UCI Law Clinics Continue to Represent Clients in Need, Virtually, During the COVID-19 Pandemic


IRVINE, Calif. (May 18, 2020) — The clinical program at the University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law) is a critical part of the curriculum, enabling students to gain valuable experience representing a variety of clients in need and working to address pressing problems in the community. That hasn’t changed, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As the UCI Law campus went remote in response to the pandemic, UCI Law’s clinical faculty and students continued providing client representation and responding to emergent needs.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated many inequalities, injustices, and legal and societal problems. Through it all, UCI Law Clinics have found ways to respond, while adhering to public health guidelines, to bring about much-needed change,” said Prof. Jane Stoever, Director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at UCI Law.

Despite having to work remotely, UCI Law clinic students have maintained communication with their clients and supervisors. They have been effectively collaborating and working quickly and creatively to ensure clients suffer no interruption in representation, while using the law to respond to legal needs presented by this global pandemic.

Below are several examples of UCI Law’s clinic activities for justice and societal change during the pandemic: 

  • Students in the Community and Economic Development Clinic were in the process of interviewing clients and attending meetings on behalf of affordable housing and community group clients. As COVID-19 made its way into the community, without missing a beat, students showed incredible initiative by reaching clients with old and new technology -- continuing their work by email, Zoom, and telephone -- and even arranging for a traveling notary to visit a client’s home so that a critical document could be signed.
  • The Consumer Law Clinic continued its efforts to keep low-income consumers in their homes after experiencing home-improvement fraud, gathering stories and advocating on behalf of individuals with government-imposed debt, and representing student-loan borrowers to obtain disability discharges. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the clinic is advocating against the unprecedented financial harms stemming from the crisis, protecting consumers from garnishment of their stimulus payments, alerting regulators to COVID-19 related scams, advocating for long-term repayment options for homeowners, and requesting the suspension of debt-collection filings during court closures.
  • The Criminal Justice Clinic continued its representation of noncitizens who are seeking to undo old criminal convictions so that they are able to stay in the U.S. with their loved ones. In addition, students have continued to represent elderly federal prisoners seeking compassionate release from prison. In response to the current coronavirus pandemic, the clinic expanded its work to assist medically vulnerable federal inmates seek compassionate release from both the Bureau of Prisons and federal district courts across the country.
  • The Domestic Violence Clinic’s work became more imperative than ever during the COVID-19 crisis, with stay-at-home orders and extreme family stress, economic harm, and anxiety exacerbating abuse. Throughout the pandemic, the clinic continued its representation of abuse survivors in civil restraining order, custody and visitation, and immigration cases, and filed a new appeal. The clinic also responded to community need by drafting and filing emergency domestic violence petitions for clients, while communicating with local agencies and the courts to ensure that access to safety and justice is prioritized for those who are not safe at home.
  • As government bodies transitioned to remote meetings, hearings, and workshops, students in the Environmental Law Clinic worked to ensure that the public is still able to fully engage with decision-makers. This is of particular concern to the clinic’s clients focused on promoting environmental justice, a key tenant of which is the meaningful involvement of communities in government activities that impact human health and the environment.
  • Immigrant Rights Clinic students continued representation of asylum seekers and longtime residents of Southern California in their bond and habeas corpus proceedings, seeking and successfully securing their release from the Adelanto detention center. One IRC student team representing a young man and longtime resident of Pacoima secured a $2,000 bond for a client -- an extremely low bond -- by diligent fact investigation and by presenting a clear case theory. Another team secured bond for a Cameroonian national fleeing religious persecution by identifying and working with a family sponsor in Virginia. In these cases, the students worked to ensure the clients’ loved ones or a nonprofit organization were able to pay the bond and that the clients made it safely home. The students also worked on federal habeas litigation after COVID-19, seeking the release of longtime residents due to the virus and the dangerous conditions at Adelanto.
  • The International Justice Clinic monitored the public health measures governments have been taking worldwide to ensure that they meet their obligations under human rights law. Students and faculty convened a meeting of United Nations experts to discuss the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has interrupted human rights work and to identify key human rights concerns. They convened a global meeting of activists to identify concerns related to freedom of expression during the pandemic. Those meetings helped inform Prof. David Kaye’s report to the UN Human Rights Council, issued in April, on “disease pandemics and freedom of expression,” available online at freedex.org.
  • The Press Freedom and Transparency practice within the Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic completed substantial work in the midst of the pandemic. Under the California Public Records Act, the clinic obtained police body camera footage and other records of a police shooting of a mentally ill actress and sent letters to several law enforcement agencies requesting disclosure of secret settlement agreements with officers who contested misconduct allegations. The clinic also filed an emergency writ of mandate in the California Court of Appeal, Second District, asking the appellate court to order a Los Angeles juvenile court judge to release the file of a four-year-old child who was allegedly abused and murdered by his parents.

“These recent examples exemplify UCI Law’s dedication to the public interest and experiential learning, as UCI Law distinctively requires all law students to complete a core 6-credit clinic as a graduation requirement,” said Carrie Hempel , Associate Dean for Clinical Education and Service Learning at UCI Law.

About the University of California, Irvine School of Law

The University of California, Irvine School of Law is a visionary law school and 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 100,000 hours of pro bono work in the past decade. Forty-five percent of UCI Law’s graduates are students of color. The collaborative and interdisciplinary community at UCI Law includes extraordinary students, world-renowned faculty, engaged alumni, and enthusiastic supporters. More information on UCI Law is available here. Please follow us on Twitter and Instagram @ucilaw and SnapChat: ucilaw. 

Media Contact:

Mojgan Sherkat