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Macy Merritt and Maxwell Lyster Present Oral Argument Before Ninth Circuit

Pepperdine Caruso Law third-year students Macy Merritt and Maxwell Lyster presented an oral argument before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on November 8.  Lyster and Merritt, as part of their participation in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, represented Dewitt Lamar Long, an inmate in Hawaii state prison. Long is a plaintiff in a lawsuit alleging that Hawaii prison officials violated his constitutional rights when they failed to accommodate his requests for non-pork meals in accordance with his Muslim faith. His lawsuit also alleges that prison officials retaliated against him when he complained about the failure to provide him with non-pork meals.  The district court dismissed some of his claims before trial, then conducted a bench trial in which the court ruled against him on his remaining claims.

Long, who represented himself at trial, appealed to the Ninth Circuit, which appointed the Pepperdine Caruso Law Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy clinic to represent him on appeal. The appeal challenged both the district court’s pretrial rulings and the district court’s factual findings at trial. The appeal was particularly challenging because it raised issues that are subject to three different standards of review.  Lyster and Merritt filed an opening brief and a reply brief on Long’s behalf and then participated in oral argument before a three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit’s courthouse in Pasadena. The judges asked several questions of both students during oral argument and commended them for their excellent briefing and argument.  The court has not yet issued its decision.

Curt Cutting, Rebecca Powell, Maxwell Lyster, Macy Merritt at Ninth Circuit courthouse