Caroline Cease (’15) is starting her legal career with three federal clerkships.
She is clerking for Judge L. Scott Coogler on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama until August, and she will immediately begin clerking for Chief Judge Edward E. Carnes on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Her third clerkship will be for Judge Peter Hall on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the experience will remain with her throughout her legal career.
“You’re getting to know a federal judge really well and seeing how things work from the inside,” Cease said. “You get to see a lot of different cases, so you’re learning about different areas of law.”
In 2015, 12 UA Law students and graduates clerked for federal judges and 12 clerked for state judges. The position requires excellent legal research and writing skills and provides a rare glimpse into a legal mind.
“It’s a phenomenal learning opportunity,” said Lezlie Griffin, Assistant Dean for Career Services. “You learn skills and you build a relationship with a judge who can become your mentor, serve as a reference – and what better reference to have no matter what position you end up applying for in the future. A judge is the best reference you can have.”
Cease said no two days are the same. She reviews filed motions and researches the legal issues so that Judge Coogler (‘84) can formulate his opinion. She attends hearings, writes memos, schedules telephone conferences, and answers questions from attorneys regarding filing issues and other issues that can arise in their lawsuits.
She received the offer to clerk for Judge Coogler after she interned for him the summer of her first year. After she completed her second year, Cease interviewed with Judge Carnes and walked away with an offer. She interviewed with Judge Hall in his New York chambers during her third year after she met him during the Campbell Moot Court Competition.
Cease credits her law professors with helping her land the positions.
“Going it alone can be a scary process, and it’s good to have someone there who can walk you through it, talk you through it,” she said. “The Law School does a good job of that.”
Professor Carol Andrews first approached Cease about whether she was interested in clerking. Professor Kenneth Rosen, then-Chairman of the Judicial Clerkship Committee and who clerked for Judge Ed Carnes, guided her through the entire clerkship application and interview process throughout her time in law school. Legal Writing Instructor Anita Kay Head helped review cover letters and other relevant application materials.
Professor Fredrick Vars, the current Chairman of the Judicial Clerkship Committee, estimates judges receive hundreds of applications for each position. The application process is open, but class rank weighs heavily in hiring decisions. Students are attracted to clerkships because they open doors.
“When I moved to Chicago, having done a court of appeals clerkship, I got to pick which firm I wanted to work for,” said Vars, who clerked for Judge Bruce M. Selya on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Judge Joan B. Gottschall on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The committee’s goal is try to get a clerkship for every student who wants to clerk, Vars said. The Law School holds informational sessions three times during the academic year, and members of the Judicial Clerkship Committee provide counseling, as well as review resumes and cover letters. Students may also peruse a binder in the Career Services Office that lists former clerks and indicates whether they are willing to provide information about a judge or the clerkship process.
“Sometimes students underestimate their chances or are unwilling to take a chance because they know these are tough jobs to get,” Vars said. “The only way to know you won’t get a clerkship is not to apply.”
Alex Darby (’15), a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, encourages students to apply. She is one of four 2015 Alabama Law graduates working with more than 60 attorneys who handle a variety of issues from immigration to employment discrimination. She said the position has strengthened her analytical and writing skills.
“It’s such a wonderful learning experience,” she said. “It provides great insight into the federal litigation process.”
Professors Heather Elliott and Ronald Krotoszynski strongly encouraged Kara Deal (’15) to pursue clerkships. She is clerking for Judge Susan L. Kelsey on the Florida First District Court of Appeals. Deal said she knew before she graduated she wanted the practical experience.
“I can’t imagine a better vantage point for how the law really works,” she said. “It provides a great insider’s perspective. I’ve learned probably as much during the clerkship as I learned during all three years of law school.”
Deal cast a wide net for positions because she had been told it would be tough to land a clerkship. She applied for several positions in Alabama and then broadened her search to Tennessee and Florida. In May, she will begin clerking for Justice Tom Parker on the Alabama Supreme Court.
“It’s been a tremendous education experience so far,” she said, “and I’m really excited to have another year to gain more knowledge.”
2015 UA Law Clerks
Stanley E. Blackmon,U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Morgan L. Booker, Presiding Judge William C. Thompson, Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Gloria L. Breland, Judge James P. Smith
Brock E. Brett,Administrative Office of Courts
Abigail Castleberry, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Caroline Cease, Judge L. Scott Coogler, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Alex W. Darby, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Madison R. Davis,Fourteenth Court of Appeals
Kara Deal, Florida First District Court of Appeal
Christopher Driver, Judge L. Scott Coogler, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Alyse N. Gillman, Chief Judge Karon Bowdre, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Mark Anthony Husted, Judge Michael G. Graffeo
David A. Kidd, State of Alabama, Administrative Office of Courts
Ayla Luers, Judge Dennis O’Dell
Misha Mitchell, Judge James Hughey, III, Alabama Circuit Court
Michael Morris, Judge Madeline Haikala, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama
Tiffany Ray, U.S. Court of Appeals for 11th Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Peggy Rossmanith, 37th Judicial Circuit of Alabama
Sam Schott, Judge Jay Zainey, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana
Caroline Sims, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Staff Attorney’s Office
Matthew Slaughter, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Professor Heather Elliott recently told Politico the result of liberals and conservatives swapping sides on the issue of when states can challenge the federal government in court could have unintended consequences.
The court could squelch the case on standing grounds, handing a win to President Barack Obama. At the same time, that could make it more difficult for environmentalists, unions and others to use the courts to challenge the future actions of either a Democratic or Republican president.
“It strikes me as having the right fight on the wrong territory,” said Elliott, a former clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I worry that if groups that support the current administration’s position get too out there with their arguments about standing … that’s going to come back to bite when we have the next change in administration. Now you want to get in the courthouse door, but you’re stuck with the doctrine you’ve set up to keep other people out.”
Frances Isbell (’17) has been selected as one of 16 graduate students of the inaugural class of the Albert Schweitzer Fellows.
The fellows will receive $2,500 and spend the next year learning how to effectively address the social factors that impact health, while developing lifelong leadership skills.
“We are confident that the Alabama Schweitzer program will make a lasting impact on the health of communities in and around Birmingham, Alabama, as our fellows first learn to serve and support vulnerable people in living healthier lives, and then take those skills with them when they establish themselves professionally as leaders in their field,” said Kristin Boggs, Director of the Alabama chapter of The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.
As part of her fellowship, Isbell will open an Alabama chapter of NMD United, a non-profit association composed of adults living with neuromuscular disabilities that provides resources to promote independence, so that she can help create a network for teens and adults with neuromuscular conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and Spinal Muscular Atrophy. She also will organize pro bono legal clinics, aimed at helping that population access the resources they need to live independently.
“I thought this would be an opportunity for me to do that because it provides a network that allows me to work with other professionals trying to do similar goals,” Isbell said. “Also, it provides funding to bring in speakers and help with outreach projects.”
Isbell plans to develop and present financial planning workshops for individuals with disabilities so that they can learn about the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, or the ABLE Act. Individuals with disabilities face financial challenges, but they often do not have access to the same financial planning tools as other Americans who are planning for college and retirement. The ABLE Act is designed to ease financial challenges faced by individuals with disabilities by making tax-free savings accounts available to cover qualified expenses such as education, housing and transportation.
“It’s really going to impact the disability community in the next few years, so I want to do an outreach project because most people haven’t even heard of the accounts,” she said.
Isbell’s project will provide a much-needed resource to an underserved community. Individuals with neuromuscular conditions often face challenges in everyday activities, including transportation, voting, finding housing and applying for Social Security.
“Frances’s community service project will create a network in which persons with neuromuscular conditions and others can share information that helps to overcome barriers to life’s opportunities and resources,” said Jamie Leonard, Vice Dean of the Law School, who specializes in disability law.
Organizing the pro bono clinics will fill a gap in the current legal services accessible to people with disabilities and enable them to live more independently.
“Frances came to law school with a passion for disability rights law, and she has pursued this passion from day one,” said Glory McLaughlin, Assistant Dean for Public Interest. “Due to her dedication to this area of law, she is uniquely suited to recognize the most pressing needs of people living with disabilities and to create effective programs for meeting those needs.”
The 16 Alabama fellows will join about 240 other 2016-17 Schweitzer Fellows working at program sites across the nation, as well as one in Lambaréné, Gabon, at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by Dr. Schweitzer in 1913. Upon completion of their fellowship year, the 2016-17 Alabama Schweitzer Fellows will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of more than 3,200 Schweitzer alumni who are skilled in, and committed to, addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers.
Professor Pam Pierson was recently tapped as a new member of The XXXI, an honor society that selects 31 outstanding women for membership each year.
“I am honored to be invited into The XXXI and humbled to meet the talented, strong, confident women who are XXXI members,” Pierson said. “It is exciting to see the impact they have in every aspect of life at The University of Alabama. I look forward to joining the women of The XXXI in their leadership traditions at our University.”
Pierson was the only faculty member at The University of Alabama selected for this honor. The membership consists of 18 University juniors, eight University seniors, three University alumnae, one University faculty member, and one leader in the state who does not have to be a student or graduate of the University of Alabama. New members are selected by the year’s previous inductees, making this an especially great honor for a Law School faculty member to be selected by an organization whose membership consists of a majority of undergraduate students.
The XXXI was founded in 1989 to honor women with a commitment to The University of Alabama, the city of Tuscaloosa and/or the state of Alabama through service, leadership and exemplary character. UA Law School alums have a strong tradition of service and leadership in The XXXI. UA Law graduate Allison Alford Ingram (’92) was a founding member of The XXXI. In addition to Professor Pierson, currently at the law school are XXXI members Martha Griffith (’12), Assistant Director for Admissions; Caroline Strawbridge (’97), Major Gifts Officer; and law students Christy Boardman (’17), Maria O’Keefe (’18), Jordan Patterson (’17), and CadeAnn Smith (’18).
Neena Speer (’17) urged aspiring law school students to tell their own stories, own those stories and use them to help develop leaders during a talk at The National Diversity Pre-Law Conference and Law Fair in Washington, D.C.
“I think everyone’s common goal is to be accepted and respected, so when I think about diversity I think about bringing that to the classroom,” she said.
Speer was a featured speaker at the pre-law conference, a national outreach, networking and empowerment event designed for diverse aspiring lawyers. The conference connects students with law school admissions counselors and provides information to help them succeed in law school.
Speer was invited to talk at the conference by Executive Director Evangeline M. Mitchell. During her 15-minute speech, Speer shared her own story about diversity. It begins with her parents, her role models. Her mother is from India, and her father is African-American, which she said is not a “typical combination.” Both of her parents, especially her mother, taught her lessons about acceptance and respect.
“When I go see my mother’s family, we touch every adult’s – and I mean anyone who is older than me – feet as a sign of respect,” she said.
It’s that same kind of respect students need to bring with them to succeed in law school. When students don’t respect their elders, they miss the opportunity to learn, she said.
Law school can be a humbling experience. Speer reminded students that they may not excel in every class, but there are many places where students can use their talent. For example, a student may excel in trial advocacy and participate in a law clinic.
As for diversity, it’s an asset. Those who can’t accept and respect other people may find it difficult to succeed in life and at work.
“When you are diverse, you learn how to develop leaders because you always look at different cultures, different personalities, different situations,” she said. “Diversity is not just about being black or white; it’s about learning how to deal with multiple personalities.”
The Alabama Law team of Caitlyn Prichard (’16), Logan Matthews (’16), and Grant Luiken (’16) competed in the national finals of the ABA National Appellate Advocacy Competition. Two hundred teams compete in regional tournaments around the country, and only the top twenty-four advance to the national finals.
The Alabama team’s brief won fourth place in the nation and the team advanced to the round of the final eight. There, the team lost on a tie-breaker and did not advance further. The top four brief and top eight finish were both the best an Alabama team has ever achieved in this premier national competition.
Professor Bryan Fair told WVUA 23 a proposed Fetal Heartbeat Bill that has passed the House in the state legislature wouldn’t survive a legal challenge. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa), would ban abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected, but the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned similar bans in other states.
“Bills like these, I think, are largely political grandstands for legislators,” said Professor Bryan Fair. “They have no hope of surviving a legal challenge. They are a waste of tax-payer dollars.”
The team of Tom Causby (’16), Ellie Friedman (’16), Warner Hornsby (’16), and Corey Gross(’16) advanced to the semi-final round of the American Association for Justice National Trial Competition.
This year the AAJ competition had more than 200 law schools competing in 14 regional sites, and the 14 winners competed in New Orleans last week. Alabama faced the University of California Berkeley, Berry, Drexel, and California Western in advancing to the final four. In the semifinal the team lost a close vote to Georgetown. The team was coached by Robert Prince (’74).
Forrest Boone (’16) filed an amicus brief and argued in support of the appellant before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces during oral argument, heard at the Law School.
United States v. Calyx E. Harrell was heard by a panel of five circuit court judges appointed for 15-year terms by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. The case involves the appeal of a U.S. Air Force officer who contends evidence obtained from a “dog-sniff” and police search of her vehicle was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment and should have been suppressed. Harrell was found guilty of possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
The hearing was part of the court’s judicial outreach program. The court holds arguments at law schools, military bases and other public facilities as part of Project Outreach, a program developed to demonstrate the operation of a federal court of appeals and the military criminal justice system.
Before the hearing, Boone submitted a 15-page amicus curiae, or friend of the court, brief he developed in Cameron Fogle’s Litigation Drafting: Military Court of Appeals course. As amicus, Boone was not a party to the case, but he offered information that could assist the court as it makes its final decision. Chief Judge Charles E. Erdmann described the brief as “very impressive” shortly after the hearing ended.
“This is a case where the government physically occupied private property for the purpose of gaining information,” Boone argued. “Overruling the lower court here does not require an extension of the law, rather the precedent of the Supreme Court mandates it.”
During the 10-minute presentation, Boone argued the trial court made two fundamental errors. The court ignored testimony and a video regarding the dog’s trespass, and it applied the wrong test to determine whether police conducted a search.
Boone argued the lower court was incorrect and should have suppressed the evidence as a violation of the Fourth Amendment because the case falls within the overlap of two U.S. Supreme Court cases: United States v. Jones and Florida v. Jardines.
“In Jones, the Supreme Court held that a mere trespass onto the exterior of a vehicle constituted a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and in Jardines, the court applied that same trespass rationale to a dog sniff even when it could be said that that dog was pursuing an odor, attempting to find its source.”
When Judge Scott W. Stucky said he was having trouble following the argument about the whether the dog was acting in accordance with its training, Boone clarified his stance.
“Your honor, the point is that the officer didn’t make any action in response to the change in breathing,” he said. “The dog can’t have probable cause in his mind. Probable cause needs to be formed in the mind of the officer, which wasn’t present based on the breathing. The indication of this dog required the squaring off and the sitting, which didn’t occur until after the physical intrusion either onto or into the vehicle.”
Fogle and law students Jeremy Dalrymple (’17), Maurice FitzGerald (’16), Julie Munns (’16) and Gary Rowe (’16) contributed to the brief and served as practice judges for the oral argument. Each student wrote a full brief as part of the class.
“Once I selected Forrest’s brief, the entire class edited it,” Fogle said. “We worked as a team to make it the best product we could make it in order to get it ready for filing.”
Working with the students in the class also helped Boone shape the argument. “There are some of the arguments I made that people didn’t agree with, but their counter arguments helped me make my argument stronger,” he said.
Hosting the court allows the Law School to show it is producing some of the best students, legal minds and oral advocates in the country.
“Within a week of filing the amicus curiae brief, the government saw fit to file a response, which often doesn’t happen,” Fogle said. “He was writing at a level that was as good, if not better, than what would be expected from a practicing attorney.”
Boone recently accepted a position as an associate at Williams Gautier, PA in Tallahassee, Florida, where he will practice civil litigation. He said he hopes the experience will give his new colleagues confidence in him and that they may tap him for future appellate arguments.
“It’s extremely valuable to say that you’ve argued before a federal appeals court in an actual case,” Boone said. “Getting that experience prior to entering practice is a big leg up and puts me ahead of a lot of people in this stage of my career.”
Professor Jenny Carroll recently told Al.com Alabama is a one-party recording state, meaning one of the people in the conversation may record, or allow to be recorded, without informing the other party, she said.
But if you are a third party — someone who is not part of the conversation and you don’t have consent – “you are probably out of luck under Alabama law,” Carroll said.