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Clinic Students Gain a Victory in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Brian Loughnane and Emily Miles

May 07, 2021

On March 29, 2021, 3Ls Emily Miles and Brian Loughnane won a victory for Michael Nelson, a client they helped represent in the Kline School of Law’s Federal Litigation and Appeals Clinic (FLAC). The two students briefed and argued the appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, alongside Professors Richard Frankel and Katelyn Hufe, the co-directors of FLAC.

The ruling grants the petition for review regarding a deportation order issued against Nelson in 2018. With the decision, FLAC will have the opportunity to prove that Nelson will face future harm if he’s deported to Jamaica.

“This decision ensures that Mr. Nelson will get a meaningful day in court—one that he deserves and should have received a long time ago,” said Loughnane.

Nelson, who was convicted of marijuana possession in the U.S. and subsequently deported to Jamaica in 2011, was shot by gang members shortly after his arrival. The shooting occurred as a result of Nelson tipping off a friend, who is gay, that he was being targeted by the gang because of their homophobia. After the shooting, Nelson went into hiding before re-entering the U.S. in January 2012.

FLAC has represented Nelson for several years and the Third Circuit’s decision returns the case to the immigration court system. In the process of deciding the case, the Third Circuit praised the “Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law and its students for their extraordinary efforts in briefing and arguing this matter on behalf of [Nelson].”

The experience was a valuable one for Miles and Loughnane. “This opportunity to advocate for Mr. Nelson through FLAC was incomparable to anything you could get in a law school classroom,” said Miles, “and the skills (and confidence!) gained through this experience are ones we will carry with us throughout our careers.”

Additionally, Frankel said that, because FLAC has been working on the case for years, a team of dedicated students and alumni has brought about this victory. Of Miles and Loughnane, he said: “They were just really, really dedicated to the case and did a great job. They worked very hard crafting different legal arguments and writing briefs. They spent hours preparing; and they had to navigate the challenges of doing oral argument over Zoom.” Alumni who worked on the case include Kait O’Donnell ’19, Jordan Laporta ’19, Brian Han ’19, and Rebecca Swaintek ’20.

Loughnane added that he and Miles benefited from the support they received from faculty in FLAC and at Kline Law. “Professors Richard Frankel and Katelyn Hufe went a long way in helping us prepare for the argument, as did Professor Veronica Finkelstein, whose Appellate Advocacy class gave Emily and I the tools we needed to successfully represent Mr. Nelson in front of the Third Circuit.”