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Christmas in March for Criminal Defense Clinic Client

On Friday, March 14, Criminal Defense Clinic students Lucia Roibal, ‘15 and Nida Vidutis, ‘15 prevailed in their domestic violence case, gaining dismissal of the charge filed against their client.

Lucia and Nida knew they had a strong case for their client’s innocence.  His wife’s extremely violent behavior over the past year made it clear that their client was acting in self-defense.  However, they knew the hurdles they would face in trial: jurors usually assume the defendant is guilty in domestic violence cases, and their client was both taller and larger than his wife. Most importantly, trial came with the deeply unsettling news that the prosecutor planned to call the couple’s five-year-old son to testify.

Five days before trial, Lucia and Nida met for 45 minutes with the prosecutor. They showed her a record laying out his wife’s acts of violence over the past year, and they provided a letter written by their client’s ex-wife, who planned to fly in from out of state to testify that during their 20-year marriage, he was never violent toward her. They even had pictures of some of the property damage the wife had caused. They asked for outright dismissal, knowing that this was unlikely.

CDC Dismissal--Roibal and Vidutis

Roibal and Vidutis celebrate news of the dismissal of their client’s case. March 14, 2014

The next day, they mooted their client’s direct examination in front of their clinic mates. In their minds, they assumed they might have to keep fighting all the way through trial. On Friday afternoon, three days before trial, they got fantastic news: the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the case! Nida and Lucia ran to the nearest conference room to call their client. Nida remarked after the conversation, “It’s not every day you get to give someone such great news! He said it felt like Christmas.”

Students Draft a Bill and See it Through Committee

Religious Liberty Clinic students, Greg Schweizer ’15 and Caitlin Bradley ’14 had a fantastic legislative experience today watching their client’s bill pass through committee. They are pictured here with Senator Ellen Corbett in the Senate chamber and have provided an account below of their work and the experience.

Schweizer and Bradley with Senator Corbett in Senate ChambersThe clinic was retained by the Holy Cross Monastery in Castro Valley for another matter, but when we met with Father Stephen, he told us of the
failing health of the monastery’s chief spiritual leader and founder, Abbot Archimandrite Theodor Micka, and his long-standing desire to be buried on the monastery’s property.  The monastery is a holy place to the Abbot, his brother monks, and their religious order.  There is no other place where he would want to be buried.  Father Stephen pointed us to a bill passed in 2005 for a similar monastery-burial measure passed by the state legislature for a monk in Fresno that mirrors what the Abbot wanted here.  We drafted the bill, contacted Senator Corbett’s office (who is the senator whose district encompasses the monastery and serves as Majority Leader), and worked with her legislative director to make this a reality.  The bill passed the Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer  Protection 13-0 and will head to the Assembly floor next week, then onto the Senate, and hopefully to the governor’s desk.

Win for CLC Students and Their Client


Sabrina Forte ’14


Cody Venzke ’15

In the first Social Security Income hearing of the quarter, Community Law Clinic students Sabrina Forte ’14 and Cody Venzke ’15 won a favorable bench decision for their client. At the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge found that the client had severe impairments stemming from a 1991 trauma and that these impairments prevented her from working full-time. The Judge based her decision on the clinic’s hearing brief and medical records that Cody and Sabrina obtained in the weeks prior to the hearing. As a result of their victory, their client will receive nearly two years of benefits dating from May 2012, ongoing monthly supplemental income payments, and Medicaid coverage.

Students Represent Clients in Efforts to Protect Endangered Salmon

Earlier this quarter, the Environmental Law Clinic team of students, faculty and staff appeared in Marin County Superior Court for a hearing in a case the clinic and it’s co-counsel brought on behalf of SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network). The case challenges Marin County’s zoning plan, which would allow increased developmELC team at Lagunitas Creek2ent in the Lagunitas Creek watershed–the best remaining habitat for the imperiled Central Coast coho salmon.

As pictured here, the clinic took an opportunity to visit Lagunitas Creek after the hearing to learn more about the salmon and their habitat.

Clinic Receives CLAY Award

Congratulations to the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and Professor Jayashri Srikantiah, recipients of the CLAY (California Lawyer Attorney of the Year) award from California Lawyer magazine! Along with others, the IRC is being recognized for its work establishing rights to bond release hearings for immigrants detained for more than six months. With the ACLU, the IRC has been litigating the prolonged detention issue in the Ninth Circuit for many years, through individual cases as well as Rodriguez v. Robbins, a long-standing class action suit for which the U.S. District Court issued a summary judgment ruling last summer requiring automatic bond hearings as soon as immigrants reach six months of detention. Many terrific students have worked on this project over the years, including Michael Kaufman (JD ’07), who has now gone on to work at the ACLU as a lawyer on Rodriguez.

Updates from the Fall Quarter Supreme Court Litigation Clinic

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic experienced a fabulous fall quarter under the supervision of Professor Pam Karlan and Clinic instructor Kevin Russell, with logistical support from Joanne Newman. Below are a few highlights of student work and experiences this past quarter.

Students, Lydia Gray, ‘15, Andrew Noll, ’14, and Kyle Rifkind, ’14 represented the Paraprofessional Health Institute as amicus curiae in support of the respondents in Harris v. Quinn, a case involving the question whether Illinois can offer collective bargaining to home healthcare workers in its Medicaid program and require objecting workers to pay an agency fee if they choose not to join the union.  The Clinic’s brief offered information to the Court about the nature of the home healthcare workforce and the difficulties states face in finding, recruiting, and retaining a skilled workforce.

In Air Wisconsin v. Hoeper, a merits case argued in November by Clinic instructor Kevin Russell, the Clinic represents the respondent, Bill Hoeper. Clinic students Elizabeth Schmitz-Robinson, ’14, Lydia Gray, ’15, Andrew Noll, ’14, and Kyle Rifkind, ’14 were responsible for crafting the respondent’s merits brief in this case concerning a provision of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act that protects airline employees who report security issues to the TSA.  The Clinic’s client, an airline pilot, successfully sued his employer after another employee made a damaging and inaccurate report about him.  The Clinic also worked with Mr. Hoeper’s trial and appellate counsel Scott McGrath and Jason Rietz, attorneys from Denver, Colorado.  Hoeper was the first case in which a Clinic alumnus appeared on the other side: Eric Feigin ’05, now an assistant to the Solicitor General, argued as an amicus on behalf of the United States.

In its representation of the petitioner in Hoagland v. Ada County, the Clinic’s client brought a section 1983 suit against the county and several county officials after her son, who was mentally ill, committed suicide in the county jail.  She alleged he has unconstitutionally been denied medical care.  The Idaho Supreme Court held that Idaho’s common law abatement rule meant that section 1983 suits involving fatal constitutional violations are barred.  The Clinic team of Daniel Kuo, ’14, Sal Bonaccorso, ’15, Ali Karol, ’15, and Kerrel Murray, ’14, prepared the cert petition, working with Professor Pam Karlan and Ms. Hoagland’s lawyer, Darwin Overson.

The Clinic often conducts moots for lawyers arguing cases before the Court. This Fall, in addition to mooting cases argued by Professor Jeff Fisher and Clinic instructor Kevin Russell, we mooted our first clinic alumnus, Jameson Jones ’07.

Great News for Youth and Education Law Project

Although not active during the Fall 2013 quarter, the Youth and Education Law Project (“YELP”) nonetheless celebrated a great victory in a momentous ruling from the California Supreme Court, the benefits of which will extend to eligible children state-wide.

In August 2012, YELP submitted an amicus brief to the California Supreme Court on behalf of a statewide coalition of advocacy organizations that represent low-income and traditionally under-served families in special education matters under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).  The case, Los Angeles Unified School District v. Michael Garcia, concerned which local education agency should be held responsible for providing special education to eligible students detained in county jails under California law.  Although there has long been agreement that these students are entitled to receive special education services, the question of agency responsibility has been hotly contested.  Amici curiae argued that existing California laws provided a clear, concise, and bright-line rule that a student’s school district of residence remains responsible for providing and/or funding special education services for that student while he or she is detained in a county jail.  Amici curiae further urged the Court to reject the school district’s position that an unwritten exception to this general rule exists because of alleged unworkable results.

On December 12, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous landmark decision that, as amici had argued, the school district in which a student’s parent resides is responsible for providing special education services to that student while he or she is detained in a county jail pursuant to California Education Code section 56041.  This decision will have a huge impact across California as it is the first time that any court has clearly established a responsible public agency for providing and/or funding special education services to this particularly vulnerable and disenfranchised population of students.  In addition, now that this question of law has been settled, the corresponding class action that has been pending in the Central District Court since 2009 will be allowed to move forward.  The class action suit seeks to remedy the local school district’s longstanding failure to provide any services to any eligible student detained in Los Angeles County Jails.  YELP Clinical Supervising Attorney, Carly Munson, was counsel of record on both matters before joining YELP in 2010 and authored the coalition’s amicus brief.

US Supreme Court Hears Argument in Clinic Case

This past fall, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in a Supreme Court Litigation Clinic case, Fernandez v. California.  In this case, the police came to the home of Clinic client Walter Fernandez to investigate suspicions of his involvement in a robbery.  He objected to any search of his home without a warrant.  The police then arrested him, took him away, and conducted a warrantless search anyway, relying on the consent of his girlfriend, who remained in the dwelling.  In an earlier case Georgia v. Randolph (2006)  (incidentally, one of the Clinic’s first successes) the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibits the police from conducting a search of a home based upon the consent of one resident when another resident is present and objects to the search.  The issue presented in Fernandez v. California is whether the same prohibition holds when the police arrest and remove the objecting resident from the premises before obtaining consent from the other resident.

The State of California, backed by the federal government, argued that Randolph no longer applies as soon as the objector is no longer physically present.  The Clinic countered on behalf of Mr. Fernandez that physical presence is not the talisman the State makes it out to be.  Once a tenant invokes his right to privacy in his home, the police should honor that invocation unless and until they believe that the objector has changed his mind.

Professor Jeff Fisher, co-director of the Clinic conducted oral argument in this case on November 13, 2013, which was attended by the seven students who helped put together the Clinic’s briefs:  Neil Sawhney, ’14; Sal Bonaccorso, ’15; Lydia Gray, ’15; Ali Karol, ’15; Kerrel Murray, ’14; Andrew Noll, ’14; and Kyle Rifkind, ’14.

Professor Fisher’s opening remarks to the Court summarize the Clinic’s argument:  “The doctrine of third-party consent is best understood as establishing a rebuttable presumption. When the police arrive at a house at which multiple people live, they can assume, according to social custom, that if one person grants consent to enter, that person is speaking for everybody who lives in the dwelling. But when somebody is present and tells the police officer that he refuses consent, that presumption is reversed. Then when the police full well know that one person doesn’t have a delegated authority to speak for the others, they must respect the objection. And a failure to do so violates the Fourth Amendment.”

Jeff had several lively exchanges with the Justices while arguing on behalf of Mr. Fernandez.  A full copy of the transcript can be found here. For a recap of the argument, please see Rory Little’s summary appearing in the SCOTUS Blog.

Criminal Defense Clinic Students Set to Carry Two Fall Quarter Cases to Trial this January

Fall 2013 Criminal Defense Clinic Team

Students in the Criminal Defense Clinic ended a strong Fall Quarter with successful resolution of many clients’ cases.  For those cases carrying over into the current term, several students have returned to the Advanced Clinic course for the opportunity to continue their work. Connie Dang (’15) and Krisina Zuniga (’15) are two such students who will represent and defend their client against claims of driving under the influence and causing hit and run property damage at trial scheduled January 27, 2014. As it so happens, trial is set on that same day in another clinic case–this one with Matt Henry (’15) and Snayha Nath (’15) at the helm to defend their client against charges of battery. While trials offer wonderful experience for clinic students, there is just as much value in the work leading up to it. This work might call upon students to conduct witness interviews, research and develop facts, enter into discovery and motion practice, and develop and use skills in negotiation. The Criminal Defense Clinic is instructed by Professor Ron Tyler and Clinical Supervising Attorney, Galia Phillips.

Clinic Students Take on Expungement Cases in Superior Court

Community Law Clinic students, Hamida Owusu (’14), Corinne Keel (’14), Patrick Vergara (’14) and Lara Tumeh (’14) all represented clients in expungement matters this past fall quarter.  Their work involved drafting motions, including writing declarations and collecting supporting exhibits, as well as representing their clients in both Santa Clara County and San Mateo County criminal courts.

Corinne Keel ('14)

Hamida Owusu ('14)

They achieved fantastic results, successfully expunging several convictions from their clients’ records.  As a result of their work, the clinic’s clients have an extraordinary opportunity to move on with their lives, gain or maintain employment, and put their history with the criminal justice system behind them.

Both Hamida and Corinne are pictured here in San Mateo County Superior Court.