This semester, I had the honor to help launch the Brandeis Impact Litigation Practicum at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law.
Through the practicum, law students are connected to clients who want to influence important legal cases through amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs.
Amicus briefs, especially at the U.S. Supreme Court, can play a very influential role. They can provide diverse and detailed perspectives beyond the often narrow focus of the parties themselves and help judges reach better decisions in cases that could have a major social impact.
This semester, three very smart UofL Law students wrote a brief on behalf of the National Association For Public Defense and the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, encouraging the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision by the Kentucky Supreme Court. In its decision, the Kentucky court put serious limits on the ability of criminal defense attorneys to question the credibility of accusing witnesses. Many criminal cases are "he-said, she-said" situations and witness credibility is the key issue.
The case implicates rights under both the Sixth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment and could have a negative impact on criminal defendants across the country. The way our clients see it, a criminal defendant unable to attack the credibility of his or her accuser will often be left with no other defense.
Students Abby Braune, Evan Comer, and Taylor Richard all worked tirelessly on the brief with guidance from me and my fellow professors Dan Canon and Sam Marcosson. The end result is a brief that both they and their clients should be proud of.
The brief can be read here.