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Miami Law Student Argues Immigration Case in Federal Appeals Court

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Miami Law Immigration Clinic student Brittany Young at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Miami Law Immigration Clinic student Brittany Young at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. (Photo: Miami Law) Full-Size Photo

Brittany R. Young, a member of Miami Law's Immigration Clinic, recently argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of one of the clinic's clients.

Young, a third-year student, appeared under a new rule that permits law students to appear in certain cases as long as they are supervised by an attorney. "I believe that Brittany is the first student to argue before the court," said Rebecca Sharpless, Assistant Professor of Clinical Education and the Immigration Clinic's director. She described Young as "a trail blazer, paving the way for future students to argue before the court."

The client on whose behalf Young spoke is a Sudanese refugee whose case had been denied by an immigration judge and, later, by the Board of Immigration Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling. Young pushed for reversal of the board's decision, arguing that the sole dissenting board member was correct in her finding that the immigration judge made two errors of law in adjudicating the case. The clinic had filed the case in 2009, and two students who were in the clinic at the time, Theresa Breslin, 3L, and Aaron Daniel, 3L, worked on the briefing.

For Young, standing in a federal courtroom to state her case was nothing short of momentous. "I was nervous standing at the podium getting ready to argue in front of the panel of judges, but I knew that we had all worked very hard to give this young man his best chance at a fair and full hearing," said Young, who is Vice President of Miami Law's Society of Bar and Gavel. "Law school and clinics, especially, teach us how to not just be lawyers but to be advocates. For those fifteen minutes, I was that young man's advocate, and it was both a humbling and exciting experience."

At the close of the oral argument, the presiding judge, the Hon. Frank Mays Hull, complimented Young on her performance. Echoing the judge's comment, Sharpless observed that students such as Brittany "can perform as well as, if not better, than many practicing attorneys."

Young was involved in another recent case that was handled by the Immigration Clinic, which enables students to represent indigent immigrants who otherwise would have no legal help. At the beginning of the fall semester, Young wrote an appeal brief in the case of a Mexican man whose relatives had been killed by members of a drug cartel. In spite of the danger he faced in Mexico, the man was facing deportation. The Immigration Clinic took on his case a year ago, when he had already spent months in detention without a lawyer.

Two other students in the Immigration Clinic, Julia Kosinski, who graduated in June 2011, and Yaneris Figueroa, 3L, represented that client in immigration court, arguing that he would probably be killed if he were deported to Mexico. The immigration judge initially denied the case, ruling that the man could safely return to his native land. The clinic appealed the denial to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which ultimately granted the appeal and remanded the case back to the immigration judge. "I was ecstatic that the Board granted the appeal, because this man had already suffered enough," Young said. "This man deserved relief, and I wanted to be able to help make that happen."

Young was one of 13 Miami Law students named for inclusion recently in the prestigious listing Who's Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges. At Miami Law, she is also a member of the National Security and Armed Conflict Law Review; the International Moot Court Board; and Equity Playhouse, and is on the Dean's List.

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