Alumna Profile: Whitney Merrill ’09

Public Policy & Law Student Profiles Alumna Who Successfully Argued Case before Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals

All Public Policy & Law majors know the pressure of presenting oral arguments in front of Professor Cabot. Now imagine the pressure of representing a real client, in front of real judges, in a real courtroom – specifically in a federal circuit court. Imagine successfully arguing your case before even graduating from law school. That is what Whitney Merrill, a Class of 2009 Public Policy & Law major, accomplished this past April in front of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last summer, before beginning her third year of law school at the University of Illinois College of Law, Whitney read an email advertising a new class that was offered giving students the chance to work on an appeal to the Seventh Circuit. She enrolled in the course, only to find out the course enrollment totaled two students.

Working under the supervision of attorneys from the Federal Public Defender of Central Illinois, Whitney collaborated with her sole classmate, Anders Floor, on drafting briefs for their client, and eventually argued before the Seventh Circuit. In her rebuttal, Whitney eloquently pressed her case for why an Article I magistrate judge should not be permitted to adjudicate a plea in a felony case. After the Seventh Circuit panel of judges concluded their questioning, one judge acknowledged that Merrill and Floor were law students at the University of Illinois College of Law, and stated, “I think the University should be very proud of you.”

Whitney received her Juris Doctor this past May and two months later, the Seventh Circuit handed down its decision in her case, creating a circuit split.

To read the full profile, by Ethan Cantor '16, on the Policy Voice blog, click here.