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Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic
The Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic provides clients with the highest quality pro bono representation before the Supreme Court of the United States. The Clinic maintains an active docket of cases at both the certiorari and merits stages.
The Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic is directed by Yale Law School faculty and expert Supreme Court practitioners. For 2016-17, the faculty are:
Andrew J. Pincus, Partner at Mayer Brown LLP and Visiting Lecturer in Law
Charles A. Rothfeld, Special Counsel at Mayer Brown LLP and Visiting Lecturer in Law
Linda Greenhouse, Senior Research Scholar in Law, Knight Distinguished Journalist-in-Residence, and Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law
Paul W. Hughes, Partner at Mayer Brown LLP and Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law
Michael Kimberly, Partner at Mayer Brown LLP and Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law
The YLSCC welcomes inquires about representation and is particularly interested in assisting indigent or under-represented clients, and participating in cases involving civil liberties, criminal justice, or other public interest causes.
On December 21, 2016, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the state of New York, which enacted a law barring retailers from imposing surcharges when customers make purchases with a credit card. The brief argues that the surcharge prohibition is not prohibited by the First Amendment because it is directed at, and affects, the setting of prices, not speech or expressive conduct. As a straightforward economic regulation, the law therefore is subject to, and easily survives, rational basis review. The brief in Expression Hair Design v. Schneiderman is available here.
On December 21, 2016, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Immigration Law Center arguing that the void-for-vagueness doctrine applies to the deportation law 18 U.S.C. § 16, as incorporated into the Immigration and Nationality Act, with equal stringency as it does when applied in the criminal context. The brief in Lynch v. Dimaya is available here.
On November 21, 2016, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers supporting Shannon Nelson and Louis Alonzo Madden. Nelson and Madden were two Colorado residents challenging a Colorado law requiring that criminal defendants whose convictions are reversed show, by clear and convincing evidence, that they are innocent before they can be refunded fees paid at the time of conviction. The brief argues that the Colorado law departs from longstanding legal tradition and violates due process. The brief in Nelson v. Colorado is available here.
On November 6, 2016, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of several Native American Organizations in a suit involving the Patent and Trademark Office’s refusal to register a racially disparaging trademark. The brief argues that trademarks are commercial and not expressive speech. As such, they are subject to regulation where there is a substantial government interest—in this case, eliminating disparaging and racist barriers to commerce and promoting privacy and social welfare. The brief in Lee v. Tam is available here.
On July 5, 2016, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of religious and civil rights organizations supporting Missouri’s restriction of certain government funds to churches. The brief argues that Missouri’s restriction is permitted and consistent with the First Amendment, including its protection of the rights of people from all religious denominations and its prohibition against government establishment of religion. The brief in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley is available here.
On March 16, 2016, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of Richard Olive, a federal criminal defendant convicted of counts including money laundering and mail and wire fraud. The petition argued that Olive’s mail fraud conviction was invalid under United States v. Santos because it punished him twice for the same underlying conduct. The petition is available here.
On February 4, 2016, the Clinic filed a merits brief on behalf of three criminal defendants who had been stopped under suspicion of driving under the influence. The three states involved each had statutes criminalizing refusal to submit to warrantless breath and/or blood tests. The brief argued these statutes were unconstitutional because individuals may not be subjected to criminal penalties for refusing to submit to a search that is not authorized by a warrant or that does not fall under the warrant exception. The Court held that the Fourth Amendment permits warrantless breath tests incident to arrests for drunk driving but not warrantless blood tests. The brief in Birchfield v. North Dakota is available here.
On January 12, 2016, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of Alejandro Garcia de La Paz and Daniel Frias, who were stopped by federal agents without probable cause solely because of their Hispanic appearance and thereby in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The petition argues that a Bivens action should not be categorically denied to petitioners because of their undocumented immigrant status. The brief in De La Paz v. Coy is available here.
On November 13, 2015, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of constitutional law scholars arguing that the principles of stare decisis counsel against overruling the Court’s 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which held that mandatory union fees are permissible in public workplaces. The brief in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is available here.
On April 22, 2015, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of Sandra Yamileth Espinal-Andrades. Ms. Espinal, a lawful permanent resident from El Salvador, was removed from the United States after an Immigration Court determined that her state arson conviction constituted an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Naturalization Act. The petition argues that certain state crimes, including Ms. Espinal’s, do not qualify as aggravated felonies under the Act. The petition in Espinal-Andrades v. Holder is available here.
On December 4, 2014, the Clinic filed a brief in opposition to certiorari on behalf of Jack Lee Schaufele. The brief argues that the courts below properly considered the totality of the circumstances in holding that a warrantless and nonconsensual draw of Schaufele’s blood violated the Fourth Amendment, in circumstances where law enforcement authorities could have obtained a warrant without compromising the efficacy of the search. The brief in Colorado v. Schaufele is available here.
On December 2, 2014, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of Ronald Salahuddin, a federal criminal defendant in New Jersey who was convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion under the Hobbs Act. The petition argues that conviction of conspiracy under the Hobbs Act requires proof of an overt act in furtherance of that conspiracy. The petition in Salahuddin v. United States is available here.
On April 30, 2014, the Clinic filed a brief in opposition to certiorari on behalf of an Indiana man who was granted a writ of habeas corpus because he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his appellate lawyer failed to raise the issue of the state's untimely amendment of the charges against him, which the Indiana Supreme Court had stated was meritorious and which that court ultimately decided in favor of a criminal defendant in a subsequent case. The brief in Brown v. Shaw is available here.
On March 10, 2014, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Center for Democracy & Technology and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in two pending cases concerning the application of the "search incident to arrest" doctrine to cell phones. The brief contends that, in light of the unprecedented volume and variety of information that people carry on portable digital devices, these devices cannot ordinarily be searched without a warrant simply because they were found on a suspect's person at the time of arrest. The brief in Riley v. California and United States v. Wurie is available here.
On March 10, 2014, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Government Accountability Project in a pending case concerning the scope of First Amendment protection for public employees who suffer retaliation at the hands of their employers after providing sworn testimony to a court or legislative body. The brief highlights the public importance of government whistleblowers who regularly expose corruption, fraud, and other forms of misconduct through their testimony, explaining why the First Amendment provides a constitutional floor of protection for this activity. The brief in Lane v. Franks is available here.
On February 26, 2014, the Clinic filed a brief in opposition to a petition for certiorari filed by the State of Arizona seeking review of a decision by an Arizona state court that ordered a local sheriff to return marijuana that belonged to a woman entitled to possess it under Arizona’s medical marijuana law. The brief in Arizona v. Okun is available here.
On December 30, 2013, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of homecare historians Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein to provide an accurate historical account of the evolution of homecare work. The brief in Harris v. Quinn is available here.
On December 16, 2013, the Clinic filed a merits briefs on behalf of a client who has been federally charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a person who was previously convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. The Clinic contends that James Alvin Castleman’s conviction for misdemeanor assault under Tennessee law did not involve the use of force sufficient to qualify as a domestic violence crime. The brief in Castleman v. United States is available here.
On March 29, 2013, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of a federal criminal defendant in Tennessee who was convicted for making a YouTube video containing a threat against a judge and who contends that the government should have been required under the federal threat statute and the First Amendment to prove that he subjectively intended to threaten the judge. The petition in Jeffries v. United States is available here.
On March 1, 2013, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of numerous constitutional law scholars to argue that the Court has case-or-controversy jurisdiction over the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The brief in United States v. Windsor is available here.
On February 8, 2013, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of Eric Wilson, a member of the “Norfolk Four,” who was wrongly convicted on the basis of a false confession procured by police misconduct. Mr. Wilson served more than seven years in prison as a result of his wrongful conviction and he is subject now to mandatory sex-offender registration and reporting laws. The petition for certiorari contends that Mr. Wilson remains in “custody” by virtue of his being subject to mandatory lifetime sex offender registration and reporting laws and that he should therefore be permitted to raise a habeas corpus challenge to vacate his wrongful conviction. The petition for writ of certiorari is here.
On January 4, 2013, the Court granted certiorari in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl to address the protections of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act in the child adoption context. The Clinic represents the respondent natural father, and its brief with co-respondent Cherokee Nation in opposition to certiorari is here.
On December 21, 2012, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of a Connecticut criminal defendant who contends that his rights under the Double Jeopardy Clause were violated when he was doubly prosecuted for possessing a firearm while subject to a protective order and for violating the same court order by possessing a firearm. The petition is available here.
On December 14, 2012, on behalf of respondent Medicaid recipients and special-needs trusts, the Clinic filed a brief in opposition to the State of Pennsylvania’s petition for certiorari seeking review of the Third Circuit’s decision that allowed respondents to challenge a Pennsylvania law restricting the rights of Medicaid recipients to maintain special-needs trusts. The brief is available here.
On November 14, 2012, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of a plaintiff who contends that her First Amendment right to free speech was violated when she was fired by her county government employer after she testified at a trial in a manner with which the government did not agree. The petition is available here.
On October 16, 2012, Clinic instructor Jeffrey Meyer published an op-ed (“Will Privacy Go to the Dogs?”) in the New York Times concerning the Court’s pending cases considering the use of police dog-sniffs and the Constitution’s right to privacy.
On September 28, 2012, the Clinic filed a petition for certiorari on behalf of a capital defendant from Tennessee to seek review of the lower courts’ denial of his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel that prevented him from establishing his innocence. The petition is available here.
On April 18, 2012 the Clinic filed a brief in opposition to certiorari on behalf of an African American firefighter who has challenged the City of New Haven's use of promotional exams on Title VII disparate-impact grounds. The brief is available here.
On April 2, 2012, the Court issued its opinion in Rehberg v. Paulk, No. 10-788. The Clinic represented the Petitioner.
On March 28, 2012, the Clinic hosted a symposium at Yale Law School entitled Interpreting Federal Statutes: The Dysfunctional Dialogue between the Courts and Congress. The schedule and a list of speakers is available here.
On March 26, 2012, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of state and local law enforcement officials in Arizona v. United States. The brief is available here.
Clinic instructor Charles Rothfeld argued Holder v. Sawyers, No. 10-1543, before the Court on January 18, 2012. An audio recording of the argument is available here and the transcript is available here.
On October 3, 2011, the Clinic filed an amicus brief on behalf of electronic privacy advocates in United States v. Jones on the issue of the government’s warrantless use of GPS tracking devices. The brief is available here.
On June 9, 2011, the Court issued its opinion in DePierre v. United States, No. 09-1533. The Clinic represented the Petitioner
On March 21, 2011, the Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by the Clinic in Rehberg v. Paulk, No. 10-788.
Clinic instructor Andrew Pincus argued DePierre v. United States, No. 09-1533, before the Court on February 28, 2011. An audio recording of the argument is available here and the transcript is available here.
The Volokh Conspiracy's David Post discusses the Clinic's pending petition for a writ of certiorari in Roberts v. Kauffman Racing Equipment, L.L.C.
On November 30, 2010, the Court issued its opinion in County of Los Angeles v. Humphries, No. 09-350. The Clinic represented the Respondents.
On October 12, 2010, the Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari filed by the Clinic in DePierre v. United States.
Clinic instructor Andrew Pincus argued County of Los Angeles v. Humphries before the Court on October 5, 2010. An audio recording of the argument is available here and the transcript is available here.
Last Term, the Clinic's clients prevailed in all of the cases in which the Clinic participated on the merits: Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental Protection, No. 08-1151 (the opinion is here); and Carr v. United States, No. 08-1301 (the opinion is here).
The position advocated by the Clinic on behalf of amici curiae prevailed in City of Ontario v. Quon, No. 08-1322 (the opinion is here); Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, No. 08-1371 (the opinion is here); and Doe v. Reed, No, 09-599 (the opinion is here).
Ways to Engage
Yale Law School offers more than 30 clinics that provide students with hands on, practical experience in the law on a diverse range of subject matters.
Yale Law School offers a suite of innovative simulation courses based on real-world case studies.
“ Now it is time to pivot and ask, where are your extraordinary gifts needed? How do you make this legal world that you are entering a better world? One where no one is shut out; one where the weak and vulnerable are not exploited; one that produces fair results based on the merits of the issues before it.”
Visiting Lecturer Stephen Bright
2012 Commencement Address