It is our pleasure to share some of the work our incredible colleagues and students in the experiential education program at UCI Law have been engaged in over the past year. Included are highlights from our clinical program, our Externships Program, and our Pro Bono Program. 

Recently we also had the opportunity to welcome some new colleagues. Adam Cowing now joins Carrie Hempel co-directing the Community and Economic Development Clinic. Jessica Rofé and K.S. Park are serving as visiting clinical professors in the Immigrant Rights Clinic and International Justice Clinic, respectively. And in January, we hired our inaugural Legal Empowerment Attorney, Sarah Beydoun (Class of ’23), in partnership with El Centro Cultural de México, to provide direct legal services and campaign support for community organizations in downtown Santa Ana, California, where our law clinics have a satellite space. 

We know there is much work to be done, but we are grateful for this opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments along the way. 

All the best,

Annie Lai

Co-Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Professor of Law

Michael Robinson-Dorn

Co-Associate Dean for Experiential Education and Clinical Professor of Law

Civil Rights Litigation Clinic

Clinic Director: Paul Hoffman

Adjunct Clinical Professor: Melanie Partow

The Civil Rights Litigation Clinic (CRLC) recently helped achieve three significant appellate victories. First, the Eleventh Circuit overturned summary judgment in a human rights case, Doe v. Chiquita, in which thousands of victims of extrajudicial execution in Colombia are seeking to hold Chiquita responsible for its involvement in the violence. The victory paved the way for jury trials starting in early 2024. Next, the California Court of Appeal issued a major published opinion allowing the CRLC’s challenge to the Orange County District Attorney’s DNA collection program to proceed. In this action, CRLC students, working in partnership with the Criminal Justice Clinic, are challenging the constitutionality of the DA’s collection of DNA from individuals in misdemeanor cases. Finally, the Ninth Circuit issued a broad-ranging opinion allowing a civil case under the Alien Tort Statute to proceed against Cisco for its alleged complicity in the Chinese government’s persecution of Falun Gong members.  

CRLC students also worked on many other cases over the past year, including challenges to police misconduct arising from the George Floyd protests in Los Angeles in 2020.

Community and Economic Development Clinic

Clinic Directors: Carrie Hempel and Adam Cowing

Adjunct Lecturer: Anna Marie del Rio

The Community and Economic Development Clinic (CED) represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, with a particular focus on creating affordable housing and promoting economic development in low-income communities throughout California. 

A highlight of CED work this year has been assisting approximately fifty farmworker families who live in a mobile home park near Fresno in their efforts to purchase their park. The purchase will stabilize rents, enable needed infrastructure repairs, and allow for cooperative ownership. In partnership with California Rural Legal Assistance and the California Center for Cooperative Development, CED has provided comprehensive legal representation to make the purchase possible. Over the past year, CED students set up a nonprofit limited equity corporation to purchase the park, negotiated the terms of the purchase, and worked with lenders to secure financing. Park residents will govern the nonprofit entity that acquires the park and much of the clinic’s work in the fall involved students working with residents to ensure that the new ownership structure reflects the community’s values. The purchase closed in February 2024. 

In other work, CED students continue to provide a range of transactional legal services to local nonprofits and small businesses. Examples of this work include the representation of a community land trust in Santa Ana as it finalizes a community garden project with space for farming and community events; an urban farm collective that promotes locally supported agriculture; several low-income entrepreneurs navigating regulatory requirements involved in starting food businesses; and a nonprofit that promotes economic and community development in downtown Santa Ana.

Criminal Justice Clinic

Clinic Director: Katharine Tinto

Adjunct Lecturer: Cori Ferrentino

This past year, the Criminal Justice Clinic (CJC) continued its work on behalf of those caught in the criminal legal system. CJC students represent low-income individuals who are charged with misdemeanor offenses in state court, often working in collaboration with local advocates for the houseless. In addition, CJC has continued its long-standing legal work on behalf of noncitizens who seek to vacate state criminal convictions that are causing adverse immigration consequences. 

CJC has also continued its work fighting for the release of prisoners who are serving lengthy prison offenses due to outdated and unjust sentencing laws.

Pictured: CJC compassionate release client Derrell Gaulden and Professor Katie Tinto at the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s hearing room in Washington, D.C.

Since beginning this project in 2019, CJC has successfully won the release of 19 individuals, eight of whom were over the age of 65, ten of whom were serving life or effective life sentences, and ten of whom had each served more than 30 years in prison. CJC files these motions on behalf of clients throughout the south, including in federal courts in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, and Florida.

In February 2023, former CJC client and release-grantee, Derrell Gaulden, was invited by the United States Sentencing Commission to give public hearing testimony in support of proposed amendments to federal policy governing the reduction of sentences based on outdated sentencing laws. On November 1, 2023, the proposed amendments went into effect. CJC will continue to be at the frontlines of challenging excessive sentences and second chance litigation in federal courts nationwide.

Domestic Violence Clinic

Clinic Directors: Jane Stoever and Patricia Cyr

Students in the Domestic Violence Clinic (DVC) provide transformative representation to abuse survivors in domestic violence, child custody, and immigration cases. Students also engage in community education and legislative advocacy on behalf of clients to more broadly address access to safety, justice, and healing.  

In 2023, after litigating a Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) case for a client that spanned over a year due to countless deposition notices and discovery motions, the DVC was inspired to propose a bill to create a process and protections for discovery in DVRO cases. Until now, California has lacked law on discovery pertaining to the factual and legal context of DVROs and has instead applied the broad Civil Discovery Act to DVROs. Advocates around the state similarly witnessed the weaponization of discovery to intimidate and harass abuse survivors from pursuing protection and to delay relief. The bill (SB 741), which was recently signed into law, prohibits discovery such as depositions in DVRO cases except as authorized by the court upon a finding of good cause, thereby allowing courts to more expeditiously adjudicate domestic violence survivors’ requests for DVROs consistent with legislative intent. 

In addition to addressing statewide and national issues through legislative change, DVC students frequently appear in court to obtain protection for abuse survivors and their families through evidentiary hearings and negotiated settlements. Professor Stoever also continues to direct the UCI Initiative to End Family Violence and co-chair Orange County’s Domestic Violence Death Review Team

Pictured: DVC students and Professor Jane Stoever at a local high school giving a presentation on “Healthy Relationship Dynamics and Teen Dating Violence Prevention”

Environmental Law Clinic

Clinic Director: Michael Robinson-Dorn

As the Environmental Law Clinic (ELC) enters its 13th year, it continues to work alongside and represent local, regional, and national non-profit organizations advocating to enhance and protect the environment and community health in California and beyond.

Recent ELC work has included litigation and counseling on matters involving wildlife habitat and corridors, fisheries policy (in partnership with the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre), the protection of sacred cultural lands and resources, and community health and welfare. Long-time ELC clients also saw the successful culmination of a few other multi-year policy and litigation matters in which the ELC was proud to have played a part. Of course, other similar multi-year matters continue.   

Looking forward, the ELC expects to continue last year’s collaboration with UCI’s Civil Rights Litigation Clinic on climate and other important cross-over matters—stay tuned! 

Immigrant Rights Clinic

Clinic Director: Annie Lai, Jessica Rofé (Visiting)

Adjunct Lecturers: Liz Hercules-Paez and Wendy Blanco

The Immigrant Rights Clinic (IRC) provides holistic representation to immigrants facing deportation and partners with immigrant advocacy groups on critical issues affecting low-income immigrants in California and beyond. Last year, IRC advocated for detained and formerly detained individuals who faced immigration consequences as a result of involvement with the criminal legal system. IRC students also collaborated with our in-house social work team to assist clients with non-legal needs, such as getting access to housing and mental health care. We won post-conviction relief for several clients and secured the release of one client, a survivor of abuse who had lived in the U.S. since she was four years old, who was transferred to ICE detention directly from prison and detained in Eloy, Arizona. 

Additionally, IRC students continued to litigate Kidd v. Mayorkas, a case challenging ICE practices when conducting warrantless arrests at community members’ homes in Southern California. In particular, plaintiffs hope to stop ICE officers’ tactic of posing as police or probation officers to gain access to community members. In February 2023, a federal judge granted the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. IRC was one of several co-counsel who received recognition from the ACLU for their work on the case. 

IRC students led non-litigation projects as well. They drafted a report with Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the American Immigration Council analyzing records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) about Border Patrol’s involvement in racial justice protests around the country in the summer of 2020; helped to successfully get the City of Santa Ana to adopt a resolution putting the issue of noncitizen voting on the ballot for November 2024; worked on community empowerment projects with the Orange County Rapid Response Network (OCRRN); and they continue to collaborate with national groups to examine the role and effects of ICE surveillance. 

Pictured (left to right): Sandra Guzman (Class of ’23), former Clinical Fellow Caitlin Bellis, and Brenda Rosas (Class of ’24) holding award for IRC at ACLU SoCal Advocates for Justice Reception 

Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic

Clinic Director: Jack Lerner

Adjunct Faculty: Susan Seager and Christina Gagnier

The Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic (IPAT) has released the long-awaited Second Edition of their Rap on Trial Legal Guide. The new edition features, among other things, added content including the impact of a new California law putting guardrails on the use of creative expression in the courtroom. Since 2021, IPAT Clinic students have also presented workshops to hundreds of attorneys across the country, consulted with legislators, and enhanced the Guide’s companion Brief Bank and Case Compendium. In 2023, the Clinic advised over a dozen filmmakers and creators on complex issues of law and strategy, ranging from rightsholder negotiations to copyright issues including fair use, public domain status, and works made for hire. Clinic clients’ projects range from a documentary on Native Hawaiʻian protests against development on sacred land to an intersectional civil rights project in 1960s Mississippi. The Clinic also filed an amicus brief on behalf of independent filmmakers in a closely watched constitutional challenge to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

The Tech Startup Practice entered its seventh year as part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Law Clinic Certification Program. The project has helped dozens of local small businesses, mostly women- and minority-owned and with a social benefit mission, to secure federal trademark protection for their businesses. 

In the Press Freedom Project, which provides legal services to independent journalists exposing government misconduct, the Clinic won a court order in Knock LA v. County of Los Angeles, requiring the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to disclose its secret investigation of a deputy who shot another deputy’s ankle in a reported “deputy gang” dispute. In City of Los Angeles v. Camacho, students are defending independent Los Angeles journalist Ben Camacho, who has been sued by the City of Los Angeles for publishing photographs of 9,000 Los Angeles police officers – even though the City voluntarily turned over the photos pursuant to the California Public Records Act – based on the claim that the photos include some photos of undercover officers. The City is asking for a court order banning Mr. Camacho from publishing any of the 9,000 photos in the future. Clinic students are arguing that the City’s demand violates the First Amendment.

International Justice Clinic

Clinic Director: David Kaye, K.S. Park (Visiting)

Clinical Fellows: Hinako Sugiyama and Hashmat Nadirpor

The core agenda of the International Justice Clinic (IJC) is to develop, extend, and consolidate international human rights law in particular areas of need around the world. 

The Treaty Body Litigation Initiative is an initiative advocating for human rights improvement before the United Nations treaty bodies such as the Human Rights Committee, a monitoring body of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a part of the Initiative, faculty and students (pictured to the right) attended a Committee proceeding in Geneva to present a report about the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s dragnet surveillance practices, resulting in a recommendation to conform practices to international human rights norms.

Pictured: Hinako Sugiyama (Clinical Fellow), Madison Larsen (Class of ’25), Matthew Hitomi (Class of ’25)

In addition, IJC was selected as a grantee of the Ford Foundation Dignity and Justice Fund at New Venture Fund for a coalition building in Sub-Saharan Africa aimed at promoting legal constraints on the global private surveillance industry such as spyware.  

Pioneering a new teaching method, we held a cross-clinic class with Korea University Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic to review our amicus brief and KU Clinic’s appellate/constitutional briefs in a consolidated suit against the South Korean government’s blocking of the website of Women On Web, a vital information source on drug-induced abortion for women in Korea and the world. 

As part of the Afghanistan Human Rights Project, IJC submitted a Human Rights Overview of Afghanistan to the UN Secretary-General Special Coordinator, Independent Assessment mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2679. The Overview highlights the urgent, ongoing crisis in Afghanistan, presents recommendations to alleviate and improve the circumstance, and calls on the de facto government to ensure the protection of human rights of its people. 

Ninth Circuit Appellate Litigation Clinic

Clinic Directors: Peter Afrasiabi and Kathryn Davis

Adjunct Lecturers: Kathryn Eidmann and Michael Seplow

The Ninth Circuit Appellate Litigation Clinic (ALC) litigated four appeals to conclusion in 2023 and has four more currently pending. The Clinic won two of the immigration appeals in 2023 and lost one, and secured a financial settlement for a civil rights client in his 1983 appeal in the fourth case. The 75 percent success rate for 2023 is well above the average success rate of 10 percent in the Ninth Circuit and is on par with the Clinic’s overall ~50 percent success rate over the past decade-plus. One of the immigration victories last year involved a Chinese national who fled his country after being beaten and tortured by government and police officials for his efforts to support his mother’s Christian church.

Currently, the Clinic is handling four cases in the Ninth Circuit: two immigration cases, one a prisoner civil rights case, and the fourth a railroad retirement board dispute for an elderly pensioner. One of the Clinic’s current clients was a Cambodian refugee who arrived in the U.S. at age one during the Khmer Rouge regime, and became a legal resident, but was later convicted of a gun crime and deported to Cambodia. In time, his conviction was disqualified as even being a legal basis for removal, but the agency denied his request to reopen his case so he could return to the U.S. ALC students will argue that case and the three other appeals in April 2024. 

Workers, Law, and Organizing Clinic

Clinic Director: Sameer Ashar

Adjunct Lecturers: Amelia Alvarez and Jennifer Reisch

Amongst other projects, Workers, Law, and Organizing Clinic (WLO) students have been supporting individuals detained at the Mesa Verde ICE Detention Facility in Bakersfield, California, operated by GEO Group, Inc. In June 2022, a courageous group inside the facility initiated a labor strike. They were doing janitorial work for $1 per day. After one of the leaders of the strike sat down with ICE and GEO officials to discuss the demands of the group — minimum wage, unspoiled food, clean water, uniforms that weren’t threadbare — he was placed in solitary confinement. The California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ), which seeks to disrupt and dismantle the immigration detention industry in California, had previously successfully led the fight to close a publicly-owned facility in Yolo County and offered immigration counsel to a large number of detainees at Mesa Verde. WLO students set out with CCIJ to convince the National Labor Relations Board to find that the Mesa Verde workers are employees under federal labor law and began filing unfair labor practice charges against GEO.

While the outcome of our legal efforts is unknown at this time, we see at least three lessons that we can draw from this work. First, this is an example of how carceral systems obliterate the floor of employment and labor law on which workers stand. GEO expropriates the labor of those who it is paid to confine, adds surplus workers into the local labor market, and casts a shadow over workplaces outside of detention. Second, workers under great threat still have the capacity to stand up to their employers, with support from lawyers and organizers. We remain in awe of the workers’ mastery of the internal rules and regulations of the facility, the detention standards promulgated by ICE, and the internal grievance processes. And we are inspired by their capacity to strike in the face of the absolute power of their employer over their lives. Third, it is possible to engage in legal advocacy using an abolitionist frame. CCIJ is an exemplary organization that teaches us how to use liberal legalism to force the state to divest in carceral capacity. Again, the outcome of this campaign is unclear, but we have had much to discuss in clinic seminar and rounds.

UCI Law Elective Clinics

In addition to UCI Law's core clinics, the Law School also offers several elective clinics for second- and third-year students:

UCI Law Externships

Director of Externships: Anna Davis

In addition to the outstanding opportunities for UCI Law students through the clinical program, many students seek to deepen their experiential learning in the community through the Externship Program, receiving academic credit for work with a judge, non-profit, or government agency. Most students engage in part-time externships in-person or virtually, working with a local placement or some in other parts of the country. A few students choose to fully immerse themselves in a placement for a semester, such as in Geneva, Switzerland; Washington D.C.; New York; South Korea; or elsewhere. 

The Externship Program allows students to engage in legal work in their chosen field, which can vary. Some recent externships have included work in federal and state judicial chambers at both the trial and appellate levels. 

Pictured: Celine Gruaz (Class of ’24) outside the Palais de Nations at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland 

Other students have done work with offices focused on criminal prosecution and defense, civil rights, immigration, direct services for low-income seniors, worker’s rights, and environmental work.   

In total, UCI Law J.D. students participate in externships during fall, spring, and summer, working with more than 300 organizations, and averaging more than 30,000 hours of legal work per year.  

Students in UCI Law’s Graduate Tax Program, coordinated by Natascha Fastabend, also have the opportunity to participate in Graduate Tax Program Externships through partnerships with a variety of placements including with law firms, industry and government.  

UCI Law Pro Bono Program

Director of Pro Bono Programs: Anna Davis

UCI Law offers one of the most robust pro bono programs in the nation with students engaging in pro bono legal work within a few weeks of starting law school. In October of last year, we were thrilled to announce the naming of our award-winning program as the Michael G. Ermer Pro Bono Program. Mike Ermer has prioritized pro bono throughout his career, including helping launch three projects with UCI Law. He exemplifies the decades-long dedication to pro bono UCI Law hopes to inspire in its graduates.

More than 90 percent of UCI Law students engage in pro bono work, providing legal services to a variety of underserved communities and causes. Last year UCI Law students completed over 13,000 pro bono hours, averaging more than 28 hours per student. 

UCI Law students choose from more than 100 pro bono offerings each semester. All work is supervised by attorneys with student leaders helping to manage some of the larger projects.  Pro bono work assists foster children, domestic violence survivors, low-income workers, undocumented individuals, transgender individuals, criminal defendants, those seeking expungements, animal rights groups, seniors, and veterans, among others. UCI Law students engage in this vital work over and above their rigorous academic schedules.

UCI Law Experiential Education Administration

Co-Associate Dean for Experiential Education: Annie Lai

Co-Associate Dean for Experiential Education: Michael Robinson-Dorn

Director of Externships and Pro Bono: Anna Davis

Experiential Learning Programs Coordinator: Alexis Mondares

Law Clinic Administrator: Debi Gloria

Law Clinics Coordinator: Czarina Ellingson

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