The Catholic University of America


Students Taste Real-World Lawyering through Work
on Merits, e-Discovery, and Amicus Briefs

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Under the supervision of Professor Robert Destro, Catholic University law students have participated in two hot-button legal cases recently.  One case was recently resolved at the District Court level, while the other remains in litigation. 
In the first case, Professor Destro’s research assistant, 3L Austin Lipari (left) worked on e-discovery and substantive law research in a case where Destro served as co-counsel for the Susan B. Anthony List. On Jan. 25, SBA List won a two year court battle over the First Amendment with former Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus.
Driehaus had sued the pro-life organization for defamation, alleging that the group’s characterization of his vote for the health-care reform bill was a vote in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion, and that SBA-List’s charge prompted Cincinnati voters to bounce him out of Congress.
The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled against the defeated politician, stating that the First Amendment requires that “the law steers far clear of requiring judicial determination of political truth.”
“We are pleased that the Susan B. Anthony List prevailed in this important free speech case,” said Destro. “I’m equally gratified that hard-working, talented students like Austin and some of his classmates in my First Amendment Seminar got to play a ‘hands-on’ role in its resolution.  We will now wait to see how the Sixth Circuit deals with the same issue in a companion case against the Ohio Elections Commission.  There may be more opportunities for hands-on experience down the road.”
The second case, Hollingsworth v Perry, is scheduled for argument before the United States Supreme Court on March 26. At issue is the invalidation by lower courts of California’s Proposition 8, in which voters reaffirmed that marriage is a relationship between one man and one woman.
“In Hollingsworth, our amicus brief was filed on behalf of Catholics for the Common Good, a California nonprofit actively involved in the Proposition 8 effort, and the Columbus School of Law’s own Marriage Law Project, which has been assisting religious organizations on the marriage issue since 1996,” said Destro.  “For nearly seventeen years, CUA Law students have been working with real clients on one of the cutting-edge issues of the day.”
The amicus brief in Hollingsworth focuses on two of the most contentious issues in the case:  the role of religious belief in the struggle, and the First Amendment implications of judicial orders compelling public affirmation of same-sex relationships. 
“The District Court put religion on trial in the Prop. 8 case,” said Destro. “The U.S. Supreme Court needed a reminder that Catholic social teaching on marriage and unjust discrimination has been consistent for centuries. It was the basis for the California Supreme Court’s invalidation of anti-miscegenation laws six years before Brown v. Board of Education and nearly twenty years before Loving v. Virginia. The Equal Protection Clause does not repeal the First Amendment.”