University Web Feature: Law Students Help Build Supreme Court Case

Law Students Help Build Supreme Court Case
Sarah Galer
University of Chicago News Office
November 9, 2009

When third-year law student Kathleen Rubenstein was a child, she dreamed of being a Supreme Court Justice. So it was a huge thrill for her to be part of a legal team from the Law School that helped prepare a case for the nation’s highest court.

Over the past six months, Rubenstein and six other students put in hundreds of hours at the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic, working on a case involving Illinois’ property seizure law. The students went to Washington, DC in October to attend oral arguments on the case before the nine Justices.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says Craig Futterman, Clinical Professor of Law, who oversaw the students’ work.

Such an honor for students is rare even at top programs such as the Law School. Out of 8,000 petitions filed annually with the Supreme Court, the Justices grant less than 100 hearings. For law students to help assemble a Supreme Court argument is virtually a once-in-a-generation chance. Only one other time in its 50-year history has the Clinic had a case go to the Supreme Court, with Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co. in 1982, from which Clinic lawyers emerged victorious.

“To have that opportunity as a law student is awesome, in every sense of the word. It’s inspiring and exciting on the one hand, and a bit scary on the other,” says Pier Petersen, who graduated from the Law School in June and is now a public defender in Guam. “The work we did will have a direct impact on Americans’ due process rights.”


Craig B. Futterman