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Federal Litigation Clinic

The Federal Litigation Clinic focuses on the litigation of actual cases pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Many of the cases involve the representation of inmates in cases that the federal courts have identified as potentially meritorious. The representation is undertaken pursuant to the courts' student practice rules, with the consent of the clients, and subject to the supervision of an experienced attorney.

Students who participate have a strong interest in constitutional law, criminal law, and federal civil and appellate procedure. The clinic involves an average workload of ten hours per week but this may be concentrated into certain portions of the semester based on court deadlines.

Clinic News

Federal Litigation Clinic Settles Case

During the 2015-2016 academic year, students in the Federal Litigation Clinic represented an death row inmate in a Western District case that settled just before a jury trial. Clinic students represented the client at in a retaliation action against a correctional officer while the inmate was incarcerated at SCI-Greene from 2005-2010. Throughout the case the students took depositions, initiated discovery, filed motions with the court, and met with court staff and opposing counsel. 

Third Circuit Case Moves Toward Video Arguments

Also during the 2015-2016 academic year, the Federal Litigation Clinic represented an inmate serving three life sentences without parole after being convicted for one count of arson and endangering persons, three counts of murder in the second degree, one count of burglary in the first degree, and one count of aggravated assault.  The client appealed his conviction to the Third Circuit seeking habeas relief on the grounds that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present after-discovered evidence that could lead a fact-finder to doubt the Commonwealth’s case against the defendant. The law students wrote two briefs in the case, and two of the clinic's students were preparing this spring to argue the case via video conference.

Students Participate in Jury Trial in Federal Court

Students in the Federal Litigation Clinic participated in a jury trial in federal court in the spring of 2014. This is a rare event for most young practicing lawyers, and an almost unprecedented experience for law students. Working under the direction of supervising attorneys Adrian Roe and Sam Simon and Professor Steven Baicker-McKee, the students handled every aspect of a prisoner civil rights case, including jury selection, opening arguments, witness examination and cross-examination, and closings. 

Duquesne's Federal Litigation Clinic Wins Case

Duquesne University's Clinical Legal Education Program celebrated an important victory Aug. 9, 2013 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a precedential opinion affirming the grant of habeas relief to a client of the program, James Washington. A fourth-year evening student, Charles P. Sapienza, III, argued the case in the Pittsburgh federal courthouse on May 15.

"We were fortunate that the case had substantial constitutional issues and that the law was on our side," said Sapienza of the win.

Sapienza is part of the School of Law's Federal Practice Clinic, in which students work with supervising attorneys to provide legal representation to inmates and the underserved with appeals before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and civil cases pending in the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania.

As a footnote to its opinion, the Third Circuit thanked the Duquesne University Federal Practice Clinic for "ably" representing Washington in the appeal.

Read the Duquesne University press release.