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Law students visit Supreme Court in unique D.C. experience

June 13, 2012 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

A group 18 of students from Liberty University School of Law took a special trip to Washington, D.C., on June 4, where they were granted reserved seating for a session of the U.S. Supreme Court and a private audience with Justice Antonin Scalia.

The students are members of the Liberty Counsel externship program and constitutional litigation clinic. They were joined by a handful of law faculty, Liberty Counsel attorneys, and alumni.

Mat Staver, dean of the law school and director of the Liberty Center for Law and Policy, said this was a unique opportunity.

Liberty University School of Law students meet with Bill Suter (center), clerk of the Supreme Court, on June 4.

“Most students don’t get a chance to go to the Supreme Court, let alone interact with a real Supreme Court justice,” he said. “Our students actually get a chance to not only learn in a classroom, but we also provide real-life experiences. The students with the Liberty Counsel externship and clinic program are able to be at the Supreme Court when the cases are actually being delivered by the justices. They have the unique opportunity to interact with a justice and ask questions. They get an incredible opportunity that virtually no other student in the country is able to experience.”

The group arrived in Washington, D.C., in time for the 10 a.m. court session, in which the justices presented their decisions for two cases, Armour v. Indianapolis and Reichle v. Howards.

Following the session, the courtroom was cleared out and Liberty’s party was invited back for a private meeting with Scalia. According to Dean Staver, Scalia spoke about the importance of our government not being our Bill of Rights, but the division of power, because our Constitution diffuses power so that one branch cannot become all-powerful. Scalia held a Q-and-A session for the students.

The group was then taken on a private tour of the Supreme Court, after which they met with retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Suter, who serves as clerk of the Supreme Court, managing all the administration and docket cases. Suter spoke on the importance of leadership and extolled the virtues of Liberty’s law school. He also held a Q-and-A session for the students before they continued on to a guided tour of the Capitol.

“General Suter is exceptionally knowledgeable and skilled, but he is also funny and is just a delightful individual to be around,” Staver said.

In the externship, a student works under the supervision of a Liberty Counsel attorney working on constitutional cases around the country.

There are currently two such externships, one in Lynchburg, Va., which focuses on litigation, and one in Washington, D.C., which is more focused on public policy. This is to accommodate students with a variety of interests, according to Staver.

The constitutional litigation clinic is offered in Lynchburg at the law school through Liberty Counsel and an assigned member of the faculty. The clinic provides more classroom instruction than the externships. Students work closely with a Liberty law professor and Liberty Counsel attorneys.

Both the externship and clinic are available each semester (fall, spring and summer) and grant the student course credit. Students have worked on major cases, including the ObamaCare case that Liberty Counsel filed on behalf of Liberty University.

This is the fifth summer the students have been offered the Washington trip. In the past, participants have had the opportunity to meet with other justices, such as Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.