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Settlement Negotiation Experience for CLC Students

CoC Venzke, L Hardingmmunity Law Clinic students can be found most Thursday mornings at the “mandatory settlement conference” calendar for the next week’s eviction cases. Here, Cody Venzke ’15 and Lauren Harding ’15 negotiate in San Mateo County Superior Court on behalf of their East Palo Alto tenant client. As a result of their work, the tenant was able to remain in her single family home, and the landlord agreed to necessary repairs. 

Students File Opening Brief in Sixth Amendment Appeal Case


Advanced Criminal Defense Clinic students, Jennifer Williams (’14) and Katherine Lin (’14), are currently representing a client on his direct appeal to the State of California after his conviction on a felony drug charge. On appeal, the questions presented were: (1) whether his Sixth Amendment right to counsel of choice was violated; and (2) whether the state improperly interfered with his plea deal, thus rendering his public defender ineffective.

Jennifer Williams, JD 2014

Jennifer Williams

K Lin

Katherine Lin

Weeks before his trial, Jenny and Katherine’s client asked the trial court judge to allow him to discharge his public defender and hire his own attorney. He explained to the court that he had finally raised enough money from family and friends to hire his own lawyer, and that he had already contacted two different attorneys who agreed to represent him in his trial, one of whom was ready to come in that same afternoon.  Despite clear California case law protecting a defendant’s constitutional right to preferred counsel, the trial court denied his request. Then, on the day of trial, he tried to accept a plea deal the State had offered him. Again, despite California law to the contrary — and over the rigorous objection of both the District Attorney and the defense – the trial judge refused to accept the plea deal. He was sentenced to more than a decade in county jail.

Jenny and Katherine have filed the opening brief on these issues, and are currently awaiting the state’s opposition.

Policy Work for Youth and Education Law Project: New Report on the Effects of Redirecting Property Taxes From Schools

Educate Our State!, a statewide, grassroots organization of parents and community members who support public education in California, recently released a report authored by the Youth &  Education Law Project.  Students Adam Sieff ‘14, Kip Hustace ‘15 and Samantha Lefland ‘15 worked on the report which examines diversion of local property taxes away from schools and how those diversions hurt disadvantaged kids the most.

Community Law Clinic in the News

The work of Community Law Clinic students was featured last week in a televised NBC news segment, “Bay Area Proud.” Check it out here.

Supreme Court Grants Clinic Cert Petition

traffic stopGreat news for the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic! The U.S. Supreme Court released an order today granting the Clinic’s cert petition in Heien v. North Carolina. The Clinic represents the petitioner in this case involving whether a police officer’s mistake of law can provide the individualized suspicion that the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop. Today’s order means that all three cert petitions that the Clinic wrote last spring have been granted. Congratulations to those who worked on the petition: Ben Chagnon, ’14, Juliana Yee, ’14 and Douglas Norton, ’13 and co-director of the Clinic, Professor Jeff Fisher.

Public Event Next Week with Author Danah Boyd

The Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic is co-sponsoring a dinner event with Danah Boyd, who will discuss her new book, It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens next Tuesday, April 22 at 5:00 in room 190 at Stanford Law School. All are welcome, but if attending please email Lynda Johnston at lyndaj@stanford.edu by Monday, April 21danah boyd event April 22, 2014


Trial Prep Experience for CLC Team

Pictured here from winter quarter, Melissa Runsten, 15 and Thomas Rubinsky, 14 pack their trial case to head to San Mateo County Superior Court for a jury trial the next day on their client’s Packing for courteviction case. The case settled that morning, due to Melissa and Thomas’ extraordinary preparation and readiness to go to trial. Kudos to them and to the whole Community Law Clinic winter team who pitched in with jury instructions, motions in limine, voir dire questions, etc. The work paid off with another unit of affordable housing preserved!

Students Exercise Creativity in Case Rounds

Many of our clinical programs feature weekly “case rounds” meetings where students talk, reflect on and brainstorm their cases with their fellow clinic-mates. Don’t let these photos fool you–these students are hard at work!  The photos demonstrate winter quarter Criminal Defense Clinic student teams taking a creative and lighthearted approach during rounds to  counterbalance the emotions and stress that their cases can evoke. Read on for details.


Nida Vidutis and Lucia Roibal, CDC Rounds, Winter 2014

Nida Vidutis and Lucia Roibal, Winter 2014

During CDC case rounds meetings last quarter, students found an outlet for discussing the complex personal and emotional issues that arise from their cases. Lucia Roibal ’15 and Nida Vidutis ’15 thought of a creative way to translate the difficulties they were encountering in a domestic violence case they were defending. The team used “Jeopardy” as a platform to teach their clinic colleagues about the different standards and added difficulties placed on individuals charged with domestic violence by the legal system.  For example, unlike other misdemeanors, police don’t have to have seen the event occur to make an arrest; and during trial, character evidence is more readily allowed. The students also included a category called “Dire Voir Dire” which emphasized how hard it is to choose an impartial jury in a domestic violence case. Lucia and Nida included facts like the high percentage of individuals who know someone who has been the victim of domestic violence (75%) and the staggering rate of domestic violence against women (25% of women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime).

Rebecca Vogel and Nick Scheiner, Winter 2014

Rebecca Vogel and Nick Scheiner, Winter 2014

Whereas, Nick Scheiner ’15 and Rebecca Vogel ’15 decided to tell their client’s story – a nightmare series of encounters with the DMV Safety Department and the police – through the medium of a puppet show. Using nine puppets and abandoning all dignity, the students conveyed their client’s frustration at the bureaucratic system that seems determined to string her along on the never-ending path toward getting her license back. Cassidy Rice ’15 helped with the soundtrack, which included a thunderclap and her own “evil laughter” as the client approached the Safety Department for a final conference.     

Students Enjoy the Moment After Court

Housing Work for CLC Students, Winter 2014

Winter 2014
From left: Jenny Palmer, Shoshana Lucich, Sheli Chabon, Meredith Firetog

Community Law Clinic students Jenny Palmer ’15, Shoshana Lucich ’14, Sheli Chabon ’15, and Meredith Firetog, ’14 are all smiles outside San Mateo County Superior Court after putting settlement agreements on the record for their clients. More housing preserved for clinic clients, and more counseling and negotiation experience for clinic students!

CDC Victory! Motion Won; Dismissal Likely

Last quarter Criminal Defense Clinic (“CDC”) students filed a motion to suppress evidence based on the unlawful stop, detention and blood draw of a clinic client who was stopped by police for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk–a violation of municipal code in some cities. Professor Ron Tyler directs the CDC and shares details of this case and the students’ work below.

Jonathan Frank '15 and Stephany Reaves '15 at the scene; Winter 2014

Jonathan Frank ’15 and Stephany Reaves ’15 at the scene; Winter 2014

When students Jonathan Frank ’15 and Stephany Reaves ’15 started clinic in January they had no idea that so much of their time would be spent on bicycle signs and municipal code legislative history. It began with one phrase underlined by the defense attorney who transferred the case to the CDC. The provision under which the officer had stopped our client appeared to ban only biking on sidewalks “signed for pedestrian use only.”

Jon and Stephany were assigned to the case and quickly got to work. Three sign-hunting field trips, two briefs, one and a half hearings, and one 88-page Sunnyvale Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Study issue later, they were ready to argue that the officer’s suspicion could not have been reasonable because he had been wrong about the law. (See People v. Cox (2008) 168 Cal. App. 4th 705 [denied on other grounds].)

In the end, the judge thought the bicycle argument was cute but not worth considering. All for naught. Their next strongest argument, or so they thought, was that their client had her blood drawn without her consent, without a warrant, and without any demonstrated exigency in violation of the recent Supreme Court clarification in Missouri v. McNeely (2013) 133 S. Ct. 1552.  Surely, this was a slam-dunk violation of the client’s Fourth Amendment rights. But, once again, all for naught. After testimony from the arresting officer, the judge made clear that he only wanted to hear arguments on the prolonged detention (and did not need to reach the blood draw question). The unlawfully prolonged detention won the day!

After our motion was granted, Jon and Stephany suppressed their smiles and walked out of the courtroom with their client. She was thrilled, overwhelmed, and effusively grateful–at last, she had been heard and felt justice. For their part, Jon and Stephany were appreciative that she had put her trust in them as her advocates. The prosecution has thirty days to appeal, but if all goes well the charges will be dismissed.