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.
Policy Work for Youth and Education Law Project: New Report on the Effects of Redirecting Property Taxes From Schools
Great 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.
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 email@example.com by Monday, April 21.
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 eviction 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!
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
Religious Liberty Clinic students wrote and filed two amicus briefs last quarter, representing a diverse group of religious believers. Read on for the background and details of both cases.
Matthew Higgins ’15 and Greg Schweizer ’15 drafted an amicus brief in a New Jersey appellate court on behalf of the two leading Quaker organizations in the nation – the Philadelphia and New York Yearly Meetings of the Religious Society of Friends – and in support of a home-based Orthodox Jewish synagogue facing a zoning challenge. The synagogue had appealed a trial-court decision that dismissed, without discussion, the synagogue’s argument that its alternative form of worship was covered by federal protections for religious land use. Matt and Greg placed the synagogue’s challenge in the context of the landmark Quaker struggle for religious freedom in our country, emphasizing that relevant legal protections are “all the more important where, as here, the religious practice involved is uncommon, unpopular, or misunderstood.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Lawrence ’15 and Shae McPhee ’15 drafted and filed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of The Sikh Coalition and in support of Native American inmates in their petition for certiorari in Knight v. Thompson, No. 130955. The case-in-chief involves a religious liberty challenge by inmates in Alabama who had their hair forcibly cut in violation of their religious beliefs and contrary to the practice of most other states. Writing for The Sikh Coalition, Andrew and Shae stressed that Supreme Court review was needed, because the 11th Circuit fostered a circuit split by refusing to require the Alabama prison to consider the permissive hair-length practices of other states and that such a refusal harms Sikhs in particular – a minority, and perhaps unfamiliar religion in which maintaining unshorn hair is a central practice. Indeed, as Andrew and Shae noted, Sikhs have gone to death over the violation of their right to this belief and practice.
Grace Tsou ’15, with co-counsel Per Jensen ’15 looking on, calls a client from the courthouse steps to report the terrific news that the judge denied her landlord’s application for an eviction judgment! The judge agreed with the legal analysis that Grace and Per advanced in their opposing papers. Great job, Grace and Per!