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Students Appear in Court Around the Bay Area on Behalf of Clinic Clients

Environmental Law Clinic students traveled throughout the bay area for several court appearances near the start of the winter quarter, two of which resulted in wins for clinic clients. Read on for the highlights:

From left: Jason George '15, Richard Freeman '15, Elizabeth Hook '15, Lauren Gollaher '15, Pete DeMarco '14

At Monterey County Superior, from left: Jason George ’15, Richard Freeman ’15, Elizabeth Hook ’15, Lauren Gollaher ’15, Pete DeMarco ’14

On January 14, 2014 Pete DeMarco ’14 appeared on behalf of clinic client, Monterey Coastkeeper, at a status conference hearing in Monterey County Superior Court.  Monterey Coastkeeper has sued the defendant, Monterey County Water Resources Agency, in an effort to get the Agency to regulate or otherwise take responsibility for its role in transporting and discharging heavily polluted agricultural waters in the Salinas Valley.  At the hearing, Pete successfully argued that our case against the Water Resources Agency should go forward.  Briefing is scheduled for this summer and a trial for September 22, 2014.

Chris Jones at COA Feb 13, 2014

Chris Jones, CA Court of Appeal in San Francisco, 2/13/14

Chris Jones ’14, delivered oral arguments in the California Court of Appeal in San Francisco on February 13, 2014 on behalf of clinic client, Salmon Protection and Watershed Network. This case concerns a challenge under the California Environmental Quality Act to a general plan adopted by Marin County.  The plan would allow development in the Lagunitas Creek watershed, which serves as one of the last – and the most critical – spawning grounds for the Central California Coast coho salmon.  The trial court denied our petition to require the County to do more comprehensive environmental review, and we appealed.  On March 5, 2014, the appellate court issued a decision holding that the County violated the statute by failing to adequately consider cumulative impacts and potential mitigation measures and reversed the trial court’s ruling.

J Iwata--USDC Oakland

Jackie Iwata, USDC Oakland, 2/19/14

A few days later, Jackie Iwata ’14 appeared in U.S. District Court in Oakland on behalf of our clients, a group of individuals, at a hearing on motions to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Pacific Shores Property Owners Association.  The Association is trying to block a plan to purchase and permanently conserve lots in a subdivision near Crescent City, California, to mitigate impacts to wetlands from a safety project for the City’s airport.  The subdivision, which abuts the largest coastal lagoons in the lower 48 and is naturally flooded during the winter, cannot be developed because it is located on sand dunes and coastal wetlands. Our clients, who own lots in the subdivision, are supporting the airport’s plan to buy lots from willing sellers and permanently protect them as state park lands.  On March 7, 2014, the district court granted the motion, dismissing the case and clearing the way for the purchase program to go forward.

Religious Liberty Clinic Students Present Arguments At City Council Meetings

Religious Liberty Clinic students Caitlin Bradley ’14, Peyton Gulley ’15, Paul Harold ’14, Christian Perez ’15, Courtney Quiros ’14 and Mark Storslee ’15 recently presented a brief and oral argument to the Ventura City Council on behalf of their client, Harbor Community Church. The students argued that their client should have the right to continue its ministry to the poor and homeless at its neighborhood church notwithstanding strong opposition from some neighbors. The students’ work was profiled in a recent feature in the Stanford Daily and the actual argument given by Peyton can be viewed here.

Peyton Gulley '15 and Christian Perez '15 present at a Ventura City Council Meeting

Peyton Gulley ’15 and Christian Perez ’15 appear before the Ventura City Council

The brief, which Paul and Courtney filed last fall, emphasized that their clients’ pastoral care and worship with the city’s poor are forms of religious exercise protected by federal laws enacted to protect religious land use. Peyton, Caitlin, Christian, and Mark followed up this winter by presenting argument to the Council at two televised hearings that lasted a combined 10 hours and were attended by more than 200 supporters and opponents. The Council’s decision is expected this spring.

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.