Category Archives: News

Stories about the news – whether it be campus news, news about the legal world, or national news that relates to campus life!

CALS Students Win Asylum for Venezuelan Political Dissident

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Atid Kimelman (right) and Emma Mlyniec (second from right) recently helped their client Mateo (left) win asylum with the help of translator Marisela Vazquez (second from left), a former LLM student.

Mateo* fled his home country of Venezuela after agents of the government assaulted him through brutal beatings, unwarranted stalking, and death threats in retaliation for his anti-Chavismo political activism.  Mateo requested asylum immediately upon his arrival at Dulles International Airport in April 2017.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) then assigned him to expedited removal proceedings and detained him at the Farmville Detention Center, a private facility used by the DHS and located in rural Virginia. The Capitol Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (CAIR), referred Mateo’s case to the Center for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), Georgetown Law Center’s asylum law clinic

Over the course of Fall Semester 2017, two student representatives from CALS, Emma Mlyniec (L’19) and Atid Kimelman (L’19), worked side-by-side with Mateo to develop an evidentiary record and prepare a legal brief to convince an immigration judge to both prevent Mateo’s return to Venezuela and permit Mateo to remain in the United States. Ultimately, their diligence won the case: the judge granted Mateo with asylum—putting him on a pathway to U.S. citizenship. And while this journey, for Mateo, Mlyniec, and Kimelman presented great rewards, their obstacles rewarded them with even greater lessons.

 Arriving at the Heart of the Issue 

Mlyniec and Kimelman enrolled in CALS to culminate years of accumulated legal studies: immersion in immigration law, strengthen practice skills, and serve a vulnerable client. “Especially as the political winds blow against welcoming refugees into our country, I wanted to represent an asylum seeker hoping to start a new life in the United States,” Kimelman said. “The experience helped me develop skills in client representation and trial advocacy that will help me wherever my career takes me.”

Over the course of four months, Mlyniec and Kilmel drove more than 2,800 miles (or about 8 roundtrips) between the nation’s capital and the Farmville Detention Center. Each trip supplied them with the unfortunate details of Mateo’s persecution and alerted them to the substantial risks he faced because of his contrarian political beliefs and actions. Back in Venezuela, Mateo was a well-educated tax auditor working for a Venezuelan municipality during which time the pro-government leadership in his office engaged in discriminatory policies and subsequent harassment as a result of his oppositionist political views. Despite this, Mateo frequently traveled to political protests and vocally expressed his political views on social media—he was essentially a working member of an oppositionist political party. Government-backed paramilitaries unleashed a series of attack against Mateo: they vandalized his car, left a threatening note for him, and wounded him when he tried to obtain evidence of corruption and misconduct by the regime-backed local government. Eventually, the government officials threatened him with death, after months of stalking him in an unmarked SUV.

Transportation hurdles, fact-finding, and language barriers interfered with the timeliness—but not the determination—of all three involved. Both Mlyniec and Kimelman faced numerous obstacles in developing the record for Mateo’s hearing. Corroborating evidence is critical in asylum cases, but their first visit foreshadowed just how difficult it would be to serve a client locked in a detention center more than a three- hours drive from Washington D.C. Even basic communication with Mateo, including phone calls, email, and fax, were extremely difficult because of the conditions of his confinement. Obtaining professional service was also challenging. For example, finding a psychologist who could provide such services in Farmville proved unsuccessful and frankly impossible. Instead, Mlyniec and Kimelman had to arrange for Mateo to be transferred to Fairfax, VA for a psychological evaluation, which provided critical corroborating evidence of the persecution he suffered.

Additionally, Mateo’s asylum hearing was conducted by videoconference because he was detained, making it even less likely that the judge would be able to adequately judge Mateo’s credibility, which is central to asylum determinations. “This experience vividly demonstrated the host of due process issues that immigrant detention poses,” Mlyniec said. “From incredibly limited access to counsel—to not being allowed to appear in person for your own court hearing—it is clear that the system is stripping detained immigrants of the relatively few rights afforded to refugees in general.”

 Making the Case

 These frequent roadblocks did not deter Mlyniec and Kimelman but gave them a comprehensive apprenticeship into the heart of lawyering. Both representatives learned to advocate vigorously for their client. Such work involved procuring affidavits from nine of Mateo’s friends, family, and work colleagues from Venezuela. They also meticulously investigated human rights conditions in Venezuela, researched applicable asylum law, and wrote (and re-wrote again and again) a lengthy brief. At the same time, the students also obtained expert affidavits from a psychologist and trauma surgeon to corroborate the trauma and physical injuries Mateo suffered, as well as three political scientists who bolstered Mateo’s case by explaining the dire climate in Venezuela for political dissidents. In total, they compiled a 754-page submission, including dozens of evidentiary exhibits that they filed in court.

“The difficult work of developing an evidentiary record is a crucial aspect of lawyering that you can’t learn by reading a casebook,” Kimelman said. “It was also incredibly rewarding. Speaking with Mateo’s friends and family, and seeing the ways in which he was loved and supported, showed the best in humanity.”

Because of the depth of evidence in the written submission, the DHS trial attorney conceded a number of issues before trial. However, the DHS attorney still wanted to hear Mateo testify to make sure his testimony lined up with his written affidavit and supporting evidence. Mlyniec, who conducted Mateo’s direct examination, said she “was grateful for the opportunity both to develop trial skills and to help our client tell his side of the story in his own words.”

After a short and perfunctory cross-examination by ICE’s attorney, the Immigration Judge granted Mateo asylum and ICE waived appeal. Mlyniec and Kimelman immediately drove down to Farmville to pick up Mateo, who was now free after seven months in detention. A few days later, Mateo celebrated his first Thanksgiving in the United States.

The Influence of CALS 

“CALS students perform such heroic efforts because the cases are so demanding—we carry a significant burden of proof in immigration court,” said Georgetown Law Professor Andy Schoenholtz, who directed the CALS program during the fall semester.  “Our students have proven to be incredibly dedicated, sustaining the long hours and creativity necessary to build the case, and learning how to pull it all together in court on the day of the hearing.”

CALS prepares its students for the demands of asylum cases through twice-weekly classes and weekly, student-led case team meetings with a faculty advisor.  The classes cover a range of litigation skills, such as interviewing, researching, legal writing, and hearing preparation. Through simulations, students have the opportunity to practice these skills before they have to perform those tasks in their real cases.  Classes also cover the “softer” legal skills, such as dealing with some of the psychological pressures that arise when serving survivors of torture and other trauma, time management, collaboration with a partner, and learning to accept responsibility for a client’s case.

The clinic grants 10 semester credits, and students devote an average of 35 hours per week to CALS activities.  Each semester, the clinic selects 12 students who work in pairs to represent six different asylum-seekers, who come from all over the world.  In recent years, CALS has represented political activists, racial minorities, victims of gender-based violence, and other survivors of torture or repression, from Cameroon, El Salvador, Honduras, Libya, Guatemala, Eritrea, Russia, Liberia, Togo, and elsewhere.

“CALS is hard, but professionally, it was the most productive and meaningful semester of my life,” Kimelman said. “The opportunity to help someone as kind, generous, and humble as Mateo remain safely in the United States was incredibly rewarding and taught Emma and me so much about zealous and effective advocacy.”

*Name has been changed to protect his privacy.

Notes on Construction Notes

mlyniec-wally_1[1]The name Wally Mlyniec should be familiar to any current Georgetown student.  Professor Mlyniec served as director of Georgetown Law’s pioneering Juvenile Justice clinic from 1973 to 2015, a whopping 42 years of service.  However, most students probably know Mlyniec’s name from Construction Notes, the sprawling tomes of information that grace the entire campus’ inbox.

As I prepared to leave campus in a few days, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Professor Mlyniec to discuss Construction Notes, his interest in construction, and what he thinks Capitol Crossing will do for the area and for Georgetown Law.

Construction Notes have been a constant across my experience at Georgetown Law.  The ambitious Capitol Crossing project, the plan to cover and develop the segment of I-395 adjacent to campus, served as an environmental alarm clock for me during my 1L year.  The construction crew’s bright floodlights shining into my corner room at the Gewirz Student Center encouraged me to work well into the night.  The first e-mails I received from Professor Mlyniec were not welcome, often informing me of a water shutdown.

As the fog of 1L faded, I began to read these curious e-mails called Construction Notes, filled with the kind of trivia that I desperately needed between reading assignments.  Eventually, I would ask people on campus – “So, how about those e-mails from Wally Mlyniec?”  There are two responses to that question: blank stares, or instant recognition and mutual understanding.

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First Daughter Tiffany Trump Is Poised to Become a Hoya Lawyer

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By now, you’ve been able to connect the dots between the flurry of “Make Georgetown Law Great Again” comments across social media. 23-year-old Tiffany Trump will be attending Georgetown University Law Center. President Trump’s second daughter will presumably become a 2020 graduate of GULC (GULC has confirmed the First Daughter’s position in the new cohort of accepted students).

While students are buried in exam preparation and taking, some practical questions abound about what fall 2017 will look like on campus. No doubt, Trump will have security detail, which has the potential to cause some inconveniences. But news about a member of America’s First Family is prompting some varied reactions.

“I hope every one treats her with respect, whether they agree with her father’s politics or not,” Sarah Naiman said, an incoming evening division student. “She is part of the community and needs to be treated as such. And at the very least, this is probably the safest this campus will ever be!”

“She is the President’s daughter and therefore has her choice of law schools. That she chose Georgetown is a testament to the schools offerings and capabilities, regardless of her reasons for choosing our school over others,” 1E Christian Dibblee said. “It’s unsettling that some are advocating against her being at the law school just because of who her father is.”

While Georgetown Law has already admitted students for the incoming class, there are students on waiting lists. And the impact of this news might even influence student’s decision to attend GULC, now labeled a “T-15” school according to the latest U.S. News & World Report edition.

“Having Tiffany Trump in the classroom will no doubt affect the students’ experience of law school,” Jana Sneed said, a prospective law student. “Discussion in the classroom regarding our nation’s politics could either be provoked or restrained due to her presence among the students. It’s hard to say whether it will be a positive or a negative impact.”

Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett weighed in on the action through social media. According to his Twitter page, he said he hopes Trump will attend events at the Georgetown Center for the Constitution (which he directs).

Regardless of what happens in a few months time, Trump will be poised to join a long list of famous GULC alumni too exhaustive to list. Greta Van Susteren and, Savannah Guthrie are among GULC’s alum on TV, while Hoya Congressmen include John Delaney, Richard Durbin, Steny Hoyer, and Patrick Leahy.

Dean Calms Fears After Georgetown Law Rankings Slide

Georgetown Law has long been an elite law school, consistently earning a position in the coveted top 14 spots in US News & World Report’s annual law school rankings. However, in the 2017-2018 rankings, Georgetown dropped from 14th to 15th, the first school to ever drop out of the “T-14.” UT Austin, who previously was tied for the 15th spot with UCLA, moved into Georgetown’s historic spot, causing panic among Georgetown students afraid of the implications this will have on their job prospects, concern that the quality of education is decreasing, and larger debates among legal academics as to the efficacy of law school rankings, and whether or not US News really deserves to be the “gold standard.”

The legend of the T-14 law schools began because since US News started ranking law schools in 1989, the same fourteen institutions have always remained at #14 or higher. The legend of the T-14 is not that these fourteen schools were in any way vastly superior to the schools ranked #15 or lower, but in the fact that the schools had remained the same. This fact has led many academics and practitioners (yes, even in big law) to argue that the distinction – and the weight put on it by prospective students – is largely arbitrary. As Dean William Treanor insinuated when speaking to students at a Student Bar Association open forum, Georgetown’s drop in ranking simply means that there are more good law schools, not that Georgetown has become worse by any measure.

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CALS Students Win Asylum for Burundian Rape Victim

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Rachel Hitchins, left, and Leigh Ainsworth, right, recently helped their client Sasha win asylum.

This story was written by Center for Applied Legal Studies staff.  The Law Weekly was not involved in writing the content of this article, but edited it and deemed it necessary to publish.

Sasha (whose name has been changed to protect her privacy) fled her home country of Burundi after a powerful Hutu general threatened, raped, and left her for dead because she is a Tutsi woman.  When she first came to the United States in 2012, Sasha’s application for asylum was rejected by an immigration official. Sasha, unrepresented at the time, was then placed into deportation proceedings. While that case was pending, Sasha found the Center for Applied Legal Studies, the Law Center’s asylum law clinic. Over the course of their semester in CALS, Sasha’s student representatives, Leigh Ainsworth and Rachel Hitchins, worked intensely with Sasha to develop an evidentiary record and write a legal brief to convince the immigration judge that Sasha should be allowed to remain in the United States.  Ultimately, the hard work paid off – the judge granted Sasha asylum, putting her on a pathway to U.S. citizenship.

Ainsworth and Hitchins had enrolled in CALS hoping to learn about immigration law, develop practice skills, and serve a vulnerable client.  “I wanted to learn firsthand what it meant to represent a client in immigration court and to help a client navigate a complicated—and at times, frustrating—legal system,” Ainsworth said.  In the students’ first meeting with their client, Sasha broke down in tears. She revealed that when she was only fifteen years old, the general began harassing and threatening her.  He made sexual advances toward her, using his position of authority to stalk and threaten her when she refused him.  Sasha’s family hid her by sending her to boarding school, and while she was there, her mother died under suspicious circumstances.  Not long after, the General found her again.  He then kidnapped and brutally raped her, and left her for dead in a forest.  Sasha was rescued by a kind woman who found her there.

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Visiting Scholar Tara Helfman on originalism, the Constitution and her new status at Georgetown

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Of all the labels swirling around to describe Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch before his confirmation hearings beginning March 20th, patriotic is likely among them, according to Tara Helfman, who is on loan from Syracuse Law School while she works as a Georgetown Center for the Constitution Visiting Scholar.

Helfman’s recent slate of articles reflect her ongoing scholarship that includes executive powers, the Constitution and originalism.  While at Georgetown for the 2017 spring semester, Professor Helfman hosts GULC students in her “Freedom and the Framers” reading group, where she guides students through an exploration of the ideas and events that helped shape the American Constitution.

The purpose of the group, Professor Helfman says, is to allow students to enrich their understanding of constitutional doctrine and thereby become “useful and effective lawyers. [The reading group] is a lot more free-wheeling than a normal Socratic-oriented course. We read interesting things, and everyone is motivated to be there because they’ve chosen to be there.  It’s not for credit.”

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Georgetown Faculty Senate Passes Resolution on Travel Ban 1.0

At their February 15 meeting, Georgetown University’s Faculty Senate passed a resolution regarding the January Executive Order on Immigration issued by President Donald Trump. The Faculty Senate “is a university-wide faculty governance body that advises the University President on academic, administrative, and financial issues that affect all three campuses.” The resolution labels the Executive Order “an affront to human decency” and a threat to the “basic values we stand for as a university.”  The resolution follows a January statement by Georgetown University President John DeGioia that was critical of the Trump Administration’s policy and cautioned students affected by the ban to consult an immigration attorney.

Law Center Professor Laura Donohue, who also serves the law campus’ Faculty Senate Vice President, shared her personal thoughts on the resolution as it relates to the original Executive Order.  Donohue stressed the importance of Georgetown as an “institution that was built on the exchange of views,” both differing and alike. She communicated that the sharing of ideas with those different from oneself allows for “intellectual growth” and a fuller discussion in the classroom and in the world beyond us.  Donohue reflected on the original executive order as “contrary to the history and legacy of Georgetown as a Jesuit institution,” and the subsequent Faculty Senate resolution as a symbol of Georgetown’s commitment to social justice for all. Georgetown’s commitment was further demonstrated as faculty immediately mobilized and headed to Dulles Airport to provide legal support for those directly affected by the order.

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