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Nate Harrill (‘14) argues in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals

Nate Harrill (’14) argued in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., in the case of Durden v. United States on Sept. 20.

The Fourth Circuit hears appeals from federal district courts in five states, including North Carolina. Harrill’s argument was part of his work in the Appellate Advocacy Clinic. Jennifer Skinner (‘14) helped him prepare for the argument, and other members of the Clinic judged practice arguments.

The appeal involves a negligence claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The plaintiff was injured by a soldier on a military base, and the issue is whether the government had a duty to protect the plaintiff from that soldier. The district court dismissed the claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The plaintiff contends on appeal that the district court improperly resolved factual issues without allowing discovery and misconstrued a 1988 Supreme Court decision, United States v. Sheridan.

“It was an honor to argue on behalf of Ms. Durden in such a prestigious court.,” Harrill said following the argument.

In addition to Harrill, Skinner, and Professor John Korzen, two of the plaintiff’s trial attorneys and a paralegal also attended the argument. All were very impressed with the fine job Harrill did, Professor Korzen said.

“Nate handled questions with great poise and presence of mind, returning repeatedly to the main points he needed to make,” he added.

The Fourth Circuit panel included Judge Paul V. Niemeyer of Maryland, Judge Roger L. Gregory of Virginia, and Judge Henry F. Floyd of South Carolina. An opinion is expected later this semester.

Harrill’s argument was the 20th appellate argument by an Appellate Advocacy Clinic student since 2007. The Clinic is open to third-year law students who have taken Appellate Advocacy. The Clinic is involved in seven other appeals this year, including two in the Supreme Court of the United States, one in the Supreme Court of North Carolina, another in the Fourth Circuit, and three in the Eleventh Circuit.

Contact Professor Korzen for more information on the Appellate Advocacy Clinic.