William & Mary

Two Government Graduates Argue Case before Federal Court

William and Mary undergraduate Government students are known to be successful later in life. So students who go on to law school, for example, often hope to one day argue in front of a state or appellate court.

While visiting Pennsylvania, Cooley and Russo visit the Liberty Bell. Photo Courtesy of Tanner RussoBut in the case of Laura Cooley ’15 and Tanner Russo ’15, this goal has already been achieved twice in their third year at University of Virginia School of Law. Opportunities like this for law students are few and far between. As part of their work with the school’s Appellate Litigation Clinic, the two traveled to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands to argue a case before three judges concerning the Virgin Islands’ non-resident bond statute. That Court found a jurisdictional issue, so the Third Circuit of the United States’ Court of Appeals decided to re-hear the case. On February 21st, 2018, Cooley and Russo argued before an en banc panel of thirteen federal judges.

Before the second argument, Russo sent an email to his old William and Mary Government Professor Jackson Sasser. “We have an uphill battle on the jurisdictional question but we’re both excited about this opportunity,” he wrote. “We're accepting all good wishes, intercessory prayers, et cetera.”

The actual argument went smoothly for Cooley and Russo. Cooley battled the judges’ questions for 25 minutes, and Russo then closed the argument. The Court’s decision will probably be released this spring.

Read more about their experience here.