UB law students get on-site chance to witness COSA arguments

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“If you are curious and passionate you will enjoy the work...”

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland made its annual pilgrimage to the Moot Courtroom in the John and Frances Angelos Law Center at the University of Baltimore on March 5. Judges Alexander Wright, Jr., Stuart Berger and Andrea Leahy, all born in Baltimore, heard oral arguments on four cases pending before the court. The audience for the cases included law students, faculty and staff.

For lawyers who appear before the court, Judge Berger said they better be ready.

“Preparation matters,” Judge Berger said. “Understanding and knowing the record is important. If you’re asked a question, answer it. If you don’t know, say so – don’t duck it.”

The judges stayed after the session for a question and answer exchange with the students, discussing Court of Special Appeals’ procedures, techniques for oral advocacy and what each judge looks for in a clerk.

Alex Summerfield, who is on track to graduate in May from Maryland’s Carey School of Law, argued one of the cases as part of Professor Renee Hutchins’ Appellate and Post-conviction Advocacy Clinic. “It’s fun in a lot of ways,” Summerfield said. “It feels good to be an actual lawyer after three years of toiling away, reading cases that are 150 years old. To have a client, a real person, and to be able to advocate for him is really good.

“I look for fit; someone who will work well with my office,” Judge Wright said. “I’m looking for someone who won’t be upset if I don’t like what they did and will take constructive criticism and come out in the end a better law clerk and a better lawyer from the process.”

By law, the Court of Special Appeals sits only in Annapolis except, when specially set by the Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge, the Court may sit at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law or the University of Baltimore School of Law.  The Court usually sits one day at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in the fall and one day at the University of Baltimore School of Law in the spring.

“Our law school is honored to host the Court of Special Appeals for this special sitting each year,” said University of Baltimore Law School Dean Ronald Weich. “Law students can learn a tremendous amount observing actual appellate litigation. There are all kinds of exercises and simulations in law school, but there is no substitute for watching real lawyers and judges in action.”

Judge Leahy said she is primarily looking for clerks that may have found alternative ways to make a contribution while in law school. “If you are curious and passionate you will enjoy the work,” Judge Leahy said. “We have cases from across many different aspects of the law. If you’re curious, you’ll dive in and enjoy it.”

“This event is an incredibly unique experience for law students, and it is particularly special to have the opportunity to spectate this in our own building,” said Genna Hoy, president of the University of Baltimore Law School Student Bar Association. “To be able to witness the professionals we aim to be after graduation present their arguments is an eye-opening experience on what we have to look forward to outside the classroom. What is especially great about the timing of this event, is that our 1Ls (first-year law students) are in the middle of researching and writing their appellate briefs in Introduction to Advocacy, and in about a month will be doing a mock oral argument themselves. I remember attending my 1L year, and it truly helped me prepare for my argument.”

Founded in 1925, the University of Baltimore is the sixth largest public law school in the country, with approximately 1,000 Juris Doctor students.

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