Appellate Litigation Clinic student argues, wins Tennessee Supreme Court case

Law students may envision arguing a case in their state’s highest court that impacts the lives of thousands at some time during their careers, but few imagine doing that before they have even graduated from law school. Michael Davis, a student in UT’s new Appellate Litigation Clinic, did just that in the spring, when he argued a case on behalf of a clinic client that challenged the constitutionality of one of Tennessee’s bail statutes. In State v. Burgins, the Tennessee Supreme Court recognized that the Tennessee Constitution guarantees a defendant the right to pretrial release and that before pretrial bail can be revoked, a defendant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing.

Burgins was only one of the victories that Davis and the clinic experienced during the spring. He also succeeded in a TennCare appeal in which the state ultimately agreed to provide necessary medical devices that positively impacted his client’s life.

Working under the tutelage of Professor Valorie Vojdik, Davis described his time in the clinic as his “most outstanding single educational experience” in law school. And the reason why is no surprise. Davis cherished the opportunity to make meaningful differences in the lives of others and to collaborate with fellow students and professors. This year, UT’s Appellate Litigation Clinic is directed by Professor Lucy Jewel, who, like Vojdik, sees teaching the clinic as a way to provide robust educational experiences to students who want to hone their skills in complex problem-solving, argumentation, and persuasion.