CLINICAL PROGRAM NEWS Winter 2014-2015

Contents

 

Welcome

Although things are always busy in the Clinic, I wanted to take a moment at the beginning of a new semester (and a new year) to reach out to the AUWCL Clinic “family” and let you what we have been up to. The Clinic continues its work of providing students with an unparalleled live-client experiential education. Every year, we watch students struggle with complex legal issues requiring creative solutions, and we see them becoming effective and persuasive lawyers. We see students surprised at times by their clients’ situations and decisions, and we know that they are becoming flexible and client-centered. We hear students’ frustrations with the systemic inequalities that give rise to many of their clients’ legal problems, and we know that they are inspired to work for social justice.

This year, in response to mass child migrations into the U.S. from Central America, we sent two delegations of students and faculty to New Mexico, where they represented women detained at the Artesia Temporary Facility for Adults with Children. After seeing see how immigration policy decisions play out in the lives of real people, the students returned with a renewed zeal to advocate for their longer-term clients.

We seek to replicate these and similar experiences for all of our students. Whether taking a wage theft case to trial, testifying before a legislative body, or advocating on behalf of an innocent spouse before the IRS, students are forced to grapple creatively with the law to help their clients navigate a legal system that was not necessarily designed to include them. We are proud of our students’ accomplishments this year, and we hope that you will be, too.

If you would like to see periodic updates about noteworthy AUWCL Clinic cases and student and faculty achievements, I encourage you to follow our blog as well as our various social media feeds (see the buttons to the right). We also welcome updates from our alumni.  And, of course, we’d love to hear from you on what’s going on in your practice (and how clinic contributed to your many professional successes!).

Here’s to a productive, and enjoyable, year.

Practitioners in Residence

In fall 2014, we welcomed two new Practitioners in Residence to the program.

Kate Sablosky Elengold is a Practitioner-in-Residence with the Women and the Law Clinic. Prior to joining the faculty at AUWCL, Professor Elengold was a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. While at DOJ, Professor Elengold litigated cases under the Fair Housing Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Housing and Community Development Act. She graduated from New York University School of Law, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. See Professor Elengold's full faculty profile here.

Sunita Patel is a Practitioner-in-Residence in the Civil Advocacy Clinic. Prior to arriving at AUWCL, she was a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, an international human rights organization, where she focused on racial justice litigation and legal support for community organizations. She took a leave from CCR to direct and teach in the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School during the Spring 2014 semester. Professor Patel is a graduate of the Washington College of Law. See Professor Patel's full faculty profile here.

See here for more information about the Practitioner in Residence Program.

 

Artesia Project

This fall, the Immigrant Justice Clinic and International Human Rights Law Clinic sent two delegations of students and faculty to New Mexico to work with detainees in the Artesia Temporary Facility for Adults with Children. This immigration detention center is a federal law enforcement training facility operated by Homeland Security that has been converted to house around 700 mothers and children.

The student attorneys spent long days conducting intakes, preparing for bond motions and representing clients in the hearings, accompanying clients in credible fear interviews (CFIs), and completing paperwork. The second delegation of students participated in a candlelight vigil with other volunteers and staffers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) to protest the practice of detaining children and the conditions in the Artesia facility.

For more information about the students' experiences in Artesia, see our blog, and view video reports from the students on our YouTube channel.

Civil Advocacy Clinic

Tolulope “Tolu” Odunsi and Jarrad Wood (pictured) represented two clients before the DC Superior Court. In November, Jarrad and Tolu represented a small, low-income, housing cooperative in a breach-of-contract trial. There, they conducted the direct examination of three witnesses and cross-examined the defendant.  They also successfully defended a motion for directed verdict. Currently, they are drafting a post-trial motion and expect a decision after December 31. Additionally, they represented an exploited low-wage worker in an action to recover unpaid wages totaling more than $33,000 for work completed over three years. In that case, they successfully obtained over $4,500 in sanctions from the opposing party, and have assisted in moving the litigation towards mediation. Both cases provided the students the opportunity to develop productive attorney-client relationships – one with a corporate client and another with an individual client. Professor Llezlie Green Coleman served as the supervising attorney. Professors Ugelow and Patel, as well as other professors and student attorneys, provided assistance and support.

Community and Economic Development Law Clinic

This fall, CEDLC 3L student attorneys Patrick Grove and Alexandra Shea began representing a historic organization: James Reese Europe American Legion Post 5. Post 5 was founded in 1917 and was the first all-black American Legion post in the United States. Its namesake was a D.C. native and a renowned ragtime and early jazz bandleader, arranger, and composer who served as an officer in WWI with the all-black 369th Infantry, otherwise known as the Harlem Hellfighters. After initially advising Post 5 on some organizational issues, the students learned that Post 5 was a treasure trove of archival materials dating from its inception and covering many aspects of the post's history and that of the surrounding community. The students began working with Post 5 on a long-term plan to ensure that the archive is preserved and curated. They also collaborated with Post 5 on efforts to increase and revitalize its membership. Shea and Grove are enjoying the dynamic nature of the representation, as well as working with the leaders of an organization that has done so much to support veterans in its community.

Criminal Justice Clinic

CJC students have been busy representing youth and adults charged with misdemeanors and minor felonies in Maryland. Unlike some of WCL’s other clinics, CJC does not engage in large cases or projects but rather represents clients in the trenches of the often-flawed criminal justice system, in cases that are typically resolved in 60 days or less. In criminal defense work, “victory” has a different meaning than it does in some other areas of legal practice; it means getting clients the best results possible in situations that can involve negative consequences, such as incarceration or other forms of out-of-home placement, or state supervision imposed through probation.

This semester, every student team engaged in sentencing or disposition advocacy.  Through creativity and ingenuity, clinic teams obtained results including probation before judgment, a disposition that withholds a finding of guilt from the client’s record, and “not in need of services,” a disposition in a juvenile case that also withholds a finding of involvement and results in a dismissal if the client complies with conditions such as community service or restitution. In post-disposition advocacy, two juvenile clients were released from residential placements; one of these cases was closed and our client’s lengthy involvement in the juvenile system ended.  Two teams filed motions challenging procedures followed by DJS that played a role in the prosecutor dismissing charges, and another team wrote a motion arguing against a continuance that also resulted in the dismissal of charges. 

D.C. Law Students in Court

Shehrish Rajpoot, a 3L student attorney at D.C. Law Student in Court, has been hard at work assisting clients in the Landlord and Tenant Division of D.C. Superior Court. The best part, she says, is "helping out those who don’t have a voice." Recently, Rajpoot took a case to trial for a client who had been living for almost three years in a vermin-infested room without heat or insulation. When the client began withholding rent because of the uninhabitable living conditions, the landlord began eviction proceedings. At trial, Rajpoot was able to get her client eight months of free rent, a transfer to a larger, better unit, a 50% rent reduction, and an injuction requiring the landlord to remediate the rodent and insect problem in the building. Rajpoot calls her clinical experience “possibly the best experience a student can have.”

Disability Rights Law Clinic

Recently, Henrissa Bassey and Raziya Brumfeld, both 3Ls in AUWCL’s Disability Rights Law Clinic, testified before the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety regarding Bill 20-0710, the Limitations Of Guardianship Amendment Act Of 2014.

Bassey, who herself will soon be appointed guardian for a brother with autism and intellectual disabilities in another jurisdiction, spoke in favor of the sunset provision requiring that guardianships be revisited on a regular basis to determine whether they are still appropriate under the circumstances.

Brumfeld voiced concerns that the District’s current guardianship practices unnecessarily limit the autonomy of many people with disabilities. Brumfeld advocated a requirement that petitioners for guardianship make a case for why supported decision making for the individual, as opposed to guardianship, would not be appropriate.

Visit our blog for more information or to see video of the testimony.

Domestic Violence Clinic

Like all their colleagues in the Domestic Violence Clinic, 3L student attorneys Alexandra Iannolo and Victoria Yeager are learning that there is no such thing as a simple domestic violence case. This semester, the students handled two civil protection orders (CPOs) and an immigration matter, all of which required them to employ creative lawyering solutions to assist their clients. The immigration matter included assisting the client in a higher education administrative disciplinary proceeding as well as working on strategies to preserve the client's immigration status in the face of continuing harassment from an abusive spouse. In one of the CPO matters, the client's problem was compounded by the fact that she and her abuser worked together. The client gave the students the idea of using the threat of a flat hundred-foot CPO as a bargaining chip to reach a settlement involving a closely tailored stay-away order that will help the client avoid problems at work. Iannolo will continue working on in-house DV cases in the spring, while Yeager will spend the spring semester working on criminal contempt prosecutions through the Clinical Program's partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic

The Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, in collaboration with the Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (WALA) and George Washington University College of Law’s Small Business Clinic held another in its series of “Pop Up” Legal Clinics for creative entrepreneurs seeking legal assistance on Wednesday, October 29th at the GW law school clinic offices. The Pop Up Clinic provided legal consultations to individuals and businesses involved in the regions’ creative economy. Student attorneys from the AUWCL IP Clinic provided assistance in copyright, patent, trademark and related fields. GW student attorneys from the Small Business Clinic provided start-up corporate assistance in the area of small business development. All student attorneys were supervised by AUWCL and GWU law school clinical faculty. The demand for legal services was overwhelming and another clinic is planned for the Spring.

For more IP Clinic news, see the IP Clinic blog.

 

Immigrant Justice Clinic

Nirali Shah and Jeanna Lee, both 3Ls in the Immigrant Justice Clinic, are working on an empirical research project involving immigration issues and working conditions faced by domestic workers. This fall, they attended a conference called “Justice in the Home: Domestic Work Past, Present, and Future” at the Barnard Center for Research on Women in New York. There, they met other advocates, researchers, and organizers who work on behalf of domestic workers. According to Lee, "Throughout the conference, scholars, legal practitioners, and community organizers were able to discuss how new research altered our conceptual frameworks about labor, gender, race, and resistance. We learned a great deal about the existing groundwork in this field as well as the relevant topics of debate and areas of advancement. Most importantly, we met the activists and researchers who work in the trenches and understand the needs of domestic workers on an intimate level."

 

International Human Rights Law Clinic

Usually, an asylum client's struggle is over when she learns that she has been granted asylum. In one of our cases, however, it took about two years and much administrative wrangling after the asylum phase ended to reunite our client with her children. To move the process along, 3L student attorneys Ilays Aden and Emily McCabe received help from a U.S. Senator, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the International Organization of Migrants. The ordeal was not over once the legal hurdles had been cleared to bring the children to the United States. The airline refused boarding to the children because they were unaccompanied minors and refused to accommodate them. Aden and McCabe sprang into action, lobbying the airline tirelessly to recognize the extenuating circumstances and permit the children to fly. Thankfully, they succeeded, and the client, after years of waiting, was finally able to be with her children.

Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic

Tax Clinic student attorney Yuxuan Zhang recently won a more than $700,000 innocent spouse relief claim for her client before the Internal Revenue Service.  The client, an immigrant with very limited English proficiency, came to the U.S. to get married. She did not know that her husband had a gambling problem, or that he was mis-reporting his income. While they were married, the client’s ex-husband handled all of the finances and filed their taxes jointly without her knowledge, forging her signature. The result was a huge tax bill, and the IRS held them both liable. The ex-husband filed for bankruptcy, at which point the IRS sent our client, a minimum wage earner, a bill for $720,000.  The IRS threatened to seize our client’s meager assets to pay the debt.

Zhang argued that, as an innocent spouse, our client should not be liable for the debt. The IRS agreed and granted relief. This story had an additional happy ending. For the past several years, our client was unable to file green card petition for her daughter due to the tax issue. Succeeding in this case makes our client able to reunite with her family.  Also, the inspiring victory gives students confidence in further pursuing tax law.

Women and the Law Clinic

Our Women and the Law Clinic (WALC) works on all types of matters where a client's gender affects her experience in the legal system. This fall, 3L students Jason Cowin and Min Jung Kim worked with a long-term clinic client who we assisted earlier with obtaining a U visa, and most recently with her application for lawful permanent residency (“green card”). Once the client’s green card was granted, Cowin and Kim first had to locate the client, who had moved out of state, and then explain her new rights and responsibilities. The students had to overcome both a language barrier with the client and the complicated bureaucracy of USCIS and other government agencies, which they then had to understand and communicate back to the client. They also realized that the client needed to be educated about aspects of lawful permanent residency that she did not know to be concerned about, such as traveling outside the U.S. with her child, tax issues, and maintaining a current address with USCIS, among other things. The experience taught Cowin and Kim that a legal “win” is often not the end of an attorney’s advocacy, and that lawyers play an important role in helping clients understand what a legal decision means in their daily lives. The students also gained an appreciation for what an unrepresented person  experiences when trying to navigate the legal system and satisfy basic administrative requirements.