Georgia Law Appellate Clinic team briefs, argues, wins Convention Against Torture case before Second Circuit in New York

One week after oral arguments put forward by students in the University of Georgia School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit today ruled on behalf of a Clinic client, whose immigration case involved the 1984 Convention Against Torture, an international treaty that the United States joined in 1994.

The client, a gay transgender rights advocate from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, and the petitioner in Case No. 20-1693, Santiaguez v. Garland, seeks deferral of removal pursuant to the treaty’s provisions respecting non-refoulement, or non-return. Specifically, the client asks not to be sent back to his home country, where his brother, also gay, recently was killed due to sexual orientation.

Georgia Law 3L Noah Nix (pictured above) argued on behalf of the client last week at the Second Circuit’s New York courthouse. He challenged prior rulings in the case, in which both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals had agreed that no Mexican public official would likely acquiesce to the Clinic’s client being tortured if he returned. The Board of Immigration Appeals also had found that the Immigration Judge did not violate the client’s due process rights when refusing to allow a country conditions expert to testify at the client’s merits hearing.

Today the Second Circuit panel, composed of Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston, Judge Barrington D. Parker Jr., and Judge Eunice C. Lee, ruled on behalf of the Clinic’s client. Specifically, reasoning that the agency had not properly considered the client’s evidence, the panel issued an order vacating the agency’s decision and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Assisting in brief-writing in the case were two Georgia Law students who have since graduated, Jared Allen and Olivia Hunter. The team worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director.

Georgia Law’s Community HeLP Clinic assists client in winning bid for asylum

A client of the Community Health Law Partnership Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law was recently granted asylum, a status that provides permanent protection to noncitizens fleeing persecution on the basis of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in particular social groups. 

The Clinic’s client had fled to the United States alone as a 16-year-old, after facing death threats and physical violence in Guatemala, and had requested asylum at the U.S. border. The Asylum Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services initially interviewed the client in 2018. (photo credit) However, a torrent of subsequent administrative decisions upended longstanding asylum policies, leaving his fate in limbo. 

The Community HeLP Clinic reactivated the case early this year. It successfully argued that the Guatemalan government was unable or unwilling to control persecution against the client by private actors. As a result of the asylum grant, the client no longer faces deportation and can focus on rebuilding his life in the United States.

The Clinic’s Staff Attorney, Kristen Shepherd, handled the initial presentation of the case before the Asylum Office. Navroz N. Tharani, who completed his Georgia Law JD in May 2022, wrote the brief, supervised by Shepherd and by Clinic Director Jason Cade, who is Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Experiential Learning and J. Alton Hosch Associate Professor of Law. Eddy Atallah, a member of the JD Class of 2021, assisted with earlier research.

Journeying from Georgia Law to Nepal, Center staff member Catrina Martin participates in study abroad seminar

Catrina Martin, 2d from right, and other seminar participants at Nepal’s Namo Buddha stupa, a Buddhist pilgrimage site located in the Kavrepalanchok District, 40km southeast from Kathmandu.

Catrina Martin, Global Practice Preparation Assistant here at the Dean Rusk International Law Center, University of Georgia School of Law, took part earlier this month in an educational seminar in Nepal.

The seminar was sponsored by SIT Study Abroad, a unit of the Vermont-based School for International Training. It brought together 10 study abroad professionals and faculty members from an array of U.S. colleges and universities. They discussed the importance of diversity, inclusion, and reciprocity in study abroad programs, and the the process of experiential learning.

“We received the warmest of welcomes in Nepal, and every aspect of the seminar was enriching. I learned so much from everyone we interacted with, including my fellow attendees,” said Martin, who assists with administration of the Global Externships Overseas, among other Dean Rusk International Law Center initiatives.

Led by Suman Pant, SIT Academic Director, the attendees were immersed in the Nepali language and culture. They made numerous site visits, including one to Mitini Nepal, a nongovernmental organization that advocates for equal rights for Nepal’s LGBTI+ community.

Lectures, meanwhile, covered a variety of pedagogical and cultural topics. A highlight was a discussion with activist Deepti Gurung on statelessness and human rights in Nepal.

Martin summed up her experience:

“An integral part of the programs that Director Pant runs is the intentional removal of students from their comfort zones, and she extended that to us, as well. We didn’t only discuss experiential learning pedagogy, we went through it ourselves. I am so excited to return home and put into practice the lessons we’ve learned.”

Georgia Law students bound for summer Global Externships with law firms, corporations, NGOs across the globe

Eleven Georgia Law students will earn global practice experience this summer through the Global Externship Overseas initiative of the Dean Rusk International Law Center here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Through the GEO initiative, students enhance their legal studies by working for law firms, in-house legal departments, and nongovernmental organizations. This summer’s placements are based in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Practice areas include dispute resolution, data privacy, corporate law, refugee law, cultural heritage law, international human rights law, and international criminal law.

This year’s GEO class includes these placements in private-sector legal settings:

These students will work for nongovernmental organizations:

More information here about GEOs and other Dean Rusk International Law Center initiatives. (image credit)

Georgia Law at top in international law, Center-administered NATO externship featured in national preLaw magazine

The just-released issue of preLaw magazine places the University of Georgia School of Law among the United States’ top international law curriculums; in so doing, it features an initiative of our Dean Rusk International Law Center.

In an article entitled “25 Most Innovative Law Schools,” author Michelle Weyenberg reports (page 42) on a valued partnership which Georgia Law entered several years ago with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Georgia Law’s “NATO externship,” she writes, “is a full-time, semester-long externship in the legal department of the NATO Allied Command Transformation.” She then describes experiences by our most recent extern, 3L Davis Wright, who worked in-person in Norfolk, Virginia, throughout the Fall 2021 semester (prior post):

“Third-year law student Davis Wright said his experience in the program last semester challenged him and provided an opportunity to make a substantial impact with the intergovernmental military alliance. Wright said he had the opportunity to work on an overhaul of general term and conditions throughout HQ SACT and in its subordinate commands, and to research whether NATO information is protected under U.S. laws against espionage.”

The NATO externship is one of many with international components in Georgia Law’s D.C. Semester in Practice initiative, directed by Georgia Law Professor Jessica Heywood, and also one of our Center’s many Global Externships Overseas and At-Home (GEO/GEA), administered by Sarah Quinn, our Center’s Associate Director for Global Practice Preparation.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic secures final relief for client in case invoking Convention Against Torture

The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals has granted relief to the petitioner in Arellano Herrera, a case on which the Appellate Litigation Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law has worked for over two years.

As detailed in prior posts here and here, in September 2020, Georgia Law students in the Clinic briefed and argued the case, Arellano Herrera v. Barr, to a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Their argument turned on the non-refoulement, or non-return, obligations the United States took on when it ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture, or CAT. Two months later, the appellate court held that the Board of Immigration Appeals incorrectly had applied the clear error standard when reversing the Immigration Judge’s decision to grant petitioner’s request for withholding of removal.

Subsequently, on remand before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Clinic argued that the Immigration Judge did not clearly err in findings key to the CAT-based claim:

  • 1st, that if returned to Mexico, the petitioner would more likely than not be tortured by cartel members, with the acquiescence of one or more public officials; and
  • 2d, it would be unreasonable to expect the petitioner to relocate within Mexico in order to avoid that torture.

A Board of Immigration Appeals panel has just agreed, thus reinstating the Immigration Judge’s original decision and, as a result, finally affording the petitioner the relief she long had sought.

The Clinic team included 3 students, since graduated from Georgia Law: Jason N. Sigalos, Mollie M. Fiero and John Lex Kenerly IV. They worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director, and Anna White Howard, the Clinic’s Counselor in Residence.

Georgia Law students earn international practice experience as Global Externs

Ten rising 2L and 3L students at the University of Georgia School of Law are taking part in Global Externships Overseas this summer. Administered by the Dean Rusk International Law Center, the GEO initiative places Georgia Law students in externships lasting from four to twelve weeks, and offers students the opportunity to gain practical work experience in a variety of legal settings worldwide.

These Global Externs are enhancing their legal education through placements – remote this summer, on account of the pandemic – in law firms, in-house legal departments, and nongovernmental organizations based in Asia, Europe, and South America. Practice areas include dispute resolution, corporate law, refugee law, and international human rights law.

This year’s GEO class includes these placements in private law settings:

  • Ben Bacia (3L) – PSA India, New Delhi, India
  • Starlyn Endres (3L) – Orange, Brussels, Belgium
  • Savannah Grant (2L) – Araoz y Rueda, Madrid, Spain
  • Nishka Malik (2L) – Orange, Brussels, Belgium
  • Alina Salgado (2L) – MV Kini & Co., New Delhi, India
  • Maha Toor (2L) – Syngenta AG, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Additionally, the following students are working in public law placements:

  • Collin Douglas (2L) – Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
  • Caleb Grant (2L) – Documentation Center of Cambodia, Phnom Penh
  • Savannah Grant (2L) – No Peace Without Justice, Brussels, Belgium
  • Bradford Lorenz (3L) – Boat People SOS, Center for Asylum Protection, Bangkok, Thailand

Georgia Law clinic joins in publishing advisory for immigrant detainees

The Community Health Law Partnership Clinic at the University of Georgia School of Law and four other law school clinics have published a lengthy practice advisory intended to assist immigrants currently or previously held at Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia.

The practice advisory is designed to help them in seeking damages, stays of removal, and long-term immigration relief based on the abuse they suffered at the detention center (prior posts). It thus provides detailed instructions on how to: file claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act; request stays of removal from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); file complaints with the U.S Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; and apply for U Visas.  

Taking part in this effort at the Georgia Law were Jason A. Cade, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law, and Director of the Community HeLP Clinic, Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd, and 3L Frederick King.

Joining them were the Boston University School of Law Immigrants’ Rights & Human Trafficking Program, Columbia Law School Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School Immigration & Refugee Clinical Program, Texas A&M School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild. These and other entities have been collaborating on behalf of the Irwin detainees, including in ongoing litigation in Oldaker v. Giles, a consolidated habeas petition and class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. 

Georgia Law clinics’ advocacy helps client secure U.S. citizenship

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Years of advocacy by two clinics at the University of Georgia School of Law recently helped secure U.S. citizenship for a longtime immigrant client.

The earliest work with the client was undertaken by the Jane W. Wilson Family Justice Clinic, as at that time the client was facing severe domestic abuse. Working under the supervision of Clinical Assistant Professor Christine M. Scartz, then-student Eric Abney, a member of the Georgia Law Class of 2020, secured a 12-month family violence protective order and successfully negotiated a resolution that gave the client exclusive possession of the marital residence and a vehicle, sole child custody, and child support.

After the client had gained this measure of safety and stability, the client then was referred to Georgia Law’s Community Health Law Partnership Clinic for further advocacy. Working under the supervision of Jason A. Cade, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning, Amy Buice and Carter A. Thomas, members of the Classes of 2019 and 2020, respectively, used the Violence Against Women Act to ensure the client retained permanent residency without having to rely on her abusive former-partner. Subsequently, 3L Ansley Whiten helped the client file an application for naturalization, while 2L Luis Gomez prepared her for the naturalization interview; both were supervised primarily by Kristen Shepherd, the Community HeLP Clinic’s Staff Attorney.

The client became a U.S. citizen in April 2021, on her birthday.

Georgia Law clinics share in national CLEA Award for work on behalf of immigrant women who endured abuse, retaliation while in ICE detention

Efforts on behalf of immigrant women detained in a U.S. immigration center have earned national recognition for the Community HeLP Clinic and First Amendment Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

The Georgia Law clinics will share that recognition – the 2021 Clinical Legal Education Association Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Project – with law clinics at Harvard, Columbia, Texas A&M, and Boston universities.

The CLEA Award will be presented online 12 noon-1 pm Eastern Friday, April 30, as part of the annual Conference on Clinical Education of the Association of American Law Schools.

The clinics’ project confronted abuse of immigrant women while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Irwin Detention Center, a privately run facility in south Georgia. As previously posted, the women there were subjected to nonconsensual, medically unindicated, or invasive gynecological procedures. Those who spoke out about abuses faced accelerated deportation proceedings, solitary confinement, and other acts of retaliation. The project has pursued several administrative, judicial, and advocacy avenues, including ongoing litigation of Oldaker v. Giles, a consolidated habeas petition and class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

The Project’s efforts have resulted in the release of nearly all 80 women in ICDC, as well as over 200 men, and stays of deportation for most of the Oldaker plaintiffs.

Leading the project on behalf of Georgia Law were Jason Cade (above right), Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning, J. Alton Hosch Professor of Law, and Director of the Community HeLP Clinic, and Clare Norins (above left), Clinical Assistant Professor and Director of the First Amendment Clinic. Also taking part in this team effort were 3L students Raneem Ashrawi, Frederick King, Julia Griffis, and Anish Patel, 2L students Thomas Evans, Paige Medley, and Davis Wright, First Amendment Clinic Legal Fellow Samantha Hamilton, Community HeLP Clinic Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd, and administrative associate Sarah Ehlers.

Other collaborators included non-profits, private firms, legislative advocates, and community organizers.