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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UC Hastings Civil Justice Clinic Celebrates 20th Anniversary

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UC Hastings celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Civil Justice Clinic Feb. 6, 2013, marking two decades of real client legal training of students that directly benefits the local community.

The Civil Justice Clinic, which was initially founded by Professor Mark Aaronson, has grown to house four programs—the Individual Representation Clinic, the Community Group Advocacy Clinic, the Mediation Clinic, and the Community Economic Development Clinic.

The CJC started with students handling individual litigation matters, such as wage-and-hour and Social Security disability cases, for low-income individuals who could not afford legal services. Students assume lead responsibility for cases, start to finish, with one-on-one faculty supervision and semiweekly seminars through which they earn course credit.

In the late 1990s, the CJC expanded beyond individual representation to include a policy impact focus, including legislative and administrative matters and community legal education. As law practice changed and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) became more prevalent, the CJC began working with San Francisco’s Small Claims Court, where students mediated disputes. The Mediation Clinic is co-taught with faculty from the UC Hastings Center for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.

The college’s Social Change Lawyering Concentration grew out of the CJC. “Clinics are the place where theory and practice are integrated, in a committed, concentrated way that also serves the community,” said Professor Nancy Stuart, Associate Dean for Experiential Learning.

The CJC made headlines in an important wage-and-hour case, Murphy v. Kenneth Cole, 40 Cal. 4th 1094 (2007), involving an employer’s obligation to pay employees for missed meal and rest breaks. Students served as lead counsel for the employee and were victorious at trial, a decision that was ultimately upheld by the California Supreme Court in a major precedent-setting opinion. Students assisted in the preparation of the appeals, argued by former CJC Professor Donna Ryu, now a U.S. District Court Magistrate.

As part of the victory, the CJC received a substantial attorneys’ fee award to fund future cases and projects.

The Civil Justice Clinic again gained notice in 2011 and 2012 for its community advocacy work surrounding the proposed rebuilding of California Pacific Medical Center, the major private hospital services provider in San Francisco. Working with a coalition of grassroots organizations, CJC students produced a white paper that showed that CPMC, the city’s most profitable hospital, lagged in its charity care of uninsured patients.

UC Hastings has had a long history of clinical training for students and respect for the lawyering craft. The CJC is one of 14 clinics and externships now offered. Last year, 284 students completed a clinical course. The school’s current Academic Dean, Shauna Marshall, was promoted to her post from her rank as a tenured clinical professor with the Civil Justice Clinic. “That really speaks to the impact of our clinics here, and the respect our faculty has for them,” Stuart said.

The CJC is home to a team of long-term dedicated clinical faculty, including Professor Aaronson and Professors Miye Goishi, Ascanio Piomelli, Gail Silverstein and Eumi Lee. Aaronson served as CJC director for 15 years, until 2008, and then continued to oversee student work. He retires this spring. Professor Goishi currently serves as director.

Alumni who participated in clinics will speak at the Feb. 6 event, sharing how their training at UC Hastings and its clinics continues to have positive ripple effects in their work, and their communities, today.

“Thank you for everything you have done for me both inside and outside the CED [Community Economic Development] clinic,” Jeffrey Ugai ’12 wrote in a letter to Aaronson. “Participating in the clinic was a highlight of my experience at UC Hastings, and I find myself turning to my experiences as a CED student time and again as I find my footing at my new position.”

For information about the event, see here.

In the photo: Professor Mark Aaronson with Temnee Wright, who took the CED Clinic in the 10-’11 academic year.

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