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SLS’s Community Law Clinic celebrates 10 years of service, dedicates newly renovated space

Former SLS Deans Paul Brest, Kathleen Sullivan, and Larry Kramer, and current SLS Dean M. Elizabeth Magill help CLC celebrate its 10th anniversary; photo credit: Josh Edelson

Stanford, Calif., November 5, 2013 – Supporters of Stanford Law School’s Community Law Clinic (CLC) gathered at its newly renovated headquarters in East Palo Alto on Monday night to help CLC celebrate its 10th anniversary. The renovation—CLC’s first major renovation in 10 years—represents an investment by SLS and Stanford University to maintaining a physical presence in East Palo Alto. And while the celebration included a dedication of the newly renovated facility, it was also a renewal of CLC’s resolute commitment to the community.

The Honorable Ruben Abrica, Mayor of East Palo Alto, presented CLC with a proclamation from the East Palo Alto City Council in honor of CLC’s “outstanding work.” And Sonja Spencer, Chair of East Palo Alto’s Rent Stabilization Board, presented CLC with a resolution from the Board commemorating CLC’s 10th anniversary.

Juliet Brodie, Director of CLC and of SLS' Mills Legal Clinic, surveys CLC's new space; photo credit: Josh Edelson

CLC is determined to remain present in East Palo Alto. Such a presence is “absolutely vital,” said Juliet Brodie, Director of CLC and of the Mills Legal Clinic at SLS. “It represents that while we may be providing services, the community provides our home. It’s a two-way street.”

CLC’s twofold mission is decidedly unique. While all SLS clinics teach their students how to serve clients, CLC also serves a historically underserved community. Many low-income residents of East Palo Alto and the surrounding communities still struggle to get legal help with the most essential matters of daily living, such as housing and employment. CLC’s combined mission of pedagogy and location-based advocacy helps students “meet their clients where they are” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of SLS. The students are “advocating for their clients and learning to be extraordinary lawyers at the same time,” Dean Magill added.

The clinical program at SLS is one of the school’s most distinctive features. Students experience the full breadth of legal practice, but within a structured environment of supervision and encouragement to give back to the community. Students also perform their clinic work full-time, which allows them to immerse themselves in the study of solving real-world challenges on behalf of actual clients.

Although the mood on Monday night was jubilant, CLC was born during a time of crisis. Its predecessor, the student-founded East Palo Alto Community Law Project, shut its doors in 2003, leaving the community in danger of losing a critical source of legal representation. SLS’s leadership was acutely aware of this risk and undertook extraordinary efforts to ensure that SLS maintained its commitment to the residents of East Palo Alto and the surrounding communities. With the leadership of then-Dean Kathleen Sullivan and Professor David Mills, in whose honor the entire SLS clinical program is now named, the law school opened CLC.

Brodie launched the festivities by acknowledging Mills’ role in founding the clinic: “It is literally true that we would not be here today if David hadn’t stepped into the breach, and ensured that SLS continued to work in East Palo Alto. Every single student and every single client owes a debt to him for making sure these doors opened, and that they have stayed open.”

Stanford President John Hennessy, former Menlo Park Mayor Nicholas Jellins, former SLS Dean Kathleen Sullivan, and former East Palo Alto Mayor Patricia Foster cutting the ribbon at CLC's opening in 2003; photo credit: Visual Art Services

Since CLC opened its doors in 2003, it has served more than 1500 clients and trained more than 250 future attorneys.

“We are very proud to embody Stanford’s very concrete involvement in the communities that surround the campus, and to train SLS students in the noble tradition of providing legal services to those in need,” Brodie noted.

CLC typically represents individuals in eviction, wage and disability cases. For example, CLC recently represented a restaurant worker who was denied his wages when he left his job due to unbearable conditions. The employee, who was working long hours for far less than minimum wage, was required to live in a room with four other employees in the back of the restaurant and was sometimes refused the opportunity to take his medication. Because of CLC’s involvement, not only did the employee get his back wages, but he also received some money for his suffering.

CLC also played an important role in rebuffing a concerted, targeted attack on East Palo Alto’s rent-controlled housing stock. A few years ago, real estate investment firm Page Mill Properties acquired more than three quarters of East Palo Alto’s rental stock and issued massive rent increases to tenants virtually overnight. CLC successfully represented more than 125 tenants in what amounted to a class action before the city’s rent board. That success, combined with additional advocacy by CLC and others, paved the way for a settlement that helped set base rents and obtain refunds of rental overcharges. CLC then worked on amending East Palo Alto’s rent control law to prevent a recurrence of this incident.

Ultimately, the focus of CLC’s 10th anniversary celebration was its steadfast work in the community. At one point, Brodie held up a large green book and told the assembled crowd that the book contained a handwritten list of the 1500-plus clients served by CLC during its 10 years.

“It’s such an honor to have them with us … even symbolically,” Brodie said. “This is what it’s all about.”

About the Community Law Clinic Based in East Palo Alto, a low-income community four miles from the law school campus, the Community Law Clinic is the closest thing to a traditional legal services office among Stanford’s clinical offerings. The signature feature of the CLC is its off-campus location, which gives students the unique opportunity to work in a community-based, storefront, legal aid office. The office affords CLC students extensive client contact, as well as a feel for daily life in East Palo Alto, a small community whose residents are overwhelmingly people of color, and which has had for decades a poverty rate well above the national and state rates. The Clinic’s areas of focus are wage and hour, housing, and criminal record expungement matters, but the program’s practice areas shift in response to local threats and opportunities. The CLC also works on policy projects, legislative advocacy, and community legal education in areas that affect its clients.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

SLS Professor Nathaniel Persily elected to American Law Institute

SLS Professor Nathaniel Persily

Stanford, Calif., November 4, 2013 – Stanford Law School’s Nathanial Persily, JD ’98, has been elected to the American Law Institute (ALI) as one of 69 new members, ALI recently announced. Persily is the James B. McClatchy Professor of Law at SLS.

Persily is an award-winning teacher and nationally recognized constitutional law expert who focuses on the law of democracy and American public opinion towards constitutional controversies. He addresses issues such as voting rights, political parties, campaign finance and redistricting.

Persily’s interest in data-driven research inspired him to develop DrawCongress.org, a website that functions as a repository for nonpartisan congressional restricting plans for all 50 states. Persily also designed the Constitutional Attitudes Survey, a national public opinion poll that covers attitudes toward the United States Supreme Court, constitutional interpretation and specific constitutional controversies.

Persily has co-edited two books with Oxford Press, Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy and The Health Care Case: The Supreme Court’s Decision and Its Implications. He has published several articles in scholarly publications and through popular media about the legal regulation of political parties, voting rights, campaign finance reform and issues surrounding the census and redistricting.

Before joining the faculty at SLS in July 2013, Persily was the Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Columbia Law School, where he also founded the Center for Law and Politics.

ALI is a leading independent organization that produces scholarly work to clarify, modernize and improve the law. ALI’s membership includes more than 4000 attorneys, judges and legal scholars of the highest qualifications who influence the development of law in both existing and emerging fields. Members draft, discuss, revise and publish Restatements of the Law, model statutes and principles of law that are enormously influential in courts, legislative bodies, legal scholarship and legal education.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

SLS Professor Joan Petersilia honored with prestigious Stockholm Prize in Criminology

SLS Professor Joan Petersilia

Stanford, Calif., October 30, 2013 – Stanford Law School’s Joan Petersilia has been awarded the 2014 Stockholm Prize in Criminology for her work on prisoner reentry and supporting ex-offenders during the high-risk period immediately following release from prison. Petersilia is the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center.

The Stockholm Prize in Criminology is an international prize sponsored by the Swedish Ministry of Justice and supported by major contributions from the Torsten Soderberg Foundation. As the most prestigious award that a criminologist can receive, the Stockholm Prize is awarded for outstanding achievements in criminological research or for the application of research results by practitioners for the reduction of crime and the advancement of human rights. Petersilia will share the award with Carnegie Mellon University’s Daniel S. Nagin. Both scholars will be honored at the 2014 Stockholm Criminology Symposium in June 2014.

The Stockholm Prize jury cited the significance of Petersilia’s book, When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry, and her related publications. This work “was a landmark in helping the nation, in helping criminologists and criminal justice officials, to understand the dimensions of the problem of 600,000 or more people coming out of prison every year,” said Lawrence Sherman, co-chair of the jury and professor at the University of Cambridge and the University of Maryland.

The jury praised Petersilia’s efforts to re-shape the use of prison and community corrections based on scientific evidence of successful reentry strategies. According to the jury, it was easily able to connect her research and “specific advances in knowledge … to improving the human condition.” The jury also noted that Petersilia’s work has helped multiply U.S. investment in helping ex-offenders transition to life outside prison as soon as they are released, a time when they often have no job or place to live.

“Joan Petersilia’s expertise in corrections reform is unparalleled. Like no other scholar, she has focused our attention on the challenges society faces after a prisoner leaves the system. Thankfully, her important work has influenced policymakers nationwide,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean of Stanford Law School. “The Stockholm Prize is a wonderful recognition of her pioneering work.”

Petersilia has spent nearly three decades studying the performance of U.S. criminal justice agencies and has been instrumental in influencing sentencing and corrections reform in California and throughout the United States. She has authored 11 books about crime and public policy, and her research on parole reform, prisoner reintegration and sentencing policy has inspired substantial policy changes throughout the nation.

As a criminologist with a background in empirical research and social science, Petersilia served as a special advisor to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She helped reorganize juvenile and adult corrections systems and worked with the California State Legislature to implement prison and parole reform. She also chaired Governor Schwarzenegger’s Rehabilitation Strike Team and was Co-Chair of California’s Expert Panel on Offender Programs. Petersilia continues to advise current California Governor Jerry Brown and California lawmakers in regards to California’s Public Safety Realignment Law of 2011, the state’s historic attempt to downsize prisons and enhance rehabilitation.

Petersilia is a former director of the Criminal Justice Program at RAND Corporation, former president of the American Society of Criminology, former president of the California Association for Criminal Justice Research, former co-director of the National Research Council’s study on Community Supervision and Desistance from Crime, and former director of the National Research Council’s study on Crime Victims with Developmental Disabilities. In 2010, she was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to the Department of Justice Scientific Advisory Board.

“The United States’ overreliance on incarceration has too often come at the expense of meaningful rehabilitation and public safety,” Petersilia said. “This pattern is simply unsustainable. There are better, more effective methods that successfully reintroduce former offenders into daily life without risking public safety.”

Petersilia was chosen by Stanford University as the recipient of the 2013 Roland Volunteer Service Prize. The Roland prize recognizes Stanford faculty who involve students in integrating academic scholarship with significant volunteer service to society.

Click here for the jury’s discussion of the Stockholm Prize in Criminology and the 2014 honorees.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School (http://www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Stanford Law School Honors Windsor Attorneys Roberta Kaplan and Pamela Karlan, ACLU Attorney Jennifer Chang Newell with Public Service Awards

STANFORD, Calif., October 30, 2013—The John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School has announced three awards for remarkable achievement in public service. The joint recipients of the National Public Service Award are Roberta Kaplan, a partner at Paul, Weiss, and Pamela Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law and Co-Director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School. The recipient of the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award is Jennifer Chang Newell, JD ’03, Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Immigrants’ Rights Project. All three recipients were honored last night at a ceremony at Stanford Law School.

The National Public Service Award is awarded to attorneys whose public service work has had national impact, and the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award recognizes an alumnus/a whose outstanding work has advanced justice and social change in the lives of vulnerable populations on a community, national or international level. In particular, the Rubin Award is intended to highlight sustainable solutions to a societal problem.

National Public Service Award Recipients: Roberta Kaplan and Pamela Karlan

“Roberta Kaplan and Pamela Karlan are exceptional lawyers who have used their talents to advance the public good. Their success in United States v. Windsor is a landmark, destined to shape our understanding of the Constitution for decades to come,” said M. Elizabeth Magill, Richard E. Lang Professor of Law and Dean. “Their dedication to justice for their client is a powerful example for our students and for all lawyers.”

Roberta Kaplan is a seasoned litigator who has appeared on numerous lists of highly accomplished attorneys, including “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers” and “The 500 Leading Lawyers.” In United States v. Windsor, Kaplan argued before the United States Supreme Court against a key provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act. In Windsor, the Court struck down the provision, holding that the federal statute unconstitutionally denied legally married same-sex couples the benefits of being treated as married for purposes of federal laws.

Kaplan’s legal work has also been recognized by a number of organizations, including the New York City Council, the Family Equality Council, and the National Organization for Women. In 2011, the Law Women’s Association at Columbia Law School honored Kaplan as its Distinguished Alumna of the Year.

Kaplan is a member of the Board of Directors of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the New York County Lawyers’ Association. She has also served on New York Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s Task Force on Commercial Litigation and continues to serve on the Commercial Division Advisory Council.

After receiving her law degree at Columbia Law School, Kaplan served as a law clerk to former New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye and to Judge Mark L. Wolfe of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Pamela Karlan is a prolific scholar, award-winning and beloved teacher, and a leading Supreme Court advocate. She has authored over 100 articles, and is a co-author of leading casebooks on constitutional law, constitutional litigation, and the law of democracy. She also writes a column on the U.S. Supreme Court and legal issues for the Boston Review.

Karlan is Co-Director of Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, which allows students to litigate cases that are before the nation’s highest court. Karlan led a team of Clinic students in preparing a brief for the Court on behalf of Edith Windsor in United States v. Windsor. As one of the nation’s foremost experts on voting and the political process, Karlan has served as a commissioner on the California Fair Political Practices Commission and as an assistant counsel and cooperating attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Karlan serves on the Board of Directors of the American Constitution Society and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers and the American Law Institute. Before joining Stanford Law School in 1998, Karlan taught at the University of Virginia School of Law.

A graduate of Yale Law School, Karlan served as a law clerk to Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court and Judge Abraham D. Sofaer of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award Recipient: Jennifer Chang Newell, JD ‘03

The 2013 Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award recipient Jennifer Chang Newell is being recognized for her legal advocacy for immigrants and civil liberties. As Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, Newell’s practice frequently involves challenging state and local anti-immigrant policies, protecting the constitutional rights of immigrants to judicial review and due process, and combating discrimination and retaliation against immigrants.

Newell is counsel in Arizona DREAM Act Coalition v. Brewer, a case brought by the ACLU and its coalition partners to challenge Arizona’s denial of driver’s licenses to young immigrant “DREAMers” who have received federal permission to live and work in the United States. Newell is also counsel in cases raising Supremacy Clause challenges to several municipal immigration ordinances around the country.

Newell has also litigated cases challenging the U.S. government’s torture of noncitizen detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, protecting the rights of Salvadoran asylum-seekers in immigration proceedings, upholding the validity of the San Francisco Municipal ID Ordinances, and preventing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from using Social Security records for immigration enforcement purposes.

Newell began her work at the Immigrants’ Rights Project as a Skadden Fellow in 2004. Following her graduation from Stanford Law School, Newell served as a law clerk to Judge Marsha Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Just a decade out of law school, Jennifer Chang Newell’s advocacy has already improved the lives of countless individuals and she has made her mark on the law,” said Magill. “Her commitment to protecting the underserved and marginalized is truly an inspiration.”

“This year’s honorees are outstanding role models for our students and for all who hear the call to pursue justice, especially when it is difficult,” said Diane T. Chin, Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law and Lecturer in Law, who oversees the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law. “Their work and their determination remind us how the law can serve and strengthen communities in myriad ways.”

The awards were established in 2006 by the Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law as part of its mission to raise awareness about the importance of public service. The awards are given annually to individuals who exemplify a commitment to public service, provide models of practice that are interesting and innovative, and who make a contribution to the overall public interest legal field. The recipients were chosen by a committee that included Todd Rubin, a member of the Rubin family who helped establish the Miles L. Rubin Public Interest Award, Dean Elizabeth Magill, and Associate Dean Diane Chin.

About the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law

The mission of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law at Stanford Law School is—through courses, research, pro bono projects, public lectures, academic conferences, funding programs, and career development—to make public service a pervasive part of every law student’s experience and ultimately help shape the values that students take into their careers. It also engages in programming and research that supports development of the public interest legal community and increases access to justice.

About Stanford Law School

Stanford Law School (http://www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.

Key players in groundbreaking same-sex marriage cases offer exclusive insights into Supreme Court victories at Stanford symposium

Edith Windsor and SLS Professor Pamela Karlan at U.S. Supreme Court

Edith Windsor and SLS Professor Pamela Karlan at U.S. Supreme Court

Stanford, Calif., October 29, 2013 – An eager crowd recently gathered at Stanford to hear firsthand from the stars of this year’s historic same-sex marriage cases. The plaintiffs and attorneys in the Defense of Marriage (DOMA) and Proposition 8 (Prop 8) cases shared their unique perspectives on the implications of victory, as well as the difficulties they faced on the path to the United States Supreme Court.

The discussion was one of two plenary sessions at the Stanford Symposium on Marriage Equality, which was hosted by Stanford Law School and the Institute on the Politics of Inequality, Race and Ethnicity at Stanford (InsPIRES). Symposium organizers included Jane Schacter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, and Gary Segura, Professor of Political Science at Stanford and Director of InsPIRES. Segura, who served as an expert witness during the Prop 8 trial, moderated the discussion.

The panel featured a megawatt lineup of speakers, beginning with Edith Windsor, plaintiff in United States v. Windsor, the case that struck down DOMA, and Sandy Stier, Kris Perry, Paul Katami, and Jeff Zarillo, plaintiffs in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the case that rocked the foundations of Prop 8. The lawyers included Pamela Karlan, Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, who was co-counsel for Windsor, and Theane Evangelis of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher and Jeremy Goldman of Boies, Schiller, and Flexner, who both assisted in the Prop 8 case. Rounding out the speakers was Chad Griffin, Executive Director of Human Rights Campaign, who was heavily involved in initiating the Prop 8 challenge in California.

The speakers’ admiration of and fondness for each other was on immediate display. “This is a family,” Griffin proudly stated.

Enormous tax bill proved that government viewed same-sex spouses as strangers

Windsor was the only speaker who participated by video, as she was in New York when the plenary occurred. After Segura introduced everyone on stage, he teased the audience about welcoming one more speaker. When Windsor appeared on a massive overhead screen, looking cheerful and impeccably clad, the audience erupted in cheers. With many of the speakers praising Windsor as “a hero,” the discussion first delved into her story.

Windsor married her same-sex partner, Thea Spyer, in Canada in 2007. But because DOMA defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, the federal government did not recognize the marriage even though New York State did. Consequently, Windsor did not qualify for an estate tax exemption when Spyer died and left Windsor as her sole heir. After paying more than $360,000 in federal estate tax penalties, Windsor decided to challenge DOMA in the courts.

“I felt sick and anguished and deeply upset … that [the government] was treating my spouse like she was a stranger,” Windsor proclaimed.

When Windsor was asked why she challenged DOMA, she made clear to the audience that her hefty tax bill was far less important than what it represented to her—the fundamental unfairness of her and Spyer’s inability to enjoy a legal marriage in their own country.

Windsor immersed herself in the case: “I read all the briefs, took it very seriously, but I loved the whole process.”

But she was also deeply frightened that instead of addressing the constitutionality of DOMA, the courts would simply question whether DOMA was fairly applied in her particular circumstances. This kind of “as-applied” challenge, Windsor explained, was insufficient because it would, at most, bring relief only to her.

“The money didn’t matter. What mattered was the rest of the gay community,” Windsor asserted.

Windsor also described her anxiety upon hearing that famed attorney Paul Clement, a former United States Solicitor General, would argue the pro-DOMA side on behalf of the U.S House of Representatives. But, she explained, three specific developments alleviated her concerns. First, Karlan joined Windsor’s efforts and provided “astute advice at every step of the way.” Second, the moot court sessions with Roberta Kaplan, the attorney who argued Windsor’s case at the U.S. Supreme Court, assured Windsor that her advocates were in command of the legal arguments. Lastly, Windsor reviewed her opponents’ statements and found them underwhelming.

But there was something else that placated Windsor. “I had this thing since I was a little kid—I felt passionate about the Constitution,” Windsor said, adding that she believed that the Constitution would vindicate her.

Surprise trial propels same-sex couples into spotlight

This year’s other monumental marriage equality case was Hollingsworth v. Perry and its treatment of Prop 8, the California state constitutional amendment that limited legal marriage to a union between one man and one woman. After a trial on the legal substance of Prop 8, federal district court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker, JD ’70, ruled that the law was indeed unconstitutional. Supporters of the law pursued the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court declined to rule on the merits of Prop 8 and instead handled Perry on procedural grounds. The result of the Court’s approach was the reinstatement of Judge Walker’s ruling that Prop 8 is unconstitutional.

According to the speakers, the genesis of Perry was a clandestine matter. Griffin secretly made contact with Ted Olson, a former U.S. Solicitor General, through a mutual acquaintance. Olson agreed to join David Boies, another esteemed attorney and Olson’s opponent in Bush v. Gore, in challenging Prop 8. Griffin called Olson’s decision “a gamechanger.”

“His involvement in this case changed the landscape … and lifted the partisan veil,” Griffin said.

The next steps were finding suitable plaintiffs and recruiting additional legal help to challenge Proposition 8.

Griffin had known Stier and Perry through their shared interest in early childhood development. Believing that the couple, who have raised four sons, would be ideal plaintiffs, Griffin invited them to join “sort of a small lawsuit,” Perry quipped.

The couple thought they would play a largely administrative role—“just our names on paper,” Stier noted. But she was “dumbfounded” when Judge Walker ordered a full trial, rather than simply issuing an injunction, which was a “turning point” that no one expected.

The plaintiffs went from “watching what was happening to really becoming a part of what was happening,” Stier said.  She added that preparing for the trial was difficult because even though a trial would be powerful, she was concerned about the public exposure and scrutiny.

Perry also felt the pressure. She had “gotten so good at not being mad” about Prop 8 that it was hard for her to prepare for the trial and fully confront the harm of marriage inequality. Perry indicated that she had to “shed an awful lot of thick skin.”

In dealing with the pressure, Perry learned “how important it was to search for the truth in ourselves and our relationships.” Even though she always felt part of a team, “there’s a moment on the stand when you’re alone … and you have your truth.”

Katami and Zarillo, meanwhile, became “accidental activists” when they filmed a highly-viewed video response to a pro-Prop 8 piece. They agreed to join the Prop 8 challenge when asked by Griffin and his colleagues, but not simply to secure their own rights.

“We were just regular people who told a story … but it wasn’t profoundly ours, it was profoundly everyone’s,” Katami said. “It was about us, as a whole, being treated right.”

Katami added that the lawsuit forced him and Zarillo to realize that they had never discussed what marriage meant to them because it was never a possibility for them. The Prop 8 challenge “not only transformed us, but transformed our ideas” about the law, Katami added.

Zarillo did confess to “a moment of doubt” when people branded him and Katami as troublemakers who would set back the entire gay rights movement if they lost. Zarillo’s response was simple: “You know what? At least we’re doing something … [and] we’re not going to tolerate being treated as second-class citizens.”

Zarillo said that the best part of the process was “the constant winning,” but also pointed to “watershed moments” of change as the entire country began to reconsider the question of marriage equality.

“What we were doing was resonating,” Zarillo stated.

Attorneys pursue bold strategy in quiet fashion

As the organizers of the challenge to Prop 8 were finalizing plaintiffs, they also continued reaching out to attorneys, albeit surreptitiously. Evangelis was enlisted to begin drafting a complaint, but told the audience that her work was still “very top secret, even within the firm.”

Even more noteworthy to Evangelis was the instruction to prepare the complaint for review in federal court. As Evangelis explained, proponents of marriage equality had generally preferred to pursue legal challenges in state courts for strategic reasons.

The decision to go to federal court “was incredibly risky” because failure would result in serious consequences, according to Evangelis. To help mitigate some of the jeopardy, Evangelis and her colleagues decided to frame the case around two central concepts: liberty and equality.

The gambit worked. Not only did Judge Walker surprise everyone by ordering a trial, but the supporters of Prop 8 fell far short of making their case. Goldman cited the interesting contrast between the plaintiffs’ “moving testimony” and “sparkling roster of experts” versus their opponents’ “grossly inadequate” presentation.

Goldman theorized that the pro-Prop 8 case failed “because there was nothing behind it, nothing to support it.” Even their experts were uninspiring, Goldman suggested: “There was no one they put forward that had done any rigorous scientific work.”

SLS scholar talks doctrine, importance of timing

For her part, Karlan relished working on Windsor’s case and believes that “there were no good arguments on the other side.” Karlan led a team of students from SLS’ Supreme Court Litigation Clinic who labored tirelessly on the case and attended oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Karlan also illuminated how both Windsor and Perry involved serious issues of standing, a legal doctrine that determines who can argue a particular case in the courts. Noting that the U.S. Supreme Court does not “generally decide abstract questions of law,” but rather decides disputes between actual parties who disagree, Karlan reminded the audience that the government defendants in Windsor and Perry retreated from their initial defense of DOMA and Prop 8, respectively. Specifically, the federal government chose to stop defending DOMA and the State of California chose to stop defending Prop 8. Consequently, standing played an important role in both cases.

As to standing in the DOMA case, Windsor benefited from “the fortunate fact” that the federal government had already collected her estate tax penalty. So even if the federal government agreed that DOMA was unconstitutional, it still had Windsor’s money, which meant that Windsor’s case was still a live controversy, Karlan explained.

In Perry, however, the U.S. Supreme Court used the standing issue to “unravel the case” in a manner that it could tolerate. The Court “didn’t want to decide the issue” on its merits, Karlan argued, because the Court was not ready yet.

Karlan also posited that “timing was everything” in both cases. In Perry, for example, Judge Walker’s decision to order a trial slowed down the case and let the courts and the country catch up to the serious questions being contemplated.

“The velocity of change outside the courts affected what happened inside the courts,” Karlan asserted.

Plaintiffs reflect on significance of victory, taking next steps

Looking forward, the plaintiffs each described their thoughts on victory now that they have a few months’ perspective. Windsor encouraged young people to keep up the fight for equality. “I think we keep pushing, I think we don’t take it for granted,” she declared.

Zarillo encouraged the audience to remember that “doing something is something anyone can do.” Katami, meanwhile, shared his emotional reaction to walking by marriage ceremonies at City Hall after the U.S. Supreme Court decided Perry. “It’s about allowing people to have happiness,” he said.

Perry compared the fight for equal rights to her own work in early childhood development. “[It’s] so much about potential and unlocking and unleashing everyone’s potential.”

And while all the plaintiffs conveyed their feelings of gratitude and privilege to have been involved in these cases, Stier crystallized those feelings in a single sentence: “I felt like we did our job in terms of making the world … a better place for future generations.”

Video highlights from the symposium are available at http://www.youtube.com/stanfordlawschool.

About Stanford Law School Stanford Law School (www.law.stanford.edu) is one of the nation’s leading institutions for legal scholarship and education. Its alumni are among the most influential decision makers in law, politics, business, and high technology. Faculty members argue before the Supreme Court, testify before Congress, produce outstanding legal scholarship and empirical analysis, and contribute regularly to the nation’s press as legal and policy experts. Stanford Law School has established a new model for legal education that provides rigorous interdisciplinary training, hands-on experience, global perspective, and focus on public service, spearheading a movement for change.