The Third Circuit Appeals to All Tastes

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By: Mathew Biondolillo ’24

Working under Judge Julio Fuentes for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, I was certain I would be immersed in corporate law. After all, it’s no closely guarded secret that many companies are incorporated in Delaware, which is within the third circuit. Certainly, the cases arriving to Judge Fuentes’s chambers involve their fair share of corporate issues, but it became readily apparent when we interns were invited to attend oral arguments in Philadelphia during our second week how I had underestimated the breadth and depth of cases that reach the Third Circuit.    

Over the span of a few hours across two days in Philadelphia, we saw arguments on matters regarding substantive design defect, defamation, immigration, patent, and contract law, as well as plenty of issues in civil and criminal procedure. Surprisingly absent (to me) were any issues with mergers, acquisitions, equity transactions, buyouts, secured transactions or other typically “corporate” topics. Although I was interested in getting more exposure to those types of corporate issues, It seemed like, given the amount they must process, you could either google a legal issue, or ask a federal judge and get plenty of information through either route.

It also became clear how necessary judicial clerks are to make the judge’s work more manageable. Clerks also must become experts on the law to distill it to the judge, and we were lucky to work alongside several excellent judicial clerks to teach us the ropes of how to do just that.

Perhaps the most surprising part of that trip: the fair range of expert and . . . how do you put it politely . . . not-so-expert lawyering on display. If I had a doubt in my mind as to whether we, as UB students, would be prepared for the profession, that was put to rest over those two short days. Seasoned attorneys from big firms, pro bono public defenders, and at least one student from a legal clinic represented clients. Some attorneys stumbled, whereas the law student deftly parried and countered like a professional fencer. It very much resembled the end-of-the-year oral arguments from LAWR and showed me our 1L preparation put us in position to succeed should we find ourselves similarly at the helm of a client’s appeal.

Apart from the in-person experience in Philadelphia, we interns were asked to review opinions of the court, summarizing them for the judge, and to personally pen one nonprecedential court opinion. Again, the range of issues in these cases reinforced just how varied and complex the cases are that reach a circuit court. And for someone seeking a broad exposure to topics on a new, and somewhat unfamiliar career path, the internship with Judge Fuentes was an excellent vessel for discovery and development. I would like to thank the Dean’s Advisory Council for their support in making this experience possible for me.

Name: Mathew Biondolillo

Name of Fellowship: Dean’s Advisory Council Fellowship

Placement: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Location: Newark, NJ

One important lesson I have learned from this fellowship: “I realized how much a judge is expected to know and consider when ruling on cases that might set precedent.”