Elon Law hosts Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Judges heard appellate arguments in an employment discrimination lawsuit involving a former sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina, and a criminal case with Fourth Amendment considerations after police in West Virginia used a GPS tracker without a warrant.
Elon University School of Law marked an institutional milestone on Wednesday when, for the first time since the school opened in 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments inside Elon Law's Robert E. Long Courtroom.
The three judges who will rule on the cases also used their visit on Oct. 10, 2018, as an opportunity to share with Elon Law students their reflections on the judiciary and the service attorneys provide in faithfully representing clients.
The Hon. Roger L. Gregory, the Hon. Diana Gribbon Motz, and the Hon. Albert Diaz answered questions for more than half an hour from Elon Law students who observed the morning hearings. Afterward, the judges and their law clerks gathered for a private lunch with select students who have expressed interest in judicial clerkships following graduation.
“Holding court at law schools supports the institutions' missions to prepare students to enter the legal profession,” Gregory said. “Students have the opportunity to see some of the best lawyers argue appeals that will impact the federal jurisprudence of our nation. These experiences will inform and inspire the students' journey of public service. The Fourth Circuit is happy to provide this rich experience for the fine law students at Elon.”
In the first case, a former Guilford County Sheriff’s Office deputy had copied personnel files of other employees and provided them to an investigator examining her claim of racial and religious discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her personal attorneys. She was subsequently fired for doing so, and the former deputy claimed that she is protected by federal law from what she alleges was a retaliatory termination.
In the second case, a convicted drug trafficker serving prison time in West Virginia for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute had asked the trial court to suppress evidence that was derived from a GPS tracker placed on his car without a warrant. The trial court denied his motion on the ground that he was later validly stopped for speeding while being tracked, which purged the taint of the warrantless GPS search.
A federal district court later held that he lacked standing to challenge the search on the ground he was a passenger in the vehicle, not its driver or owner. The appellant was seeking to overturn his verdict as a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
Decisions on the two cases will be issued in the coming months.
“This was a great opportunity for our students to see advocates and judges in action,” said Associate Dean Enrique Armijo, who coordinated the Fourth Circuit visit. “It fits well with our dedication to experiential learning, as students get to see how lawyers argue and how appellate judges analyze legal issues.”
Here is what students had to say about the learning experience:
- "It was very valuable to have the Fourth Circuit here at Elon Law. The experience is something that I can use to make myself a better oral advocate in the future, especially as a member of the Moot Court Board. I am very appreciative for such a beneficial opportunity." - Cody Jones, Class of 2019
- "As a student who aspires to be an appellate litigator, I enjoyed hearing their advice on how to be a more effective advocate during oral arguments." - Brandon Ballard, Class of 2019
- “After observing oral arguments, it was readily apparent to me the importance of understanding and knowing each case at issue. Both appellant and appellee counsel relied on juxtaposition of precedent cases and the case at hand in response to judges’ inquiries and in support of their own arguments.” - Anastasia Tramontozzi, Class of 2019
- “I've wanted to be a judge since I was in sixth grade. Before today, I never was really open to the idea of being an appellate judge because I felt like things moved a little too slowly. But after listening to three absolutely brilliant judges, who come from richly diverse backgrounds, engage in such an intellectually rigorous exercise, I might have to reconsider. I'm still in awe.” - Alexandré B. Bohannon, Class of 2020
Elon Law’s courtroom is home to the North Carolina Business Court, which frequently hears complex business cases from across the state. The courtroom, one of only a handful of working courts inside an American law school, has also hosted the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
In addition to observing courts in action, Elon Law students regularly practice their trial and appellate advocacy skills in the courtroom.