“I don’t have a voice. But when you speak on my behalf, I get heard.”
As a law student, I don’t usually consider myself to be in a position of power or influence. In fact, I usually feel quite intimidated, whether I’m with a professor during office hours, trying to sound intelligent (when I’m actually utterly confused about the subject), or at a job interview, doing my best to persuade the interviewers that I’m a worthy candidate (while trying not to shake and stutter from anxiety).
So when my client Joseph* said those words to me, I practically burst into tears. Me? A mere law student? Give him a voice?
As part of BC Law’s Center for Experiential Learning Ninth Circuit Appellate Program, four of our third-year law students prepared briefs and argued today in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of indigent clients.
In the Ninth Circuit Appellate Program, supervised law students prepare briefs and argue immigration cases brought by indigent clients who would otherwise be without counsel. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in San Francisco and hearing cases arising from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona, screens pro se cases and selects those that present important issues that deserve further development. Past cases have included asylum, withholding, Convention Against Torture claims, questions relating to immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and issues of statutory interpretation that present questions of first impression to the Court.
The Court schedules the opening brief to be filed in October, the reply brief in January, and oral argument before a panel of sitting judges in April of the same academic year. Students travel to the court hearing to present oral argument. The Court then issues its decision based on the merits of the individual cases.
Students develop and apply numerous skills, including client communication, legal research, brief writing, and oral advocacy.
These students have been preparing all year for this day, and you can watch their arguments here: