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Clinic Students Off and Running with a Great Start to the fall quarter

On behalf of the Mills Legal Clinic, I am happy to announce that we have officially finished what we endearingly refer to as clinic “bootcamp” this quarter.  As reported in SLS News last year, clinic students spend the first one to two weeks of each quarter in intensive training learning the context and contours of their clinic’s practice area along with what will be expected of them during their full-time clinical quarter.

This week, students have hit the ground running, armed with their new found knowledge and the deep passion for lawyering they all share. I look forward to reporting their accomplishments and activities in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned!  For photos and details of the bootcamp experience read the recent SLS News article.   ◊

A Significant Victory for YELP Clients in the Emma C. Special Education Class Action


YELP students Alison Bloch (SLS '15) and Samantha Lefland (SLS '15) took on a decisive lead role in researching and writing plaintiffs' persuasive brief in opposition last May, leading to Judge Henderson's July 2nd order

YELP students Alison Bloch (’15) and Samantha Lefland ( ’15) took the lead in researching and writing plaintiffs’ persuasive opposition brief last May.

The Youth and Education Law Project (“YELP”) recently achieved a great victory in its long-standing class action regarding special education in East Palo Alto, Emma C., et al. v. Eastin, et al.  After nearly two years of disappointing negotiations with the State of California that led to a motion practice battle before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California this past spring, on July 2, 2014, Judge Thelton E. Henderson ruled unequivocally for YELP’s clients – the students of East Palo Alto.

YELP and its attorneys William Koski and Carly Munson – along with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund – represent hundreds of special education students and their families in the Ravenswood City School District (“Ravenswood”) in East Palo Alto. Pursuant to a 2003 Consent Decree, Ravenswood and the California Department of Education (“CDE”) have been implementing a systemic reform plan to overhaul the school district’s delivery of special education services for 11 years, as overseen by a court-appointed monitor. Anticipating an eventual end to the Court’s jurisdiction and the monitor’s oversight, that Consent Decree requires that the CDE have in place a statewide special education monitoring system that is capable of ensuring continued compliance with applicable laws long after the Court terminates its jurisdiction.

Ravenswood is expected to achieve full compliance with the reform plan in the near future. Accordingly, the Court posed the critical question of whether CDE’s current system can and will ensure Ravenswood’s continued compliance with the law and prevent future backsliding in the special education service delivery achieved through this 18-year lawsuit.

In January 2014, the court monitor issued a decisive 88-page report determining that the CDE’s monitoring system is inadequate as applied to Ravenswood. The monitor’s report included 42 specific determinations regarding the CDE’s insufficient monitoring system and recommended that the Court order the monitor to develop a Corrective Action Plan and hire an outside consultant to develop the Corrective Action Plan.

The State then moved Judge Henderson to set aside the monitor’s determinations. YELP vigorously opposed the State’s motion. YELP law students Samantha Lefland (‘15) and Alison Bloch (‘15) took on a significant role in researching and drafting plaintiffs’ persuasive brief in opposition.

Far from setting aside the determinations, on July 2, 2014, the Court upheld the entirety of the monitor’s findings and authorized the monitor to move forward with hiring a consultant to develop a Corrective Action Plan to overhaul and reform the CDE’s statewide special education monitoring system.

The State has chosen to appeal the Court’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In the meantime, the District Court has denied a motion by the State to stay implementation of its ruling until the conclusion of the pending appeal. Unless the Ninth Circuit stays implementation of the ruling, the monitor will soon move forward with developing a Corrective Action Plan to reform and make effective the CDE’s statewide special education monitoring system as applied to Ravenswood.   ◊



SCOTUS Clinic Culminates Another Busy Year With a Landmark Victory

Clinic students pose for "selfie" on the steps of the Supreme Court following argument in Riley. Clockwise: Tess Reed, Ben Chagnon, Kristin Saetveit, Alec Schierenbeck, Seth Lloyd

Clinic students pose for “selfie” on the steps of the Supreme Court following Riley argument. Clockwise: Tess Reed (SLS ’15), Ben Chagnon (SLS ’14), Kristin Saetveit (SLS ’15), Alec Schierenbeck (SLS ’15), Seth Lloyd (SLS ’14).

The Supreme Court Litigation Clinic had a busy and productive spring, culminating in late June with a landmark victory. With co-director Pam Karlan on leave at the Department of Justice, the clinic had the good fortune of teaming up with Don Ayer of Jones Day to teach the clinic with Professor Jeff Fisher. Under their joint supervision, the clinic drafted briefs in seven cases on behalf of criminal defendants and civil plaintiffs as follows: petitions for certiorari asking the Court to resolve (1) whether the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause applies at capital sentencing hearings and (2) whether the Fourth Amendment allows police officers to trespass in the common areas of locked apartment buildings without a warrant in order to look for evidence of crime; briefs in opposition to certiorari in cases involving (3) how the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum-wage rules apply to travel expenses incurred by immigrant farmworkers and (4) how the Confrontation Clause applies to statements teachers obtain from children alleging child abuse; and briefs on the merits arguing (5) that a police officer’s mistake of law cannot provide the individualized suspicion the Fourth Amendment requires to justify a traffic stop; and (6) that the Fourth Amendment does not allow officers, absent a warrant, to search the digital contents of cell phones seized incident to arrest. In its seventh case, the clinic drafted a letter brief to the Solicitor General in a case in which the Court invited that Office to express its views. The issue is whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act allows a U.S. citizen who purchases a ticket for foreign travel on a state-owned carrier to sue the carrier in this country for a subsequent breach of the duty of safe passage, and the clinic followed up this summer with a meeting at the DOJ with top governmental personnel.

About that cell phone case, Riley v. California: the clinic achieved the rare feat of a unanimous victory on behalf of privacy rights, in an opinion that commentators are terming “sweeping,” “bold,” and even “revolutionary.” All the credit goes to the students, whose tireless work not only astutely educated the Justices about the realities of cell phone usage and data storage in the digital age, but also crafted an eloquent legal theory to match, centered around the theme that “digital is different.” As if to seal their moment in time, the students also took a “selfie” on the front steps of the Court after the oral argument – an image the Mills Legal Clinic will savor for years to come.  ◊

Religious Liberty Clinic Settles Workplace Accommodation Dispute

During the 2014 spring quarter, Kate Falkenstien ’15, and Jordan Rice ’15, successfully mediated a religious accommodation case arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a state Religious Freedom Protection Act. Kate Falkenstien, JD ’15, and Jordan Rice, JD ’15, RLC Students

The case involved a public school employee’s right to wear an unshorn beard in accordance with his Muslim faith.  Partnering with lawyers from the Department of Justice, Kate and Jordan drafted and filed the complaint in federal court, coordinated discovery, wrote a mediation brief, and negotiated the settlement before a Magistrate Judge.  The judge praised the students for the quality of their work on behalf of their client. ◊

Discussion | USPTO Deputy Director Michelle K. Lee on “Speaking Truth to Patents”

IP graphic 1

On June 26, 2014, the Juelsgaard IP and Innovation Clinic co-sponsored a speech by Michelle Lee, the deputy director and acting head of the US Patent and Trademark Office.  Lee’s talk, Speaking Truth to Patents: The Case for a Better Patent System, covered many of the issues regarding the relationship between patents and innovation on which the Juelsgaard Clinic focuses. Watch the video here.  ◊

Students Report on Their Work With a Client Facing Long Standing Challenges in Immigration System

Last Spring, clinic students Nikki Marquez ’15 and Kara McBride ’15 worked with an Immigrants’ Rights Clinic client who had spent over 10 years seeking permanent status in the U.S. after escaping extreme conditions in her homeland. Read on for Nikki and Kara’s account of the experience.

Nikki Maarquez and Kara McBride prepare for court hearing.

Kara McBride and Nikki Marquez at work on their client’s case.

As we began our client work, we were shocked at the volume of binders that came with her file. As her new advocates, we joined a line of attorneys who had gone before us to seek relief for our client. She had tried several different possibilities without success: it seemed at times as though there were no options left. She has been through an unimaginable struggle to get where she is today. This journey has included fleeing political persecution and violence in her home country, severe domestic abuse in her new country and, at times, an unforgiving  criminal justice system.

Despite her many years living in this country and over a decade seeking relief from the immigration system, she is still hopeful for a permanent life in the United States with her children. After fleeing a horrifying past in her home country, our client and her children are thriving here but this life is still lacking a sense of security, due to her immigration status.

Through our legal research and advocacy, we provided our already informed client with knowledge to better understand the challenges of her case; what had happened in the past; and the potential paths to relief. We were humbled by our client’s resilience and positivity and are deeply grateful for the experiences we shared, both personally and professionally. While there are still challenging legal arguments ahead, we are deeply excited to have found a potential strategy for her to obtain a “green” card. By the end of the Spring quarter, we had begun this process for our client by drafting a declaration with her. We cannot believe more firmly in our client or her case.    ◊

Juelsgaard Clinic Students Develop Guide on “Hacking the Patent System”

Hacking the Patent SystemThis past winter, Julesgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic students developed “Hacking the Patent System: A Guide to Alternative Patent Licensing for Innovators.” Marta Belcher ’15 and John Casey ’15, in collaboration with our clients Electronic Frontier Foundation, Engine Advocacy, and the Open Invention Network, researched, drafted and coordinated the guide, which is designed to help startups and innovators understand and consider using non-traditional approaches to patent licensing.

The goal of the U.S. patent system is to incentivize innovation, but there is growing public concern that the way the current system operates sometimes does more to hinder innovation than to promote it. “Hacking the Patent System” lays out three approaches to patent licenses that innovators can use to reduce the negative impact of the patent system on innovation: defensive patent aggregators, patent pledges, and Google’s License on Transfer Agreement. The guide identifies specific entities and licenses making use of each approach and explains the pros and cons associated with each. This May, our clients officially launched the guide, which will serve as a valuable tool for startups and tech companies as they learn about and consider using these alternative patent licensing structures.

O&T Clinic Students Provide Corporate Governance Advice

In addition to all their great advice and contract work, all Organization and Transactions Clinic students executed comprehensive corporate governance reviews this past spring quarter. These engagements involve reviewing the client’s existing governance documents and practices, preparing a detailed advice deliverable, drafting an extensive suite of bylaws, board committee charters, and other documents, and making a formal presentation to the the board of directors and CEO.

Lincoln Lo and Cecilia Oyediran rehearse a governance presentation to a client's board of directors.

Lincoln Lo and Cecilia Oyediran rehearse a governance presentation that they later delivered to a client’s board of directors.

Mari Guttman ’15 and Mansi Kothari ’15 worked with the board of a well-known farmers’ market and sustainable agriculture organization in San Francisco. Lincoln Lo ’15 and Cecilia Oyediran ’15 represented a San Francisco nonprofit that enables individuals with physical or developmental disabilities to participate in outdoor adventures. Denise Ballesteros ’15 and Alex Pacheco ’15 advised an agricultural education organization based near Davis, while Cameron Ormsby ’15 and Kaleisha Stuart ’15 worked with a North Bay organization that provides consulting and other services to nonprofits.    ◊

Juelsgaard Clinic Students Co-author Supreme Court Amicus Brief in Legal Battle for Better Patents

Students in the Julesgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic co-authored with the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) an amicus brief weighing in as amici on one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases in recent history addressing patents, Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (CLS Bank).  CCIA and its member companies in the computer, Internet, information technology, and telecommunications industries are significantly affected by the patent system: while they rely on patents to protect their inventions, their ability to innovate is often hindered by overly broad patents—particularly software patents.

The primary question raised in CLS Bank was whether a scheme for mitigating risk in financial transactions through the use of a third party intermediary was patentable when (and because) a computer was used as the third party.  In winter 2014, clinic students Michael Chen ’14 and Rachel Yu ’14 co-authored an amicus brief with CCIA urging the Court to protect innovators from harmful, overbroad patents.  The brief argued that software not tied to particular hardware was unpatentable because it represents an “abstract idea” that is ineligible for patent protection and because it constitutes impermissible “functional claiming.”  The brief expressed particular concern that providing protection for the types of patents at issue would enable patent-owners to preempt all ways of implementing an idea, regardless of whether the patent-owner had actually invented them.  To help determine which software patents were eligible for protection, the brief proposed a “specific hardware test.”

Several weeks ago, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in CLS Bank, finding the patents at issue invalid because the patents were directed to abstract ideas.  The Court held that adding a requirement in the patent that the abstract idea should be implemented on a computer or adding other conventional, well-known steps to the patent did not transform the abstract idea into a patent-eligible invention.   ◊

U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Cellphone Search Warrants

Riley v. California, No. 13-132

Jeff Fisher arguing for petitioner in Fourth Amendment cell phone case (Art Lien)

In a landmark ruling today, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision requiring police to obtain warrants in order to search cell phones of those arrested.  Earlier this year, the Court granted the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic’s petition for certiorari in Riley v. California, the lead case subject to today’s ruling. Students Julia Reese ’13, Ben Chagnon ’14, and Seth Lloyd ’14 drafted the petition.  Seth and Ben continued working on the merits briefing, along with Tess Reed ’15, Alec Schierenbeck ’15, and Kristin Saetveit ’15.  The Clinic also collaborated and strategized on the case with the Juelsgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic.  Professor Jeff Fisher, director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, argued the case in April.  Congratulations to all!

More coverage:  New York TimesSCOTUS blog.  See previous post.   ◊