Over the decade and a half since its start, The Boston College Innocence Program has amassed an astonishing reputation for its work in innocence advocacy and wrongful convictions. Bolstering an impressive record, BCIP both represents innocent individuals and works with policymakers regarding legislative reform, quite literally changing lives every step of the way.
This year in particular, BCIP has secured an impressive amount of exonerations and releases, using new evidence and instances of misconduct, with three major victories in 2020 alone:
Note: The 60th Annual Wendell F. Grimes Moot Court Competition Finals will be held at BC Law on Wednesday, March 11 at 4:00 pm in East Wing Room 120.
Television shows like Judge Judy prepare every person in the English-speaking world for what could possibly go on at a mock trial competition: there are opening statements, directs, crosses, redirects, closing arguments, and certainly tons of objections and shocking witness impeachments. These are all aimed at typically convincing a jury that your side has better evidence to prove your point, or in the alternative, that the other side simply lacks sufficient evidence to prove theirs.
While this is, I am sure, one of the many cool things about grade school, college, and yes indeed law school, I have found mock trial’s lesser known appellate sibling to be much more entertaining.
Picture this: you, your moot court partner, your opposing counsel and their partner, a panel of typically three judges (often actual judges and high powered successful attorneys), and a fascinating point of law. Your job in a fifteen minute span is to engage in an eloquent and respectful conversation with the judges about the issue at hand. Opposing counsel cannot object to your argument. In fact, the only people who can interrupt you at all are the judges who, if you’re lucky, are peppering you with questions about holes in your arguments and points raised by your opposing counsel. Or they’re asking you about circuit courts that disagree with your theory of the case. Because there’s no jury for whom you must translate the law into something a lay (read normal) person can understand, you just have a bunch of highly intelligent, legally trained people discussing the nuances of our legal system. It’s a total nerd party!
“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: