Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

College of Law News

Oregon Appeals Court publishes first opinion assisted by Willamette law student

The Oregon Court of Appeals this week published its first opinion, State v. Collins, assisted by a student in a new class taught by Distinguished Jurist-in-Residence Paul J. De Muniz JD’75.

De Muniz retired last year as chief justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and sits on the Court of Appeals as part of his retirement. His judicial writing class, offered for the first time this semester, instructs students how to draft appeals court opinions. Third-year students win admission to the class through a lottery and the size is limited to five. Each student works with De Muniz on crafting an opinion for a case assigned to him.

“Law students work on drafting opinions, like performing the role of a clerk,” De Muniz said. “Doing this kind of work sharpens their analytical skills and their writing skills. You learn how to write with a particular voice, you learn how narrowly focused you have to be and how disciplined you have to be in choosing certain words.”

Student Jamee Asher helped craft the opinion, which involves the reliability of eyewitness testimony in an 11-year-old criminal case. The opinion reaffirms the decision of the trial court, which denied the defendant’s claim that eyewitness identification in his case was inadmissible because, among other reasons, a pretrial photographic lineup was unduly suggestive.

De Muniz will teach Judicial Writing again during the fall semester.