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Drake 3L wins case in Iowa Supreme Court

April 9, 2015
Austin Mouw, Class of 2015

Before graduating from law school, one student has already won two jury trials and a case before the Iowa Supreme Court.

Austin Mouw, a third-year law student at Drake, received the good news on Friday: the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of his client. Mouw was representing Archaletta Young, whose sentence for theft in 2012 was enhanced to an aggravated misdemeanor based on prior misdemeanor convictions. In the 2003 case Young pled guilty without the assistance of an attorney. Young’s case (and Mouw’s argument) was supported by the Court because the earlier conviction occurred without the benefit of counsel advising her of her rights.

The decision impacts practicing law in Iowa because it will require prosecutors to carefully consider when to proceed with enhancements based on prior offenses, and judges to document whether people pleading guilty to misdemeanors have waived their right to counsel, said Drake University law professor Bob Rigg.

Mouw was offered the opportunity to argue before the Iowa Supreme Court through an internship with the Appellate Defenders Office.

“From the beginning of the internship, Austin’s criminal law experience, intellectual curiosity, and his dedication were some of his greatest strengths,” says Martha Lucey, LW’92, Mouw’s supervisor. “In preparing for the oral argument in State v. Young, Austin already had a general knowledge of criminal law which helped him quickly grasp the important concepts. He then completed extensive research to add to this knowledge.”

Mouw worked closely with supervisors to complete case summaries and research additional cases, which was followed by drafting an outline. Once the outline had been thoroughly reviewed, lawyers from the office participated with Mouw in moot arguments to present a new and fresh perspective. “He would frequently e-mail with questions after thinking about our prep meetings and doing even more research,” says Lucey.

“I think it really comes down to preparation,” says Mouw. “Between knowing the case well and preparing with colleagues, I could anticipate what I needed to argue.”

Drake Law has a long history of practical education, dating 150 years. Drake students have benefitted from strong clinic and internship programs which, when combined with applicable coursework, best prepare them for practicing law after they graduate.

Mouw’s experience is living proof that the preparation Drake Law offers students does not only benefit the student, but can also benefit individuals, communities, and the overall practice of law.

"Not many law students can claim that they argued a case that significantly changed the law in a jurisdiction," Rigg said.