January 25, 2017


On January 18, 2017, students from Professor Malveaux's Civil Procedure class, Civil Rights class, and fall Fair Employment class had the opportunity to expand their legal education by attending their first Supreme Court Oral Argument: Ashcroft v. Abbasi. In order to witness some of the most talented appellate advocates in the country argue before the Supreme Court Justices, students were asked to meet in front of the Court at 4:00 a.m., just to make sure they could get in. Many dedicated evening students took the morning off of work in order to witness this important case.

After over 4 hours of standing in line, Professor Malveaux and over 20 of her students were able to enter the Courthouse. Although they were there for the historic Abbasi case, they were also able to also witness Lee v. Tam.

Abbasi considered a long-running class action against former Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and other top officials filed by South Asian and Arab Muslim men. The case alleged that they were profiled on the basis of race, national origin and religion, illegally detained, and subjected to harsh conditions after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in violation of their Constitutional rights.

Lee involved whether a rock band called The Slants, were denied their rights under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office refused to register The Slants as a trademark under the Lanham Act's disparagement provision. This was extra bonus for the students were patent examiners.

Another bonus of the day was on the Courthouse steps afterwards, where students got to meet the lawyer who argued Abbasi and watch one of the plaintiffs speak at a press conference. CUA students also shared the day with law students from American University, and their professor, who was counsel on Abbasi before the Second Circuit.

"Ashcroft v. Abbasi is such an important case - involving immigration, national security, constitutional civil rights, and pleadings. I felt this was the perfect case to bring my students to see an oral argument. There is something here for everyone. And it illustrated and reinforced much of what we've been covering in class. I was so proud of my students for attending." Professor Malveaux said.

Student Reactions:

"I absolutely loved attending SCOTUS oral arguments with my Civil Procedure class. Seeing the Court in action brought to life all that we've been studying the last few months. The skill of the attorneys at the level was a feat to behold. Attending oral arguments was also a great bonding moment for my 1L class. This is why you can't beat going to law school in D.C."

"Visiting the Supreme Court is both humbling and inspiring; humbling because one realizes just how far one has to go as a student and aspiring lawyer, and inspiring because one cannot deny the belief that with hard work and the guidance of good professors, any one of us could one day argue before the nation's highest court."

"While waiting in line for the oral arguments I met three paralegals who worked for the attorney representing the Respondent in the Abbasi case. They were able to give us some insight on their boss and what it was like for him to prepare for the oral argument! It humanized the attorney and made me realize that anyone could have the opportunity to one day argue in front of the Supreme Court."

"As citizens, we rarely get the opportunity to watch (in person) the top tier of a branch of our American government at work. Being able to see and hear working lawyers stand toe-to-toe with the Supreme Court, dissecting a Constitutional issue, was amazing. Not too unimaginable to say to oneself, 'Maybe that's me someday.'"

"Standing outside in the cold at 4am is not everyone's idea of a good time, but it was worth it to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the highest court in America. The waiting went by quickly as we got to bond with our fellow classmates outside the school setting."

"Most eye-opening was the human side which is easy to lose sight of in reading case books full of judicial opinions. Hearing a Muslim man speak in a press conference about the harsh conditions of his detainment following 9/11 certainly moved the needle, even if I don't know if the law in this case allows much avenue for a remedy."

"It was like entering the coliseum and witnessing the greatest legal gladiators of our time spar with every word. Incredibly energetic."

"It was a long wait, but worth it! It was fun to see how elements of what we are learning in all our classes came together during these few short hours at the Court. Ashcroft v. Abbasi is related to our Iqbal and civil procedure studies. In contracts, we've been discussing a law review article about what motivates judges to decide the way they do - and that came out in the questioning in Lee v. Tam."

"Going to the Supreme Court as a law student is like going to a big professional ballgame when you were a kid. Leading up to arguments, there's a buzz and excitement about what you're going to see or hear. Afterwards, you don't leave disappointed."

Click here to read more about the visit from Professor Patel.