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.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students ask for asylum and withholding of removal in 11th Circuit oral argument

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard arguments this week in an asylum and immigration case prepared by a team of students in the University of Georgia School of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic.

Georgia Law 3L Maddie Conkel argued on behalf of the petitioner in Case No. 19-15144, Denis Aguilera Fernandez v. Garland. On account of the Covid-19 pandemic, Conkel’s argument was delivered online to a panel composed of Eleventh Circuit Judges William H. Pryor Jr., Jill A. Pryor, and Ed Carnes (audio here).

In earlier proceedings both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that the Clinic’s client – whom Cuban police had detained and beaten repeatedly over two years in an effort to prevent him from protesting the Cuban government – was “thoroughly credible.”  They further agreed that his mistreatment, though “severe and regrettable,” did not rise to the level of “persecution,” and that he had no reasonable fear of future persecution.

Conkel’s argument sought reversal of the resulting denials of asylum and withholding of removal. Georgia Law 3L Sarah Nelson helped Conkel prepare for the argument, and several other students helped the Clinic brief the case. 

The Eleventh Circuit panel is now deliberating.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students win victory for client in 9th Circuit immigration case invoking Convention Against Torture

A woman seeking withholding of removal from the United States has won her challenge to an adverse ruling by the Board of Immigration Appeals – a challenge briefed and argued by students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

By a 2-1 decision issued Tuesday in Case No. 19-72750, Arellano Herrera v. Barr a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded to the BIA.

The panel majority in Case No. 19-72750, Arellano Herrera v. Barr, comprised Ninth Circuit Judge Margaret M. McKeown and U.S. District Judge Virginia Mary Kendall, sitting by designation. Its opinion effectively reinstated the first decision in the case, in which an Immigration Judge had ruled for the Clinic’s client, Graciela Arellano Herrera, whose parents brought her to the United States three days after her birth.

In oral arguments conducted online this past September (prior post), Georgia Law 3L Jason N. Sigalos argued that if Arellano Herrera were sent back to her native Mexico it was more likely than not that member of a drug cartel would torture her, with the acquiescence of one or more public officials. To permit such a risk, the Clinic team contended, would violate non-refoulement (non-return) obligations that the United States took on when it ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture. The panel majority agreed.

The panel’s third member, Ninth Circuit Judge Lawrence James Christopher VanDyke, agreed that the BIA had erred on one challenged ground, but in his view the BIA was correct in finding that Arellano Herrera could safely relocate in Mexico. He thus dissented, reasoning that the latter finding alone supported affirmation of the BIA ruling.

The Clinic team included Sigalos and his classmates, 3L Mollie M. Fiero and John Lex Kenerly IV, who earned his J.D. earlier this year. They worked under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch, the Clinic’s Director, and Anna White Howard, the Clinic’s Counselor in Residence. (prior posts)

Georgia Law clinics join to assist in litigation by immigrant women alleging abuse, retaliation while in ICE detention

Two clinics here at the University of Georgia School of Law have joined forces on behalf of women who allege they endured abusive gynecological and other medical treatments, as well as inhumane conditions and retaliation, while in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), at a privately run facility in south Georgia.

Allegations became public with a September report by an independent team of experts who reviewed complaints by detainee-whistleblowers at the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla, located 187 miles south of Atlanta and 55 miles north of Valdosta.

Investigations, congressional inquiries, and litigation ensued – including a habeas corpus petition that one detainee, Yanira Yesenia Oldaker, filed November 9 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. The Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School in New York represents Oldaker.

A mid-November phone call led to the representation by Georgia Law’s Community HeLP and First Amendment Law Clinics of another Irwin detainee-whistleblower. Because ICE has sought – at times successfully – to deport detainees who assist in exposing conditions, the case implicates both immigration statutes and the Constitution’s free speech guarantees.

The Georgia Law clinics prepared a motion on behalf of their client and 21 other detainees, women who migrated to the United States from at least 4 continents. Filed last Thursday, the motion and memorandum of law (available here) seek to add these women’s declarations in support of the Oldaker petition; additionally, to permit 19 of the women, who fear retaliation if identified, to proceed using “Jane Doe” pseudonyms and to file under seal their declarations, which contain allegations of abuse.

Clare R. Norins, Assistant Clinical Professor and a clinic director, explained:

While normally the First Amendment Clinic stands on the side of transparency in the courts, this time we are arguing for less public access in order to protect our client and the other 21 women from suffering retribution for exercising their free-speech right to describe their inhumane treatment to the court, and in so doing, petition to government for grievances.

The motion is pending before U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands in Valdosta.

Taking part in this team effort were faculty, staff, and students: for the First Amendment Clinic along with Professor Norins were 3L Anish Patel and Legal Fellow Samantha Hamilton; and for the Community HeLP Clinic, the director, Associate Dean  Jason A. Cade, and Staff Attorney Kristen Shepherd. Providing further assistance, including translation from English to Spanish, was administrative associate Sarah Ehlers.

At 9th Circuit, Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students press client’s case for asylum, withholding of removal, relief under Convention Against Torture

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments this week in an immigration case prepared by a team of students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Georgia Law 3L Sarah Nelson argued on behalf of client Alicia Naranjo Garcia in Case No. 19-72803, Naranjo Garcia v. Barr. On account of the covid-19 pandemic, Nelson’s argument was delivered virtually, to a panel composed of Ninth Circuit Judges Ronald M. Gould and Michelle T. Friedland, along with U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough, sitting by designation. (Video here; Nelson is pictured above at lower left.)

Joining Nelson on the briefs were Jonathan Kaufman and Joe Scarborough, who earned their J.D.s earlier this year.  3L Maddie Conkel, one of Nelson’s classmates in the Appellate Litigation Clinic, helped Nelson prepare for the argument.

Together they represent appellant Naranjo Garcia, the mother of two children who are U.S. citizens. The client herself came to the United States after a cartel killed her husband, stole her husband’s property, tried to recruit her son, stole her home, and twice threatened to kill her.

Both the Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed that she had been persecuted, but found that her persecution was not “on account of” a protected ground.  Because of that, they denied her asylum and withholding of removal claims.  They also found that no public official would acquiesce to her being tortured if she were returned, and thus denied her claim under the Convention Against Torture.

The Ninth Circuit panel is now deliberating.

Georgia Law Appellate Litigation Clinic students invoke Convention Against Torture in 9th Circuit oral argument

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard arguments last week in an immigration case involving the Convention against Torture – a case prepared by a team of students in the Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Georgia Law 3L Jason N. Sigalos argued on behalf of client Graciela Arellano Herrera in Case No. 19-72750, Arellano Herrera v. Barr. On account of the covid-19 pandemic, Sigalos’ argument was delivered virtually (video here), to a panel composed of Ninth Circuit Judges Margaret M. McKeown and Lawrence James Christopher VanDyke, along with U.S. District Judge Virginia Mary Kendall, sitting by designation. (Sigalos, who spoke from Georgia Law’s Hatton Lovejoy Courtroom, is pictured above at bottom right.)

Joining Sigalos on the briefs were his classmates in the Appellate Litigation Clinic (prior posts), 3L Mollie M. Fiero and John Lex Kenerly IV, who earned his J.D. earlier this year.

Together they represent appellant Arellano Herrera, the mother of seven children and grandmother of another seven, all U.S.-born citizens. The client herself has lived in this country since her parents brought her to the United States three days after her birth in Mexico.

Her appeal seeks reversal of a Board of Immigration Appeals order that she be removed from the United States. Relying on non-refoulement (non-return) obligations the United States took on when it ratified the 1984 Convention Against Torture, she argues that prior forced involvement with a drug cartel makes it unsafe for her to relocate anywhere in Mexico. She contends that if she were she to be sent back, it is more likely than not that cartel members would torture her, with the acquiescence of one or more public officials.

The Ninth Circuit panel is now deliberating.

Georgia Law Appellate Clinic secures at-risk client’s release from immigration detention center

The Appellate Litigation Clinic here at the University of Georgia School of Law has secured the release from immigration detention of a Cuban client who suffers from asthma and a history of cancer.

The 26 year old client, who has no criminal history, had come to the United States to avoid repeated police beatings for his protests against the government in Cuba. He had been held for nineteen months without a bond hearing at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, where as of mid-August 2 inmates had died from COVID-19 and more than 150 had been infected.

Students working through the clinic contended that their client’s medical condition increased the risk that while in detention during the present pandemic, he too would contract the novel coronavirus disease. They litigated his case in many administrative and judicial forums: a hearing on a motion for bond in Stewart Immigration Court; multiple parole requests to ICE, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; a habeas petition before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia; and an opening brief and motion to expedite before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Working on the case were Addison Smith and Spencer D. Woody, both of whom earned their Juris Doctor degrees this past spring, along with 3L Steven L. Miller and 2Ls Christopher O. Brock, Destiny J. Burch and Maria C. “Mia” Hughes.

The merits appeal and detention appeal both continue even though the client has been released from ICE custody. Under the supervision of Thomas V. Burch and Anna White Howard, who direct Georgia Law’s Appellate Litigation Clinic, students will continue to pursue an Eleventh Circuit judgment in their client’s favor.

(Credit for photo of the Elbert P. Tuttle Courthouse in Atlanta, home to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit)