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Behind-the-scenes video: Civil rights clinic students prepare to argue a federal appeal

December 08, 2020 1:00 PM

The Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic worked long hours this fall preparing for a case before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Three students argued an excessive force case after weeks of preparation. From L-R: Prof. Sam Brandao (L'12), Student-Attorneys AsheLee Singleton, Price Ciolino and Rachel Jokinen, and Prof. Lucia Blacksher Ranier.


The Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic spent part of the fall semester in preparation for arguments on a federal appeal in a case involving excessive force.

Three students, AsheLee Singleton, Rachel Jokinen and Price Ciolino, all third-year law students, prepared for weeks to argue with supervision from Clinic Director Lucia Blacksher Ranier and Prof. Sam Brandao (L’12), both skilled litigators. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those arguments would be done remotely in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The opportunity to argue before a federal three-judge panel doesn’t happen often for clinic students, but when it does, preparation is everything. There is mooting, meetings, honing down the argument, more mooting, more preparing, more meeting. It’s hard work, and requires the help of multiple professors who are willing to participate and critique the students. Feedback makes you better.

But if the pandemic gave us anything, it is that the remote format offered a window to the behind-the-scenes preparation, elation – and, yes, stress – of this opportunity to go to court. 

In Professor Blacksher Ranier’s dining room one day in November, the students went to court. We saw nerves and exhilaration. We also saw two dedicated law professors, Blacksher Ranier and Brandao,  who care fiercely for their clients and these students.

While students presented the oral arguments, professors gave support — sometimes using paper plate signals. This is who we are. Whatever it takes.

Court is different during COVID-19. But our law community’s teamwork is unmatched.

Just take a look in this video we have prepared of all that work.

Congrats to this amazing team from our Civil Rights and Federal Practice Clinic!