Stu­dents given chance to parry with judges

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AP) — Ar­gu­ing a case be­fore a panel of fed­eral ap­peals-court judges can be daunt­ing even for ex­pe­ri­enced lawyers. Their clients of­ten have much at stake, and the judges can be re­lent­less, in­ter­rupt­ing with ques­tions to point out weak­nesses and even oc­ca­sion­ally to scold.

So He­len An­drews was un­der­stand­ably anx­ious when, as a third-year Pep­per­dine Univer­sity law stu­dent, she stepped be­fore three judges of the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals last year in a case that could change the way in­mates are mon­i­tored in an Ari­zona county.

“I felt like I couldn’t breathe be­tween sen­tences, I was gasp­ing for air,” An­drews, 27, re­called dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view.

An­drews is among scores of stu­dents who have had the op­por­tu­nity to ar­gue at the 9th Cir­cuit, based in San Fran­cisco, un­der an unusual pro­gram started more than two decades ago that of­fers law schools the op­por­tu­nity to take on ap­peals.

The 9th Cir­cuit is the na­tion’s busiest fed­eral ap­peals court and re­cently at­tracted na­tional at­ten­tion for its de­ci­sion not to re­in­state Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ban on trav­el­ers from seven mostly Mus­lim coun­tries. A sec­ond, re­vised ban has also been put on hold by the courts.

The 9th Cir­cuit sets aside cases from lit­i­gants who don’t have at­tor­neys — of­ten im­mi­grants fight­ing de­por­ta­tion or pris­on­ers with civil rights claims — but have pre­sented facts that the court be­lieves are wor­thy of deeper le­gal anal­y­sis.

It of­fers those cases to at­tor­neys who are will­ing to work for free and to law schools.

“We in the 9th Cir­cuit feel that this is all part of the en­ter­prise of mak­ing sure we’re look­ing ahead to help train and help give op­por­tu­ni­ties to the next gen­er­a­tion of advocates,” 9th Cir­cuit Judge M. Mar­garet McKe­own said.

In the 2014-15 school year, twelve schools took on 25 cases, ac­cord­ing to the court’s sta­tis­tics. Last year, 15 schools took on 32 cases.

“They get this unique hand­son learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to un­der­stand the plight of some of the peo­ple they rep­re­sent,” 9th Cir­cuit Judge Kim Ward­law said.

An­drews rep­re­sented an Ari­zona pris­oner, Charles Ed­ward Byrd, who sued the Mari­copa County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, al­leg­ing it vi­o­lated his pri­vacy by al­low­ing fe­male guards to ob­serve him show­er­ing and us­ing the bath­room while he was held be­fore trial.

The 9th Cir­cuit in Jan­uary over­turned a lower court de­ci­sion that dis­missed Byrd’s law­suit and sent the case back for ad­di­tional con­sid­er­a­tion.

Bos­ton Col­lege Law School stu­dents helped Gabriel Jara-Arel­lano win a sec­ond chance to try to stay in the U.S. Jara-Arel­lano was work­ing with au­thor­i­ties in Cal­i­for­nia to break up drug rings when he was ar­rested and con­victed in 2008 on drug and firearms charges, his at­tor­neys say.

They say after he was de­ported to Mex­ico, a man who Jara-Arel­lano helped po­lice in Cal­i­for­nia cap­ture rec­og­nized him and the man’s as­so­ci­ates — one a mem­ber of the Ze­tas gang and the other a po­lice of­fi­cer in Mex­ico — shot Jara-Arel­lano.

The 9th Cir­cuit in 2014 or­dered immigration of­fi­cials to re­con­sider their de­ci­sion not to grant Jara-Arel­lano pro­tec­tion un­der the Con­ven­tion Against Tor­ture.

“It’s so hard for me to deal with things in life be­cause I have a bul­let lodged on my brain and an­other one on my spinal cord,” Jara-Arel­lano, who is in his late 30s, said.

Jara-Arel­lano said he was con­fi­dent the stu­dents would make great at­tor­neys be­cause they were over­seen by a pro­fes­sor at the school, Kari Hong, and they lived up to his ex­pec­ta­tions.

Rules in all 50 states and nearly all fed­eral dis­trict and ap­pel­late courts give law school stu­dents an op­por­tu­nity to prac­tice within strict lim­its, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Cen­ter for State Courts and a re­search guide by Ge­orge­town Univer­sity’s law li­brary.

Stu­dents have ar­gued cases in state Supreme Courts and ap­pear spo­rad­i­cally in other fed­eral ap­peals courts. What makes the 9th Cir­cuit pro­gram dif­fer­ent is the court’s reg­u­lar and di­rect con­tact with schools to share cases and its will­ing­ness to ad­just its sched­ule so the same stu­dents who file writ­ten ar­gu­ments can present oral ar­gu­ments.

The Rich­mond, Vir­ginia-based 4th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals and Philadel­phia-based 3rd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals ap­pear to be the only other fed­eral ap­pel­late courts with sim­i­lar pro­grams.

“The 9th Cir­cuit has whole­heart­edly em­braced the con­cept of law school clinics,” said Gary Watt, di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Hast­ings, ap­pel­late project, which also works with the 9th Cir­cuit.

On a re­cent af­ter­noon, Watt played a 9th Cir­cuit judge on a mock court panel set up to pre­pare two of his stu­dents to ar­gue be­fore the 9th Cir­cuit in April on be­half of a Sal­vado­ran woman seeking asy­lum. He pep­pered them with sharp ques­tions and cri­tiqued their per­for­mance, en­cour­ag­ing them to ap­proach the lectern with more con­vic­tion and be calmer.

“I re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate be­ing grilled,” Michelle Free­man, 25, one of the stu­dents, said later. “It shows you what you have a gen­eral grasp on and what you have no idea about.”

In this photo taken March 13 stu­dent Michelle Free­man (left) prac­tices her ar­gu­ment in a moot court­room at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Hast­ings Col­lege of the Law in San Fran­cisco.

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