UM Law Clinic Student Helps Secure Montana Supreme Court Reversal
Blewett School of Law graduate Lauren Amongero (’21), a clerk for Federal Magistrate Timothy Cavan in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, recently learned that the brief she wrote as a student resulted in a favorable reversal for her client. Amongero wrote the appellate brief in State v. Gardner (DA 20-0286) during her clinic placement in the Office of Appellate Defender last year.
Amongero was supervised by Koan Mercer and Chad Wright, and their brief to the Montana Supreme Court argued the lower court erred in denying the client’s motion to suppress evidence gathered at a traffic stop. Officers stopped the client after he flicked his high beams at them to warn them their high beams were on. Amongero argued the officers lacked particularized suspicion to initiate the traffic stop based on only the flicked lights.
As she researched and wrote the brief Amongero met with Mercer each week.
“It was my major project for the year, so I had the time to be thorough,” said Amongero.
Amongero benefited from Mercer’s instruction on how to create a working outline to structure the argument.
“When you have a good working outline, the writing becomes the easier part, in some ways. When I felt lost, I went back to the outline,” explained Amongero. “I find myself regularly using this same skill in my work as a clerk.”
An alumni attorney reached out to Blewett School of Law clinic faculty with congratulations on Amongero’s success, reporting that the attorney had recently filed an identical motion to suppress. Based on the State v. Gardner reversal won by Amongero and her supervisors, the county attorney dismissed the charges against the alumni attorney’s client.
Amongero’s placement in the Office of Appellate Defender was part of the School of Law’s Clinic Program, founded in 1966 to help prepare law students for practice and to recognize the importance of public service and access to justice. The program offers both field placements like the Office of Appellate Defender and in-house clinic opportunities such as the Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic and Veterans Advocacy Clinic.
Amongero was supervised in her placement by faculty member Professor Jordan Gross, who congratulated Amongero on both the excellent outcome for the client and helpful precedent for other defendants facing the same issue.
“This is a great example of what can happen when you give outstanding students outstanding opportunities through Clinic,” said Gross.
For more information about the Blewett School of Law Clinic Program, visit https://www.umt.edu/law/academics/clinics/.
 Pursuant to Rule 1.6 of the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct, the client has consented to the identification of his matter for purposes of this post.