PUBLISHED:January 26, 2024

Madison Dunbar '24 presents at U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit


Duke Law’s Externship Program enabled a third-year student to work on a civil case as part of a legal team at the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in Raleigh

Madison Dunbar standing with colleague with seal of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on the wall behind

On Wednesday, Madison Dunbar '24 stood before three judges at the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. As a third-year law student, she presented as part of the defense team during oral argument in Mitchell Evans v. United States—a civil case involving issues of sovereign immunity and the Federal Torts Claims Act.

“It was surreal to stand up in court on behalf of the United States for the first time,” she said.

The opportunity for Dunbar to participate in the case sprang from her work as a legal intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina (Civil Division) in Raleigh. Dunbar learned of the internship position through the Duke Law Externship Program, which enables students to receive academic credit for gaining legal experience beyond that available in the classroom setting, by working under the supervision of a licensed attorney in a governmental or non-profit setting.

Dunbar said, “I am also grateful to Professor [Geovanny] Martinez and Duke Law for leading such a rewarding externship program.”

Martinez, the executive director for the Center on Law, Race and Policy, says Dunbar has demonstrated the commitment, temperament, and legal acumen necessary for such an opportunity. He added: "She reflects the caliber and spirit any client would seek in an attorney."

Just prior to law school, Dunbar worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for three years. She credits that experience, as well as the learning and support she's received at Duke Law School, with helping prepare her to confidently present her argument to Judge DeAndrea Gist Benjamin, Judge Roger L. Gregory, and Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr., of the Fourth Circuit.

She said, “This has been a goal I have been working towards for many years.”

The experience also struck a personal chord with her. “I am also the first in my family to become a lawyer, so it felt special for that reason.”

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Panel 2 from oral arguments in Mitchell Evans v. United States.

Recorded at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.