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Appellate Advocacy

When judges issue an opinion in an appeal, their decision can have far-reaching consequences. This is because appellate decisions are used by other judges as a guide when interpreting the law in similar cases. For instance, a decision in a case about unpaid wages might both win back the workers’ wages and set a precedent about how wage and hour laws should be interpreted.

As a result, the Public Justice Center identifies cases on appeal that have the potential for accomplishing systemic change of the legal and social systems that create or permit injustice. We represent individuals whose cases can reform the law and write friend-of-the-court briefs (also known as amicus briefs) in appeals to help judges understand the impact of their decisions on people with low-incomes and communities of color. Our work has influenced decisions related to eviction, police accountability, debt collection, and workers’ rights, among others.

The project is staffed by the Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow. This annual Fellowship is awarded to a lawyer who has served as a judicial clerk and is committed to working in public interest law.

Impact

A few of the cases where PJC arguments shaped the courts’ decisions

Gag orders on survivors of police violence are unconstitutional, Fourth Circuit rules

Landlords cannot evict tenants without fair warning, Court of Appeals rules

Court of Appeals decision will make it harder for debt buyers to abuse consumers

Attorney General can sue nursing homes for patient dumping, Court of Appeals rules

Victory upholds Maryland workers’ right to sue for unpaid wages and damages