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3L to Argue Case Before the Third Circuit

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September 19, 2018

Kaitlin O’Donnell, a student in the Federal Litigation and Appeals Clinic, will argue a case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on Sept. 25.

The 3L will argue that a district court should not have dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit filed by Pittsburgh businessman Richard Hvizdak, who claims that Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and several other banks artificially manipulated interest rates on the loans that several of his businesses had received.

In the hearing, O’Donnell will face an attorney from Wilmer Hale, one of the nation’s leading law firms, which is representing the banks.

O’Donnell had worked with ’18 alumnus Andrew Greer on two briefs filed as amicus counsel after the clinic was appointed to support Hvizdak, who is representing himself in the suit.

Professor Richard Frankel, who directs the clinic, said O’Donnell is up to the challenge.

“Kait is incredibly smart and very well-prepared for the upcoming argument,” Frankel said.

At issue in the case is whether the district court should have remanded the case back to state court, where it had initially been filed, Frankel explained.

Frankel said the bank had removed the case to federal court and argued that under the “shareholder standing” doctrine, Hvizdak lacked standing to pursue the lawsuit in his own name because the real parties in interest are the businesses that took out the loans.  

The district court found that Hvizdak did not have the necessary standing to bring the suit. After acknowledging that it was not the correct venue to decide the matter, the district court went ahead and ruled on the merits of Hvizdak’s claims rather than returning the case to state court.

“The court appointed us to address if shareholder standing is a threshold doctrine or not,” Frankel said. “These are really complicated questions of civil procedure and standing that are hard for any lawyer.”

The fact that Greer and O’Donnell, who is editor-in-chief of Drexel Law Review, mastered these issues is “really impressive,” Frankel said.