Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic


LLS offers third-year day students and fourth-year evening students the opportunity to participate in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic.

LMU Loyola Law School (LLS) offers third-year day students and fourth-year evening students interested in appellate advocacy the opportunity to participate in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic. Students in this two-semester clinic are appointed by the Court to represent clients with appeals pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in civil cases and immigration cases, under the supervision of Prof. Geoff Kehlmann. 

In a typical year, students in the clinic draft and file the opening brief on appeal during the fall semester. The answer brief will be filed in December, and the students spend their spring semester drafting the reply brief and preparing for oral argument, which usually takes place in April. 

The Student Experience

Norvik Azarian, Q & A                              

Why did you decide to pursue law school, and how did Loyola's clinical offerings impact that decision?

I decided to pursue law school because of the unique dual opportunity it provides to better myself and better my community. Naturally, Loyola’s clinical offerings made the prospect of attending even more attractive because they could allow me to gain real-world practical skills by applying what I had learned from my courses. 

How did your participation in your clinic make a difference in your Loyola education?

Two ways: The clinic allowed me to gain a practical education at Loyola, which is extremely useful and marketable. Also, I was able to take the advise I got about writing an appellate brief in the clinic and apply it to my Appellate Advocacy course to write a top-notch brief. 

What has been the most memorable part of your experience?

Working with extremely talented individuals. The students in my clinic are all brilliant and it has been so rewarding to work with them. Also our Adjunct Professor, Martin Estrada of Munger Tolles & Olson, has been an amazing mentor. 

What about your clinical experience surprised you?

Professor Mitchell has done an amazing job at creating a very collegial and supportive clinic. Professor Mitchell and Martin Estrada were there every step of the way to make sure I did the best job possible. This supportive environment leads to an optimal learning experience for students and the quality work for our clients. 

How did it feel to put your classroom knowledge to work for clients?

The moment you realize that your work will be submitted to an actual court, rather than a professor, is surreal and heightens your sense of responsibility. It was a rush knowing that my work can potentially help our client achieve the results they wanted. 

How has your clinical experience prepared you to be an attorney for others?

A real case or appeal is not like a law school final exam. There are real clients, real issues, and real results on the line. The clinic has taught me to consider these realities in working on live client matters in the future.

Finish this sentence:

“If my time in the Loyola Pro Bono Ninth Circuit Clinic has taught me anything, it is ...

that Loyola stands ready to help its students gain the experience of practicing law and help the community in obtaining the representation that they otherwise could not get.”


Under the supervision of skilled appellate practitioners, students refine their understanding of how to raise winning arguments on appeal.  In strategy sessions, the team evaluates the various arguments that could be raised on appeal and reaches a consensus about which arguments are most compelling.  “As far as practical experience for those interested in appellate work, it doesn’t get much better than briefing and arguing a case before the Ninth Circuit," said Dale Ogden ’16.

2017 - 2018 Academic Year

Students Ryan Snyder and Michelle Cornell Davis, supervised by Scott Klausner and Paula M. Mitchell, represented Leonard Lawson in a successful appeal in a Bivens suit filed against federal agents for alleged unreasonable conduct during execution of a search warrant. 

Ryan Snyder and Michelle Cornell Davis pictured in front of the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, supervised by Scott Klausner.

Link to Lawson’s Briefs: Lawson Opening BriefLawson Reply Brief

Recording of oral argument: Ninth Circuit Video - Leonard A. Lawson, Jr. v. Jeffery Gregg

Disposition Memo: Leonard A. Lawson, Jr. v. Jeffery Gregg

Paula M. Mitchell, Suzie Vardanyan, Mary-Christine Sungaila, Weston Rowland, Dan Seabolt, and Marco A. Pulido.  Prof. Sungaila is a partner at Haynes Boone and Marco is an associate at Haynes Boone.

Students Suzie Vardanyan, Weston Rowland and Dan Seabolt, supervised by Prof. Paula M. Mitchell, Mary-Christine Sungaila of Haynes Boone, and Marco A. Pulido of Haynes Boone, represented Jose Fierro in an appeal in a successful civil rights suit filed against corrections officer defendants for failing to protect him from a security threat group, while in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections. 

Link to Fierro’s Brief: Brief Jose Fierro v. Keith Smith, et al

Recording of oral argument: Ninth Circuit Video - Jose Fierro v. Keith Smith, et al.

Disposition Memo: Jose Fierro v. Keith Smith, et al.

Paula M. Mitchell, Bulmaro Huante, Jennifer Cooper and Kasey Curtis, of Reed Smith LLP.

Students Bulmaro Huante and Jennifer Cooper, supervised by Prof. Paula M. Mitchell and Kasey Curtis, of Reed Smith LLP, represented Shiraz Lakhani in an appeal from a Tax Court decision concerning an issue of first impression: whether the money a professional gambler pays to the party taking the bet (the “takeout”) can be deducted as an ordinary business expense. 

Link to Lakhani’s Briefs: Lakhani Opening Brief

Recording of oral argument: Ninth Circuit Video - Shiraz Lakhani v. CIR

Martin Estrada (Partner at Munger Tolles & Olson), Dean Michael Waterstone, Ariel Beverly, Norvik Azarian, and Paula M. Mitchell.

Students Ariel Beverly and Norvik Azarian, supervised by Prof. Paula M. Mitchell and Martin Estrada of Munger Tolles & Olson, represented Shelly Ioane in an appeal in a civil rights suit alleging that Ms. Ioane’s right to bodily privacy was violated when a federal agent who was executing a search warrant in her home ordered Ms. Ioane to disrobe and then refused to leave the bathroom and continued to observe her use the bathroom. 

Link to Ioane’s Brief: Ioane Brief

Audio recording of oral argument: Ninth Circuit Video - Shelly Ioane v. Jean Noll

2015 - 2016 Academic Year

Students Monique Alarcon, Eliza Haney, and Dale Ogden (pictured below) worked tirelessly representing their client, Jim Davis, a California prison inmate. Davis sued the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) for violating his right to religious freedom. A devout Muslim, Davis faithfully practiced his religion while incarcerated for almost two decades. But in 2009 and 2010, the CDCR instituted a total ban on inmates using Muslim prayer oil as part of any religious ceremony at the prison where Davis was incarcerated.  The total ban meant that prayer oils could not even be kept and used by inmates while they visited the prison chapel.

As far as Mitchell is concerned, the students are receiving the same experience as any lawyer would. “The clinic allows students to experience both the thrill and the pressure of high stakes litigation. Appeals can be very challenging. The students this year had to learn how to communicate to our client that they are committed to winning his case, while at the same time managing his expectations and making sure he understands that there are no guarantees that he will prevail on appeal.”

The students filed the opening brief in Davis’s case in October, and the Office of the Attorney General filed their Answer Brief on behalf of the CDCR in December. The students were scheduled to argue the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2016, but in the end, after reading the opening brief, the CDCR agreed to settle Mr. Davis’s case out of court—and for an amount that was considerably higher than previously offered.

“This settlement is a testament to the strength of the well-researched arguments raised in our opening brief,” Mitchell said. “I could not be more proud of our students.  And it was a tremendous victory for our client.  Anyone who has ever litigated against the CDCR will tell you how rare it is for the Department of Corrections to agree to settle a civil rights case brought by an inmate.”  Davis was very pleased with the result, as well.

Students in the clinic also file amicus curiae briefs in cases pending in the Ninth Circuit. Instead of participating in the oral argument this spring semester, the students in the clinic are slated to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of United States Congressmen Sam Farr (D) and Dana Rohracbacher (R) in a medical marijuana case that is pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.    

Application Process

Completed applications will include:

1. A brief statement explaining your interest in the clinic
2. Your current resume
3. An unofficial LLS transcript or grade printout
4. A writing sample of no more than 25 pages
5.  Names of two references/recommenders

An email requesting applications will be sent to students during the spring semester. 

Prerequisites: This is a competitive clinic. Advanced research and writing skills, a keen aptitude for legal analysis, and a strong work ethic are essential for all students who participate in the clinic.

Any questions? Contact Prof. Geoff Kehlmann at