On February 10, 2014 Kevin Munn ’14, had an opportunity most law students could only dream of so early in their careers: to argue before seven of the most influential judicial figures in the state at the Connecticut Supreme Court.
The case, State v. Terrell Pond, had been argued in the Connecticut Appellate Court on March 20, 2012 by UConn Law alumna, Kate MacLeman ’12, a student in the Law School’s Criminal Appellate Clinic that year, successfully winning a new trial for the defendant. The State filed a petition for certification on October 15, 2013 and the Supreme Court agreed to review the lower court’s decision. Around the same time, Munn, a student in the Criminal Appellate Clinic, asked for work and was assigned to the case. Munn assisted on drafting an opposition to the petition, filed on November 2, 2012, not knowing he would eventually have the chance to argue the case in court.
The State filed its opening brief on January 14, 2013. Munn and Bryce Petruccelli ’13 spent two months co-authoring the appellee’s brief in response under supervision of Clinical Professor Timothy Everett, a special public defender with the appellate unit at the Office of the Chief Public Defender. Everett explained that in drafting the brief, the group spent the fall semester brainstorming what the State might argue and researching the law to counter the State’s anticipated assertions. The Clinic’s brief was filed in the Connecticut Supreme Court on March 15, 2013 and the State filed a reply brief on April 3, 2013.
Once the brief was filed, the group waited over nine months before the case was assigned for oral argument, which required relearning the case a number of times over, said Everett. The case was finally assigned in January 2014.
To prepare for the oral argument, Munn participated in four practice arguments. In one mooting, he practiced before outside attorneys, public defenders, Clinical Professor Todd Fernow, and current students in the Criminal Appellate Clinic, who acted as the panel of CT Supreme Court justices. “Kevin has a quiet, logical manner. He is one of those people who, I think, took into consideration a lot of input but was in no way overwhelmed by it,” said Everett.
At the oral argument, Munn said he was nervous, admitting he is more comfortable writing. But after working on the case for over a year, he knew it well enough to feel comfortable.
“Once I got into the argument, it’s really about knowing what you want to make sure they understand and then feeling out what their questions are and making sure whatever their concerns are, you address them,” Munn said.
According to Everett, most of the State’s arguments in its brief were not addressed in Court. Representing the State was Leonard Boyle, Deputy Chief State’s Attorney. Everett believes Boyle to be a very gifted former federal and now state prosecutor, but says Munn held his own against the worthy opponent.
“He is able to shift gears and I think he showed the court that in his answers to every question. I don’t think there was a question asked by the court where the questioner would have been frustrated,” Everett recounted. Everett commended Munn for his commitment to take his work seriously by approaching tasks and taking advice in a way that an associate would from a partner.
“He is already a maturing young professional. Many students are here to convert from being students of the law into being professionals. Kevin, to a greater degree than most, already goes at his tasks as if it were his work,” praised Everett.
The CT Supreme Court’s decision for State v. Terrell Pond has not yet been announced but we wish Kevin, Professor Everett, and the Appellate Clinic the best of luck.
More information is available here on the UConn Law Website.