Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic—Significant Achievements for 2018-19

The Jenner & Block Supreme Court and Appellate Clinic worked on a number of significant cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit this year.

U.S. Supreme Court Cases

During the 2018-19 academic year, the Clinic represented parties in two Supreme Court cases and amici curiae in two Supreme Court cases.

First, the Clinic currently is co-counsel for Respondent Patrick Dwayne Murphy in Carpenter v. Murphy, Case No. 17-1107.  The question presented is whether Congress disestablished the reservation of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma.  The parties have briefed and argued the case, and also have submitted supplemental briefing as ordered by the Court.  The Court recently scheduled the case for re-argument during its 2019 Term.

The Clinic also was co-counsel for the Respondent in McDonough v. Smith, Case No. 18-485.  At issue was when a claim for “fabricated evidence” under 42 U.S.C. §1983 accrued for statute of limitations purposes.  The courts below held that the claim was untimely, concluding that the limitations period began to run when the evidence was used.  In a 7-2 decision, the Court held that the limitations period did not begin to run until the Petitioner’s acquittal, and therefore reversed. 

In addition, the Clinic was co-counsel on two important amicus briefs.  The Clinic co-authored an amicus brief in support of the Respondent in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association, Case No. 17-1717.  At issue in the case was whether the government violated the Establishment Clause by maintaining a 40-foot-tall Latin Cross as a memorial to those who gave their lives for the United States in World War I.  The Clinic’s brief argued that the Latin Cross does not commemorate or honor the sacrifice of Jewish soldiers who, with equal devotion, gave their lives for the country.  The Clinic’s amicus brief was cited in a concurring opinion and a dissenting opinion in the case.

The Clinic also co-authored an amicus brief in support of the Petitioner in Kahler v. Kansas, Case No. 18-6135.  The question presented is whether the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense.  The Clinic’s brief argued that abolition of the insanity defense is incompatible with the Anglo-American legal tradition and with commonly-accepted rationales for punishment.  The case will be argued during the 2019 Supreme Court Term.

All of the Clinic’s students worked on these Supreme Court cases – from researching legal issues, to assessing potential arguments, to drafting and editing briefs, to preparing for oral argument.

Seventh Circuit Cases

The Clinic won an important Seventh Circuit appeal in Pennewell v. Parish, et al., Case No. 18-3029.  The Clinic’s client, James Pennewell, entered prison blind in one eye, and then became legally blind in his other eye while incarcerated.  He claimed that prison medical providers were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs – including treatment for a detached retina – in violation of the Eighth Amendment.  On appeal, the Clinic argued that the district court erred both in refusing to recruit counsel for Mr. Pennewell (who proceeded pro se throughout the district court proceedings) and in granting summary judgment to the defendants.  The Seventh Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions to recruit counsel for Mr. Pennewell.  In its published opinion, the Seventh Circuit explained that the district court had abused its discretion in holding that, based on his adequate pleadings, Mr. Pennewell was competent to litigate the case without counsel.  The Clinic’s students researched and wrote the opening and reply briefs, and Clinic student Eric Petry, ’19, argued the case before the Seventh Circuit panel of Judges William Bauer, Daniel Manion, and Ilana Rovner.

In addition, the Clinic currently is representing two petitioners-appellees in habeas corpus appeals before the Seventh Circuit.  The Seventh Circuit has not yet decided those appeals.