Supreme Court

Project Overview

Sidley’s Supreme Court Pro Bono Program has been representing clients for many years. Our pro bono presence in the Supreme Court is well reflected in our body of work. Committed to pro bono at the highest level, we have taken on many civil and criminal cases that have resulted in precedent-setting decisions and made a lasting impact on our clients.

Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic

Sidley’s partnership with Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law gives students the opportunity to work on cases pending before the Supreme Court. Third-year law students are supervised by Sidley lawyers in researching and drafting briefs in cases at the petition stage and on the merits.

The students also monitor lower court decisions to identify potential candidates for petitions for writs of certiorari. Sidley partners Carter Phillips and Jeffrey Green serve as the Northwestern Supreme Court Clinic’s directors, along with Northwestern Professor Xiao Wang and Sidley project assistants Maggie Bahnson and Kelsey Handschuh.

In 2021, the Clinic filed eight petitions for a writ of certiorari on a range of issues detailed below. Students also contributed to briefing and oral argument preparation in two cases on the merits (United States v. Cooley and Greer v. United States). The questions presented in the students’ petitions were:

Chad Thompson v. Richard DeWine: 1. Whether ever-changing and ongoing government-issued COVID-19 restrictions moot First Amendment challenges to ballot access restrictions. 2. Whether and how the First Amendment applies to regulations that impede a person’s ability to place an initiative on the ballot.

Penn v. United States: 1. Whether United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549 (1995), compels overruling Scarborough v. United States, 431 U.S. 563 (1977), which requires only a minimal nexus to interstate commerce to sustain Congress’ exercise of its Commerce Clause power. 2. Whether, under this Court’s decision in United States v. Bailey, 444 U.S. 394 (1980), a felon who flees from law enforcement before discarding a firearm is precluded as a matter of law from presenting an affirmative defense of justification for his unlawful possession of the gun.

Rigsby v. Colorado: Whether the Due Process Clause and the Sixth Amendment require that a defendant receive a new trial where a jury returns mutually exclusive guilty verdicts.

King v. United States: Whether a crime that requires a resulting death categorically includes, as an element, “the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another” under the elements clause of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A), even when the offense can be proven without a volitional use of force.

Baxter v. Superintendent SCI: Whether an erroneous reasonable-doubt instruction that would be structural error on direct appeal warrants a presumption of prejudice when raised in a federal habeas petition through an ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Haggerty v. United States: 1. Whether the “interracial” nature of a minor offense in Indian country is an element of 18 U.S.C. § 1152, rather than an affirmative defense, and thus must be both pled and proved by the prosecution. 2. Whether the government must plead and prove the “interracial” nature of a minor offense in Indian country to establish federal subject-matter jurisdiction under 18 U.S.C. § 1152.

Santos-Portillo v. United States: Whether a federal court has the discretion to exclude evidence obtained by federal law enforcement agents in violation of a federal statute, as three circuits have held, or whether courts per se lack such authority in the absence of a constitutional violation or express statutory remedy, as the lower court and three other circuits have held.

Nishiie v. United States: 1. Whether the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act suspends the statute of limitations for fraud offenses that have no nexus to the war or armed conflict. 2. Whether the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act applies based upon the statutory definition of the offense charged rather than factual allegations of the defendant’s conduct.

United States v. Justin Eugene Taylor: Whether 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(3)(A)’s definition of “crime of violence” excludes attempted Hobbs Act robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1951(a) — this amicus brief was written on behalf of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.