Graduating Law Students Receive Award for Outstanding Work in the Legal Clinic
Posted on May 13, 2015
Graduating law students Lilia Pacheco and Miguel Mariscal are the joint recipients of the this year’s Clinical Legal Education Association’s Outstanding Student Award.
The award is given to students who demonstrate excellence in the field work component of the clinical course; excellence in the seminar component of the clinical course determined by the quality of the student’s thoughtfulness and self-reflection in exploring the legal, ethical, strategic, and other pertinent issues raised in the particular clinic; and the nature and extent of the student’s contribution to the clinical community at the student’s law school.
As students in the Immigration Clinic, Pacheco and Mariscal represented their client in an asylum hearing before the Immigration Court. The case involved a young man from Honduras that suffered extreme abuse as a child from his father, and later faced threats and extortion from gangs when he moved to a city as a teenager to escape his father. Pacheco and Mariscal posited a rarely-used provision of the immigration regulations that allows for a grant of humanitarian asylum when an individual cannot prove all the elements of traditional asylum. The students performed all aspects of client representation, including two hours of testimony and over thirty minutes of legal arguments in Immigration Court. They successfully convinced the judge he could meld these two separate claims into what effectively was a single claim in the eyes of the law.
In addition to this case, while in the Immigration Clinic, both students represented multiple victims of domestic violence in pursuit of visas and adjustments of status based on marriage, and assisted in multiple other cases both as a team and individually. Additionally, Mariscal acted as the Student Coordinator for the Immigration Clinic for two semesters.
After their time in the Immigration Clinic, both students enrolled in the Civil Clinic. During her time in this clinic, Pacheco represented a client in federal litigation filed to recover substantial unpaid wages. Along with her clinic partner, she skillfully drafted an opposition brief in response to defendants’ motion to dismiss her client’s federal claims and successfully argued against dismissal in court. The resulting decision will be published in the federal reporter and lists Pacheco, along with her professor, as counsel of record. Pacheco also conducted a 26(f) conference with opposing counsel, drafted the joint 26(f) report, served discovery requests on defendants, drafted portions of a motion to strike affirmative defenses, and held several productive meetings with her client. She sought to negotiate with opposing counsel to arrange for discovery and, when that proved impossible, drafted a motion to compel.
In the Civil Clinic, Mariscal represented his clients’ interests as creditors in their former employer’s bankruptcy. In a prior semester, students filed a federal lawsuit against the employer for unpaid promised and overtime wages. One day before the employer would have defaulted, he filed for bankruptcy and the federal lawsuit was stayed. Based on his careful research, Mariscal developed a case strategy, conducted an interview of the debtor-employer at the creditor’s meeting, filed an objection to the debtor-employer’s plan, drafted proof of claims, and negotiated with opposing counsel. He represented his clients at the hearing and delivered an opening and closing, examined a hostile witness, and got nearly twenty documents admitted into evidence.
Professor Elizabeth Young, director of the Immigration Clinic, remarked, “Miguel and Lilia have consistently demonstrated key qualities for successful attorneys: diligence, creativity, professionalism, and, above all, passion. I am excited these two are receiving this prestigious award, and look forward to seeing them move forward in their careers.”
Pacheco and Mariscal will receive their awards at the Law School Graduation Award Ceremony on May 15.