Christopher Young [Christendom Class of 1997] may not yet be a practicing lawyer, but the second year student at Ave Maria School of Law has participated in a Supreme Court case and gained a wealth of knowledge in the process.
The 28-year-old law student’s journey to the High Court began in early 2002. He volunteered to work with the Thomas More Society, the Chicago firm founded to defend Joseph Scheidler whose 17-year legal battle came to an end February 26 when the Supreme Court cleared him of racketeering and extortion charges.
“I’d heard about the case and was impressed with the firm’s work,” Young explained. “When I volunteered, I was put in touch with Thomas Brejcha, the president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, and he offered me a job.”
Young acknowledges that he was in a privileged position when he went to work for the Thomas More Society. Fresh out of his first year of law school, his task was to research a particular point of law that would appear in the petitioner’s brief as Footnote 12. Though Young’s work amounted to a small part of the entire document, he drew high praise from Brejcha.
“I made a point of asking him to participate in aspects of our work in preparation of the major brief on the merits in the Scheidler v. NOW appeal,” Brejcha explained. “Chris researcher and wrote about a critical, pivotal issue in the case. Namely, whether and to what extent a series of special verdicts, which included jury findings on legally flawed as well as legally sufficient grounds, had to be reversed because it could not be determined whether or to what extent some or all of the jurors relied on the legally inadequate grounds.
“The fact that we won an outright reversal, without need of any remand for new trial, reflects the value of Chris’ contribution,” he said.
Pondering all that went into the case, Young said he learned a great deal about the process of bringing an appeal to the High Court, including some common misconceptions.
“People think that a case is won or lost on the oral arguments,” he said. “That’s most often not the case. It’s all about how detailed and compelling your brief is. That’s where you make your legal arguments. The oral arguments are usually only for the justices to clear up any lingering questions. That was likely the case in this appeal; however, Scheidler’s team came to oral arguments extremely well prepared.”
In addition to the obvious benefits of being part of the Supreme Court appeal, Young said he was delighted to interact with respected scholars, which gave him additional insight into the case.
“I was included on e-mail exchanges between Tom Brejcha and the firm they were working with in Washington,” he explained. “All these very learned professors of law who had an interest in this case would look at drafts of the brief and offer their suggestions. It was very high level.”
Additionally, Young found that the practical, hands-on experience he gained with the Thomas More Society complemented the classroom work he’s done at Ave Maria.
“In law school, the majority of classes you take are theoretical,” he said. “This summer work experience allowed me to put that theory into practice. How much more practical can you get than working on an actual Supreme Court appeal?”
It’s not surprising that Young’s summer experience would help him discern his legal career as he looks to graduation in 2004. Currently an extern with Judge Henry Saad of the Michigan Court of Appeals, Young said he would enjoy appellate work.
“This experience has certainly increased my interest in the appeals court process,” he said. “And no matter what kind of attorney I become, I’m going to do pro-life work – it not as my primary work, on a pro bono basis on the side.”
Says Young, “It was an honor to have even a small hand in helping draft the winning legal brief that was submitted to the United States Supreme Court.”
The above article is condensed from the full article which appeared in the May 8, 2003 issue of The Wanderer and was written by Patrick Novecosky.