Alumna Zhao Argues Sentencing Guidelines Case Before Eighth Circuit

Hannah Zhao, JD ’13, with Appellate Clinic
Director Bruce La Pierre

Hannah Zhao, JD ’13, recently used the skills she learned in Washington University’s Appellate Clinic and on the Jessup international Moot Court Team to present oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Zhao, an associate at Rosenblum Schwartz Rogers & Glass PC in St. Louis, argued on behalf of Brian Binkholder, an investment advisor who entered a guilty plea on fraud charges in 2015. Zhao argued that Binkholder’s sentence of nine years should be reduced based on miscalculations of the sentencing guidelines.

The appellate panel consisted of Judges Myron Bright, Jane Kelly, and Raymond Gruender, JD/MBA ’87. Kelly was on Barack Obama’s list of potential replacements for Associate Justice Antonin Scalia before finally nominating Merrick Garland. Gruender has been placed on Donald Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court justice nominees.

“It was an honor to argue before such a distinguished and well-respected panel,” said Zhao, who has presented oral arguments about a dozen times before the Missouri Court of Appeals.

Zhao laid the foundation for her career in the Appellate Clinic, researching and writing a brief as part of the team that prepared oral arguments in Maze v. Lester before the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

In addition to her formative work with Professor Bruce La Pierre, director of the Appellate Clinic, Zhao said she also was inspired by her first-year Professors Brian Tamanaha and Greg Magarian, who shaped her legal reasoning while in law school and have helped her in oral argument preparations as an attorney.

Zhao also participated in the Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court competition, in which the WashULaw team placed fourth in the United States, and served as executive editor of the Global Studies Law Review. Additionally, she worked as a criminal defense intern in South Africa with Professor Karen Tokarz’s Global Public Interest Initiative.

“Both the clinic and moot court were the most rewarding parts of law school,” Zhao said. “I loved the courses I took, but my experience in those programs shaped me into a better attorney. For anyone interested in litigation or improving their legal research and writing, what you learn in the clinic and on Jessup is invaluable.”