Stanford’s Religious Liberty Clinic leads two Ninth Circuit appeals

This winter term, Religious Liberty Clinic students have represented clients in two high-profile cases pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The first case involves a challenge to a state prison’s mistreatment of an inmate’s right to religious observance; the second concerns the denial of a full-time job to a retail employee because of her need for a Sabbath accommodation.

Jane Kessner (left) and Kelsey Woodford
Stanford Law students Jane Kessner, left, and Kelsey Woodford. (Image credit: Courtesy Stanford Religious Liberty Clinic)

In early February, Jane Kessner and Kelsey Woodford presented oral argument in the prisoners’ rights case – a case that the court had asked the clinic to take on based on its reputation in the field. In their argument, the students relied on intervening authority from the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the lower court’s dismissal of their client’s civil-rights lawsuit on exhaustion grounds. A video of the oral argument can be found here.

The clinic returned to the Ninth Circuit last week to file an opening brief in the employment-discrimination matter. In that case, Liz Klein and Rami Koujah represent their client in challenging her employer’s denial of a position that she had earned by seniority but was denied because of her sincere religious belief in abstaining from work on the Sabbath – again relying on recent U.S. Supreme Court authority. The brief can be found here.

For each of these two appeals, the respective student teams also enlisted the support of classmates from the RLC as well as those from other clinics – across multiple moots and editing sessions. This collaboration not only proved fruitful in the cases themselves, but stands as a shining example of the “one law firm” model of clinical legal education at Stanford.