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Appellate Litigation Clinic Adds Two Cases to Win Column

Appellate Litigation Clinic Students Win

May 27, 2015

Federal courts handed the Appellate Litigation Clinic two more victories this spring.

In a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, students from the clinic successfully argued that a federal judge in Camden improperly dismissed a New Jersey inmate’s effort to appeal a murder conviction.

Recent graduates Chris Bailes and Mina Khalil worked very hard and very effectively, said Professor Richard Frankel, who directs the clinic.

“They discovered a lot of case law that the district court had not been aware of,” Frankel said.  “They wrote such a strong brief that the state agreed with us, without any opposition.”

In their habeas corpus appeal, Frankel explained, the students demonstrated that the Atlantic County inmate had in fact met the deadline for filing paperwork for an appeal.

The Third Circuit ruling sends the matter back to the district court to consider the inmate’s claims that his trial had been tainted because jurors knew some of the witnesses as well as the victim. 

In a case the clinic undertook in collaboration with Community Legal Services, recent graduates Anthony DiJiacomo and Deenah Kogan persuaded the Social Security Administration to reconsider a Philadelphia woman’s application for disability benefits. 

Although the mother of nine has been diagnosed with severe depression as well as an IQ of 70, an administrative law judge denied her application for disability benefits, contending the woman’s mental health problems reflected the size of her brood, Frankel said.

The judge was wrong to render her own medical judgment, Frankel said, adding that it is inaccurate to blame the woman’s mental health condition entirely on her environment.

“Our claim was strong,” Frankel said, noting that the students had researched the intertwined biological, psychological and social roots of mental health disorders.

The SSA did not disagree with the students’ motion, filed before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, putting the woman’s disability determination in the hands of a new administrative law judge.