By Jeanne Jeong, J.D. ’17
This January, I spent winter term working at Goldstein & Russell, P.C., a boutique law firm that focuses on Supreme Court and appellate litigation and whose partners run the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. Each year, the firm hosts ten Harvard students at its office in Bethesda, Maryland to work on pro bono litigation in the Supreme Court. The clinic’s participants were divided into three teams, each working on a brief in a different case. One team wrote a petition for certiorari, and another drafted a brief in opposition to a petition for certiorari.
Meanwhile, my team worked on an amicus brief for a group of professors submitting a brief in support of the respondent in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., which involved whether a transgender boy could use the boys’ restroom at his public high school. We argued that regardless of the appropriate deference due to the agency’s interpretations of its regulations under Title IX, the school board’s exclusion of G.G. from the boys’ restroom violated Title IX as a matter of statutory construction. Under the direction of two attorneys, we worked through several stages of the brief-writing process, including brainstorming ideas for arguments, conducting legislative history and case law research, and drafting and editing. Although on March 6, 2017, the Court decided that it would not hear the case this term in light of new guidance from the administration following the 2016 presidential election, it was an incomparable hands-on experience to work with Supreme Court litigators on a timely and fascinating issue.
Given our posture as amici, our aim was to craft an informative and effective brief that provided the Court with a distinct perspective. Moreover, we were particularly fortunate to have clients who pushed us to think creatively about innovative analytical frames. Accordingly, the project straddled the best of both worlds of legal practice and academia. I gained enormous insight observing the professors, supervisors, and my peers, as they theorized about cases at a high level, while simultaneously strategizing about how to most effectively appeal to the Court. After drafting, we underwent a line-by-line edit, which was an invaluable experience to receive detailed feedback from seasoned Supreme Court practitioners.
Although writing a full brief in three weeks put us on an intensive and fast-paced timeline, the firm arranged for us to visit with Justice Elena Kagan, Acting Solicitor General Ian Gershengorn, and Nina Totenberg, among others. The clinic’s different components exposed me to a breadth of issues facing the Supreme Court bar and underscored the different approaches and strategies relevant to each stage of the Court’s unique litigation process. In addition to attending lectures on Supreme Court advocacy and oral argument moots, we participated in feedback workshops for the briefs of the other teams. Collaborating in these workshops allowed us to discuss briefs that spanned the stages of Supreme Court litigation. This also gave us the opportunity to more deeply discuss certain circuit conflicts and the persistent, seemingly irreconcilable questions they raise in the law—an exercise that is simultaneously both highly intellectual and highly pragmatic, grounded in real cases and facts. Such characteristics aptly capture the clinical experience overall as well, highlighting the unparalleled opportunity that the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic offers students to learn about Supreme Court litigation in a collegial environment that provides an instructive balance of academic rigor and practical skills.