McGeorge's On-Campus Clinics, Community Legal Services, has moved into a beautiful new space. Click the picture above for a video tour.
In This Issue
  • A Message from Clinics Director Melissa C. Brown
  • A Message from McGeorge School of Law Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz
  • See what's new in the Bankruptcy Clinic, Elder and Health Law Clinic, Homeless Advocacy Clinic, Immigration Law Clinic, Legislative and Public Policy Clinic, Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic and Federal Defender Clinic
  • Meet an alumnus of the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic

A Message from Clinics Director Melissa C. Brown
During 2020-2021, McGeorge Legal Clinics continued to represent individual clients in spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing essential services to vulnerable members of our community who have no place else to turn. The grit, dedication, creativity, and resourcefulness of our Student Attorneys has been remarkable.

On campus, Community Legal Services, McGeorge’s year-round legal clinic, provides pro bono legal services to the greater Sacramento community in the areas of Immigration, Bankruptcy, and Elder & Health Law. This March, we celebrated one full year at our new home, on 2925 34th Street. Last year, CLS closed 236 cases for 586 low-income clients in the Sacramento area. Off campus, our Legislative & Public Policy Clinic, Prisoner Civil Rights Medication Clinic and Federal Defender Clinic students continue to show equally impressive results.
 
Despite being isolated from friends, colleagues, professors, and resources, our Student Attorneys illustrated their commitment by providing zealous advocacy through direct legal representation, mediation of civil rights claims, and legislative advocacy. Thank you to our students, staff attorneys, post-graduate fellows, legal coordinator and clinical professors for another successful and impactful year. Despite a most challenging year, you persevered in providing high-quality legal services and advocacy to our community.

Professor Melissa C. Brown
Director, McGeorge Legal Clinics
Director, Elder & Health Law Clinic
A Message from McGeorge Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz
Unbowed by the raging pandemic, McGeorge’s outstanding clinic faculty and staff continues to make service to our clients and gold standard education of our students the centerpiece of not only the clinics but, really, the law school. McGeorge’s clinics were among a very small number of clinics in the State to be open for in-person service to our clients. Our clinic team deftly navigated the tricky border between what have been proven to be flawless health and safety protocols and clients’ needs and thereby managed to continue, unbroken, McGeorge’s nearly 50-year history of providing clinical legal services to the Sacramento community. In total, the clinics served 586 clients, handled 236 cases, and recovered and protected assets in excess of $1.5 million.

Michael Hunter Schwartz
Dean, McGeorge School of Law
Updates from the Clinics
Elder and Health Law Clinic

The Elder and Health Law (EHL) clinic, a civil practice clinic serving those age 60 and older, offers clients legal representation on matters including protection from physical and financial abuse, estate and end-of-life planning, contract disputes and more. In 2020 alone, the clinic recovered and/or protected $1,424,190 in assets for elders and fine/fees forgiveness.

Ten students joined the Elder & Health Law Clinic (ELHC) in the fall, which expanded to twelve this spring. Lacey Mickleburgh our fearless staff attorney and clinical fellow, Kendell Bennet, along with Clinic Director, Professor Melissa Brown, rounded out the team. Although COVID-19 prevented access to the courts, student attorneys were able to assist and represent elders in a variety of legal matters. Cases included estate planning and powers of attorney to give peace of mind to their clients, consumer protection from suspect businesses, elder abuse restraining orders and elder financial abuse litigation.

During much of the pandemic, the courts were not accepting new cases other than requests for elder abuse, domestic violence, or civil harassment restraining orders. Because elders are often the targets of undue influence and false promises, many transfer their homes, their only asset, to family or friends. The ELHC was able to protect these assets through a restraining order and order to re-convey the property to our client. This novel and creative approach saved three homes from sale, and our clients from being evicted from their own homes.

When the courts did open up for trials, student attorneys achieved major settlements in three financial abuse cases, each during the heat of litigation. Students took depositions, propounded and responded to discovery, filed motions and briefs; all of which let to successful results for happy clients. They successfully represented a client in a multi-day Zoom trial and helped recover substantial assets that had been taken from them. The case began in 2019 and took the efforts of multiple students who assisted with depositions, trial preparation, and more.
(pictured left to right) Student attorneys Jacob Haynes, Brandon Webb, and Mariam Pambukyan assissted Staff Attorney Lacey Mickleburgh (far right) and Clinic Director Melissa Brown in preparing for a successful trial.
"I love the clinics because it is a unique opportunity to help vulnerable members of the Sacramento community. Working in the Elder and Health Law Clinic has been an eye-opening experience for me. I’ve been exposed such a wide variety of legal issues - our clinic helps people with restraining orders, Social Security, probate, and so many other issues. There is so much opportunity to learn and grow under the supervision of absolutely phenomenal supervising attorneys.
 
My favorite part about the clinic has been fighting for our clients. So many clients have come to the clinic after being turned away by other legal organizations. When they’re told we are going to help them they are always so thankful. Win or lose, these clients know that we are in their corner and that goes such a long way with them. It’s what drives me to fight harder for them!"
Taylore Kadin, 3L
Homeless Advocacy Clinic
In 2019, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors formally declared an emergency homeless shelter crisis. The 2019 Homeless Point in Time County for Sacramento County found that 5,570 persons experience homelessness on a given night, and that number has increased substantially with COVID 19. In 2018, 132 homeless men and women died in Sacramento County, and the number of homeless deaths is surging. The data from a variety of governmental and nonprofits organizations is overwhelming that the vulnerable reentry and homeless populations suffer disproportionately from serious mental illness and substance use disorders.

To help address these needs, McGeorge has expanded its Community Legal Services to include a Homeless Advocacy Clinic (HAC), which is primarily funded by a multi-year grant from the nonprofit CARESTAR Foundation.

The HAC includes a medical legal partnership (MLP) with WellSpace Health, a community health center in Sacramento. By addressing civil legal needs, MLPs are a proven model to address unmet social determinants of health that impact on homelessness and recidivism. The McGeorge Community Legal Clinics have developed sound working relationships with these community partners, including the Office of the Federal Defender, the Sacramento County Public Defender, and the Exodus Project, an interfaith nonprofit providing mentorship and other services to returning citizens from the Sacramento County jails. 

Interim Clinic Director, Professor Emeriti Dorothy Landsberg, and students in the HAC work to eliminate civil legal barriers to criminal justice-involved individuals experiencing homelessness. Among the most vulnerable in the Sacramento community, they often fall through the cracks of legal and medical systems, perpetuating a costly and tragic cycle of recidivism and chronic unsheltered homelessness. Legal services include access to public benefits, expungement of criminal records, reduction of traffic fines & fees, child support modification, and credit counseling. Students gain valuable experience in working with vulnerable individuals and helping to give them a change to get back on their feet and reintegrate with the community.
Immigration Law Clinic
In Spring 2021, Immigration Clinic Director Blake Nordahl along with staff attorney Kishwer Vikaas and Professor Emeriti Julie Davies welcomed 11 student attorneys— one of our highest enrollments to date. Students represented low-income clients in a range of matters. Cases ranged from helping three minor siblings from Central America obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status that will take them on the path to legal residence to assisting young people with initial Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications for the first time since the program was halted by executive order in 2017.
 
While COVID-19 has slowed down courts and posed a challenge to representation in many cases, immigration students continued to advocate for clients to secure permanent and semi-permanent status, gain economic stability and reunite families. In 2020, the Immigration Clinic provided robust consultations to approximately 72 individuals in the community and accepted approximately 44 individuals as clients for full representation in affirmative applications for legal status. Representation also included appearances in Superior Court via Zoom where students represented clients in court virtually.
 
The Immigration Clinic also welcomed McGeorge and clinic alumus Oscar C. Cardoza in 2020-2021 as a Post-Graduate Fellow. In his role as Fellow, Oscar provides consultations to referrals from community partner Sacramento LGBT Center and helps strategize with student attorneys and maintains his own caseload.
Bankruptcy Clinic
During the most recent academic year, in the Bankruptcy Clinic, we represented a variety of people. I was particularly pleased to see that we represented several individuals with disabilities. What was particularly gratifying was the fact that these clients would have been unable to obtain representation elsewhere. One client that particularly stands out in my mind, was a hearing and visually impaired client. The student on the case devoted many hours to see to it that all requirements were met in pursuing the complex bankruptcy case. There were many obstacles to overcome, and the result was that our client’s debts were discharged and he was able to get a fresh start in life.

Warren A. Jones
Professor Emeritus
Director, Bankruptcy Clinic
Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic
Fall 2020 clinic students featured alongside U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota and U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman of the United States District Court, Eastern District of California - two of the judges the Prisoner Civil Rights Clinic co-mediates cases with in the Eastern District.
Spring clinic students featured alongside U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis M. Cota and U.S. Magistrate Judge Kendall J. Newman of the United States District Court, Eastern District of California—two of the judges the Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic co-mediates cases with in the Eastern District. Also featured is Sujean Park, the ADR and Pro Bono coordinator at the Eastern District.
In the Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic, taught and directed by Professor Ederlina Co, students co-mediate Section 1983 prisoner civil rights claims with Magistrate Judge Kendall Newman and Magistrate Judge Dennis Cota at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In connection with each case, students interview the inmate-plaintiff, write a bench memo for the judge, and work with the judge to facilitate a settlement in the case. Students gain hands-on experience in mediation, develop a working knowledge of Section 1983 prisoner civil rights law and procedure, and hone the legal research, writing, and analytical skills they developed in their Global Lawyering Skills courses. Students also gain insight into the flaws of the American corrections system and observe firsthand the power imbalances and inequities incarcerated plaintiffs face when they pursue their civil rights claims in federal court.

“The Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic has provided me a space to work on my legal writing skills, understand the mediation process, and connect with judges. In addition to these practical experiences, we have meaningful discussions about race and incarceration, which provides a unique lens as a student co-mediator in the clinic."
Julienne Correa, 2L
 
“It was an amazing experience to work alongside a federal judge and see their knowledge and wisdom in action mediating a prisoner's civil rights case. It was humbling and empowering to learn about an inmate's civil rights claims, the details of their case, and hear their story.”
Marisa Gonzalez, 2L

“The Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic allowed me to help get justice for those who felt victimized by incarceration.”
Kirin Madison, 2L
 
"The Prisoner Civil Rights Mediation Clinic has given me the hands-on experience that all law students need. I have interviewed inmates concerning federal civil rights violations, worked directly with Magistrate Judges, and helped facilitate settlement conferences. I walk away from the clinic with knowledge about the prison system's administrative procedural process, intake interview skills, and negotiation techniques."
Ryan Tyre, 2L
 
The Prisoners Civil Rights Mediation Clinic is such a special clinic because it affords students the incredible opportunity to co-mediate civil rights claims with judges. Getting to see what types of claims prisoners file, while also getting to speak about the claims with the judge, is an experience that benefits not only the student, but also the prisoner and the Deputy Attorney General assigned to the case. Students bring new insight and perspective to the mediation, and leave with a better understanding of prisoner civil rights claims and the mediation process."
Annabella Yousif, 2L
Federal Defender Clinic
Eight third-year students in the Federal Defender Clinic have been busy working on every stage of misdemeanor federal cases. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their participation has been remote, but this has not deterred them from ably representing their clients as certified misdemeanor student attorneys in federal court,” says Federal Defender Clinic co-Professor Rachelle Barbour.
 
They represent dozens of clients each month during regular misdemeanor and veterans court intake calendars. They have engaged in motions hearings and disputed sentencing hearings. The federal misdemeanor docket has particularly impacted by COVID closures in 2020, with numerous cases being prepared for trial in the next few months. Despite the changes in practice, the Federal Defender Clinic students have rapidly learned how to use technology to continue to provide strong, effective representation for their clients. 
To date, Federal Defender Clinic students have participated in three bench trials on Zoom. One bench trial was done by Richanne Roope with assistance from Gonzalo Duran—both who were also alums of the Immigration Clinic. And recently, students Hector Perla and Garrett Porter represented a client accused of alleged timber theft from the El Dorado National Forest. The government failed to prove the case and the client was acquitted. In their case, student attorneys showed that the client had properly used his timber permit. “Key to that victory was an excellent opening statement by Garrett and a superb cross-examination of an officer by Hector,” reports Professor Linda Allison, co-Professor of the Federal Defender Clinic.
 
Allison shares that Student lawyers Josh White, Brittany Gamlen, Henry Ng and Ryan Dugan have been doing fantastic work as well in helping to prepare for the trials and managing their own caseloads. “Josh was singled out by a judge after court today for going above and beyond for a blind, homeless client,” reports Allison. “His client did not have the means to appear via Zoom so for each court appearance Josh went and picked her up in his car and appeared in court with her.” Students continue to work hard as the Clinic prepares for a number of bench trials scheduled for April and May.
Legislative & Public Policy Clinic Alumnus Profile
Meet Alumnus Aaron Brieno, '14
In May 2020, McGeorge alumnus Aaron Brieno, ‘14 joined Professor Cathy Christian as Co-Director of the McGeorge Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. “One of the biggest reasons why I teach is to ensure that students of all backgrounds have access to public policy making tools,” says Brieno, who currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for California State Senator Ben Hueso. “Ideally the Clinic provides students with tools they can bring back to their community as social impact leaders.”
 
Despite the challenges of COVID, Legislative and Public Policy students are thriving. “I am so proud that all of our students groups were able to either introduce a bill or work on a bill this year,” says Brieno. “No small feat since the California Legislature has limited the introduction of bills during COVID.”
 
Brieno and Professor Christian have exposed students to a number of legislators and public policy advocates during the course of the year. “We wanted to provide our students with a well-rounded experience and expose them to impactful leaders,” Brieno says. Last fall alone, students heard from a panel of women policy advocates about their experiences in the Capitol and from “Just Mercy” film producer Scott Budnick about his anti-recidivism work in California.
 
Brieno himself has come full-circle since his days as a student at the Clinic. The grandson of migrant farm workers, Aaron was born and raised in California’s rural San Joaquin Valley. As a McGeorge student, the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic shaped the trajectory of his career. “The Clinic had a tremendously huge impact on my life,” says Brieno, crediting the mentorship of then clinic co-director and founder Rex Frasier,’00 and co-director Anthony Williams,’05.
 
As part of his mission to pay it forward, in 2016, Aaron founded a community-based organization, Inspire California, which provides free college prep resources, mentorship and college campus tours to high school students of Central Valley migrant farmworkers.
“My advice to McGeorge students interested in legislative and public policy work is to reach out to us,” says Aaron. “We are more than happy to set up a virtual coffee or put you in touch with a current student.”
McGeorge Legislative and Public Policy Clinic 2020-2021 Student-Led Bills
Although COVID-19 “paused” hearings in the California Legislature, students in the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic continued to identify issues to advance the public interest. Students commit to a full year of clinic work, often beginning in the summer to begin their work and identify their clients. Here is what they’ve been working on this legislative session:
 
  • AB 9 (Wood) - Would increase California’s capacity to prevent and reduce the impact of wildfires. Students: Jake Gavin and Hunter Swearingen / Client: California Farm Bureau Federation.
  • AB 118 (Kamlager) - This bill would enact the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems Act or C.R.I.S.E.S. Act for the purpose of creating, implementing, and evaluating the 3-year C.R.I.S.E.S. Grant Pilot Program. Students: Elaine Stone and Victoria Rodriguez/ Client: TBD)
  • SB 311 (Hueso) Ryan’s Law: Compassionate Access to Medical Cannabis in Healthcare Facilities Act - Seeks to provide access to medical cannabis in healthcare facilities for Californians who are terminally ill. Students: Eric Hoffman and Alex Pequinot/ Client: Jim Bartell & Cruz Strategies.
  • AB 610 (Kalra) - This bill seeks to provide protections for pupils from criminalization for school-related misbehavior that is best addressed by school site personnel and appropriate supportive services. Students: Laiza Negrete and Khlement Hodge/ Client: Fathers and Families of the San Joaquin.
  • SB 790 (Stern/Cortese) Wildlife Corridors Students: Leanne Bolano and Mariah Ponce/ Client: California Environmental & Energy Consulting
  • AB 1282 (Bloom) California Pet Blood Bank Modernization Act - This bill seeks to bring compassion, transparency and oversight to California’s animal blood banks. Students: Kylie Zaechelein and Paige Weiner/ Client: Social Compassion in Legislation.
McGeorge Legal Clinics Launches a Blog
In Spring 2021, McGeorge Legal Clinics launched a new blog to highlight the work and successes of the Student Attorneys and Staff Attorneys working diligently on behalf of our clients at McGeorge Community Legal Services. We look forward to sharing more stories and successes with you on the McGeorge Legal Clinics blog.