Loyola Law School, Los Angeles will dedicate its new Loyola Social Justice Law Center (SJLC) this spring.

The new Center is an impressive aggregation of Loyola’s criminal defense, immigration, post-conviction relief and clinics focused on other important issues under one roof. Thanks to a dramatic renovation of nearly 23,000 square feet of Loyola’s Founders Hall, the new SJLC houses together for the first time multiple Law School clinics: the Collateral Consequences of Conviction Project, International Human Rights Clinic, Juvenile Innocence & Fair Sentencing Clinic, Juvenile Justice Clinic, Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic and Youth Justice Education Clinic, to name just a few.

Mimicking the approach of a law firm with several specialties, the Center will provide students with a more realistic look at the life of a law practice. The move allows Loyola’s clinics to better support their clients through efficiencies in shared services. Clinics now share support staff, case-management software and amenities like conference rooms and a client waiting area.

“The new Center strengthens Loyola’s commitment to our clinics, and establishes us as a leading law school in experiential education,” said Loyola Dean Michael Waterstone. “The renovated space underscores our commitment to training attorneys for others, allowing our clinic students to maximize access to justice for the people of Southern California and beyond.”

The clinics housed in the new SJLC have experienced significant growth since their respective launches. The Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic (LIJC), the only law school-housed community-based immigration clinic in the United States, has added three staff attorneys and conducted more than 10,000 client consultations since its 2012 inception. The Loyola Project for the Innocent, which secured the release of four clients in spring 2017 alone, has added two full-time attorneys to supervise students and is adding an attorney and investigator thanks to a major Department of Justice grant.

Loyola’s Juvenile Justice Clinic, the only program in Los Angeles where law students represent children accused of criminal offenses in delinquency court, will add 20 new clients this year to the list of 15 clients it continues to represent.

Juvenile Innocence and Fair Sentencing Clinic
students conducted more than two dozen mitigation and resentencing hearings last year, achieving reversals in four of five cases appealed at the California Court of Appeal. The Youth Justice Education Clinic last year hosted two major education law conferences in addition to its work training all L.A. County Probation Officers responsible for transitioning juvenile camp or hall youth back into their neighborhood schools. Meanwhile, the International Human Rights Clinic has more than two dozen matters pending before regional and international courts and tribunals, with students traveling 120,000 miles globally to date for advocacy and field work.

Joining Loyola’s expanding list of clinics is the newly formed Collateral Consequences of Conviction Project, a collaboration between Loyola and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Reentry that will be charged with helping the disadvantaged reclaim their lives after incarceration. Under the supervision of an attorney, project students will represent clients seeking to clean their records for purposes of employment, immigration, child support and professional licensing.

Loyola instituted other new clinics in the 2017-18 academic year. Students in the Workers’ Rights Clinic represent low-wage workers in marginalized communities, assisting in mediation and settlement hearings. Meanwhile, Street Law Teaching Practicum students teach law-related critical life skills to survivors of domestic violence.

“Loyola’s mission has always focused on serving the underserved,” said Cindy Archer, Associate Dean for Clinical Programs & Experiential Learning. “Our new Social Justice Law Center and expanded offerings give our students even more ways to gain practical experience while giving back to the community.”

Loyola has long been committed to social justice, with more than 1 million pro bono hours donated to 50,000-plus clients since the school’s 1920 founding. The first ABA-accredited school in California to institute a pro bono requirement for graduation, Loyola’s students annually donate about 60,000 of pro bono services.

The Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic has been at the forefront of advocacy for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) since the program’s inception in 2012, but this year the clinic intensified its efforts in the wake of significant changes promised by the Trump Administration. In the lead-up to the Oct. 5, 2017 deadline to submit DACA renewals, the LIJC helped more than 100 clients process their paperwork via an on-campus clinic and a range of community intake events. The LIJC has assisted with more than 500 DACA applications and renewals since January 2016.

On Sept. 16, 2017, the LIJC helped 100 clients navigate the DACA renewal process by providing legal assistance, passport photography and other services at no cost to attendees. Those who took advantage of the program were grateful for the opportunity to put their affairs in order.

“The U.S. is basically my home. It’s important to me to have legal status to have a future for me and my family,” said Mayra Paz, 24. Christian Perez, 30, who attended with his 3-year-old daughter, Yarelli, echoed that sentiment. “Today was really important. I want to get a career instead of a job.”

Amid last fall’s presidential election, the LIJC began expanding its DACA-specific outreach, deploying its staff attorneys to myriad site visits to explain the intricacies of DACA. Clinic staff attorneys regularly visit campuses like East Los Angeles College to consult with students. Additionally, the LIJC has seen record turnout at its regular intake events at East L.A.’s Homeboy Industries and Dolores Mission Church.

As the need for immigration services escalates, Loyola staff attorneys, professors and students underscore their pride in Loyola’s commitment to public service. “We are fortunate to be part of Loyola Law School, where we are truly trained to be lawyers for others,” said LIJC Co-Director Emily Robinson.

Most post-conviction attorneys can only dream of witnessing four wrongfully convicted clients find freedom during their careers. Loyola Project for the Innocent (LPI) Summer Fellow Hannah Brown ’18 saw it all in one semester.

Brown, now a research assistant, is part of a group of attorneys and students who worked on the cases of four clients released in the spring 2017 semester after collectively serving more than a half-century in prison on faulty convictions. The four men were among a total of six clients for whom the LPI has successfully secured release since its founding in 2011.

During her tenure with the LPI, Brown has sharpened a range of legal skills: case intake, claim research, drafting and interviewing witnesses – to name a few. She has found all of it to be invaluable.

“The opportunity to meet and speak with clients is fascinating. These are innocent people who have been incarcerated for decades. Each client is so different and has such a different perspective on life,” she says.

Brown’s most memorable experience was what she dubbed the “LPI Justice Road Trip” with client Andrew Leander Wilson, who served 32 years in prison for a wrongful conviction, to help deliver a donated car to his hometown of St. Louis. “Being out on the open road with a newly released client truly made me appreciate the importance of the clinic’s work,” she says.

The feeling is mutual. “These students mean the world to me. I can’t say enough about these people; I have an extended family now,” says Wilson.

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