Pro Bono News

Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic Takes 2 More Cases Before Supreme Court

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Excerpt: "Stanford Law School has announced that two faculty members who teach the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic will each argue separate cases before the Supreme Court of the United States today. The clinic is arguing six cases before the Court this semester, outpacing every private law office in the country for the Court's January through April sittings.

Since the clinic was founded four years ago, in spring 2004, Stanford Law School students enrolled in the clinic have worked on 63 cases before the Court -- a record not approached by another law school. Twenty of those are merits cases, and the running tally of 63 includes only cases for which the clinic appears as counsel; it does not include every case for which students helped other legal teams prepare cert. petitions or for which the clinic filed amicus briefs. As it stands now, the clinic will likely be representing the petitioners in three cases next fall.

The Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic is the first of its kind at any law school; it is also the largest and most emulated, and the only law school clinic principally run by full-time faculty members at the law school instead of run out of a law firm with faculty participation. All of its work is pro bono -- the clinic never charges its clients.

'Compared to when the clinic started, people are now coming to us asking us to take cases,' said Associate Professor Jeffrey Fisher, who is arguing Burgess v. United States (06-11429) today. 'Most of the six cases we are arguing this semester, including Kennedy v. Louisiana, are ones where local lawyers came out and asked the clinic for help.'

The clinic, which has quickly matured as an institution, also serves the public interest.

'There was a real gap in the Supreme Court bar for certain kinds of clients and certain kinds of issues that go before the Court,' said Fisher, 'particularly criminal defendants, and civil rights and other kinds of plaintiffs. Even if they have access to lawyers, they're often not the experienced Supreme Court insiders who often have a leg up in the Court. So the clinic stepped into the breach. We're not just out there doing work that any law firm would be doing anyway. In fact a lot of the cases we do by definition - particularly the employment discrimination cases - are ones where almost all of the Supreme Court practices in the country expressly will not take it because it's adverse to their business clients and therefore their institutional interest. The clinic is free to take those cases.
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