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United States Court of Appeals for 4th Circuit visits WVU

By Evan Olds

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Anticipation, wonder, excitement, perspiration, faculty, and students were all in attendance Thursday in the Lugar Courtroom for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Three judges—Judge Barbara Milano Keenan, Judge Robert B. King, and Judge Stephanie D. Thacker—honored the WVU College of Law with their presence and heard oral arguments for three appeals.

First, the Court heard arguments for Great American Ins. Co. v. Hinkle Contracting Corp., a delightful little tiff indeed. Here, the Court considered whether a party can be compelled to arbitrate under a performance bond subcontract that was incorporated by reference. Appellant Hinkle argued against Judge Goodwin’s holding that the parties were not obligated to arbitrate per the subcontract. Judge Keenan stood up for Judge Goodwin’s honor, asserting that “[Judge] Goodwin is a good judge.” It appears that perhaps Judge Goodwin got it right.

Second, the Court heard arguments for Reynolds v. American Red Cross Nat. Headquarters. Appellant Reynolds sought to fit within the definition of disabled in the American with Disabilities Act. One problem: the medical records were inconclusive! Yikes, man. Another problem: Cross-appellant American Red Cross did not like being associated with the Greenbrier Valley Chapter of American Red Cross. No love.

Third, the Court heard arguments for United States v. Ryan Holness. Here, Appellant Holness protested the police’s solicitation of his cellmate to secretly record his statements. But which constitutional amendment was violated? Dual sovereignty and the Blockburger test seemed to prohibit the invocation of the Sixth Amendment, apparently leaving open only the Fourth and Fifth amendments. All in all, no one seemed to know which amendment applied, except for Judge King, who really let loose on the Appellant’s attorney. However, Judge King later complimented the Appellant’s attorney for his social service as an appointed attorney.

After the arguments concluded, the parties dispersed and the judges entertained questions from the crowd. What was not learned from the oral arguments was learned from this question and answer segment.

How does a person effectively argue before a court of appeals?

In response, the judges advised students to concede hurtful precedent instead of pretending that it does not apply. Apparently, arguing against the applicability of a hurtful case tends to miff judges. The judges discouraged attorneys from talking too much when they are on your side—know when to sit down.

How does a person write a good brief?

In response, the judges encouraged simple sentences with active verbs, short paragraphs, and a simple and direct writing philosophy. Also, you should objectively and accurately state the facts.

How does a person become a judicial clerk?

Be yourself unless you are not personable, relatable, or trustworthy. Do not be self-promotional. Translate your personality to your cover letter of your application packet.

How does a person become a judge?

Embrace whatever job you can find, and work with conviction thereafter.

Thank you, Fourth Circuit Judges King, Keenan, and Thacker for stopping by for a pleasant visit, heated arguments, and a valuable Q & A session. Thank you, Judge Thacker for your all of your work with WVU College of Law. Fourth Circuit judges, come back and see us.

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