College of Law

UT Law students victorious at US Court of Appeals

Posted September 9, 2016

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has issued decisions in the cases of two clients represented by students of the University of Tennessee College of Law’s Appellate Litigation Clinic during the spring semester of 2016.

The first case, argued by William “Trey” Neal (’16) in March, was decided in early July. Neal argued a habeas corpus issue before judges Raymond Kethledge, Jane Roth, and Bernice Donald. The case explored whether the client’s post-conviction motion, filed in Kentucky, was properly filed to toll the statute of limitations under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. The court ultimately ruled in their client’s favor, reversing and remanding the lower court decision.

The second case, argued by Alexandra Wolff (’16) also in March, was decided in late August. Wolff argued an immigration appeal on behalf of a young Honduran man seeking asylum from deadly gang violence in a country that has been dubbed the “murder capital of the world.” The complex asylum case involved a myriad of issues, including the constitutionality of statutes governing judicial determinations in immigration matters. Judges Helene White, Alice Batchelder, and Sheryl Lipman presided over the case. A partial victory was secured. While the immigration judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied the asylum request, the students convinced the Sixth Circuit to remand the case to the BIA because the bureau’s decision did not take into account evidence that the client’s brother had been murdered by the same gang and for the same reasons that the gang targeted him.

Wolff and Neal received the opportunity to argue their cases after nearly a year of intense preparation supported by fellow students Cameron Kapperman (’16), Patrick Morrison (’16), and Sara Ohlman(’16). Under the guidance of professor Lucy Jewel and adjunct professor Wade Davies, the students worked collaboratively over the past year to prepare the record; draft the principal, reply, and supplemental briefs; and deliver oral arguments.

“This experience has been one of the most rewarding points of my teaching career. As a clinic teacher, my goal has always been to provide students with the tools, practice, and confidence necessary to do the best possible job for the client,” said Jewel, associate professor of law and director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic. “It was heartening to know that our students provided excellent representation for clients who would not have received much legal help on their own. I am so very proud of what the students have achieved.”

The Appellate Litigation Clinic is one of nine clinics in UT Law’s overall Legal Clinic program. Founded in 1947, UT’s Legal Clinic is the longest-running of its kind in the nation and allows students to learn by doing—representing clients in need and helping resolve legal disputes under faculty supervision.