UCI Law Clinic Students Assist in Civil Rights Litigation Brought Before the U.S. Supreme Court


Supreme Court of the United States

Irvine, Calif. (April 29, 2022) -- Students in the University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law) Civil Rights Litigation Clinic were part of a litigation team representing respondent, Terrence Tekoh, before the U.S. Supreme Court in Vega v. Tekoh. Civil Rights Litigation Clinic Director Paul Hoffman argued these matters in the Supreme Court, April 20, 2022. Dean Erwin Chemerinsky of the Berkeley Law School and John Burton, J.D. were co-counsel in the Court.

The question presented in Vega v. Tekoh was “whether a plaintiff may state a claim for relief against a law enforcement officer under Section 1983 based simply on an officer's failure to provide the warnings prescribed in Miranda v Arizona.” The respondent Terrence Tekoh claimed his Fifth Amendment right was violated when his unwarned custodial statement was introduced to incriminate him in his criminal trial and petitioner Carlos Vega “caused” Tekoh to be subjected to that violation within the meaning of Section 1983.

Preparation for the case began in January. “The week after I joined the clinic, Professor Hoffman told us that the Supreme Court granted cert,” stated Nathan Romo ‘22. “Four months and hundreds of hours of research, writing and editing later, he was at oral arguments."

Students from the Civil Rights Litigation Clinics assisted in the various stages of preparation. They attended moot court sessions, researched issues such as proximate causation, prophylactic rule, procedural history and wrote briefs. The overall goal was not to dismantle Miranda and Dickerson but to lay out the issues and show what the process had done to the respondent’s life. 

Early in the process, the group decided to abandon the 9th Circuit analysis on proximate cause and come up with what they referred the “lying cop theory” in terms of what proximate cause might look like.  The students organized amici curiae covering historical briefs that allowed them to lay out all the issues in order to concentrate on a narrower strategy.

“The students in the Civil Rights Litigation Clinic played an essential role in every aspect of the case in the Supreme
Court,” stated Hoffman.  “Without the students, it would not have been possible to go toe to toe with a large national law firm and the U.S. government. The students did a terrific job."

“It was a privilege to even have a small role in supporting this case. Working with Professor Hoffman gave me a glimpse into how an extremely experienced, smart, thoughtful, and hardworking civil rights litigator operates,” said Amanda Le ’22.

“It was an honor to work on this case not just to vindicate the rights of our client, Mr. Tekoh, but to fight to have Miranda rights protected across the nation,” stated Andy Van Ligten, ‘22. “At times, the fact that the case was at the Supreme Court was exciting and, perhaps, daunting, but we never lost sight of the goal of serving our client. It really taught me that, no matter what the stakes may be, a lawyer must give their all on behalf of their clients.”

The case is currently pending adjudication before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The briefs for Vega v. Tekoh as well as the 9th Circuit decisions are available online here.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law

The University of California, Irvine School of Law is a visionary law school that provides an innovative and comprehensive curriculum, prioritizes public service, and demonstrates a commitment to diversity within the legal profession. UCI Law students have completed more than 130,000 hours of pro bono work since 2009. Forty-seven percent of UCI Law’s J.D. graduates are people of color. At UCI Law, we are driven to improve our local, national, and global communities by grappling with important issues as scholars, as practitioners, and as teachers who are preparing the next generation of leaders. The collaborative and interdisciplinary community at UCI Law includes extraordinary students, world-renowned faculty, dedicated staff, engaged alumni and enthusiastic supporters. More information on UCI Law is available here. Please follow us on Twitter @UCILaw and Facebook @UCIrvineLaw.

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