Arguing a case in federal appeals court is a prestigious distinction—one many attorneys go their entire careers without attaining. Through our Ninth Circuit Appellate Program, our students gain access to this distinguished opportunity, arguing real immigration cases and assisting indigent clients who would otherwise be without counsel. Students hone high-level skills in client communication, legal research, brief writing, and oral advocacy, preparing cases before traveling to the court in San Francisco and presenting oral arguments in front of a panel of sitting judges.
The NCAP’s mission goes beyond providing opportunities to students. A central criticism of immigration law is that it does not distinguish between the most serious criminal offenses and those that the courts do not normally consider serious or deserving of incarceration. By advocating for non-citizens with criminal convictions in federal immigration cases, the clinic aims to restore a sense of proportionality and common sense to the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. In addition to the impact of criminal convictions on immigration and deportation, important issues in past cases have included asylum, withholding, and Convention Against Torture claims.
The clinic takes advantage of a unique program within the United States Courts of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, which screens pro se petitions filed by non-citizens to identify strong cases and new issues. The court accelerates the briefing schedule of the selected cases to coincide with the academic year, allowing law students to represent these clients. The Court assigns cases in June of each year, and students work in teams of two, delivering an opening brief in October, a reply brief in January, and presenting oral argument in San Francisco the following April. The court lists students' names on the resulting decisions.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in San Francisco and hearing cases arising from Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona, screens pro se cases and selects those that present important issues that deserve further development. We’re one of few law schools outside of the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction to participate in the Appellate Program.