For seven years, United States biologist Ryan Killackey researched and filmed the 1,500 kilometer Yasuni biosphere reserve in Ecuador, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet. The resulting documentary explores “the impact of oil development on the biodiversity of the forest and its people,” and effectively “tells the story of the conflict in Yasuni that has pitted biodiversity and human rights against extractive industries and human consumption.”
This 90-minute film has already won 3 awards and several official selections so far on the film festival circuit. The Glushko-Samuelson Clinic, along with its student attorneys Aaron Wicker, Aurelie Mathieu, David Najera, and Joanna Scleidorovich, are credited at the end of the film.
Tickets are now on sale for the Yasuni Man DC Premiere at the D.C. Environmental Film Festival on Sunday, March 19th from 7-9pm at the Landmark E Street Cinema.
Prof. Jenny Roberts wrote an amicus brief in Lee v. US on behalf of three of three national organizations that work at the intersection of criminal and immigration law, the Immigrant Defense Project, The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.Three WCL students worked on the brief: Roberto Martinez ’17 and Christina Moehrle ’17 (both in the Criminal Justice Clinic), and Aaron Garavaglia ’16.
Mr. Lee came to the US more than 20 years ago as a child, and has never returned to his country of origin, South Korea. Although his attorney assured him that his guilty plea to possession with intent to distribute ecstasy would not have immigration consequences, that advice was incorrect and Mr. Lee’s conviction made him mandatorily deportable. The Supreme Court will hear argument on March 28th on the issue of whether Mr. Lee’s attorney’s misadvice actually caused him prejudice, a requirement for demonstrating ineffective assistance of counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The government argues that, because the evidence against Mr. Lee was strong, he cannot show prejudice. The amicus brief discusses how, even when evidence against a non-citizen is strong, competent criminal defense counsel can negotiate with the government to find an alternative plea that does not lead to mandatory deportation, even if it leads to similar or more incarceration than the deportable conviction. The brief offers a number of stories from actual criminal cases where defense counsel successfully bargained to avoid some or all immigration consequences.
For more information on the WCL Criminal Justice Clinic, visit the webpage!
A letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a scary thing for anyone to receive, especially someone who is not familiar with tax law and procedure. Contrary to what one might assume, the IRS audits thousands of low-income individuals each year. Most clients of AUWCL’s Janet R. Spragens Federal Tax Clinic earn less than $30,000 per year, and they face potentially ruinous amounts of tax liability relative to their means.
I enjoy being a student attorney with the Tax Clinic because I have the privilege and opportunity to work face-to-face with clients and represent them before the IRS in appeals conferences and in the U.S. Tax Court. It is enormously rewarding to be able to help someone through this seemingly daunting process and to help him or her understand how our revenue system works. To me, the hands-on experience that the Clinic provides is an essential learning experience for all law students.
While it may not always seem like the most exciting legal field to many law students, tax law is cerebral, pervasive, and provides enormous opportunities for social justice and public interest work. Taxation is not only necessary for any government spending, but the tax code has enormous potential in affecting economic behavior through credits and penalties and is an enormous tool for assisting low and middle income taxpayers through programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child Dependent Care Credit.
In addition to representing our clients as student attorneys, every student who participated in the Tax Clinic this year will be volunteering at VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) sites throughout the DC metro area. Each year, volunteers help prepare state and federal taxes for thousands of taxpayers and help put millions of dollars of refunds in their bank accounts without charging enormous prices and fees. Being a VITA volunteer is a tremendously rewarding experience and great way to for law students to familiarize themselves with the tax system.
On November 17th over 50 IP Clinic alums and former faculty returned to campus to hear founding faculty member Professor Peter Jaszi deliver the annual Distinguished Lecture on Intellectual Property. Peter’s lecture was “Cultural practice and copyright justice: Confessions of a semi-reconstructed auteurist”
At the celebratory reception clinic alums, faculty and current students had the chance to mingle and toast the man who started it all!
October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but students in AUWCL’s Domestic Violence Clinic advocate for their clients all year long. Recently, some of our students asked their peers why they stand against domestic violence.
We first met with our client, a survivor of domestic violence, at the Domestic Violence (“DV”) Intake Center at D.C. Superior Court. The system itself is not user-friendly for survivors. They often have to jump through hoops to receive relief after going through traumatic experiences. For instance, the survivor first tells her story to an intake counselor. Then, if she wishes, she meets with student attorneys, where she has to tell her entire story again. Part of the problem is that the intake center and the attorneys are decentralized, and each has its own privacy agreement with the client. If there were a way to merge the two client confidentiality agreements to allow the counselor and attorneys to share information, the client would have a smoother experience.
“They often have to jump through a lot of hoops to receive relief after going through traumatic experiences.”
Additionally, the divisions of the court that provide services to DV survivors spread over several blocks within Judiciary Square and not easily identifiable. One of our first assignments as student attorneys was to visit many of these locations so we could familiarize ourselves with the locations and services provided. It was very difficult to discern which unit was located where and it was taxing to walk from place to place as if we were on a scavenger hunt. A DV survivor has already suffered a traumatic event, and having to trek from office to office compounds the stress of navigating the system. A DV survivor would be better served if she could inquire and receive services within the same building.
“…the DV Intake Center should be a source of comfort. Instead, in this instance, the lack of complete information served as a source of frustration.”
Next, the DV counselors at the Intake Center seem accustomed to clients who have experienced abuse and counseling in the past. As a result, counselors may assume that clients are aware of the overall process and not convey information with the necessary level of detail. Our client commented to us that she felt that the counselor treated her as though she had experienced counseling in the past, which was not the case. As a result, our client felt that she did not receive the level of information needed to make an informed decision on different housing opportunities. At the end of the day, we circled back to the counselor so that our client could receive counseling on her remaining unanswered questions. Because it was later in the day by that point, the options that would have been available to our client in the morning no longer existed. This meant that she had to figure out her own housing at 5:00 p.m. for the next three days.
DV is traumatic, and the DV Intake Center should be a source of comfort. Instead, for our client, the lack of complete information served as a source of frustration. Additionally, the counselor’s presumptions about our client made her feel stereotyped and marginalized. To make matters worse, after securing housing from one of the community charities associated with the DV Intake Center, our client found the conditions of the housing to be unsanitary. This is because the housing is recycled on a short-term basis and many individuals cycle through a particular housing unit.
We also observed the way the front desk staff interacted with DV survivors seeking help. Often, survivors are vulnerable and afraid, and this is their first outreach for assistance. Our impression of those at the front desk who were accepting Civil Protection Order (CPO) filing paperwork was that they were laconic in their interactions with clients, using a cold tone instead of projecting warmth and empathy.
“…the preventable difficulties our client experienced in making even small steps towards leaving and heightened the trauma she was already experiencing and made the task of escaping abuse even more daunting.”
In our opinion, these issues are with the DV court system, and the DV court system could ameliorate them if the institution were willing to do so. Like many DV survivors, our client came to us from a volatile situation and one from where she kept returning. While her strong emotional ties to her abuser certainly complicated her ability to follow through with her choice to seek a CPO against him, the preventable difficulties our client experienced in making even small steps towards leaving and heightened the trauma she was already experiencing and made the task of escaping abuse even more daunting.
About the Authors:
Melissa Light is a 3L Student Attorney in the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law.
Stephanie Kocubinski is a 3L Student Attorney in the Domestic Violence Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law.
On October 17, Immigrant Justice Clinic student attorneys Rafael Hernandez and Jeannesis Rodriguez testified before the Judiciary Committee of the D.C. Council in support of the Immigration Services Protection Act of 2016 (ISPA), which aims to prevent notario fraud in the District. Notario fraud occurs when incompetent individuals offer to assist immigrants in their immigration proceedings for a fee, but then fail to provide adequate representation, sometimes leading to loss of immigration status and deportation. In their testimony, Hernandez and Rodriguez explained the pressing need for legislation to protect the immigrant population from fraud, and also offered several suggestions for improvement based on research into similar bills in other jurisdictions.