SWLAW Blog | Campus

Melissa Agnetti Prepares Amicus Brief for Supreme Court’s Consideration

February 18, 2016

Southwestern Student Prepares Amicus Brief for Supreme Court’s Consideration

During the Fall 2015 semester, Southwestern student Melissa Agnetti researched and wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the National Institute of Military Justice (NIMJ), urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Ortiz v. US, a case involving a family’s ability to sue the government for medical malpractice.

Professor Michael Epstein, who oversees the Amicus Project at Southwestern, hand-selected Agnetti to craft an amicus brief under Professor Rachel VanLandingham’s supervision, asking the Supreme Court to grant certiorari in a tort case involving medical malpractice in a military hospital. The petitioner is the family of a baby injured due to medical professionals’ negligence while the active-duty military mother was giving birth.

Over the course of three months, Agnetti assisted the NIMJ by extensively researching the application of the Feres doctrine and organizing an argument to aid the Petitioner’s request for certiorari.  “It is truly remarkable that as a third-year law student, I was able to not only work closely with an organization that promotes the fair administration of military justice, but also to have been afforded an opportunity to advocate to this nation’s highest Court,” Agnetti said. “However, the highlight of my experience was working closely with Professor VanLandingham. She has such an impressive background and is extremely knowledgeable in this field. She was an amazing mentor and provided such helpful feedback that facilitated my understanding of the case at issue. I am so thankful to Southwestern for providing this opportunity to students, and especially to Professor Epstein for encouraging me to apply.”

Substantively, the case involves a Supreme Court-created exception to the Federal Torts Claims Act, which Professor VanLandingham said is, “an overly broad and unjust exception which leaves the petitioner in the case with zero redress against the military medical establishment that caused permanent injuries to this child.”

Of Agnetti’s effort on the project, Professor VanLandingham said, “Melissa’s terrific work allowed the National Institute of Military Justice, whose board I serve on, to urge the Court to limit the contours of this torts claims exception to the military purposes it was designed to shield, thus undoing the perverse results present in the instant case. This brief would not have been filed but for the Southwestern Amicus Project and Melissa’s outstanding efforts.  The Supreme Court has yet to decide whether to grant the petition for certiorari but if it does, its decision will have been aided by Melissa Agnetti and Southwestern!”