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Supreme Court Clinic students advocate for auto service employees who claim they were denied overtime

February 19, 2018

On January 17, 2018, Penn Law adjunct professor James A. Feldman argued Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro in front of the Supreme Court of the United States to determine whether service advisors in car dealerships are entitled to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The service advisors in the case are represented by Penn Law’s Supreme Court Clinic. Founded in 2009, the clinic allows students to assist on real Supreme Court cases, including recruiting, strategizing, researching, writing briefs, participating in moot court rehearsals, and attending oral arguments at the Court itself.

This is the second time Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro has reached the Supreme Court. The clinic has represented the service advisors both times. When the case first reached the Court in April 2016, the Court sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the instruction to disregard a Department of Labor regulation stating that service advisors are entitled to overtime under the FLSA.

Then, relying only on the statute, the Ninth Circuit again decided that the service advisors were entitled to overtime, and the case reached the Supreme Court for a second time.

This past summer, the clinic students worked with Professor Stephanos Bibas — who recently left Penn Law when he was confirmed a judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit — and Feldman and adjunct professor Nancy Bregstein Gordon to file a brief in opposition to the petition of a writ of certiorari filed by the other side. Then, after the Court decided to hear the case once again, the students worked with the three instructors on the brief on the merits and were involved in the planning and strategy of the oral argument delivered by Feldman.

“The students were involved every step of the way: doing research, developing arguments, writing the drafts of the brief, editing it, finishing it, polishing it,” said Feldman. “It was a complete partnership.”

Through their work in the clinic, Feldman noted, students develop excellent legal writing and research skills and learn to pay close attention to everything related to a case: from the smallest details to big picture questions about the law.

Feldman, Gordon, and the clinic students now await the Supreme Court’s decision, which is likely to be issued between late March and the end of June.