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VLS Students file Supreme Court Brief

This is an article from “The Forum”, the VLS student newspaper, written by Christal Cuadra (‘10) – Editor-in-Chief

Prof. Hanna and VLS Students File
Supreme Court Brief

On January 13, 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for Vermont v. Brillon with Professor Hanna and students from her Women and the Law class sitting in the gallery. Most of the class made the trip to Washington D.C. to hear oral arguments after submitting an amicus brief on behalf of groups representing domestic and sexual assault in support of the petitioner last November. This was the first time for these students to see the Supreme Court, and everyone agreed that to participate in writing the brief and then to see the arguments was a rare opportunity for law students.

The brief writing process not only required extensive research and writing, but the students also had to keep in mind proper citations, the rules of the Supreme Court, and looming filing deadlines. Erin Woolley (‘10) found the opportunity rewarding and the experience gave her insight into the hard work the process of creating and submitting an amicus brief entails. “After many rounds of re-reading and scanning our end product for typos and correct format, we were all thrilled to have it out of our hands and contributing to the dialogue of the Brillon case,” Woolley said.

Arriving early at the steps of the Supreme Court, the students and Professor Hanna anxiously waited outside in the frigid cold until the doors opened at 9 a.m. After making their way through security, they were escorted to their seats. Professor Hanna was escorted to a special reserved section for attorneys admitted as members of the Supreme Court bar located directly in front of the nine Justices. The students sat only six rows behind Professor Hanna and had a close-up view of the distinct personalities of the Justices.

In the Brillon case, Attorney Christina Rainville, the Chief Deputy State’s Attorney representing the Petitioner, was up first. “She was excellent. She knew the facts and she knew the law. More importantly, she was savvy and wise enough to gauge exactly what the Justices were asking and then responded appropriately with deference,” Del Greer (‘09) recalls. The second attorney was the Assistant to the Solicitor General, Attorney Leondra Kruger, for the Department of Justice speaking on behalf of Petitioner. Greer described her argument as “smooth.” “She outlined her argument around the law and its effects and not on specific facts of the case. Her oral argument was crisp and concise. I was glad she was representing our side, the Petitioner.” Last was Bill Nelson, representing Respondent, Brillon. Although Greer was not persuaded by Nelson’s arguments, she said “he did a good job, he was well prepared and had a prompt answer for every question thrown at him by the Justices.”

“From beginning to end, being part of the brief was empowering. Every woman in the class is incredibly talented and smart, and I learned not to underestimate my own abilities. I also learned that while the law can appear as an abstraction, it is very much alive,” said Tori Lloyd (‘09)

“One important lesson I learned from it all is that my legal education here at Vermont Law School is sound. The students here at VLS have the tools to conduct legal research, analysis, writing and oral argument. When we graduate, we become lawyers just like any other law student from any other law school. The skill set is the same but our style is our own,” said Greer (‘09).

The experience was topped off by lunch in the Supreme Court cafeteria critiquing arguments and speculating on how the Court might rule. Finally, Professor Hanna said she would sponsor the class to become members of the Bar of the Supreme Court, but of course that would have to wait until after state bar passage.

To view Professor Hanna and the students of the Women and the Law class’ brief, visit:
http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/briefs/pdfs/07-08/08-88_Pe¬titionerAmCuVTNetwAgainstDomSexViolence.pdf

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