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Student Profile: Sydney Warda ('21)

Sydney Warda
3L Sydney Warda Presents Second Illinois Appellate Court Oral Argument

In late June 2021, 3L Sydney Warda (’21) appeared before the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, to present her second oral argument as a student licensed to appear before the court. Warda became involved in the case as part of DePaul Law’s Criminal Appeals Clinic and Advanced Criminal Appeals Clinic.

The case concerned a client who was found guilty of being an “armed habitual criminal,” and during the appeal, Warda based one of her four arguments on whether the State met its burden to show that the client was the same person named in the prior convictions. The Appellate Court agreed that the State failed to offer evidence linking the client to the earlier convictions and remanded for re-sentencing on a lesser offense. At the new hearing, the client’s sentence was reduced and, because the client already served enough time to satisfy the new sentence, was set for immediate release.

Having initially written the reply brief, Warda found being able to do two arguments while still a student “a lucky bonus.” The two arguments were in different divisions within the First District and focused on different things–the first was about a single issue regarding the facts of the offense, while the second concerned the client’s trial and sentencing. This enabled her to get accustomed to how different justices have different styles of questioning, and she considers “the most difficult part of preparing for the oral arguments, outside of getting over nerves, trying to anticipate and prepare for possible questions from the justices.” Warda recommends the Clinic “to any student who wants to get experience working for real clients or is interested in criminal defense or appellate advocacy.”

Clinical adjunct instructor Gil Lenz praised Warda’s abilities during the appeal. “She was under no obligation to do the argument, but she seized the opportunity to gain this valuable experience, an opportunity that I think is quite rare for someone so early in their career. Sydney showed diligence in learning the case and preparing her argument. She gave a polished recitation of our points before the Court, then gave thoughtful, responsive answers to the justices' questions.”

About the Criminal Appeals Clinic

DePaul’s Criminal Appeals Clinic identifies cases in the Office of the State Appellate Defender that have substantive legal issues, and the Appellate Court allows Clinic students to appear as pro bono counsel during the defendant’s appeal. Students in the Criminal Appeals Clinic work on appeals from bench trials, while students in the Advanced Criminal Appeals Clinic work on appeals from jury trials. To prepare for oral arguments, the student must be approved by the client and the court, and then prepares strategies and engages in mock arguments with the professors.​