The Appellate Clinic is currently reviewing potential cases for briefing and oral argument.
Wall v. Wade
Oral Argument by: Elizabeth Turner '14 | Argument Support: Skyler Peacock '14
Gary Wall is currently incarcerated at the Red Onion State Prison in Pound, Virginia. In 2010, Red Onion officials implemented an unwritten policy that required Muslim inmates to demonstrate the sincerity of their faith before they could receive meals in accordance with the observance of Ramadan. The policy announced a list of items traditionally associated with the Islamic faith and limited participation in the Ramadan meal plan to inmates who possessed at least one of those items. Mr. Wall could not comply with the new policy because all of his possessions were lost during his transfer to Red Onion. Despite his protestations, Red Onion officials refused to allow Mr. Wall to participate in the Ramadan meal plan.
Mr. Wall filed an action in federal court against several prison officials for interfering with his First Amendment right to freely exercise his religion. The court disposed of the case on summary judgment, finding that qualified immunity shielded all of the defendant's from liability.
Stop This Insanity v. FEC
November 19, 2013 | D.C. Circuit Court | Listen to the Argument (Automatic Download) | Court's Opinion (Not Yet Available)
Oral Argument by: T. Brennan | Argument Support: Katlin Cravatta '13 and Jim Ogorzalek '13
Lawal v. McDonald
Oral Argument by: Jim Ogorzalek '14 | Argument Support: Katlin Cravatta '13| Brief Writers: Tara Brennan and Tom Ports ’13 of Reed Smith LLP
On February 26, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an opinion in Lawal v. McDonald in favor of the appellants, who are represented by the William & Mary Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.
The Third Circuit held that the alleged continued detention of three suspected illegal immigrants by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for several hours after their citizenships had already been confirmed, if proven true, violated the three citizens’ Fourth Amendment Rights. The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
The opinion, authored by Judge Patty Shwartz, and joined by Judges Thomas Hardimann and Anthony Scirica, partially vacated the district court’s summary judgment order by ruling that the citizens may file an amended complaint to sufficiently identify the perpetrators for each of their alleged constitutional violations. The panel held that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers had reasonable suspicion to interrogate the citizens and that a reasonable officer would have believed they had authority to arrest. But the panel also held that the citizens’ continued detention by ICE agents may have constituted an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment.
Branch v. Gorman
October 24, 2013 | 8th Circuit | Listen to the Argument | Court's Opinion (Not Yet Available)
Oral Argument by: Skyler Peacock '14 | Argument Support: Elizabeth Turner '14 | Brief Writers: Pamela Palmer '13 and Alexa Roggenkamp '13
This clinic represented Mary D. Branch on her appeal from a district court order granting summary judgment in her § 1983 claim against a Minneapolis police officer. The officer
arrested Ms. Branch for violating Minnesota’s open container law based on finding a flask under the passenger seat of a car she was riding in. The State eventually dropped the charges. Ms.
Branch brought a § 1983 claim against the officer for unlawfully arresting her in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. In Minnesota, police can establish possession in two ways:
actual or constructive. While no definite set of circumstances exists that would give rise to probable cause for constructive possession, Minnesota precedent makes clear that mere
proximity to an item of contraband is never enough.
Nevertheless, the District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the officer, finding that the arrest was reasonable, and qualified immunity shielded the officer from liability. In addition to Ms. Branch’s proximity to the flask, the Court found that the following factors indicated she was intoxicated, thereby providing the additional support for the officer believing she had possessed the flask: (1) Ms. Branch’s alleged belligerence, (2) Ms. Branch’s requests to urinate, and (3) the fact that the arrest occurred at night. None of these were properly considered, in light of the facts that the arresting officer testified that Ms. Branch was no more belligerent than anyone else in the same situation, and the other two factors do not suggest intoxication any more than they suggest a host of other innocent activities. Additionally, the officer had not conducted any field sobriety tests, performed a breathalyzer, or pointed to any other factors to indicate intoxication.
Ms. Branch appealed the grant of summary judgment on the grounds that the factors relied on by the District Court were either the subject of a material factual dispute or erroneous as a matter of law.
Ortega v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Oral Argument by: Brittany Sadler '14 | Argument Support: Andrew Steinberg '13 | Brief Writers: Travis Gunn '13 and Kelci Block '13
The Clinic represented Richard Ortega in appealing the dismissal of his civil rights action alleging numerous constitutional violations against state and federal officials arising from his removal from home confinement due to an improperly issued immigration detainer. In 2010, Ortega was arrested for and pled guilty to a first-offender charge of driving under the influence. Ortega was sentenced to fourteen days in home confinement, during which he was permitted to go to work and regularly scheduled religious services. Shortly after entering the home detention program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an immigration detainer for Ortega, a third-generation American citizen, based solely on the fact that his name and birthdate resembled those of someone already deported. Despite offering to provide his birth certificate and social security card, local authorities seized Ortega and put him in jail.
Before full discovery was taken, and without any evidentiary support, the district court dismissed the action after finding that the defendants were shielded by qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that insulates government officials from monetary liability where the official can show that he or she acted with a reasonable belief in the constitutionality of the challenged conduct. Ortega appealed, contending the officers were not entitled to immunity because a constitutionally-protected liberty interest against being taken to jail, even when in home confinement, is clearly established through decisions of the United States Supreme Court and five federal courts of appeal.