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Liberty celebrates its first law school graduate to argue before U.S. Supreme Court

Liberty University School of Law alumnus Josh Turner (’15) represented the state of Idaho before the United States Supreme Court in Idaho v. United States on April 24, becoming the first from his alma mater to stand before the highest court in the country.

Turner represented the State of Idaho, aiming to defend the State’s existing restrictions on abortion. The case centers around Idaho’s “trigger law” that bans abortion in all cases except for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother. The law went into effect as a direct response to the Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the legality of abortion to the discretion of state governments. In response to Idaho’s ban, the Biden administration sued the State, citing the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986, which requires medical centers to provide care to patients facing an emergency medical condition.

After graduating from Liberty Law in 2015, Turner spent a year clerking for Judge Lavenski Smith in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Arkansas before completing a second federal clerkship with Judge Leon Holmes in the Eastern District of Arkansas. He next worked for the law firm Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP for four years before joining the Idaho Office of Attorney General in March 2023.

As a conservative Christian, Turner said his faith and values play crucial roles in how he conducts his work daily. Instead of keeping those convictions hidden out of fear for his reputation, he boldly proclaims what he believes to be true and unashamedly fights for those convictions.

“It’s not hard to defend life,” Turner said. “It’s not hard to defend marriage. It’s not hard to defend God’s design for his creation. Those are all no-brainers to me, and it’s totally inconsistent with the Christian faith to allow these incursions on biblical values like family and the Creator/creature relationship. We don’t get to define our existence. God has made us how He has, and it’s not up to us to tinker with His creation.”

He said his faith is “central to everything.”

“I don’t know how people can segregate core convictions from daily actions,” he said. “Because I am a Christian, that beginning point determines everything that I do. I understand that some people are able to separate those things, I don’t know how they do that. For me, it’s pretty simple. The Bible to me is quite clear on what is right and what is wrong.”

Turner’s accomplishment fulfills the dream of Liberty’s founder, the late Dr. Jerry Falwell who declared that Liberty Law graduates would “one day argue before the Supreme Court and perhaps even serve as a justice on the High Court.”

“Liberty University School of Law is proud of Josh’s achievement as the first alumnus to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Morse Tan, dean of Liberty Law. “The School of Law can aim to place alumni as clerks or Fellows on the U.S. Supreme Court. The reputation of the School of Law would wax greater with such high recognitions.”

Turner earned his undergraduate degree in 2012 in political science from the University of Wisconsin and said he was drawn to Liberty Law because of its Christian mission. He said his education at Liberty rivaled that of others he has worked with who attended some of the nation’s most prestigious secular institutions.

“It has been incredibly important to have the (Christian) worldview and perspective,” he said. “If you don’t have truth as a construct, then you can’t really make sense of anything. In the law, it’s important to have a coherent theory and to have coherent arguments. The way that Liberty teaches the law and how the curriculum ties everything together and connects it with truth makes thinking about the law and constructing arguments much easier.”

He credited his professors and mentors, including School of Law professor and former Associate Dean Jeffrey Tuomala, for preparing him for his current position with the Idaho Office of Attorney General.

“Dean Jeffrey Tuomala had a major influence on me,” he said. “He had a hand in building the school’s curriculum. He’s part of the founding faculty. He’s been instrumental. Every student should be thanking him for the deep investment he’s given to that school. I took his constitutional law courses, and now that I am doing constitutional litigation on a daily basis, I can look back and see that I wouldn’t be here, be able to think like I am thinking, and be able to do the things I’m doing if I didn’t take his courses.”

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