BY SUSAN VOGEL
A TRADITION OF
Santa Clara Law has a long history of educating lawyers who serve as leaders in their communities.
DEEPENING KNOWLEDGE OF THE DEATH PENALTY
Professor Ellen Kreitzberg, left, chairs Santa Clara Law's annual Death Penalty College, an intensive training program limited to defense attorneys who represent persons charged in capital cases. Participants learn how to investigate, prepare, and present the penalty phase of a capital case pursuant to ABA guidelines. Photo: Kate Burgess.
As a child growing up in Aptos, Edison Jensen ’89 saw strawberry pickers in the rich fields of the Pajaro Valley and wondered about their lives. He knew they were Latino and, of course, knew that he was Latino, but in his Anglo-American neighborhood he didn’t make much of a connection. During college, however, while walking across a parking lot at San Diego State, he heard someone yell in his direction, “Hey you f***ing lettuce picker, go home!” “I looked around to see who this guy could be talking about,” says Jensen. “He was talking about me.” He felt the sting of racism and began exploring his heritage.
Jensen chose law school because he wanted the tools to fight for justice and the ability to “drag people into court to account for their actions.” He saw in farm workers a hardworking, honest group of people who worked backbreaking hours to put food on everyone’s table. They needed an advocate. He chose Santa Clara Law for its rich history in the pursuit of justice, and upon graduation, opened his own law firm with a goal of building a practice that would allow him to pursue bringing justice and a voice to these workers.
For the past 20 years, Jensen, whose downtown Santa Cruz practice focuses on personal injury, wrongful death, business, and health care law, has used his legal training and his business acumen to help increase Latino involvement in public service positions and to build a system of medical clinics to help the poorest residents of Santa Cruz County.
Jensen is one of many alumni and students who credit Santa Clara Law with inspiring and training them to do work they consider the most important a lawyer can do: contribute to public interest law, social justice law, and community service.
Dedicated to a more just society
For 500 years, Jesuit education has aspired to develop competent, compassionate, and committed individuals who will lead meaningful lives of leadership and service with the capacity of creating a more just global society. In doing so, it integrates academic excellence with social responsibility, including bringing justice to those living “on the edges of society.” A Jesuit education, says Santa Clara Law Dean Donald J. Polden, “produces competent leaders of conscience and character who go beyond simply helping to changing the structures that lead to injustice.”
A Jesuit law school provides an ideal training ground for those in pursuit of justice for all. The Jesuits began establishing law schools in the early 1900s to provide opportunities to immigrants who were shut out of most law schools, says Julia Yaffee, Senior Assistant Dean for External Affairs. Santa Clara’s law school, established in 1911, began as a night school for immigrants who worked during the day. Jesuit law schools were among the first to admit women and people of color, according to Yaffee.
Nearly one hundred years later, Santa Clara Law’s mission of educating lawyers to serve their clients with a high degree of professional competence, an enduring commitment to social justice, and a deep devotion to public service remains unchanged. “Santa Clara Law graduates,” says Polden, “whether working in private firms, the public sector, not-for-profit organizations, or devoting themselves to community service and volunteer work, are some of the community’s most powerful agents of change.”
SERVING COMMUNITY NEEDS
Under the direction of experienced attorneys, Santa Clara Law students serve about 1,000 individuals a year at the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center through a combination of legal representation in cases, advice clinics, and educational workshops on the law. Photo: Charles Barry.
An attitude toward life
In 1997, Santa Clara Law established the Center for Social Justice and Public Service with the mission of promoting and enabling a commitment to social justice through law. Professors Nancy Wright and Eric Wright served as the founding directors and, consistent with Jesuit ideals, sought to encourage the use of the law to improve the lives of marginalized, subordinated, or underrepresented clients and causes.
Santa Clara Law professor and Center director Stephanie M. Wildman, a Stanford Law School graduate who established the Boalt Hall Center for Social Justice in 1999, says that the Center is more than a place, it’s “an attitude towards life.” When Wildman was asked to build the Center at Santa Clara Law, she found it natural. “Here, social justice permeates the roots of the institution.”
Wildman describes the Center as a place that brings to all law students the numerous resources “scattered throughout the school that are dedicated to ethics, public service, social justice, and community service.” These opportunities include diversity lectures, social justice workshops on cutting edge legal issues, internships, practical skills clinics, Public Interest Law Career Services, and the school’s Public Interest and Social Justice Law Certificate. Deborah Moss-West, assistant director of the Center, says that the Center helps “infuse a sense of social justice throughout the law school for everyone, not just those who enter law thinking about social justice.”
Dean Polden characterizes the Center as “helping develop good lawyers who do good, regardless of what role they play in the legal profession.”
For students who come to Santa Clara Law to pursue a career in public interest law or social justice, the Center immerses them in the nuts and bolts of practicing in these areas and also provides them education in gender, race, and social issues, along with plenty of mentoring and peer support.
Rachel Leff-Kich ’10 arrived at Santa Clara Law already committed to social justice lawyering. Growing up in a “liberal feminist Jewish family in Berkeley, I felt I had a responsibility to make the world a more beautiful place,” she says.
Leff-Kich says she knew Santa Clara Law was a match from the moment she visited. “Stephanie Wildman is the reason I am here. In her office I saw books about race and feminist jurisprudence, and she told me about the school’s commitment to training public interest lawyers.” Leff-Kich is now co-chair of the Public Interest and Social Justice Coalition (PISJC or the Coalition), the student branch of the Center.
Other students come to Santa Clara Law curious about exploring public interest law. Jennifer Tse ’08 graduated from UCLA in communications and business, but after three years as a Hollywood agent-in-training, she was not feeling fulfilled in her career. Her undergraduate experience had planted a seed of interest in social justice, and she wanted to allow it to grow. She chose Santa Clara Law for its social justice program and its diversity. “I had been to a huge and diverse public university,” says Tse. “I wanted to study civil rights. It made sense to study it in a diverse school.”
Tse, now an attorney in Atlanta for the Immigrant Justice Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is assisting in a 500-plaintiff human trafficking class action brought by skilled pipe-fitters and welders from India who paid recruiters tens of thousands of dollars for jobs in Mississippi and Texas post-Hurricane Katrina, and then found themselves forced to live in overcrowded trailers in secured, remote labor camps and denied the green cards they had been promised and for which they had paid exorbitant fees.
Supriya Bhat ’04 who teaches Santa Clara Law’s Criminal Defense Externship on Expungement, says, “I was committed to doing social justice work prior to Santa Clara Law, but the [Center] provided an anchor amidst the uncharted waters of the first year curriculum. The events sponsored by the Center allowed me to meet other students and practitioners dedicated to public interest law. Dean Polden’s continued support of such programs immeasurably assists students who want to specialize in social justice lawyering.”
Bhat graduated with a Certificate in Public Interest and Social Justice Law with an emphasis in Criminal Justice, one of five optional emphases: Consumer Law, Criminal Justice, Critical Race Jurisprudence, Health Law, or Immigration and Refugee Law. Twenty-seven students earned the certificate last year, including four who chose optional emphases in Criminal Justice, one in Critical Race Jurisprudence, and two in Immigration and Refugee Law.
All students, not just those pursuing a certificate, are invited to events sponsored by the Center. These include Social Justice Thursday, at which speakers address issues such as voting rights, LGBT rights, and employment rights, as well as discussing opportunities in public service and social justice. Most Center events are open to members of the community. Each semester, a nationally known outside speaker delivers the Diversity Lecture, a free event that provides lawyers in the community MCLE credits. Semester-long Social Justice Workshops, with lectures open to the public, involve high profile scholars addressing issues such as political empowerment and election reform or how to run not-for-profit organizations. (For more information on events, visit law.scu.edu/socialjustice/events.cfm.)
Participation in these events and even simply studying on a campus with a public service spirit inspires many law graduates to incorporate public service and pro bono work into their lives and their law practices. As with U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren ’75, and CIA Director Leon Panetta B.A. ’60, J.D. ’63, Santa Clara values inspired Patricia Mahan ’80, mayor of Santa Clara, to pursue public service. “SCU has a tradition of teaching values along with substance,” she says. “I was a product of Catholic elementary and high schools and so was already fairly well imbued with a sense of what’s right, of helping others, of acting from faith, and focus on others rather than self. SCU reinforced my sense of compassion and caring.”
Graduates going into private practice, such as Matthew Rafat ’02, David Tsai ’06, and Edison Jensen ’89, chose firms with a demonstrated commitment to pro bono work or tailored their own practices to permit community service.
Clinic work changes lives
Tse says that the experience that affected her most at Santa Clara Law was her work at the Katharine and George Alexander Community Law Center (KGACLC), where she represented a transsexual from Mexico seeking asylum. “Most significant to my being able to translate my law education to my career was my work in the immigration clinic with Lynette Parker,” she says. “By far it gave me the most educational value in law school because I got a genuine taste of doing immigration law. The clinic was the one thing that solidified my commitment to working with immigrants.”
The clinical programs are an important part of Santa Clara Law’s practical skills training and core to the Center’s program. They are open to all law students, not just those pursuing public service or social justice careers.
Community Law Center
Students can choose between the civil law clinic; the KGACLC, which provides direct free legal services to low income clients in the areas of consumer law, immigration law, and workers’ rights; and the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP), in which they learn about criminal law and work to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.
Founded by the law school’s La Raza students under the guidance of Professors Nancy Wright and Eric Wright and other volunteer lawyers in order to help day laborers, the East San Jose Community Law Center took on the name of George Alexander, dean emeritus of the Law School, and his wife, former attorney Katharine Alexander, after their generous contribution in 2004. Under the direction of experienced attorneys, students serve about 1,000 individuals a year at the KGACLC through a combination of legal representation in cases, advice clinics, and educational workshops on the law. Students are trained for their clinic work through mandatory courses in litigation skills, interviewing and counseling, as well as in the substantive law.
Santa Clara Law professor Angelo Ancheta, who was previously on the faculty of Harvard Law School and legal director of its Civil Rights Project, says that over the past few years, students have successfully represented clients in a class action to extricate them from oppressive financing contracts signed under pressure from door-to-door computer salespeople; have helped untangle immigration messes caused by “notarios,” notaries or paralegals preying on immigrants from countries where notaries are licensed to practice law; and have collected back wages for workers whose employers refused to pay them and threatened to have them deported if they complained.
With the Bay Area’s economic downswing, the KGACLC is seeing more illegal debt collectors and predatory practices by finance companies. It may expand its practice areas into other areas of consumer law, as well as problems involving bankruptcy and foreclosures.
In the fall of 2009, the KGACLC and other community agencies shared in a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to assist victims of human trafficking in the South Bay. Unlike the case Tse is working on, most trafficking, says Ancheta, “is largely under the radar. A typical case involves a woman who has been taken into domestic service and becomes a house servant or slave to someone who is affluent. It’s hard to monitor, but when you find the victims, they need a lot of services.” The grant, for which the KGACLC is the lead agency, funds an array of these services provided by community organizations throughout the Valley, from counseling to shelters to legal assistance. The KGACLC receives approximately $60,000 of the grant, which it uses to assist the victims with immigration issues.
The benefits of the clinics reach far beyond the individual clients they serve. As a Santa Clara Law student, Dori Rose Inda ’00, a former social worker, worked in the KGACLC (then the East San Jose Community Law Center), assisting victims of fraud in the Watsonville area. After graduation and working at California Rural Legal Assistance, she established, in 2002, the Watsonville Law Center, which provides free legal services in the areas of workers’ rights, consumer protection, and barriers to employment.
Ancheta is not surprised when he learns that students are inspired by their work at the KGACLC to become community leaders changing the structures of society to remedy injustice. “I don’t think there is any question that students coming through the program see the world in a different light. Most develop a stronger empathy with low-income people and immigrants.”
Alumni Leaders Who Serve in the Judiciary
As an essential part of the justice system, well trained and ethical judges provide an important community service. There are numerous Santa Clara Law alumni who are members and former members of the judiciary, including retired California Supreme Court Justice Edward A. Panelli ’53 B.S., ’55 J.D. (left) and Oregon Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert D. Durham ’72. To see a complete list, visit law.scu.edu/lawyerswholead/leaders-by-category.cfm.
The Northern California Innocence Project
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) is a training ground not only for future criminal defense attorneys but also for future prosecutors seeking professional and ethical grounding for their work. For many students, the experience is pivotal in making career choices.
Bhat says that clerking at the NCIP “was one of the most valuable experiences at Santa Clara Law. Working with vigilant advocates like Linda Starr, Cookie Ridolfi, and Jill Kent demonstrated the importance of leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice. The exonerees, from John Stoll to Delbert Tibbs, are testaments to the strength of the human spirit and their cases epitomize the need for systemic reform.”
In 1997, a Modesto landlord, George Souliotes, served an eviction notice on his tenant, a woman with two children. At her request, he agreed to let them stay over the holidays. Later, he was arrested for burning down his property with the family inside. He was charged with arson and murder. The motive, according to the prosecutors who sought the death penalty: insurance money. Souliotes’ first trial resulted in a hung jury. At his second trial, the defense attorney called no defense witnesses even though 17 were prepared to testify. Souliotes was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
TEACHING LAWYERS TO FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
Santa Clara Law Professor Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi founded the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara Law in 2001 and in 2004 co-founded the Innocence Network, a collaboration of 49 innocence projects in the United States and in four other countries. Photo: Charles Barry.
Armed with new technology for analyzing arson cases, NCIP Legal Director Linda Starr and NCIP students have been involved for eight years in an attempt to prove the innocence of Souliotes, a Greek immigrant with no criminal history. On February 12, Randy Luskey, managing associate in the San Francisco litigation group at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, argued the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the firm’s pro bono work on the case. This case is one of 1,046 cases the NCIP has pending. Each case takes “years and years,” says Starr.
Not every student working with the NCIP gets to see a client walk out of prison (Starr says prison officials usually release them “in secret ways”), but they visit their clients in prison, interview witnesses in prison, and track down witnesses in the community.
The NCIP is gearing up for a massive increase in its caseload. In October 2009, it received a grant of $2.5 million from the federal government to fund reviews of convictions of thousands of inmates in California. The Obama administration released millions of dollars earmarked for DNA exonerations that the Bush administration had essentially held hostage, according to Santa Clara Law Professor Kathleen “Cookie” Ridolfi. Santa Clara Law and California Western School of Law have received the largest grant in the nation to investigate potential wrongful convictions of every inmate in California convicted of non-negligent homicide or forcible rape in which identification is an issue and biological material is available for DNA testing. “Potentially thousands of inmates will have their cases reviewed,” says Ridolfi.
The grant is on a fast track—the project has 18 months of funding. The NCIP has hired Cathy Dreyfuss, a former criminal defense attorney, to direct the project. Law students will assist in reviewing cases.
The classes required to work at the NCIP are full and often have a long wait list because students are anxious to get practical experience. “Getting this experience here is very valuable in getting a job,” says Starr. “Employers want students with real skills. They get a wide range of work experience. They know how to pick up the phone and make calls, draft professional e-mails, write letters,” Starr says.
The NCIP’s training also extends to the community. In July, criminal defense lawyers from 15 states attended the law school’s 17th annual Death Penalty College, chaired by Professor Ellen Kreitzberg, on how to investigate, prepare, and present the penalty phase of a capital case pursuant to ABA guidelines.
The experiences of working with the NCIP also have long-term effects: Ben Galloway, an assistant federal defender in the Federal Defender’s Felony Trial Unit in Sacramento, says, “Clinics and classes with Professors Kreitzberg, Ridolfi, and Uelmen, and others who’ve long been involved in criminal justice and civil rights issues were essential in solidifying my commitment to social justice work. On occasions when I’ve tired of work in the trenches and considered something more lucrative and less exhausting, I’ve thought of these great teachers and their commitment to social justice, and that has helped to keep me going.”
For more information on the NCIP, visit their web site.
Leff-Kich observes that Santa Clara Law faculty “teach with a focus on, or an awareness of public policy and social justice issues.” Matthew Rafat ’02 says that “Santa Clara Law professors would analyze “a law’s impact on society and behavior rather than just interpreting the law itself.” Tsai saw that “Santa Clara Law’s professors—no matter the class—often included a social justice aspect to the area of law being taught. I never forgot the importance of social justice and the need to do pro bono work when I began my practice of the law.” Even in courses in which public interest and social justice “are not taught didactically,” says Yaffee, “it is part of the essence of the place. Everyone is affected by it.”
Santa Clara Law Professor Philip Jimenez says that teaching social responsibility is a natural and important part of teaching the law. In his International Business Transactions course, for example, he discusses socially responsible investing and the remedies against companies that violate the civil rights of workers.
Faculty not only teach social responsibility, many embody it. Santa Clara Law faculty have a remarkable record for walking the walk as well as talking the talk. They inspire students through their own service to the community as well as through their scholarship and teaching. (For a link to the Center’s annual report, including faculty profiles, visit law.scu.edu/socialjustice/.)
“I felt I had a responsibility to make the world a more beautiful place,” says Rachel Leff-Kich ’10, and she knew Santa Clara Law was a match from the moment she visited. “Stephanie Wildman is the reason I am here,” she says. “She told me about the school’s commitment to training public interest lawyers.” Leff-Kich is now co-chair of the Public Interest and Social Justice Coalition.
Internships foster service
Tse was surprised when she was offered the job at the Southern Poverty Law Center upon graduation. “I had thought, why not apply? It’s such a long shot, I probably won’t get it. It would be a dream job.” But she shouldn’t have been surprised. Upon graduation her resumé included experience working for Amnesty International in Australia, the KGALC, and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York (where trafficking cases included Chinese acrobats and domestic workers as victims).
Santa Clara Law’s summer grant programs give students valuable practical skills and work experience, allow them to explore what areas of practice interest them, and build their confidence in practicing law.
For Stephanie Grogan ’04 the summer internships allowed her “to experience different areas of the law and find my niche.” Grogan received the John Paul Stevens Fellowship, Public Interest and Social Justice Law Summer Grant, and loan repayment assistance. “Each grant allowed me to explore the area of criminal law. I was able to work at Justice Now in Oakland advocating for women in prison, Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta working against the death penalty, and after graduation, at the Alameda County Public Defender Office. Without the grant money, I would not be able to volunteer at these organizations.” Grogan chose criminal defense work. She is now a deputy public defender at the Solano County Public Defender’s office.
Leff-Kich, whose Justice John Paul Stevens Fellowship funded her summer work at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, AIDS Legal Services, says that the internship not only demonstrated to others her commitment to social justice work, but showed her that “I really can do it.” Without the financial support, she says, she would not have been able to afford an unpaid summer position.
Summer internships provide crucial practical experience for students, but they come at a cost, literally. Many jobs are nonpaying and those that pay may barely cover the cost of living in San Francisco, Boston, or Washington, D.C. To enable social justice students to accept these valuable internships, the Santa Clara Law Public Interest and Social Justice Law board offers numerous grants, including the Justice John Paul Stevens Fellowships, founded by Santa Clara Law alum Skip Paul ’75, and Father Paul Goda Summer Grants. Through these grants, law students last summer received more than $110,000 to work jobs and internships at locations ranging from the Alliance for Affordable Energy in New Orleans, to the Children’s Law Center of L.A., to UNESCO in Paris.
The board also provided $17,000 in income supplement grants to alumni working in social justice; it is hoping that increased contributions will permit it to provide more.
The LGBT Legal Issues Summer Grants, established by Santa Clara Law and Skip Paul, are awarded to students who have shown “a demonstrated commitment to and interest in the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender individuals, and people living with HIV, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
A unique leadership grant, the Youth Law grant trains students to engage in advocacy to improve the quality of care for children and families involved with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Funded by the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, it starts with leadership training in May, involves a summer at the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center, and continues with research throughout the next academic year.
LEARNING WHILE SERVING
3L student Michelle Forrest (right) confers with Attorney Lynette Parker during an immigration clinic this fall. At the Community Law Center, students serve the community while learning the law. Photo: Charles Barry.
The Coalition and Public Interest Law Career Services
Students entering law school today come with a lifetime of community service behind them. “This generation is more service-oriented than ever,” says Dean Yaffee. “Since junior high they have been focused on the community. They are already attuned to the community service message—it resonates with them.” So it was not a surprise that Santa Clara Law’s Student Bar Association began requiring that all student organizations do community service.
The Coalition provides peer support for students pursuing social justice, including a mentor program that pairs 1Ls with 2 and 3Ls. It holds an annual fundraiser, the Benefit for Justice, to raise funds for the Public Interest and Social Justice Law Board summer grants, and for the past three years it has sponsored a week-long fundraiser, “Donate a Day,” soliciting students with paying summer jobs to donate a day’s salary to the Social Justice Endowment.
The student-led Public Interest Law Career Services (PILCS) holds public interest law fairs twice yearly and trains students in resumé writing and interviewing. It holds sessions on debt management and reduction, and public interest career opportunities. The PILCS encourages students and graduates to do pro bono work, and works with law firms and partners on the Pro Bono Opportunity Program, which matches students with attorney mentors, giving them the opportunity to do pro bono work, as well as to gain experience working with law firm attorneys. Last year, 72 law students contributed 50 hours or more of pro bono service, representing a total of 12,000 hours of service in the community. Student who contribute 50 or more pro bono hours in a year are eligible for the Pro Bono Recognition Award. Between 75 and 90 students each year receive this award.
Lighting the Fire
With the offerings of the Center, a social justice theme running through classroom teaching, and simply being in a place “infused with a sense of justice,” Santa Clara Law students often graduate with a commitment to incorporate social justice into their work and lives. The experience of studying on a campus with giving to others a vital part of its mission can have a profound impact on law students. Yaffee recalls a student saying, “I expected law school to change the way I thought, but I didn’t expect it to change who I am.” This student will be changed for life. In the words of Santa Clara County Assistant District Attorney Rolanda Pierre-Dixon ’80, “Santa Clara lights a fire that never goes out.”
Alumni Leadership Council
The new Public Interest and Social Justice Alumni Leadership Council leads and participates in activities designed to keep public interest and social justice programs at Santa Clara Law strong by
Sponsor a Summer Internship
Many local bar associations provide training opportunities for lawyers who want to get more involved. Contact your Santa Clara Law classmates and see what pro bono work they are doing.
For more information on getting involved, please contact Deborah Moss-West, 408-554-2766, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.