American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference Expands A Student’s Thinking
In early February, I had the phenomenal opportunity to attend South Beach Florida’s 34th Annual Immigration Law Update on a student scholarship. Honestly, when I first arrived I was feeling a little out of place. Most of the attendees were practicing attorneys with many years of experience and they all seemed to know each other quite well. The conference was held in a great location: the Treetop Ballroom on Jungle Island. However, with the schedule, I only had the opportunity to take in the beautiful, panoramic view during brief scheduled breaks (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). This conference was unlike any I have ever attended. I did not have to choose which sessions attend because all the sessions were held in one large ballroom. The conference materials were provided on a disc and contained all the updated case law summaries for each panel. Every panel had speakers that are highly recognized in their respective area of immigration law. Of the many panel speakers that I met, Mary Kramer, who wrote The Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity: A Guide to Representing Foreign-Born Defendants and Ira Kurzban, who wrote Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook stood out for me because I used their books when I handled cases in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. I was most impressed with the level of collaboration among the attorneys. During one of the closing sessions, the panel reminded the attorneys not to work in isolation especially in key areas that impact the immigration community as a whole.
As I listened to the panel discussions and took notes, I started to make connections between the discussion topics and my experiences in the Immigrant Rights Clinic as well as some more recent topics that were covered in the International Business Transactions class that I am taking this semester. I found intriguing the discussions and vendor projects related to EB-5, an immigrant investor program. Under EB-5, a foreign investor who invests $500,000 into a targeted employment area that creates full-time employment for ten U.S. workers can earn residency status in the U.S. Before attending the conference, I had a relatively narrow perspective of immigration law. After the conference, I notice some challenging issues being raised in my mind. Is U.S. citizenship for sale? Does the EB-5 programs limit the abilities of others foreigners to obtain citizenship or unfairly delay people on waiting lists? How much of the U.S. economy is tied to foreign investment? More questions than answers, but I must say I appreciate the experience and the expansion of my own thinking. I encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities while in school because you learn not only about the law, but you will learn about yourself.
The Consumer Law Clinic recently settled a case on behalf of an active duty sailor. The client purchased a used car from a local used car lot. After purchasing it, he discovered the car had been in an accident and been written off as a total loss by the prior insurance company. The Clinic sued the car dealer on his behalf for deceptive and unfair trade practices. After six months of litigation and the deposition of the owner of the car dealership, the Clinic successfully settled the case in the client’s favor. The client is currently deployed for six months, so it is a great relief to both him and his family to be free from the car. The Consumer Law Clinic routinely accepts cases from both current and former military personnel. Unfortunately, the military are routinely targeted for consumer fraud and are in especial need of the Consumer Law Clinic.
We currently have four cases set for jury selection. . . with the first one set to go next week; quickly followed by trials on 3/4, 3/18, and 4/1. I hear that there’s a thing called spring break in there somewhere. However, unless something drastically changes, my clinic will be spending quality time together during that week while prepping for these trials. Exciting, exhausting, and terrifying all at once. Motions in limine, redacting 911 tapes, prepping for jury selection, etc. etc. etc. The next month will be a blur.
The Family Law Clinic has been very busy since the beginning of the Spring semester. Currently, the eleven clinicians are managing 65 live cases. Since January 1, 2013, the clinicians have taken five cases to final hearing (trial) and other matters have been presented to the Court through temporary needs hearings - hearings that establish rights and responsibilties of parties during the pendency of a paternity or dissolution of marriage matter until final judgment is reached.
These temporary hearings are “mini trials” because they are full evidentiary hearings. These hearings are a great test of the strength and weaknesses of both parties’ case.
The Clinic successfully litigated, to conclusion, its first case involving custody by an extended family member (not a parent of the minor child) under facts where the parent is still alive and present.
The clinicians are also being exposed to various military issues relating to dissolutions including: addressing the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, attempting service of military members stationed overseas, seeking the right to allow a minor child to relocate with a deploying service member, and division of military pensions under the military guidelines and Florida law.
So far, it has been an exciting Clinic to be a part of.
The Office of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida is soliciting applications for summer 2013 externships. This credit-bearing externship is a great way to gain practical experience while earning skills credit.
The deadline for applying for a USAO externship is Friday, January 25, 2013 by 5 p.m. To do so, you must submit a letter of interest (cover letter), resume, transcript, writing sample and the USAO background questionnaire to the Clinic Office, room 255, by the deadline. Look for an email that was sent to all students attaching information regarding this opportunity. The information also is available in the Clinic Office and on Symplicity.
Applications are now available for summer 2013 clinics and externships. Clinics and externships are the best opportunities that you have in law school to get actual legal work experience. Legal work experience is the most important factor that employers look at when hiring a new attorney. Clinics and externships can also help you decide what kind of law you want to practice. Coastal strongly encourages all of its students to do at least one clinic, externship, or skills lab before they graduate.
The applications are attached to this email and are also available under their respective pages at: http://www.fcsl.edu/Experiential-Learning You can learn more about the clinic and externship opportunities at this link as well.
You must have completed all of your first year courses to be eligible for a credit bearing externship. You must have completed 48 credit hours, PR, and Evidence to be eligible for a clinic. In addition, some of the clinics require a clearance certificate from the Florida Bar to be eligible to be a Certified Legal Intern (CLI).
You can also hear more about our clinics and externships at the following informational meetings:
January 22 at noon in room 525
January 24 at 5:00 PM in room 465
January 25 at noon in room 515
January 29 at 3:00 in room 405
There will also be a separate informational meeting for Judicial Externships on:
January 28 at noon in room 250.
If you are interested in doing an externship outside of northeast Florida (i.e. a long distance externship) this summer, you will need to gain approval for the externship. You can apply for approval for a long distance externship by completing the appropriate form located on Sumplicity and the FCSL website. The deadline for applying for a long distance externship is April 12.
Please feel free to contact any of our Clinical Programs Professors with any questions regarding clinics and externships and the application process. I have provided their contact information below.
Professor Ericka Curran – Immigration Rights Clinic – 680-7650 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Lois Ragsdale – Criminal Defense Clinic – 680-7661 – email@example.com
Professor Sarah Sullivan – Disability and Benefits Rights Clinic – 256-1243 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Laura Boeckman – Consumer Law Clinic and Judicial Externship Coordinator – 680-7654 – email@example.com
Professor Natalie Tuttle – Family Law Clinic – 680-7644 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Ada Hammond – Non-Judicial Externship Coordinator – 256-1157 – email@example.com
We look forward to working with you in one of the most exciting, valuable and rewarding experiences in your law school career!
This past fall, Immigrant Rights clinician Inna Vernikov filed the clinic’s very first application under the Obama administration’s new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program. The application was filed on behalf of a local 15 years old high school student who had been in the United States since she was 2 years old.
This new immigration benefit allows certain young undocumented individuals who entered the United States as children, who are in school, have a high school Diploma (or GED) or served in the US armed forces to remain in the United States for a period of two years (subject to renewal). Applicants for this benefit also cannot have a significant criminal history. Most individuals who are approved for DACA will also be authorized to work in the US during the authorized period.
Inna worked dilligently on this case in the fall semester. Her hard work was remarkable. This case involved a new form of relief that required extensive research and creativity. It involved figuring out what types of evidence and documents would demonstrate that the client had in fact been in the US continuously for all these years (an onerous task) and also that the client met other DACA requirements. The student’s dedication to the client’s case is very commendable.
Many students do not seem to realize the value of being a certified legal intern (CLI). Being a CLI means that the Florida Supreme Court allows you to appear in court on behalf of a client under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Only a limited number of positions allow you to become a CLI. For example, if you work for a private law firm, you cannot become a CLI – you have to be in a public interest placement. Most of Coastal’s clinics and externships allow you to become a CLI. Not only does this provide you with an incredibly valuable experience while you are in law school by allowing you to argue motions and trials in court, but you are then eligible for a post graduate CLI. This means that you can continue to practice law under another attorney’s license in an approved program before you receive your own license. Many jobs, such as those with the state attorney’s office or the public defender, will only hire students with a post graduate CLI.
However, the hard part about becoming a CLI is getting your clearance certificate from the Florida Bar. The application for the clearance certificate is not difficult to complete, but it often takes 4-5 months (and can take up to a year) for the Bar to complete the background check and issue the clearance certificate. Everyone should apply for their clearance certificate as early as possible so that you have the certificate in time to apply for a clinic or externship. Even if you do not plan to stay in Florida, the benefits of being a CLI far outweigh the time of completing the clearance certificate application. For more information on the clearance certificate process, please see: http://www.fcsl.edu/clinic/clinical-programs and http://www.floridabarexam.org/.
While most of the clinics are quiet, the criminal defense clinic continues to handle hearings over the break. Although we only have eight carryover cases, we handled approximately 70 cases over the course of the fall semester. Yes, it is nuts sometimes, but never dull. Less than 2 weeks before the madness begins again.
In the emotional wake of the tragedy a week ago in Newtown, CT, many of us are still privately mourning the loss of life and the true senseless nature of it all. However, a hope is that this will cause a nation-wide dialogue, opportunity for awareness, a watershed moment for policy changes for underserved populations of the mentally ill. I don’t need to debunk the myth that all individuals with mental health diagnosis are violent crazed homicidal individuals. I also don’t need to tell you that there is no meaningful correlation between the autism spectrum and mass killings. All of us probably know individuals with mental health diagnoses and also know even more individuals that probably suffer from mental illness but either fail or refuse to seek treatment for a myriad of reasons. We cast out the mentally ill in our society even though the mentally ill make up a healthy percentage of our population. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, over a quarter of our adult population has a mental health diagnosis and of those, almost 6% are seriously debilitating. Yet, there is a social stygma attached to mental illness that prevents individuals from seeking meaningful treatment. For many mentally ill individuals, Medicaid is the only insurance available. Medicaid is, in fact, a key component to keeping many chronically and severely mentally ill individuals alive and independent in the community rather than in institutions. Private health insurance companies have not met the growing need for wider arrays of mental health services. It is common to find a private insurance company providing a few “free” counseling sessions but not constant psychotherapy and medication management for someone with severe schizophrenia or chronic depression. Usually, the answer is prescibing pills instead of intense case management. Medicaid is, as always, the safety net. With decreasing state budgets and political fall-out over health care reform, the future of Medicaid is uncertain. Medicaid will be around, but for who? How many services will be provided for this vulnerable population? If we, as a society, want to prevent senseless acts of violence, we need to also break down the stygma attached to mental illness, and provide the help and support to those affected, including caregivers. Instead of shunning the mentally ill at the onset, then mourning the loss in the end, we can reduce the risk of such travesties demanding more from our government and our private health care industry. Our clinic will continue to represent the mentally ill. We will strive to overcome the social stygmas assigned to our clients. We will rejoice in those clients’ special gifts, and we will lift them up with the support that they need through our advocacy. We will do our part. . . will you?