When it rains it pours. At least it seems that way for Drake 3L Austin Mouw. Through an internship with the Iowa Appellate Defenders Office and working in the Advanced Criminal Law Clinic, Mouw tried (and won) his first jury trial and he argued in front of the Iowa Supreme Court…within a week of each other.
While most Drake students participate in a clinic or an internship during their tenure. Mouw chose to do both at once, not knowing that such opportunities were about to surface.
In the Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic, Mouw was given a case involving possession of a controlled substance, child endangerment and interference. The case came in the semester prior, so it was his job to sift through documents put together by another intern, learning the case inside and out, and form an argument.
“I read through entire file completely and watched the video of the arrest multiple times in order to fully understand the case,” says Mouw. “I wanted to know the strengths and weaknesses.”
There were two critical areas where Mouw felt he had the advantage: the relationship with his client, and the preparation and mentoring he received from his supervisor, Professor Robert Rigg.
“Professor Rigg is great because his knowledge comes from his own experiences,” says Mouw. “He plays the devil’s advocate well and offers insights from every possible perspective in order to best prepare us for court.”
After talking in detail with his client, Mouw approached Rigg with his ideas and plans for moving forward. It was through Rigg’s guidance that Mouw realized the goal was not to disprove the State’s case, but to find holes in it.
“My closing argument was a key piece to this victory,” says Mouw. “I could tell during the whole trial that the jury was listening closely to what I had to say. In the end, I was able to paint a picture of the full story and provide reasonable doubt.”
Within thirty minutes, the jury came back with a verdict of “not guilty.”
This verdict following on the heels of Mouw’s argument in front of the highest court in the state.
An Argument before the Court
Students interning in the Appellate Defenders Office have a lot of responsibility. Above all, attorneys in the office have to ensure that students are acting in the best interest of the clients as well as teaching them the intricate details of appellate practice. After all, it isn’t everyday that a law student gets to argue on front of the Iowa Supreme Court.
“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. “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 then followed by drafting an outline. Once the outline had been thoroughly reviewed, lawyers from the office came in to moot with Mouw and present a new and fresh perspective. The idea is to, again, bring up every possible question that may be asked by the Court. This piece was especially helpful to Mouw.
“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.”
The Iowa Supreme Court will not offer an opinion on the case for some time, but Mouw knows he did everything he could to put the best argument forward. While he waits, he’ll finish up his coursework at Drake before preparing to take the bar examination in July. Based on what he knows now, he wants to pursue trial work.
His resume, with a jury trial win and a Supreme Court argument, will no doubt impress many future employers.