Wayne Law to conduct moot court event on Berghuis v. Thompkins

Wayne State University Law School is pleased to host a moot court event for a pending United States Supreme Court case on Thursday, Feb. 18 from 12:20 to 1:30 p.m. in the Law School's Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium. The mock argument will address Berghuis v. Thompkins, a case that will be argued before the Supreme Court on March 1, 2010.

Elizabeth Jacobs, a local criminal defense attorney and a 1974 Wayne Law graduate, will serve as counsel for the respondent/defendant. She will argue the issues in the case concerning Miranda rights and the scope of review for a habeas corpus petition.

Wayne Law full-time professors Tony Dillof, Robert Sedler, Jonathan Weinberg and Steven Winter along with adjunct professors John Engstrom, Leonid Feller and Ken Mogill will serve as Supreme Court Justices.

The mock argument will last 30 minutes. A short Q&A will follow.

"This moot court event provides students with a wonderful opportunity to observe the way in which an advocate before the highest court prepares a case," Henning said. "This is an intense process, and shows the type of work attorneys do every day for their clients."

This event is free and open to the public. Parking is available for $4.25 in Structure #1 across from the Law School on West Palmer Street in Detroit.

For more information regarding this event, contact Wayne Law Professor Peter Henning at peter.henning@wayne.edu or at (313) 577-3906.

Case summary (as written by Professor Peter Henning)

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to decide how far police officers can go in non-coercively persuading suspects to cooperate once they say they understand their Miranda rights but don't immediately invoke them.

When arrested for murder, Van Chester Thompkins did not ask for a lawyer or say he didn't want to talk to police after being read his Miranda rights. He confessed and was convicted. On appeal, however, he said his Miranda rights were violated.

In January 2005, Thompkins filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, which denied the petition.

Last November, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth circuit overturned the conviction, ruling that since Thompkins did not waive or assert his Miranda rights, the police questioning should have stopped.

In asking the Supreme Court to review the case, Michigan prosecutors argue that the decision will limit police questioning of suspects.

On Sept. 30, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 1.

Question presented: Whether the Sixth Circuit expanded the Miranda rule to prevent an officer from attempting to non-coercively persuade a defendant to cooperate where the officer informed the defendant of his rights, the defendant acknowledged that he understood them, and the defendant did not invoke them but did not waive them?

Published: Wed, Feb 17, 2010