Federal Appellate Defender

In the Federal Appellate Defender course students will have the opportunity to brief and present oral argument in a federal criminal appeal in the Seventh Circuit.  Students will also work on petitions for rehearing, petitions for certiorari, and other appellate work in federal court as it arises.  The structure of the clinic will replicate a law office where teams of attorneys work collaboratively on a single case.  Accordingly, students will work in groups on all aspects of brief and oral-argument preparation.  Professor Hawley will mentor each group, guide the group through the appellate process and assist in the revising and perfecting the brief and argument.  The pedagogical goals of this course are to develop advanced legal writing and appellate-advocacy skills, to expose students to the intricacies of representing an indigent client on appeal, and to introduce students to criminal law in an in-depth and hands-on way.  Teamwork and a collegial atmosphere are extremely important in real law practice and those skills are emphasized here. 

The course will be demanding because teams will need to produce a top-quality brief by a strict deadline in the last third of the semester.  Because the nature of appellate work and the briefing timeline is not limited to one semester, students must sign up for a full academic year.  The spring semester primarily will be devoted to writing the reply brief and preparing for and presenting oral argument in the Seventh Circuit.

Weekly class sessions will be held during which there will be presentations on the appeals, brainstorming sessions, skill development, and broad issues involving advanced appellate writing and appellate practice, along with some specifics on the substantive area of law in our appeals.  Readings relevant to our work will be assigned.

Students will have assigned reading each week which relates to the topic to be discussed in class that week.  Students will also be assigned to read the written assignments of the other teams to facilitate brainstorming and in-class discussion.  Finally, students will each week read the criminal opinions issues by the Seventh Circuit and list the issues and holdings of each opinion.

This course is a two-semester commitment.

Sequence and Prerequisites: Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure.  In addition, students must be eligible for certification under Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711 license which requires, among other things, completion of 45 semester credits by the spring semester. White Collar Crime and course work in sentencing law is recommended, but not required. 

Evaluation: Students will be evaluated based on their overall contribution to the briefs and oral argument, including but not limited to the student’s participation in digesting the record, brainstorming issues on appeal, researching chosen topics, writing the brief, citation, assistance in oral argument, and ability to collaborate with partners to produce the best written product possible.  Students’ evaluation will also heavily depend on an ability to set a realistic timeline for completion of the various stages of the brief, to adhere to that timeline, and to create a top-quality brief that reflects a diligent effort to learn the legal issues in the case and to improve as legal writers.  Students will be evaluated on their collaboration with and assistance to their classmates in finalizing briefs and preparing for oral argument.