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U.S. Supreme Court agrees with Civil Rights Clinic in new decision

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Perry v. Merit Services Protection Board that concurred with the arguments put forth by the Penn State Law Civil Rights Appellate Clinic in an amicus brief filed back in March.

The Perry case concerned a federal employee’s right to review of his discrimination claim after it was dismissed by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on jurisdictional grounds. The case centered on former U.S. Census Bureau worker Anthony Perry, who alleged he had been discriminated against due to a medical condition but whose case was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds, forcing him to appeal his case all the way to the nation’s highest court.

The Supreme Court held that federal employees have a right to de novo review regardless of whether the MPSB dismisses a case on procedural or jurisdictional grounds—which is the argument that was put forth by Penn State Law students in their amicus brief filed on the plaintiff’s behalf.

“This case is a win for Mr. Perry, who found himself at the center of this debate, as well as for federal employees at large,” Penn State Law professor and clinic director Michael Foreman said. “It’s also a victory for our clinic and the students who worked tirelessly to help ensure that federal workers can have their discrimination cases heard de novo in federal district court.”

In addition to helping resolve an important legal question and affirming the rights of federal employees, the work done by Penn State Law students on the Perry case was a valuable learning experience.

“Whether it was through helping with research, writing the brief, or editing in response to client comments, working on an amicus brief in support of Mr. Perry's case was very illuminating,” said third-year law student Patrick Stickney. “It’s incredibly rewarding to knowing that a brief we worked on helped the Supreme Court reach a decision that simplifies the process for federal government employees challenging an adverse employment action in a situation where they are also alleging a claim under federal anti-discrimination laws.”

Fellow clinic students Andy Low, Theresa Dorsainvil, Misti Howey, and Rachel Naquin also worked with the Civil Rights Appellate Clinic on the Perry brief. As part of their work with the clinic, these students also have worked on two other cases pending before the Supreme Court and had the opportunity to witness the first oral arguments before Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

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