Appellate Advocacy Clinic hears arguments at U.S. Supreme Court

Group photo of appellate clinic outside of Supreme Court

The Appellate Advocacy Clinic recently made its annual visit to the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 19. There the clinic members observed oral arguments in the case of Americold Realty Trust v. ConAgra Foods and met with Supreme Court Fellow Debra Perlin. Before the trip, the clinic reviewed all the briefs in Americold.

The issue in Americold is whether the citizenship of a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT), for diversity purposes, should be based on the states in which its trustees are located or the states in which its beneficiaries are located. The case presents a classic choice between two competing rules from prior Supreme Court decisions. The Court previously held in one case that the citizenship of a common law trust is based on the citizenship of its trustees, and it established a bright-line rule in another case that the citizenship of all non-corporate entities is based on where the beneficiaries are located. (The citizenship of a corporation is based on where the corporation is incorporated and has its principal place of business.) Petitioners urge the Court to apply the rule for common law trusts to REITs, while Respondents ask the Court to treat REITs as a non-corporate entity. The decision will affect whether federal courts had diversity jurisdiction of this case and, more broadly, how citizenship of REITs will be determined from now on. Counsel for both sides argued well, and eight of the nine Justices asked questions. Seeing the Justices and counsel in action in the unique setting of the Supreme Court was a great experience.

This year marked the 10th straight year in which the Appellate Advocacy Clinic has visited the Supreme Court to observe arguments. The Appellate Advocacy Clinic is a two-semester course for third-year law students who have demonstrated proficiency in LAWR I & II and Appellate Advocacy. The clinic represents indigent and non-profit clients in federal and state appellate courts. Contact Professor John Korzen for more information about the clinic.