Penn Law students participate in Supreme Court case

Penn Law students at Supreme Court


Penn Law students and Professor Stephanos Bibas at the U.S. Supreme Court

Eight Penn Law students and their professor were at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Oct. 13, seeing their work in action. As part of Penn Law School’s new Supreme Court Clinic, the students and Professor Stephanos Bibas helped shape the arguments for a case that tests the limits of the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of effective assistance of counsel for non-citizen criminal defendants.

The case, Padilla v. Kentucky, involves Jose Padilla, a legal permanent U.S. resident who lived in the U.S. for 40 years. His attorney told him that although he wasn’t a citizen, he would not be deported if he pleaded guilty to a drug charge. The attorney was wrong.

The students researched state laws to see whether there are different laws concerning the ethical obligations of attorneys advising clients on the consequences of a guilty plea on their immigration status. “They have to take a mass of trial transcripts and exhibits and synthesize it into a compelling statement of facts,” Bibas said. “I'm learning from teaching them, and they're learning by strategizing, researching, writing, and rewriting.”

Students listened to oral arguments, lasting about one hour. Professor Bibas, a former clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy, was seated at the Counsel’s table along with attorney and Penn Law lecturer Stephen Kinnaird, of the Washington law firm, Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, representing Padilla. After the proceedings, Kinnaird held a briefing session at the law firm for the students, where he discussed the merits of the case and legal strategy.

Law student Dane Reinstedt, after visiting the court, said, "it gives a different view and weight to what we're doing academically."

Originally published on October 13, 2009