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Civil Rights Clinic files petition in Supreme Court, amicus brief in Court of Appeals

The Penn State Law in University Park Civil Rights Appellate Clinic had a busy fall semester that culminated in the completion of two major filings—a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court and an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
2020-2021 Civil Rights Appellate Clinic students

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State Law in University Park Civil Rights Appellate Clinic had a busy fall semester that culminated in the completion of two major filings—a petition for certiorari with the United States Supreme Court and an amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In Fry v. Rand Construction Corp., the Clinic asked the Supreme Court to address the standard of causation required in cases alleging retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The case arose out of a ruling from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that overturned a jury decision awarding a plaintiff relief when she was terminated by her employer after taking FMLA leave. The Clinic, representing the plaintiff, relied on the Supreme Court’s recent landmark holding in Bostock v. Clayton County to argue that the Court of Appeals erred in applying a causation standard stricter than the Supreme Court’s precedent requires.

The Clinic co-authored the petition for certiorari with the Employment Law Group, a nationally recognized employment law firm in Washington, D.C.

In Mondelli v. Berkeley Heights Nursing Home & Rehabilitation Center, the plaintiff, who suffers from significant mental disabilities, was denied visitation with his ailing mother by a nursing home. The Clinic was appointed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit with full briefing responsibilities to represent the interests of Mr. Mondelli. The Clinic’s amicus brief addresses a district court’s dismissal of a plaintiff’s claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The brief argues that the plaintiff’s case should not have been dismissed without first appointing him a guardian to protect his legal interests, and the district court’s decision to do so violated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Third Circuit precedent.

"Working as a student in the Penn State Law Civil Rights Appellate Clinic for the past two semesters has been the most rewarding part of law school,” said Sarah Straub, a third-year student. “The Clinic provides students a unique opportunity to explore developing areas of law, assist real life clients with the problems they face, and apply the skills we've learned in other classes."

Kira Geary, also a third-year student, similarly praised her Clinic experience.

“Participating in the Clinic allowed me to do high-stakes, challenging, and rewarding work at the cutting edge of civil rights and employment discrimination law. I am excited to continue litigating these cases next semester,” she said.

The briefing on both of these cases will continue into the spring semester, with the possibility that one of the Clinic students will be presented with the opportunity to argue Mr. Mondelli’s case before the Third Circuit.

The Civil Rights Appellate Clinic is one of nine legal clinics at Penn State Law. The Clinic  provides students with training in appellate advocacy and writing. Students work with clients on an array of noncriminal civil rights cases before state and federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. In representing clients, students gain practical experience through research and analysis, drafting and editing briefs, and planning appellate strategies.

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