Topic: Oral Advocacy

Visiting the Court of Appeals

Last Wednesday, my friend and I drove to Salem to watch the Court of Appeals in action.  Although we managed to get lost for a bit, we arrived just in time to watch Judge Haselton be sworn in as the new Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals by Justice DeMuniz!   After the ceremony, we then observed oral arguments.  Although it was hard to understand the issues, I still learned a lot.

Two of my main observations:

1. Oral arguments at the appellate level are much more conversational than you may imagine. They are more like question and answer sessions with a 3 judge panel. There is very little sparkle and dazzle (I blame television for making me expect otherwise!): the aim is to simply answer the judges’ questions.

2. It is crucial for attorneys to know the standard of review.  In one case, neither of the two attorneys knew what the standard was for their case– yikes!!!

After watching the morning session, my friend and I joined up with Judge Darleen Ortega and Joseph Ureño (extern for Judge Ortega and our fellow Snapshots blogger) for lunch.  While eating delicious Mediterranean cuisine, we were able to discuss our observations from earlier that day and learn more about how the Court of Appeals functions.

Overall, Wednesday was a fantastic day!

1 April 2012

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Who rescued who?

On someone’s car last week I saw a paw print-shaped magnet with the words, “Who rescued who?”

I’ve been struggling with law school these past few months. Will being a lawyer make me happy? Even if being a lawyer doesn’t make me happy, am I morally obligated to become a lawyer if that means I can use more tools to help animals? My grappling has centered around this essential question: Animals mean the world to me, so shouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice a little career happiness to help them out?

When I say this out loud, or write it down, it sounds silly. There are many ways to help animals, and many individuals and organizations around the world help animals in myriad capacities every day. But that’s not the aspect of my struggle I want to focus on right now. I had an epiphany at a “NALC” practice session this past weekend. The National Animal Law Competition (NALC) is an annual inter-law school competition presented by the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The event is comprised of three separation competitions: Closing Argument Competition, Legislative Drafting & Lobbying Competition, and Appellate Moot Court Competition.

Lewis & Clark started something new this year. The school held competition classes for each category of competition. Professors taught essential techniques for each skill, followed by in-class competitions to demonstrate our newly-learned skills. Two students were then selected from every class (four students for Moot Court) to represent Lewis & Clark at the national competition, this year being held in Los Angeles. I have the honor this year of representing our school in both the Closing Argument and the Legislative Drafting & Lobbying Competitions.

Had someone told me five years ago that I would not only be willing to stand up and orally advocate for animals, but able to do so decently, I would have told this person that he or she was flat out wrong. Ten years ago, I probably would not have said anything at all. Instead, I would have stared at the floor in silence hoping the person would stop talking to me, replaying over and over in my head the dialogue I wished to say, but didn’t have the courage to speak out loud. I was shy –painfully shy– for as long as I can remember. In middle school I picked up the clarinet and flute, and I learned to make my instruments my voice. By college, I got more serious about singing, and forced myself to sing solo in small chamber ensembles and for juries. Still, my singing was bashful, and my heroic voice teacher spent countless hours teaching me to at least act confident when I walked on stage. My second year of college was, hands down, the worst year of my life. You couldn’t tell from looking at paper records from that year: my grades were better than ever; I was teaching my own sixth grade Hebrew School class for the first time, after redesigning the curriculum; I performed in more musical groups than I have fingers on both hands; etc etc etc. Despite my outward accomplishments, though, I spent almost every second wanting to hide. I was fortunate enough that summer to intern in Hong Kong at Animals Asia Foundation, and my experience there changed my life.

It is funny the first time I felt like I belonged – in an office on the streets of Sheung Wan, a town bustling with sidewalk sales of preserved (and potent!) sea products. Perhaps it was the striking juxtaposition of the streets reeking of dead animals, emblazoned with bicycles carrying hundreds of skinned chickens, and the friendliness of my new coworkers genuinely asking if they could see pictures of my dog; I felt at home in Animals Asia. Traveling to Hong Kong by myself for a summer was my first time to a non-Western country. I couldn’t, to this day, be more different than the majority of people I saw every day during those months. I dress differently, I talk differently, and I have a very difficult time eating rice and soup with chopsticks; but being in an organization with people who have devoted their lives to helping non-human animals just felt right. I was particularly enchanted by the prospect of helping animals through a broader means –through the law– rather than rescuing only individual animals. This gets me back to my recent struggle: If animals mean so much to me, and I truly believe I can best help them through the law, shouldn’t I sacrifice a little happiness to pursue that goal? The answer came to me in my NALC practice.

Advocating for animals is, in our legal system, advocating on behalf of the voiceless. Animals are property in our legal system; they do not possess legal rights, or have standing to bring a suit to enjoin their suffering. (For more information on nonhuman animals’ status as property and how that could or should(n’t) be changed, read about Professor Steve Wise’s Nonhuman Rights Project, or David Favre’s “A New Property Status for Animals: Equitable Self-Ownership.”) Animals are depending on the animal law movement’s well-known heroes —Joyce Tischler, Mariann Sullivan, Steve Wise, Rebecca Huss, and so many others– as well as today’s animal law students, to help improve their situation, property status or otherwise.

What I realized during my NALC practice was that, through learning to speak up for the voiceless, I have found my own voice. I have never been prouder or more excited to share what I am hoping to do than when I speak about my animal law training. I readily admit that I do not, try as I might, enjoy every second of studying or clerking; but my question of sacrifice was completely wrong. I am not sacrificing myself to help animals; in fact, quite to the contrary, they have helped me find myself, and find my voice. The paw print bumper magnet asked, “Who rescued who?” I think I know the answer.

14 December 2011

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