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First-Year Students Cap Advocacy Training with Ninth Circuit Debut

Carlos Mejia '12 and Anna Crivelli '12
Carlos Mejia '12 and Anna Crivelli '12

Culminating the written and oral advocacy portion of the law school’s First Year Skills Program, 80 Berkeley Law students recently participated in mock oral arguments at the majestic James R. Browning Courthouse in San Francisco, headquarters of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

During the spring semester, each participating student represented a plaintiff or defendant and wrote a brief for one of two cases based on real-life litigation. The first was a motion to dismiss addressing whether the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a commercial website to be accessible to blind individuals. The second was a motion for summary judgment addressing whether a transgender individual is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Area lawyers—including more than two dozen Berkeley Law alumni—acted as judges. In advance of the arguments, they reviewed a bench memo and the students’ briefs in order to tailor specific questions to their assigned plaintiff and defendant counsel. Then, inside the Ninth Circuit’s marble courtrooms, the judges engaged each student in a lively 12-minute oral argument.

For Emily Prifogle, ’12, the experience was memorable and transformative. “While presenting my oral argument in the Ninth Circuit courthouse certainly took me out of my comfort zone of routine law school activities, that’s precisely what made the opportunity so thrilling,” she says. “It turned an ordinary class assignment into an enjoyable and exciting experience.”

Alumni who served as judges included Laura Altieri ’04, Jeffrey Brax ’01, Berkeley Law Professor from Practice Wayne Brazil ’75, Christina Brown ’05, Diana DiGennaro ’06, Jayni Foley ’08, Steven Friedlander ’90, Frank Goldberg ’02, Sarah Grossman-Swenson ’08, Anne Hawkins ’00, Patrick Hein ’07, Mark Hitchcock ’09, Jim Keenley ’07, Cortlin Lannin ’09, Shawn Lichaa ’07, Brynly Llyr ’04, Casey McTigue ’09, Edward Opton ’77, Emily Proskine ’07, Chip Rice ’80, Caren Sencer ’04, Nisha Shah ’05, Rishi Sharma ’05, Michael Stern ’83, Fiel Tigno ’92, Jenna Musselman Yott ’07, and Daniel Zlatnik ’08.