PUBLISHED:April 10, 2013

Appellate Litigation Clinic students prevail in D.C. Circuit

In an opinion issued Tuesday, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with students and faculty from Duke’s Appellate Litigation Clinic that a federal civil rights action was improperly tossed out. The case is Lesesne v. Doe et al., in which the plaintiff alleges he was subjected to mistreatment when he was a pretrial detainee of the District of Columbia.

The D.C. Circuit appointed Sean Andrussier, co-director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic, as amicus curiae to present arguments in support of the plaintiff’s appeal, which included an issue of first impression in that circuit about the scope of an affirmative defense under a federal statute, the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Under Andrussier's supervision, a team of clinic students — John Cosgriff, Jonny Havens, Emily May, and Matt Mooney, all third-year students of the Law School — worked on the appeal through briefing and oral argument. May argued the case in D.C. on March 19 before a panel consisting of Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson, Judith Rogers, and David Tatel. In a published opinion authored by Judge Rogers, the court held that the Prison Litigation Reform Act did not bar the plaintiff’s constitutional claims.  “I’m proud of the students’ work on this appeal and delighted that the court agreed with our arguments,” Andrussier said.  

Andrussier and Professor James E. Coleman Jr., direct Duke’s Appellate Litigation Clinic.