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Students Hear Arizona Immigration Case Argued Live, Thanks to Ninth Circuit Video Initiative

They weren’t in the courtroom in San Francisco when three judges from the Ninth Circuit heard oral arguments in the case USA v. State of Arizona, but about 30 Yale Law School students got to view the proceedings in real time nonetheless.

The students were taking part in an educational initiative recently begun by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the court sends live streaming video of its arguments to participating law schools around the country.

USA v. State of Arizona, a highly-publicized case concerning the constitutionality of Arizona’s contested immigration law, was argued Nov. 1. Matt Vogel ’13 was one of the Yale Law students who gathered in Room 121 to watch. He said the viewing was "tremendously helpful." 

“Watching the arguments really helped me to get a better sense of the craft of appellate lawyering and the many things that factor into split-second strategic decisions but cannot be captured in a transcript,” Vogel said.

Clinical professors Mike Wishnie ’93 and Muneer Ahmad acted as moderators for the Arizona viewing, the first of three planned for this semester. After watching with students, they provided commentary on the arguments and answered questions.

“Watching the argument in real time created a shared sense of excitement, and at times, exasperation,” said Professor Ahmad. “Afterwards, we were able to discuss not only the substance of the arguments made by each side and the political context of the case, but the backgrounds, demeanor, and questioning of the judges, the lawyers’ manner of presentation, and their strategic choices and blunders. The video stream provided a great opportunity for students to engage with both the law and the lawyering in this important case.”

“I think it is invaluable to stream live video of these cases because they have a real impact on issues that I care about,” said Dermot Lynch ’12, who worked for the ACLU of Arizona over the summer and was invested in hearing how the case developed. “The fact that immigration law experts such as Mike and Muneer were willing to give their time to offer us instant analysis only added to the experience.”

In addition to USA v. State of Arizona, Yale Law School will hold viewings of Perry v. Schwarzenegger (Proposition 8 same-sex marriage) and Log Cabin Republicans v. USA (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell).

The Perry viewing will take place on Monday, Dec. 6, beginning at 1 p.m. in Room 121. Professors Robert Burt ’64 and Heather Gerken will moderate, and Kaitlin Ainsworth ’10, who worked on Perry with the San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project, will join the discussion. Case materials are available here.

The time and date for Log Cabin Republicans has yet to be determined. Details will be posted here on the Yale Law School website when they become available.

The video series is co-sponsored by Dean’s Office and the Office of Student Affairs and is open to members of the Yale community.