South Texas College of Law Houston (STCL Houston) alumnus and Houston attorney Richard A. “Rick” Morris ’91 argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in early November — after intense preparations with STCL Houston law students and professors — and Thursday the court handed down a unanimous 9-0 ruling in favor of his client, the Houston Community College System.
“We are extremely proud of our alumnus, Rick Morris, for arguing this case so succinctly and brilliantly,” said STCL Houston President and Dean Michael F. Barry. “I also am proud of our advocacy students and our South Texas professors who worked closely with Rick for weeks to help to him prepare to argue before the highest court in the land. A unanimous court indicates the clarity and success of the argument.”
Morris is a partner at Rogers, Morris and Grover, LLP. He graduated summa cum laude with his juris doctorate (JD) from STCL Houston in 1991. The case before the U.S. Supreme Court was Houston Community College (HCC) System vs. Wilson.
“Preparing a case for the Supreme Court’s consideration takes a team effort, and we are thankful to the students, faculty and alumni who graciously researched and presided over practice rounds as part of our preparations for the oral argument,” Morris said. “I am especially grateful to Professor Rob Galloway (who was my moot court partner when I attended STCL Houston) and Dean Michael Barry who both personally gave their time and insights to help shape our winning arguments.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the opinion of the unanimous court in the case regarding the censure of a member of the HCC Board of Trustees, David Wilson.
“Rick provided a very precise argument on a difficult question, and the Court relied on Rick’s careful position to bring together a unanimous ruling,” said STCL Houston Professor Josh Blackman, a national thought leader on the U.S. Supreme Court and constitutional law. “Rick, and our students, should be commended for their foresight and strategic choices.”
Morris noted this key point in the ruling: “The First Amendment surely promises an elected representative like Mr. Wilson the right to speak freely on questions of government policy. But just as surely, it cannot be used as a weapon to silence other representatives seeking to do the same.”
When Morris received the rare invitation to present oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, he immediately recalled the exceptional advocacy preparation he received at STCL Houston through moot court competitions in the early 1990s with his competition partner Rob Galloway, JD ’91. Galloway is the law school’s vice president of advocacy, professor of law, and the W. James Kronzer Jr. Distinguished Professor of Advocacy. Because Morris has always prepared for court in the same way he prepared for competitions while a student at STCL Houston, he thought, “Where else would I go to prepare for the Supreme Court?”
Galloway guided 20 students in his Appellate Litigation clinic to research the justices, to study past court decisions, and to practice the arguments for both sides – with active involvement by Morris and several STCL Houston First Amendment scholars.
“Hearing the oral arguments, some of the questions we proffered to Rick were actually asked by the justices,” said Brigette A. Dechant, a 3L who participated in the special clinic. “It is amazing that the work our program does every day to help us get ready to practice is the same, real work an alumnus used to prepare for the Supreme Court. I can only pray that one day I will be in Rick’s shoes, using the advocacy experience I have gained at South Texas.”
Morris and Galloway were both members of the 1990 National Moot Court Championship Team. Morris argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 2, 2021.
“Today, a South Texas advocate, supported by the South Texas community, won a United States Supreme Court case,” Galloway said. “It doesn’t get much better than that. We’re grateful for the opportunity to play a role in shaping the law.”
For the full story about STCL Houston’s engagement in the preparation for this U.S. Supreme Court case, see the InRe story from the Winter 2022 issue here.