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Notes and Renderings

Clement Stands and Delivers

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Although courtrooms have always been places of learning, the hallowed court chamber of the U.S. Supreme Court was literally transformed into a classroom when the students in the Fall 2009 Supreme Court Seminar attended oral arguments by one of their teachers, former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, an adjunct professor at NYU School of Law.

Each week in the seminar, co-taught by Richard Pildes, students examined an appeal in that term’s Supreme Court docket and watched attorneys litigating the actual cases participate in mock arguments. One of the cases was Pottawattamie County v. McGhee, in which Clement challenged absolute prosecutorial immunity for instances in which prosecutors allegedly procure false testimony during a criminal investigation that is later introduced at trial. The case was settled before the Supreme Court made a decision.

Albert Levi ’11 says that while the classroom exercises were highly instructive, seeing his professor argue Pottawattamie last November was the best possible lesson in how to navigate an oral argument. He recalls how Clement repeatedly sidestepped the question of where to draw the line between the investigative stage, during which Clement maintained that prosecutors should be held liable for fabricating evidence, and the prosecutorial stage, in which immunity would still hold. Clement held his answer until the end, for maximum impact. “There was a trap, he avoided it, then he managed to counterpunch at the end,” Levi says. “That, to me, is the definition of great.”

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