Supreme Court to Hear Seventh Case From UCLA Law Clinic

The Supreme Court Clinic at UCLA School of Law on Friday had another case accepted for argument by the U.S. Supreme Court, the seventh such case that the high court has taken in the last three terms.

The court granted cert in Murphy v. Smith, which was brought by Charles Murphy, an Illinois prisoner who was severely beaten by prison guards and was awarded more than $300,000 in damages in a subsequent lawsuit. The court is expected to use the case to determine how to apportion responsibility for paying prisoners' attorney's fees when they win civil rights cases — how much comes directly out of the prisoner's damages award, and how much the defendants must pay on top of that sum.

Stuart Banner largeStuart Banner, UCLA's Norman Abrams Professor of Law and leader of the Supreme Court Clinic, will travel to Washington in December to deliver oral argument on Murphy's behalf.

Under Banner's direction, students in the Supreme Court Clinic research and write briefs and petitions for or against certiorari, the preliminary documents that the court uses to determine whether to accept cases. Students gain rare and invaluable experience, and, in turn, the school helps attorneys and litigants who would not otherwise have the resources to bring cases to the high court.

Last term, Banner and his students took two cases to the Supreme Court, prevailing in both. In April 2017, the court issued a 7-1 decision in Nelson v. Colorado, agreeing with Banner's argument that people convicted of crimes in Colorado should be able to recover court fees and costs if their convictions are erased. Then, in a landmark June 2017 decision, the court voted 8-0 in Matal v. Tam to side with Simon Tam, who sought to trademark the controversial name of his rock band, the Slants.

Banner and his students worked on four cases that were argued before the Supreme Court a year earlier, and the court should soon decide whether to hear three other cases that the clinic briefed for the upcoming 2017-18 term.