Law Student Argues Case Before 8th Circuit Panel

Third-year law student Wade Carr recently put his advocacy skills to the test as he argued before a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on behalf of a client seeking review of a court martial conviction.

“The argument was a thrill—almost a blur,” Carr said of appearing before the court in St. Paul, Minnesota. “The judges peppered me with questions almost from the moment I started speaking.  It was an incredible experience for a law student, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. More importantly, it was an honor to represent our client along with our law school and my classmates in the Appellate Clinic.”

Carr became involved in the case after the Eighth Circuit appointed the Appellate Clinic to represent an Air Force serviceman in early 2009. The clinic petitioned the Eighth Circuit to void their client’s court-martial conviction on the basis that the Air Force had violated his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. In addition to the constitutional issue, the case presents complex questions involving the appropriate standard when an Article III civilian court reviews a military court for error, Carr said. 

With the guidance of Professor Bruce La Pierre and Adjunct Lee Marshall, six clinic students drafted and submitted the opening brief in May 2009. Carr and third-year law student Nick Niles then worked with La Pierre to draft the reply brief and prepare for oral arguments.

“The work on this case was truly a team effort,” said Carr, who plans to clerk for Eighth Circuit Judge Lavenski Smith after graduating in May. “I had the privilege of arguing the case, but my classmate, Nick Niles, invested as much time as anyone in drafting the briefs and prepping for the argument. As we worked, he and I constantly talked through the issues and bounced ideas off each other.”

Carr also underwent three “long and very intense” moot court sessions. “After each one, Nick and Professor La Pierre helped me correct any mistakes and fill in the gaps, so I was well-prepared for whatever the Eighth Circuit judges might throw at me,” Carr recalled. “We all sacrificed a lot of our free time, but it helped me feel confident going into the argument.”

La Pierre said he is well-pleased: “Students in the Appellate Clinic have consistently briefed and argued the cases with distinction. Wade was no exception—he did an excellent job of presenting a very complex case to the Court of Appeals.”

To listen to the argument, visit http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/index.html. Then go to the column of options on the left, click on oral arguments, and enter the case #: 08-3450.