Students argue before four federal courts

Appellate Litigation Clinic achieves victories for clients

sarah mccord and caleb grant

Third-year students Caleb Grant and Sarah Grace McCord at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit earlier this year.

Throughout the 2022-23 academic year, the Appellate Litigation Clinic had oral argument five times before four appellate courts. Led by Director Thomas V. Burch, current students and recent graduates received several victories in their cases. Among them:

The clinic won its case Jordan v. State of Georgia before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Third-year student Roby A. Jernigan presented oral argument, and 2022 graduates Tinsley J. Stokes and Mark L. Bailey helped write the briefs. The clinic’s client was stabbed 11 times by his cellmate while two officers watched from outside his door. The question raised was whether the officers violated Jordan’s Eighth Amendment rights by failing to prevent the attack and by failing to intervene once it started. The Eleventh Circuit Court remanded because the District Court granted summary judgment to the officers before they produced the incident reports. The Appellate Litigation Clinic obtained those reports on appeal, and they contained information that would have helped their client defend against the officers’ summary judgment motion.

A second win came from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Third-year student Noah C. Nix presented oral argument in Santiaguez v. Garland, a case in which the clinic’s client won deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture to prevent being sent back to his home country, where his brother was recently killed due to his sexual orientation. Assisting in writing the briefs were 2021 graduates Jared R. Allen and Olivia B. Hunter.

Additionally, the clinic secured a win for its client from the Georgia Court of Appeals and Georgia Supreme Court in the case Williams v. DeKalb County. The clinic’s client was challenging the county commission’s ability to give itself a pay increase and the commission’s compliance with the Open Meetings Act when passing the increase. The Court of Appeals remanded the Open Meetings Act claim but found that Williams did not have standing to challenge the pay increase. The clinic petitioned the Supreme Court to review the standing ruling, and the Supreme Court granted its petition, vacated the Court of Appeals’ ruling, and remanded the case for reconsideration. The case was argued by 2022 graduate Roya Naghepour, with fellow graduate Dylan L. Maudlin co-writing the briefs. Notably, when Naghepour argued the case in February 2022, she became the first law student to present oral argument before the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The clinic also won one of its cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals. The clinic argued that their client received ineffective assistance of counsel by her original attorney, who did not share pertinent information regarding her case to the immigration judge. Now, with her proceedings reopened, she will be able to present the merits of her Convention Against Torture application and U-visa claim. Third-year students James C. “Caleb” Grant, Sarah Grace McCord, Miranda F. Rhodes and Akash P. Shaw helped write the brief.

Members of the clinic also argued before the Fourth, Fifth and Eleventh Circuits in other cases.

Grant argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in U.S. v. Andra Green. McCord helped write the briefs and assisted Grant in preparation for the argument.

Third-year student Jack K. Mahon presented oral argument before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. The clinic’s clients were class action plaintiffs suing multiple law enforcement agencies. Nix and Jernigan helped him prepare, and second-year students Sian A. Mason and Anna E. Von Spakovsky provided research for the briefs.

Nix also argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in Harris v. The Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County. Courtney M. Hogan and Kirstiana A. Perryman, who graduated in 2022, helped prepare the briefs.


Editor’s note: The case before the Eleventh Circuit Court was pending at press time.