Prtizker School of Law students and faculty and representatives from Sidley Austin stand on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court. The Appellate Advocacy Center has worked on about 250 cases overall.

Pritzker School of Law Prof. Sarah Schrup is no stranger to the high court.

As director of the school’s Appellate Advocacy Center, she helps students draft briefs and petitions for review in the Supreme Court and 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. Since opening 14 years ago, the clinic has worked on about 250 cases.

On October 7, however, Schrup argued for the first time in front of the nation’s nine justices. They will decide whether a state may abolish the insanity defense without violating the Eighth and 14th Amendments.

Schrup, advocating on behalf of the petitioner, James Kraig Kahler — who was convicted of murdering four relatives — contended that states like Kansas have violated the Constitution by removing insanity clauses.

What makes her argument unique: a group of three Northwestern Law students helped her craft it.

Though oral arguments at the Supreme Court are considered an achievement in the legal profession, many appellate attorneys spend the bulk of their time crafting cogent arguments, filing petitions and doing legal research on decisions made in other courts.

That’s where School of Law’s Appellate Advocacy Center comes in, giving students practical skills to hit the ground running after graduation.

“Clinical experience is something that was missing in law schools until relatively recently,” Schrup said. “The (American Bar Association recommends hands-on-training, and that’s the gap we’re trying to fill.” What students learn The Appellate Advocacy center consists of two clinics: one focused on federal appellate work and one on the Supreme Court. About eight students are enrolled in each concentration per year, and each clinic consists of a course that students take on top of doctrinal (more academic) classes, Schrup said.The students — mostly third-year law students, though some second-years also participate — work on petitions for writ of certiorari (review), amicus briefs (in support of another party), and merits briefs.Students also fly out to Washington once a year to meet with Supreme Court justices, Schrup said. Past […]

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