Clinical Law Prof Blog

Editor: Jeffrey R. Baker
Pepperdine University
School of Law

Saturday, September 29, 2018

UDC Law's Immigration & Human Rights Clinic's Pro Se Asylum Filing Workshop with Human Rights First

I write to share with my experiential educator colleagues a fairly recent addition to our work in the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic work at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law).  

On Friday September 28, we had the pleasure of partnering, for a second time, with non-profit Human Rights First(HRF). In Fall 2017, we worked with HRF to serve Central American families fleeing violence and seeking protection in the United States. Building on that success, we decided to do it again this year.

Clinic students and other UDC Law student volunteers met yesterday with 10 asylum-seeking families from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. These families were previous detained at one of the nation’s three family detention centers, but were released to pursue their asylum claims while living with family and friends in Maryland. The families are all currently in removal proceedings before the Baltimore immigration court.  None of the families have yet found legal representation for their asylum claims.

In an era of immigration court backlogs, the court in Baltimore, Maryland, has actually has seen the highest increase since the beginning of FY2017 -- a stunning 96% increase in the last year of individuals put into removal proceedings–- doubling the court’s caseload.  Increases have also been dramatic in Massachusetts, Georgia, and Florida. As a consequence, the access to counsel gap is severe and many individuals appearing in Baltimore lack legal representation. In the immigration context, although only around 37% of non-detained immigrants are represented, legal representation makes it five times more likelyan individual will be granted relief.

As a small step in trying to address the justice gap, yesterday UDC Law’s Immigration Clinic completed 17 asylum applications total for the 10 families– the families will file these with the court in just a few days. Many of these cases presented complex legal issues, including those past the one-year filing deadline for asylum. While our Clinic lacks the capacity to take on full representation for each of these families, we hope that our work will set them on the right path and enable them to more easily find pro bono or low bono representation for their future hearings.

This work not only benefitted the asylum-seeking families, but our students, requiring them to engage in:

  • Quick rapport building
  • Interviewing survivors of trauma
  • Fact investigation and information gathering
  • Credibility assessment and checking internal consistency with records from previous government interactions
  • Legal drafting and editing to ensure that each application made out a prima facie case for asylum, meeting all required legal elements.
  • Concise, direct writing to communicate a compelling narrative
  • Explaining legal standards in an accessible way
  • Wrestling with recently changed and evolving law, thanks to Attorney General Sessions in Matter of A-B-,for individuals fleeing domestic violence and gang targeting.
  • Address changing facts and emerging details – for example one team started the day thinking they were working with a mother and three teenagers with asylum claims based on the same facts, but as it turned out, one of the teenage boys had been persecuted based on his sexual orientation and another had been recruited by gangs and threatened with death. This team had to deal with very delicate family dynamics around the disclosure of sexual orientation status.

Participants in the workshop included 3L and 4L Immigration Clinic students, 2L students, including several who had served as Clinical Associates as 1Ls in their first year as part of UDC Law’s required community service, and two of whom who participated in our spring 2018 service-learning tripto Berks family detention center in Pennsylvania, an extended clinic student, 1L students, and a UDC 2018 graduate. Clinic Co-Directors Kristina Campbell and Lindsay Harris along with Clinical Instructor Saba Ahmed supervised students working for the day, along with HRF staff attorney Alexander Parcan and Legal Services Coordinator Sugeily Fernandez.  HRF’s two undergraduate interns and social worker were also on hand to assist.

92818 Pro Se Asylum Filing Workshop

Photo above -- Many of the Clinic students and other volunteer students for the day, fresh-faced and ready to work in the morning, along with Professors Campbell & Harris and HRF staff.

Volunteer students are invited to debrief what was an intense, challenging, and at times no doubt emotional day along with students enrolled in the Immigration Clinic during our clinic seminar

Clinicians interested in replicating this program should feel free to be in touch with Professor Lindsay M. Harris. While there are numerous logistical challenges and hurdles, we find this experience well worthwhile and have tips to share. In many ways the day is a preview of what it is like to work in faster-paced legal services setting, contrasted with many traditional law school clinic models where “law in slow motion” may be the norm.  The workshops also provides an opportunity to generate interest in Clinic work and for 1L and 2L students not yet in Clinic to gain hands on experience and insight into an area of law in which many seek to gain exposure. 

We are grateful to UDC Law staff and faculty for their support of this program.

September 29, 2018 in Clinic Students and Graduates, Clinic Victories, Current Affairs, Immigration, New Clinical Programs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pepperdine's Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic Advocating for Prisoner Rights

I am very proud of our brilliant students in the Ninth Circuit Appellate Advocacy Clinic, under the direction of Prof. Jeremy Rosen.  Please see this story with video of their recent oral argument in San Francisco where they represented our client, a detainee suing the Maricopa County (Arizona) Jail for civil rights violations. They did excellent work. 

Here is a brief description of the case:

The Ninth Circuit appointed the Pepperdine Ninth Circuit Clinic to represent pre-trial detainee Charles Byrd who filed a section 1983 lawsuit challenging Maricopa County’s practice of having female guards routinely observe male inmates at extremely close quarters while they are using the toilets and taking showers. Such cross-gender observations have been routinely disallowed when the guards are male and the prisoners are female and case law suggests the same should be the case here. The district court exercised its authority under the Prison Litigation Reform Act to dismiss Byrd’s lawsuit at the screening stage. The students argued on appeal that such dismissal was improper because Byrd plainly stated a claim for constitutional violation.

November 23, 2016 in Clinic Victories, Current Affairs, Prisoner's Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Columbia Law School to Design and Teach Alternative Dispute Resolution Curriculum With the Educational Arm of the United Nations

 

Columbia Law School will develop a program to train U.N. diplomats and personnel in negotiation techniques and conflict resolution, under an agreement signed this week by Columbia University and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The partnership grew out of a multi-year effort by Columbia Law School Professor Alexandra Carter ’03 to teach alternative dispute resolution to U.N. diplomats in New York City. Since 2012, Carter—the director of clinical education at the Law School and head of the Mediation Clinic—has led UNITAR’s negotiation workshops for women diplomats.
 
A champion of mediation as a critical tool in resolving conflicts, Carter envisions a larger and evolving international collaboration between UNITAR and Columbia University. She touts the global concerns and international reach of many of the Law School’s ten clinics, and credits Law School Dean Gillian Lester, the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law, for making “international engagement a major pillar of her deanship.”
 
“Columbia Law School’s clinics move global and national policy developments, in addition to serving many individual clients,” said Carter. “Over the last decade, the Mediation Clinic has worked with transnational organizations like the United Nations, as well as foreign governments, federal and state courts, and law schools, to advance the practice of mediation, negotiation, and global peace building.
 
“The Mediation Clinic will be the focal and contact point for the new curriculum and trainings, though over time we expect to bring together many of our experts from other schools and disciplines. We are starting in New York—with the largest diplomatic corps—but we have already received requests for proposals abroad.”
 
‘Opportunities for Our Students’
 
Under the supervision of Carter and Lecturer in Law Shawn Watts ’12, Columbia Law School students in the Mediation Clinic work to resolve a wide range of real-world cases involving commercial, employment, housing, and family disputes. Carter sees great opportunities in the new UNITAR partnership for students who have already studied the basics of negotiation.
 
“Columbia Law School students will be intimately involved in the design of these training programs, they will assist in the classrooms, and they will have an opportunity for substantive interactions with diplomats and change agents from all over the world,” she said.
 
In addition to teaching her Law School courses, Carter has taught mediation to private- and public-sector groups, as well as to international academic audiences, and she serves on the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee for the New York State Unified Court System. In January, Carter and Watts helped conduct the first Peace Summit at Tokyo’s International Christian University, where students, faculty, and diplomats from nine nations studied the policy and practice of mediation and peace building.
 
In 2012, UNITAR asked the Mediation Clinic to participate in the Women Negotiating Peace conference at the United Nations. Carter’s workshop--a first-of-its-kind training for female delegates—was organized in response to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325, which promotes the participation of women in peace building efforts worldwide, noting they are “underrepresented in virtually all” governments.
 
“We were proud to be part of that first summit,” Carter recalled, “and right from the beginning, we could see the impact on the diplomats and also the incredible opportunities for our students. The U.N. asked us to return because of the tremendous feedback.”
 
Since then, the workshop has become an annual event, and participants have even come to the Law School for further training, attending the initial “boot camp” weeks of each semester’s Mediation Clinic. Starting in the fall, Carter and Watts will teach an Advanced Mediation Clinic, “in large part because of the U.N. partnership and all the substantive work we know it will generate for our students,” Carter said.
 
At this week’s signing of the Law School’s agreement with UNITAR, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Nikhil Seth stressed the importance of gender equality.  “He came up with an idea to hold training programs for women before the General Assembly and all other major U.N. meetings,” Carter said, “so that female diplomats feel equipped and empowered to enter the U.N.’s biggest arenas and advocate for themselves and their missions.”
 
In a statement released after this week’s meeting at Columbia Law School, UNITAR called the collaboration “crucial to equip members of this community with the capacity to navigate and contribute to the United Nations.”
 
Partnership with UNITAR
 
UNITAR was established in 1965 "for the purpose of enhancing the effectiveness of the United Nations.'' It provides short-term executive training to officials of member states as well as to representatives of civil society and the private sector. It works with an estimated 25,000 people around the world each year, through seminars and workshops, e-learning, and special events.
 
When Carter met earlier this year with the head of UNITAR’s New York office, Ambassador Marco Suazo, they came up with the same question: “Why are we talking about isolated programs when we could be talking about something so much greater?” remembered Carter. “We should be exploring everything that Columbia Law School and Columbia University bring to bear, in terms of teaching, intellectual leadership, and the ability to design a curriculum that will marry conflict resolution—which is a skill that cuts across all disciplines—with the U.N.’s 2030 agenda and its sustainable development goals. These goals include gender equality, eradicating poverty, access to justice, making sustainable cities, creating just institutions and protecting our environment.”
 
The agenda’s social justice goals align with the mission of the Columbia Law School clinics, which handle cases in such subject areas as international human rights, environmental law, community enterprise, and immigrants’ rights.
 
“Our clinics were founded to increase access to justice and to solve legal and social problems, to be a voice for those who need one, and to empower individuals, whether they live in New York City or Papua New Guinea, to access their rights and solve their own problems,” Carter said. “This partnership is a tremendous fit for our program.”
 
The New York diplomatic corps represents a wide variety of nations, from the world’s most- to least-developed states. Workshop participants will receive signed certificates of attendance from Columbia Law School and Columbia University, Carter notes, and the U.N. has expressed a desire to work toward a more formal credential, such as a certificate in conflict resolution and diplomacy.
 
“Our goal, over the next year and beyond, is to design and execute trainings that will reach hundreds of diplomats, and to combine our expertise in conflict resolution with substantive legal knowledge that will benefit all nations and all peoples,” Carter said.
 

October 15, 2016 in Clinic News, Clinic Profile, Clinic Students and Graduates, Clinic Victories | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Impact Through Research and Advocacy - Clinical Work in the Policy Advocacy Realm

As clinicians we know that our students do amazing work.  A lot of what we associate as clinical work falls into the client-case-court realm, but clinicians like Prof. Fran Quigley at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney's Health and Human Rights Clinic have expanded that work into the larger forum of policy advocacy, and with some amazing results. 

Starting in Fall 2015, Prof. Quigley's students identified legal barriers faced by their clients, researched those issues, and then took it a step further by creating comprehensive manuals that, according to Prof. Quigley "...outline the scope of Indiana’s problem [regarding drivers license suspension fees], explain how it relates to the national landscape, and make thoughtful recommendations for how lawmakers can solve it."

Prof. Quigley's work is another inspiring reminder that we have many options as clinicians to engage our students in multiple types of advocacy, making our impact even greater for our communities as a whole.  To read more about this process and access the students' report, click on the link below. 

http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/news/releases/2016/01/iu-mckinney-students-research-examines-states-drivers-license-suspension-policies.html.

February 3, 2016 in Clinic Students and Graduates, Clinic Victories, Current Affairs, Teaching and Pedagogy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Op-Ed on Paroline v. U.S.

Here is an op-ed I wrote for Gannett on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Paroline vs. U.S.:  http://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/opinion/2014/04/25/congress-listen-child-sex-abuse-victims/8172953/.  The battle to help restore victims of child pornography will now shift to Capitol Hill.  There is a critical role for law school clinics to play and I hope that you will consider joining the effort. 

April 25, 2014 in Children, Clinic Victories, Current Affairs, Domestic Violence, Family Law, Juvenile Justice, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)