Wednesday, April 10, 2013

First-Years' Day Out in the Ninth Circuit

By Yungmoon, 2E

A few weeks ago, Professor Dudovitz announced in Legal Writing class that the judge for whom she had clerked was allowing her students to attend oral arguments in his courtroom at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. This was a perfect opportunity to observe oral arguments, as all first-year students at Loyola are paired off to argue as Plaintiff and Defendant in oral arguments of their own.

We are fortunate that Loyola is located so close to the downtown courthouses, and it was difficult not to feel a sense of awe walking into a federal courthouse, going through security, and seeing judges' names inlaid in stone above their courtroom entrances. The door to our courtroom looked like the entrance to a private vault at Gringott's (sorry, Harry Potter reference), and the courtroom itself was huge and contained detailed architecture and rows of wooden benches.
Any misconceptions I had of oral arguments resembling Perry Mason or Law & Order episodes were pretty quickly shut down. There was no fist pounding, no throwing of papers, and no pleas for justice. However, what I did hear sounded an awful lot like what I hear in class. Typically a student is called on to recount a brief and is questioned on the reasoning the court used to arrive at its holding. The answers to the questions are not always in the reading, and students are forced to think critically while undergoing questions in a line of fire. And much like the questioning we endure in class, the attorneys at oral arguments endured the same questioning from the judge.

After oral arguments, we were permitted to go inside the judge's chamber and ask him various questions. As someone who will apply for a judicial externship at some point during law school and would like to practice litigation in the future, the entire experience provided wonderful exposure as to how a court operates and what skills are important to succeed. Moreover, it provided an affirmation that the substantive material we cover in class, as well as the way in which we cover it, is providing us with practical and useful experience.

Most of all, Professor Dudovitz taking the time to organize and accompany us on the trip showed me that not only is our faculty well-connected to the current legal field, but they are also willing to do whatever they can to help us succeed.

Last night, I went through my first-year rite of passage and completed my own oral argument in front of a volunteer judge. I may not have been as suave as Perry Mason, but I will say that it was a good first step toward my first oral argument at the federal courthouse.

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