U.S. Court of Appeals Holds Court at UW Law

A UW Law classroom became a live courtroom on Nov. 15 when the U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on four cases.

Learning about civil procedure does not traditionally coincide with a live viewing of oral arguments before circuit-level judges. But on November 15, students got to see the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in person inside the Toni C. Rembe Appellate Courtroom, while the special sitting was livestreamed to the public. The classroom at William H. Gates Hall Room 133 was filled to capacity, with a line of students waiting for a chance to enter.

“The Ninth Circuit endeavors to get out to law schools when we can,” said Senior Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown in her opening remarks, which also acknowledged William H. Gates Hall as a “fantastic building.” “We think it’s a good opportunity for us to see the future lawyers and it makes us very, very encouraged about the future of the legal profession when we meet all of you.”

McKeown was joined by Circuit Judge Ronald Gould and Senior District Judge Richard D. Bennett, of the District of Maryland, who sat by designation. The judges heard oral arguments on four cases: Lemus-Huerta v. Garland; Shari Cane v. Corey O’Neill; Abdul-Latif v. United States of America; and United Federation of Churches LLC v. David Johnson, with a break at the half to address student questions.

Escorting the judges during their visit to campus were the two students in the Appellate Advocacy Clinic, Walker McKusick and Sally Walker, who are the counsel of record for an incarcerated individual. As part of their clinic work with professors Jeffrey Feldman and Elizabeth Porter, they reviewed cases this past summer that would otherwise be appealed pro se.

McKusick and Walker have already submitted the opening brief for their chosen case and appreciated the opportunity to observe the U.S. Court of Appeals in real-time. “The live oral arguments were so helpful to observe as we consider the things we will argue in front of the court,” Walker, 3L, reflected.

“Judge McKeown told the students, ‘At its best, advocacy is a conversation.’ It was beneficial to see how the attorneys got the judges’ attention and synthesized matters on appeal,” said McKusick, 3L, adding that the sentiment bore out in the best parts of the day as the students observed what the attorneys did well and areas where their arguments could be improved.

“It was also wonderful to meet the judges, who were open to questions about their extensive careers,” Walker noted. During the break between sets of cases, the judges addressed student questions about clerkships and other curiosities, like why the appellate court had jurisdiction over certain cases. The judges encouraged the students to take Federal Courts and the Courts System (LAW B 507) during law school, regardless of their aspirations and to consider state and federal clerkships.

After the sitting concluded, 20 students joined the judges and their clerks for lunch. McKusick and Walker said that the judges shared additional insights about balancing life and legal careers as well as how they found their way to the bench.

The U.S. Court of Appeals hears appeals of cases decided by certain executive branch agencies and federal trial courts in nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions. The sitting at UW Law was part of their week-long sitting at the William K. Nakamura U.S. Courthouse in Seattle.

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