Impact Litigation Clinic

Learn about Seton Hall Law Clinics


Center for Social Justice (CSJ)
[email protected] | 973-642-8700 or 973-761-9000 ext. 8700
833 McCarter Highway, Newark, NJ 07102


Number Name Credit Type Offering


Impact Litigation Clinic


This is a year-long course with students receiving 2 credits in the fall semester and 2 credits in the spring semester. Each Impact Litigation Clinic student works on a team that briefs and argues an appeal in federal court, or files amicus briefs in a federal appellate court or the Supreme Court of New Jersey, over the course of this year-long clinic. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit appoints the Impact Litigation Clinic to represent indigent, pro se litigants in federal appellate cases that raise noteworthy legal issues. Cases include a range of subject areas such as immigration, employment and housing discrimination, police brutality, and unconstitutional prison conditions. Students work closely with clinical faculty, reviewing the trial court record, preparing the appendix for appeal, consulting with the client, researching and writing the appellate briefs, and preparing for oral argument. If a Second Circuit case does not settle, each team of students will argue its case before the Second Circuit. (Teams filing amicus briefs ordinarily help prepare for and attend oral argument, but the Supreme Court of New Jersey does not permit students to argue.) Both the clinical and classroom component of the course address the legal rules and strategic considerations involved in the appellate process; the course focuses more generally on advanced legal research, analysis and writing, and preparation for effective oral advocacy in the courtroom. The clinic is open to all students who will have completed two-thirds of the credits required for graduation prior to the start of the clinic; weekend and evening students need to have considerable schedule flexibility, including the ability to attend the two weekly class sessions and to be able to schedule office hours overlapping with their teammate(s) and professor.

The course is letter-graded for both the clinical and class components. The course is generally appropriate for students who have a demonstrated high capacity for and interest in complex, sophisticated legal writing.

Prerequisites: Minimum Cumulative 2.60 GPA, Evidence, Professional Responsibility and Persuasion and Advocacy.

Note: Students cannot participate in an externship in the same semester in which they are enrolled in a clinic.





Impact Litigation Clinic


This is a year-long seminar course that accompanies the clinical portion of the course. Though the work is equal both semesters, or sometimes somewhat greater in the fall, students receive 0 credits in the fall semester and 1 credit in the spring semester for this seminar. The seminar portion of the course generally meets twice per week, for two hours. Most weeks, one of those sessions will be in a seminar format and one will be a working session in which the class may meet collectively, but will split up into the teams working on each case to consult with each other and with the clinical faculty member, to speak with clients, and to work on their cases.

Prerequisites: Minimum Cumulative 2.60 GPA, Evidence, Professional Responsibility and Persuasion and Advocacy.

Note: Students cannot participate in an externship in the same semester in which they are enrolled in a clinic.




Professor: Jon Romberg
Offered: Year-long course, both fall and spring semesters – students must enroll for 2 credits in the fall and 3 credits in the spring. (Please note that the work in the course is actually distributed roughly 3/5 in the fall and 2/5 in the spring; the year-long, 1 credit seminar is technically credited in the spring.)

Credits: 5


The Impact Litigation Clinic focuses on federal appellate and other important cases, likely involving students working in teams on cases representing an indigent client before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, or amicus briefs before other federal courts of appeals or the New Jersey Supreme Court. Students will brief and likely argue cases before the Second Circuit that the court has determined present important and potentially meritorious issues warranting appointment of pro bono counsel, or will provide counsel in other important, law-reform appeals. This course provides an opportunity for stronger students who want to be challenged to refine their legal analysis and writing, and potentially oral argument skills, before practice or a clerkship. It is particularly appropriate for those who will have applied, or intend to apply, for a federal clerkship, or for any practice that will involve complex legal analysis and writing. Students will receive intensive personal supervision and training on what it takes to be a highly skilled legal thinker, writer, and courtroom disputant.

This course, unlike most other clinics, is year-long. Students enroll for 2 credits in the fall semester (when students typically research and draft an opening brief, which is roughly 60% of the work for the year) and 3 credits in the spring semester (when students typically draft a reply brief and prepare for and present oral argument, which is roughly 40% of the work for the year). Students also engage in settlement discussions with opposing counsel and court personnel. In some cases, students successfully negotiate and draft a settlement agreement on behalf of their clients. A two-hour seminar meets twice weekly throughout the year.

Clinical Law Practice

Students work very closely with Professor Romberg in preparing their briefs: this includes reviewing the district court or agency record and opinion; consulting with the client; attempting to negotiate a settlement with opposing counsel; researching and writing the opening and reply briefs; and in some cases preparing for and presenting oral argument.

This course is intended for the student who wants an in-depth opportunity to learn how to engage in thorough and careful legal research, to think deeply about legal issues, to discuss not only doctrine but strategy in complex cases, and finally and most importantly, to craft effective legal briefs. A heavy emphasis is placed on understanding the structure of a persuasive legal argument, and on practicing and perfecting highly advanced legal writing.

In recent years, Impact Clinic students have represented clients in the following typical cases:

  1. We litigated an issue of first impression in the Second Circuit with significant implications for international human rights and the rule of law. We argued that the Vienna Convention provides individually enforceable rights for a foreign national who was arrested in the United States to be able to communicate with his home consulate to receive assistance in his criminal defense – and that violation of the treaty permits a civil rights suit for damages. The Department of Justice, after reviewing a copy of our brief, moved to participate in our case before the Second Circuit as amicus in an attempt to counter our arguments. We lost the case before the Second Circuit, and teamed with O’Melveny & Myers’s Supreme Court Practice Group and Harvard Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic to file a petition for certiorari, working with now-D.C. Circuit Judge and potential Supreme Court nominee Sri Srinivasan.
  2. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held in favor of the Impact Litigation Clinic in a published opinion covered in the New York Law Journal and the New York Sun. Prison officials had failed to provide medication to our client, who suffered from glaucoma, and our client went blind as a result. The court upheld our client’s right to sue to recover compensatory damages under the Eighth Amendment, finding that prison supervisors who were aware of the problem but did nothing to assist were potentially liable.
  3. We successfully settled a case for our client, a legal permanent resident who has lived in the United States for nearly 25 years, since he was a child. We argued that he should not be deported as an “aggravated felon” because of a state misdemeanor to which he pleaded guilty but served no jail time in 1994. Despite significant weight of precedent going against our client, clinic students crafted complex arguments within the intricate web of statutes restricting the rights of immigrants. The U.S. Attorney's Office initially told us, in early settlement discussions, that we should withdraw from the case because our argument was so weak; after reading our brief, the Assistant U.S. Attorney called back to say that she recognized we had a strong argument. We thereafter entered into a Settlement Agreement that gives our client a realistic shot to leave prison, where he has been held for three years awaiting deportation, and to again become a productive member of society.
  4. The clinic represented an inmate on a First Amendment and Due Process claim that resulted in a precedent-setting, published opinion that was front page news in the New York Law Journal. Our client possessed radical black nationalist literature. A prison guard seized the literature, which he said he believed to be “against our America.” Our client was charged with carrying "unauthorized gang materials." Prison regulations require that such literature be reviewed by a prison administration committee trained to measure First Amendment interests against concerns about institutional security. The prison refused to send the material to be reviewed by the authorized committee, instead letting an individual prison official decide that our client should be sentenced to more than a year in punitive isolation for possessing the First Amendment-protected materials.

Students are required to schedule regular office hours each week when they will be in the Center for Social Justice, ready to work independently and to meet with their teammate and Professor Romberg. These office hours are presumptively held after the Monday or Wednesday morning class sessions. Scheduling of those hours is relatively flexible, so long as each team of students is able to coordinate a few hours each week that overlap with each other and with Professor Romberg. Students are expected to spend an average of approximately nine hours a week on Impact Litigation Clinic work in the fall, and six in the spring. Please note that this figure will vary greatly over the course of the semester, and of the year, and that the work will come in distinct waves. Some weeks will require a great deal of work, e.g., for a few weeks before a brief is due or oral argument will occur; in other weeks, e.g., when we are waiting for the adversary’s brief to be filed, the work will be relatively light.

Applicants for the Impact Litigation Clinic should be aware that this course is challenging, and the required standards are high – your drafts will have an enormous number of proposed edits, and the brief you turn in to court will be first-rate, even if that requires a great number of drafts. The Impact Clinic presents a rare opportunity to work in great depth on advanced legal analysis and legal writing, and to work on important and potentially high-profile cases that may be particularly useful to students who will have applied, or who wish to apply for, a federal clerkship, or to students who otherwise wish to learn how to handle extremely complex litigation, and to demonstrate to prospective employers that they are able to do so. Impact Clinic alums have regularly gone on to clerk for the New Jersey Supreme Court, federal district court judges, and for both the Second and Third Circuit Courts of Appeals. They also are well-prepared to be hired by, and to do sophisticated work for, prestigious law firms, public interest groups, and governmental agencies.

The Seminar

The seminar portion of the course generally meets twice weekly over both semesters for a two-hour session. The seminar covers issues related to appellate practice and, more broadly, the theory and practice of effective legal analysis, writing, and oral argument. Much of the seminar is spent discussing different aspects of advanced legal writing in the particular context of the students’ cases; this means that students learn in a practical setting, and also that students will collaborate not only with Professor Romberg, but with each other, in preparing their cases over the course of the year.

Criteria for Admission

Admission to this clinic is competitive. Students admitted to the Impact Litigation Clinic ordinarily have strong academic records, often coupled with other indicators of preparation for a particularly rigorous writing experience. Preference is given to students who submit a writing sample with their application that demonstrates, in conjunction with the student's resume and transcript, the capacity for high-quality impact litigation. Public interest experience and interest is also considered. The writing sample should demonstrate legal analysis (i.e., should be a legal brief, memo, or paper that cites to and analyzes judicial opinions, rather than solely addressing policy or theory). Please note if the sample has been edited by others, and to what extent.