and extensive research,” noted Cara Joy Skelley, a third-year law student and member of the clinic. Despite the challenge, Skelley characterized the experience as “one that I will take with me in every future work experience and cherish.”

Third-year student and member Kaitlin Briggs agreed the experience was both challenging and rewarding.

“I’m really proud of our work, and I think we deserve to be proud—most attorneys don’t get an opportunity to file in the Supreme Court, but a group of ‘almost attorneys’ put together a strong, compelling brief for the highest court in the country,” Briggs explained.  “I think that’s pretty incredible.”

Though the issues were complex, students were engaged and invested in the cause from start to finish. Clinic students involved on the case were Briggs, Simon Cao, Halle Finegold, Mikaela Koski, Conor O’Donnell, Skelley, and Haley Walker.

The Civil Rights Appellate Clinic, directed by Professor Michael Foreman is one of ten legal clinics available to Penn State Law in University Park students. The Clinic provides intensive training in appellate advocacy by involving students in noncriminal civil rights cases before the state appellate courts, federal courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court of the United States. Students conduct research, draft briefs, assist in case selection, develop substantive legal positions, and plan appellate strategy.

The clinic’s brief in Southwest Airlines Co. v. Saxon can be found under Supreme Court docket number 21-309.

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