Appellate Advocacy Center Continues Initiatives to Impact Students


By Clinic Staff

Social Justice Bluhm Legal Clinic
Xiao Wang, director of Appellate Advocacy Center

The Appellate Advocacy Center is one of the premier appellate organizations in the country, with its faculty and students working on cutting edge cases, playing host to high profile events, and launching several exciting initiatives.

Case Work and Student Impact

The Center comprises two Clinics, the Federal Appellate and Supreme Court Clinic.  In the past year, the Federal Appellate Clinic has taken cases from the Third, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits, as well as the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Illinois Supreme Court.  These cases cover habeas, prisoner rights, disability administration, and immigration.  Reflecting the importance of collaboration in appellate work, the Appellate Clinic has partnered on matters with Rights Behind Bars, the Children and Family Justice Center, Susman Godfrey LLP, and Bartlit Beck LLP.  The Appellate Clinic prevailed in two matters last year.  In an immigration matter

in the Ninth Circuit, the government—instead of filing a brief in opposition—moved sua sponte for a full remand on all issues, representing a complete victory for the client.  As opposing counsel wrote in an e-mail: “I hate to see remand, . . . [but] you can tell your students that they did too good of a job in briefing the case.”  In another case, the Clinic secured Withholding of Removal, a rare form of immigration relief, for an individual fleeing political violence in Honduras. 

The Supreme Court Clinic, in partnership with Sidley Austin LLP, has filed more than a dozen petitions for certiorari and several amicus briefs.  It was also co-counsel in a merits case, Golan v. Saada, and mooted several practitioners arguing before the Court.  Students have described the Clinic as their “most rewarding experience in law school” and “worth every point that I bid on it—all 3,493.”

Speakers and Programming

The Center has hosted several speakers over the last year, including Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Seventh Circuit Judge David Hamilton, New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse, and University of Chicago law professor Will Baude.  Two recent events are particularly worth highlighting.

Why Aren’t There More Persons of Color on the Appellate Bar? 

In October 2022, the Center welcomed Luke McCloud (Williams & Connolly), Devi Rao (MacArthur Justice Center), and Nicolas Martinez (Bartlit Beck) to Chicago, as part of the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Race and Lawyering series.  Luke spoke about his experience as the first Black man to argue a case in the Supreme Court in eleven years, and Devi and Nicolas shared their insights on addressing the pipeline problem.

The Role of the State Solicitor General. 

In November 2022, the Center hosted Jeremy Feigenbaum (New Jersey Solicitor General), Henry Whitaker (Florida Solicitor General), and Jane Notz (Illinois Solicitor General), for a panel on state appellate advocacy.  Each spoke about the unique opportunities, especially for junior attorneys, to develop skills and experience in state government.  This event reflects the Center’s commitment to broadening the conception of appellate work, to include courts and jurisdictions that are often overlooked in traditional doctrinal classes.


One of the Center’s goals has been to bring legal scholarship into the clinical setting.  Xiao has advised a number of research projects, and the Center has become a rich and consistent pipeline for student and faculty scholarship. 

In the past year, Clinic students have published their work in the Northwestern University Law Review, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Criminal Law Practitioner, Northwestern Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property, Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy, and the University of Illinois Law Review Online. Two students, Kara Kurland and Alvaro Cure Dominguez, won the Lowden-Wigmore Prize for best student note.  Another student, Jared Stehle, won the Northwestern University Law Review Student Essay Competition. 

Xiao’s own research has appeared or is forthcoming in Vanderbilt Law Review, Minnesota Law Review, and California Law Review Online.  He has also contributed opinion pieces in the Chicago Tribune and Al Jazeera and is a member of the SCALES-OKN research team at Northwestern. 

Appellate Clinic Network

This past year, the Center founded the National Appellate Clinic Network.  The Network comprises faculty from, among other universities, Northwestern, Virginia, UCLA, Washington University in St. Louis, Iowa, Cornell, Ohio State, and Georgetown.  The Network is a groundbreaking initiative.  No other law school database includes such a vast array and quantity of searchable legal briefs (over two hundred), authored by a strong list of initial participants.  Instead of a de-centralized set of appellate clinics, each working in isolation on various projects, the Network provides a centralized hub for faculty and students to share and collaborate on common themes, issues, and fact patterns across geographies.

En Banc Institute

The Center has launched an En Banc Institute.  The purpose of the Institute is to prepare advocates appearing before an en banc court by hosting them for a moot argument.  Mooting judges include Northwestern faculty and practitioners at law firms within the Chicago community, including Bartlit Beck LLP and Sidley Austin LLP.  The Institute offers its services free of charge, with the view that en banc decisions are often the final word on federal law for millions of Americans. The Institute is the first and only en banc mooting program in the country. 

Already, the Institute has held or scheduled moots for cases in the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuits, and has assisted solo practitioners, clinical faculty at other law schools, and attorneys with the MacArthur Justice Center.