Third-year law students win pro bono victory with Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals

Congratulations to University of Cincinnati third-year law students Patrick Maney and Tess Chaffee who recently won an important pro bono victory in United States v. Alvarado after arguing the appeal before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. “It was a difficult case, as criminal appeals usually are, with complicated Second Amendment and gun-related sentencing issues,” said Colter Paulson, Of Counsel at Squire Patton Boggs.  “The panel was aggressive, but Tess and Pat did an excellent job of thinking on their feet and answering tough questions.”  Chaffee and Maney participated in the colleges’ Sixth Circuit Clinic, through which this case was litigated. Paulson is one of the directors of the clinic.

"It feels so rewarding to know that we are making a real difference in our client's life. And it was such a great experience to start my career in litigation,” said Chaffee. Upon graduation, Chaffee plans to work in litigation at the Squire Patton Boggs office in Phoenix, Arizona.  Her partner, Maney, agreed. "I’m very excited for our client, and extremely proud of the hard work our classmates and faculty put in. It was a team effort and win!" Maney plans to work in transactional law in the Cincinnati office of Squire Patton Boggs upon graduation.  

Elements about the case: United States v. Alvarado

Though skeptical about the gun-related issues during the oral argument, Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton was very complementary about their argument afterwards. Even better, he ultimately signed on to a unanimous published decision reversing a four-point “reckless endangerment” enhancement on the client’s sentence. The panel held that reckless endangerment requires the government to introduce evidence that someone was actually endangered by a firearm, not just that people were scared from hearing the gunshots.  This result could take years off the client’s sentence, potentially getting the client out of prison later this year. 

How the Sixth Circuit Clinic works

Cincinnati Law’s Sixth Circuit Clinic introduces students to the basics of appellate advocacy. Through the clinic, students learn to navigate the federal appellate process in both civil and criminal appeals. They work on appeals from beginning to end, conferring with clients, reviewing records, figuring out issues to raise, drafting and filing the appellate brief, and participating in mock arguments. Some students, like Chaffee and Maney, get the opportunity to argue a case before the court.

"I applied for the Sixth Circuit Clinic for the opportunity to learn about appellate practice from skilled attorneys while gaining hands on experience,” said Chaffee. “The clinic allows you to see an appeal through as a law student, from reviewing the record, conducting legal research, formulating arguments, and drafting and editing the briefs, to preparing and arguing a case in front of a panel of judges of the Sixth Circuit."

"I joined the Sixth Circuit Clinic to work on hard cases,” said Maney. “The clinic allowed me to collaborate with my peers on complex legal matters and to learn from experts in the field while gaining real life experience.”

The Sixth Circuit Clinic is taught by Paulson and Nathan Colvin, Vice President and Associate General Counsel (Litigation and Regulatory Enforcement) at Fifth Third Bank.

Lead photo: Joey Yerace

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