On April 29, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the petition for review of Chinese asylum seeker Shirong Chen, who was represented by UC Hastings students Jamie Cheng '14 and Patrick Burns '14.
These two third year advocates represented Mr. Chen as part of their involvement in the Hastings Appellate Project (HAP), an upper division clinical advocacy program for UC Hastings students run by Archer Norris partner and specialist, Gary Watt '97.
Mr. Chen was involved in a labor protest against his employer, a state-owned chemical processing facility, in response to deteriorating workplace safety conditions and corruption of factory management. After forcibly dispersing the peaceful labor demonstration, the police arrested Mr. Chen and tortured, interrogated, and detained him for ten days without adequate food or water. Thereafter, authorities subjected Mr. Chen and his family to oppressive government surveillance.
Mr. Chen managed to flee China in 2005, but the U.S. immigration authorities initially denied Mr. Chen's application for asylum. Upon review by the Ninth Circuit and thanks to the strong written advocacy and oral argument by Ms. Cheng and Mr. Burns, the federal court found numerous legal errors by the immigration agency and remanded Mr. Chen's case for further proceedings.
"My biggest accomplishment at UC Hastings was trying out for an intercollegiate Moot Court team and honing my advocacy skills by competing and coaching competitions, which finally culminated in this opportunity to represent a real client before the Ninth Circuit," said Ms. Cheng. "Obtaining a favorable outcome for our client has given me confidence and passion to be an effective advocate as I advance in my legal career."
Mr. Burns added, "UC Hastings has incredible opportunities to experience real client representation as a law student, and it's even more rewarding when your training and public interest representation has a just outcome. We feel honored by our client's trust and the opportunity to tell his story to the court."
L to R: Gary Watt '97, Patrick Burns '14, Jamie Cheng '14, Stephen Tollafield '02
During its 5 year existence, the Hastings Appellate Project has accumulated an impressive string of victories for its pro bono clients. "We use a team-oriented approach," said Watt, "and that includes giving our clinical students the tools and the freedom to explore every avenue for obtaining relief. Along the way, our students obtain the kind of highly valued, hands-on experience that is at the forefront of current discussions of law school relevance to the real world."
HAP's representation of pro se litigants by supervised law students is made possible and coordinated by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Pro Bono Program. Gary Watt '97, Director of the Hastings Appellate Project, and Stephen Tollafield '02, Professor and Moot Court Program Assistant Director, both UC Hastings alumni, supervise HAP students in their representation of their clients.
Story by Stephen Tollafield '02