PUBLISHED:April 02, 2018

Appellate Litigation Clinic achieves victory for client in Third Circuit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a unanimous decision in favor of Appellate Litigation Clinic client Alonzo Price on March 14.

Price, a New Jersey prisoner, was convicted in 2004 for burglaries and related crimes which occurred in the summer of 2000.  Maintaining his innocence, Price filed in federal court a petition for a writ of habeas corpus raising a Sixth Amendment claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. The claim concerned DNA evidence used against him at trial—a cigarette butt allegedly found at a crime scene. The district court dismissed his petition, and Price appealed. 

The Third Circuit appointed clinic director Sean Andrussier ’92 to represent Price. Under Andrussier’s supervision, a team of third-year clinic students worked on the appeal and entered appearances in the Third Circuit under the court’s student-practice rule: Chase Harrington, Kate Perkins, Laura Revolinski, Christine Umeh, and Wenbo Zhang. 

After briefing and oral argument, the Third Circuit on March 14 ruled for Price, holding that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance and “direct[ing] that the writ of habeas be granted.” The court’s judgment says, “The State must release Price or grant him a new trial within six months.”  The opinion was written by Judge Jane Roth and joined by Judges Theodore McKee and Thomas Ambro.

Andrussier said the appeal required students to master a large record and to develop sophisticated legal arguments.  “We are so pleased with the result,” he said.  He relayed the following sentiments from Price: “I am so proud to tell people that I am represented by folks at Duke University. The team’s effort was incredible and the legal representation was of the highest caliber. I am ecstatic.”

Perkins says she was “honored and humbled” to have worked on the team representing Price.  She added, “Working on this case was an invaluable experience and by far the most challenging and meaningful thing I did in law school. The skills I developed by working in the clinic will help me throughout my legal career.”

Revolinski concurred: “It was definitely the most challenging experience that I had during law school, and so valuable to have to research and brief such a nuanced issue under the pressure of working on a real case for a client with so much on the line.”  She added, “It helped me remember why I came to law school in the first place.”