Joanne Kane

2019 British Pegasus Scholar Report


In 1977, Chief Justice Warren E Burger aimed to improve American trial practice and led a group of lawyers from the United States to London in a legal exchange. After learning about the Inns of Court in London, he spearheaded a movement to establish similar bodies in the United States. The first meeting of an American Inn of Court took place in February 1980, and the Pegasus Scholarship Trust began thirty years ago, in 1989, when British barristers were hosted by the United States for the first time.

The vision of the American Inns of Court is “a legal profession and judiciary dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence”.


There are clear distinctions to be drawn between the American Inns of Court and the Inns of Court of England and Wales. The most obvious is the physical setting of the Inns. American Inns of Court frequently meet in non-purpose built buildings, such as law schools, to dine and to educate. Some American Inns of Court unite lawyers in particular practice areas and others are based on geography, bringing together lawyers in a particular city or locality. Admission or membership of an Inn of Court is not a practising requirement, unlike the Inns of Court in London. Further, the American Inns do not train or ‘Call’ their members in a way that resembles the English Inns of Court.

A feature of the American Inns of Court which was particularly noteworthy was the willingness of each Inn to embrace strangers. At every Inn meeting, its programme allocated some time to allow members to introduce guests and newcomers to everyone. A typical Inn meeting involves a shared meal and an educational programme, often focussed on ethical issues, which is presented by a team of lawyers to their peers.

The American Inns of Court provided me, and my co-scholar, with an opportunity to learn about the US legal system from a unique perspective as they welcomed us into the core of the legal community across various states and legal disciplines.


Courtroom advocacy was at the heart of the programme. The most striking difference in appellate advocacy is the strict time constraints placed upon US advocates. The submissions of an appellate advocate are sharp, often accompanied by a sense of urgency to ensure that all salient points are communicated to the court. The justification for the time restriction is that extensive “briefs” are filed with the court prior to the argument which outline all of the points of appeal in detail. The judges then use the time in oral argument to pinpoint contentious issues within these documents and explore those matters with the advocate. The advocate is positioned in the middle of the court, at a lonesome lectern away from their legal team which draws them into the harsh spotlight of the Bench.

Our visits to the US Supreme Court to observe oral arguments were unrivalled opportunities to see the workings of the court. I particularly enjoyed the arguments in the case of Ramos v. Louisiana in which the court considered the constitutionality of a non-unanimous jury ruling, which was fascinating from the perspective of the English court system which has departed from the requirement of a unanimous verdict. Watching these cases taught me a great deal about effective advocacy in the face of judicial intervention.

In relation to trial advocacy, the voir dire process used to select a jury was an eye-opening insight into the differences in our respective legal systems. I watched as advocates probed the jury for prejudices while simultaneously outlining their case theory to the panel. I was given the opportunity to discuss the process of selection with an experienced jury consultant who explained the various techniques of jury selection.

I am grateful to all of the judges and practitioners who took the time to explain and demonstrate effective advocacy techniques from courtroom advocacy and depositions, which I hope to use in practice.

Women in Law

In this centenary year of women in law in England & Wales, which has included numerous celebrations of the achievements of female lawyers, I also learned about the astonishing careers of a number of women in the United States. I particularly enjoyed the Supreme Court’s “In Re Lady Lawyers” exhibition, which focusses on the accomplishments of Myra Bradwell and Belva Lockwood, as well as Supreme Court Justices O’Connor, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan. I met with a number senior female judges and practitioners who spoke candidly about their work and their personal lives. I learned about the careers of many remarkable female lawyers, including the esteemed trial advocate Noël Ferris. I was inspired by each of these women, and it was a privilege to learn about their lives and their legacies.

Valuable Lessons

In California, we had the privilege observe ‘re-entry court’ in which defendants who had been impacted by addiction were provided with a diversion mechanism in order to properly address their addiction away from the penal system. We watched a compassionate judge listen to two people who had successfully completed the re-entry programme. Both expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to address their addiction, to find employment and to reconnect with their loved ones. It was an exceptional experience and one which will stay with me for the rest of my life.

The judicial appointment process varies between states. One afternoon, a patient judge in Virginia reviewed his judicial evaluation pack with me, in which he had been assessed and his sentencing decisions had been carefully analysed and compared to his counterparts. I appreciated his remarkable candour as we discussed the contrasts between the judiciary in the US and UK and the differences in criminal and civil procedure.

A personal highlight for me was meeting with counsel responsible for the exoneration of a man from death row in Texas. It was inspiring to hear about the intricacies of the case and the personal impact of the appellate process.

The programme exposed us to the distinct relationship between state and federal law. It was fascinating to learn about the appellate process and the way in which the vast US legal system unites under the appellate authority of the Supreme Court.


Policy discussions infiltrated every conversation. We discussed California’s moratorium on the death penalty at the Governor’s office, we debated issues of rehabilitation and considered topics which attracted different opinions depending on which state we were in, on issues such as gun control and clean air policies. I was fascinated by the marked shift in approach following a change of White House administration, which dramatically alters the way in which certain crimes are prosecuted.

Our education on the US legislative process was invaluable. We were given an excellent introduction to state legislation in the California State Capitol which provided us with a useful framework for the time that we spent on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.


We visited Washington at a unique time in its history. I know that those who hosted us would never forgive me if I did not mention the historic victory of the Washington Nationals in the World Series (although we feel that we brought some good luck to the team on our visit).

We absorbed a number of remarkable experiences, including the culmination of the Roger Stone trial. “Impeachment” was the most commonly used word on all media outlets during the trip. After leaving a meeting with Congressman Brendan Boyle, we saw Ambassador Yovanovitch as she sat to give her evidence before the House Intelligence Committee. I returned the following week to watch the testimony of Laura Cooper and David Hale, aware that I was watching American political history unfold before my eyes.


On this journey, I marvelled at the Blue Ridge Mountains, swept across a deserted Lake Tahoe with my arms outstretched, craned my neck to see the top of the trees in Muir Woods, watched the deer as they ran across the wide open plains of Wyoming and gazed at Washington DC from the river and from the air. I will treasure all of these unforgettable moments alongside my memories of dining in excellent company at an active missile base, staring at the splendour of the Supreme Court’s Celebration of Excellence and stepping along the corridors of the West Wing to reach the Oval Office.

Shared Experience

In short, I learned that we have more in common than that which divides us. We travelled to the United States at a time in which both countries were deeply and visibly politically divided, and yet we remain bound by the many things which unite us all. The same can be said for the Inns of Court. As members of our respective Inns, we are each unique, but we come together for the benefit of our fellow lawyers, our profession and ourselves. This experience has taught me that any Inn of Court is much more than a physical space, it transcends that to become a community which provides enduring support. I left five excellent Inns of Court behind, knowing that I had made friends in each of them, content in the knowledge that I had my own Inn community to re-join on my return.

As I recount these memories at my previously bare desk, I now have a figure of Lady Justice from the US Supreme Court on my left and a Hammy Award on my right. Although I have always felt privileged to be a member of the legal profession, I now feel that I am part of something bigger: a global community of lawyers with shared aspirations and a desire to uphold the rule of law. The knowledge that you are part of a large and welcoming community is inspiring and motivating, and I am immensely grateful for that.

Special Thanks

There are a huge number of people who are deserving of acknowledgment and gratitude. We were embraced with warmth on each day of the trip, without exception. The gracious hospitality, candour and ever-present geniality of the people we met will be the lasting legacy of this experience in my memory. 

It is never easy to single out individuals, as it is almost inevitable that many of those deserving of thanks will be unintentionally omitted, however, I must thank the following people in particular. My special thanks go to General Malinda Dunn, Executive Director of the American Inns of Court, and to Cindy Dennis of the American Inns of Court, for co-ordinating every detail of our trip with precision and care. I would like to thank Jesse Binnall, Chair of the Pegasus Placement Committee, for his remarkable generosity and commitment to ensuring that every moment of our trip was well spent. Thanks also to Ellen DelSole for her work in tailoring our experiences to our individual interests. I am deeply grateful to Chief Justice John Roberts for the hospitality that he extended to us, and for the kindness of the staff at the US Supreme Court. I would also like to extend my gratitude to Jonathan Metzer, my co-scholar, for his good company at all times.

I am extremely grateful to every member of the Pegasus Placement Committee for their hard work throughout the project, and to the members of the Unofficial Pegasus Committee for injecting joy and laughter into every experience.

I would like to thank to the following exceptional lawyers who hosted us: Tyler Garett (who provided invaluable insights into appellate advocacy and essential strategies to avoid mountain lions in Wyoming), Devon Slovensky (who taught us about managing a law firm and the wonders of southern hospitality), Parker White (who provided us with an unforgettable World Series experience and taught us the value of leading a full and meaningful life alongside a legal career) and Justice Art Scotland (my unlikely hitch-hiking companion, who has seemingly mentored every senior lawyer in California and now has two more mentees to add to his collection).

I would like to thank the American Inns of Court for this exceptional experience. I greatly appreciate the warmth and kindness of the Anthony M. Kennedy AIC (California), George Mason AIC (Virginia), Ewing T. Kerr AIC (Wyoming), Ted Dalton AIC (Virginia) and Montgomery County Maryland AIC (Maryland). I am grateful to the Pegasus Trust for making this wonderful experience possible.

A wise man, very familiar to my hosts, once said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”. I have learned many lessons in professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence from the American Inns of Court, and now I will try to live by them in gratitude.