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YLS Supreme Court Clinic Wins Third Case This Year

Yale Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic scored another victory on April 1 in the case Harbison v. Bell. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court justices agreed with the clinic that Tennessee death row inmate Edward Harbison is entitled to federally funded counsel in state clemency proceedings.

The case was argued January 12 by federal public defender Dana Hansen Chavis, who represented Harbison in the proceedings that led to the case. The Supreme Court Clinic assisted in the merits briefing.

The clinic, begun in 2006, allows Yale Law School students to work on real-life public interest cases pending before the High Court. Its first victory came in January in the case Fitzgerald v. Barnstable School Committee. Its second came in March in the case Negusie v. Holder.

The Harbison team included clinic supervisors Dan Kahan, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law at Yale Law School, and Mayer Brown attorney Andrew Pincus, as well as clinic members Catherine Barnard ’09, Paul Hughes ’08, Michael Kimberly ’08, and Michael Murray ’09.

“This caps off a really successful year in the clinic,” said Kahan. “Indeed, on the basis of this record, we would have to be considered one of the leading Supreme Court litigation firms in the nation.”

Harbison is the clinic’s last merits case to be decided this year. Still pending is a cert petition the clinic filed in the case County of El Paso v. Napolitano, expected to be decided in late April. The clinic also represented a group of state and local government advocacy groups in an amicus brief for Ricci v. DeStefano, a reverse discrimination lawsuit filed by New Haven firefighters who claim they were denied the opportunity for a promotion because of their race. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for April 22.