Employment Discrimination Clinic Student Argues Before Seventh Circuit

April 11, 2012

Recently, Lily Becker ('12) from the Employment Discrimination Clinic argued her client's appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Here is Lily's account of that experience.

On March 28, 2012, I orally argued Dookeran v. Cook County, one of the Clinic’s cases, in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The issue on appeal is whether our client’s Title VII employment discrimination claim is barred by res judicata because he sought review of the County’s decision to fire him in the Illinois courts. Ian Rogers (’13) and I (under the supervision of Clinical Professor Randy Schmidt) wrote the opening and reply briefs. In the briefs, we argue that the Seventh Circuit should overrule its prior decision in Garcia v. Village of Mt. Prospect, on which the District Court relied in dismissing Dr. Dookeran’s Title VII complaint, because Garcia had misinterpreted over two decades of precedent from the Illinois Appellate Court. That precedent held that plaintiffs could not bring Title VII claims in Illinois courts. (It should be noted that in 2009 the Illinois Supreme Court overruled this line of precedent, but it was the law of Illinois at the time Dr. Dookeran was challenging his discharge in state court.) By ignoring that precedent, Garcia deprived the plaintiff in that case, and Dr. Dookeran in the Clinic’s case, of a full and fair opportunity to litigate his Title VII claims.

In late March I had the opportunity to represent our client in oral argument before the Seventh Circuit. I was incredibly nervous, but with the help of Prof. Schmidt, Ian, other clinical professors and students in our Clinic, I felt prepared to present our argument to the judges. Standing up before the Seventh Circuit and advocating for our client’s interests was an amazing experience that I hope to repeat in the future. Joining a clinic was one of the best decisions I’ve made during law school and I would encourage other students to take advantage of the opportunities the clinics offer. In representing Dr. Dookeran, I was reminded of why I came to law school in the first place.

The panel of judge that heard the oral argument consisted of Judge Daniel Manion, Judge Diane Sykes and Judge David Hamilton.  The link to the oral argument is: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/GV0JAMN4.mp3

A decision in the appeal is expected this spring.