In UCLA’s Supreme Court Clinic, students and faculty work together on real cases before the United States Supreme Court.
We have been up and running for only two semesters, but already . . .
We helped write the brief for the respondent in Missouri v. Frye, 132 S. Ct. 1399 (2012). By a 5-4 vote, the Court agreed with our arguments that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to the effective assistance of counsel during plea negotiations, and that the reinstatement of a plea offer is an appropriate remedy when counsel is ineffective. In the New York Times, one law professor called the case “the single greatest revolution in the criminal justice process since Gideon v. Wainwright.” Here is an article about our work on the case.
We filed an amicus brief on behalf of 96 experimental psychologists in Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345, which will be argued in October 2012. Our brief summarizes the large psychology literature on “stereotype threat,” the pressure that people feel when they fear that their performance could confirm a negative stereotype about their group. The brief demonstrates that standardized tests and other conventional measures of academic performance systematically underestimate the true talents of members of certain minority groups, and that a genuinely merit-based college admissions policy must therefore take race into account.
We filed an amicus brief on behalf of 23 law professors in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, 131 S. Ct. 2527 (2011). We showed that a common law nuisance suit can never be non-justiciable under the political question doctrine, even where the alleged nuisance is as broad as climate change. As it turned out, the Court decided the case without addressing this issue (there were two other issues in the case), but the four Justices who did reach the issue agreed unanimously with our argument.
We filed petitions for certiorari on behalf of seven indigent prisoners:
Cooper v. Missouri and Krupp v. Missouri, No. 11-10023 (whether a defendant, as part of a plea agreement, may waive the claim that counsel was ineffective in advising him to accept the agreement)
Smith v. Missouri, No. 11-9357 (whether, in light of Padilla v. Kentucky, the Sixth Amendment requires defense counsel to advise the defendant that the offense to which he is pleading guilty will limit his eligibility for parole)
Jones v. Missouri, No. 11-9036 (whether a court may accept an Alford plea when the record is devoid of any evidence of the defendant’s guilt)
Williams v. Missouri, No. 10-10210 (whether the right to a public trial can be waived by defense counsel without the defendant’s knowledge or consent)
Andrews v. Missouri, No. 10-10162 (whether, in light of Apprendi v. New Jersey, the facts allowing a juvenile to be tried as an adult must be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt)
Rollins v. Missouri, No. 10-9177 (whether a prospective juror’s experience as a victim of race discrimination constitutes a “race-neutral” reason for using a peremptory challenge to strike the juror)
In several other cases, we have given advice to lawyers preparing merits briefs, petitions for certiorari, and briefs in opposition to petitions for certiorari.
Unlike similar clinics at other law schools, we do not insist on taking over an entire case. We’re happy to help any way we can. If you are an attorney who would like our assistance with any aspect of Supreme Court practice, please contact the clinic director, Professor Stuart Banner.