Interprofessional Center

for Counseling & Legal Services

Appellate clinic students, Michelle King and Joy Nissen, deliver outstanding oral arguments before the United States Court of Appeals


In San Francisco, before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the marble ceremonial courtroom, Prof. Sisk was privileged to observe two outstanding arguments presented by our St. Thomas students in the Appellate Clinic, Michelle King and Joy Nissen.  The appeal raises the issue of whether prison officials, for the purpose of prison security, may read outgoing mail by a death row prisoner to his lawyer on direct appeal from a capital sentence.

Both Shelley and Joy were articulate and professional in manner, exceptionally well-prepared, and thoughtfully responsive to the questions by a panel of federal appellate judges.  Their ability to make the key points in our case and to answer a multitude of questions with the right balance of responsiveness and steady defense of our legal position, and to do so with authority and a commanding knowledge of the law and facts in our case, caused them to rise well above most of the other appellate advocates we saw in the courtroom that morning.  Sisk could not be more proud of each of them.

At the end of the argument, Judge William Fletcher, who was presiding, thanked “the law students from the University of St. Thomas” for “a very good job.”  Although we cannot know the outcome until the decision comes in the next several months, it was certainly a very good day in San Francisco in so many ways.

A link to the audio of the oral argument is available on the court’s web site.

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