In April, the Supreme Court of Ohio heard oral argument in a case that students in the Case Western Reserve University School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic have been working on for over two years. The case—argued by Joseph Shell (LAW ‘20)—considers whether a defendant has a reasonable and legitimate basis to withdraw a guilty plea before sentencing after learning of evidence that would have changed the defendant’s decision to plead guilty.
Shell wrote the petition that convinced the Supreme Court to take the case after the Eighth District affirmed the trial court’s denial of the client’s motion to withdraw his plea.
In addition to Shell, alumni Chelsea Fletcher, Vito Giannola, Renee Monzon, Emily Peterson, Geneva Ramirez and Rocco Screnci (all LAW ‘20) and Ian Hyengyeal, Josh Rheins, and Paul Willison (all LAW ‘21) worked on the case in the Eighth District Court of Appeals. Willison presented the oral argument to the Eighth District in spring 2021.
3L students Josh Knauf, Megan Moro and Alexandra Raleigh wrote the merit brief to the Supreme Court.
“The 12 students who worked on the case over the past two years had to draw on so many of the skills they learned from my wonderful faculty colleagues in their first and second years of law school, including interviewing and counseling clients, reviewing a factual record, analyzing and researching complex legal questions, writing persuasively, and structuring/delivering an oral argument,” said Andrew Pollis, director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic. “The case is also a textbook example of the crucial need for lawyers to push for modification of the law when existing legal standards are inadequate.”
“And, of course, the case has important and real implications for the client on whose behalf the students have worked so hard. One student told me that it was the most meaningful experience he has had in law school. That’s always wonderful to hear, but you can’t isolate the clinical experience. We call it a ‘capstone,’ and it truly is—everything we do builds on the wealth of learning that goes on in the first two years of law school,” Pollis said.
The Appellate Litigation Clinic is one of nine clinics under the umbrella of the School of Law’s Milton and Charlotte Kramer Law Clinic. Every law student undertakes a 3L capstone in one of the clinics or a semester-long externship. Based on the work of the Appellate Litigation Clinic and the other clinics, preLaw magazine (Spring 2022) ranked Case Western Reserve University School of Law 5th best law school in the nation in practical training.
You can watch a recording of the argument and read the docket filings on the court’s website.