UCI Law Granted $450,000 to Expand Intellectual Property Clinic's First Amendment Practice


Irvine, Calif., (Oct 1, 2019) – The University of California, Irvine School of Law (UCI Law) is pleased to announce a grant of $450,000 from the Legal Clinic Fund, a collaborative fund housed at The Miami Foundation, to support its Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic (IPAT)’s press freedom and transparency work. The grant will fund free legal services to independent journalists and media organizations in California. Susan E. Seager, a veteran First Amendment litigator, former journalist, and staff attorney at the UCI Law IPAT Clinic, will lead this practice. The UCI Law IPAT Clinic is the first and only clinic on the West Coast with a practice dedicated specifically to press freedom and transparency.

“In today’s challenging media environment, the work of independent journalists has never been more important—and their legal needs have never been more urgent,” said Clinical Professor of Law and IPAT Clinic Director Jack Lerner. “We are delighted that with this generous funding, the Clinic can expand its work with journalists, filmmakers, and media organizations.”

The UCI Law IPAT Clinic’s Press Freedom and Transparency team defends First Amendment rights for independent journalists and media organizations and fights for government transparency, while training law students in practical lawyering skills. IPAT Clinic students have provided pre-publication review of journalists’ investigative articles, filed motions in court to unseal court records, and went undercover to test Orange County’s adherence to California’s sunshine law.

In January 2019, IPAT Clinic students won a First Amendment motion in Kern County Superior Court, persuading the judge during oral argument to declare that a gag order did not bar a Bakersfield journalist from reporting about a high-profile criminal trial. IPAT Clinic students also won disclosure of government records earlier this year revealing how social workers failed to protect a 10-year-old Los Angeles boy from years of alleged physical abuse; the Clinic’s client published a lengthy story about the boy based in part on the documents obtained by the Clinic.

“The UCI Law IPAT Clinic tackles some of the most significant challenges facing First Amendment rights, especially as emerging technologies rapidly change the world,” said UCI Law Dean and Chancellor’s Professor of Law L. Song Richardson. “We are tremendously grateful for the partnership and generous support from the Legal Clinic Fund to help us advocate for justice in media law.”

“This grant is being put to work immediately as UCI Law provides expanded legal help to journalists in their fight against government secrecy, perseverance in the face of threats and intimidation, and vindication of their First Amendment rights,” Prof. Seager said.

Prof. Seager, a Yale Law graduate, is a seasoned media law litigator, working at Davis Wright Tremaine in Los Angeles from 1999 to 2007 and from 2018 to the present, where she defends journalists from lawsuits and unseals court documents and government records. In addition to teaching at UCI, she taught media law and First Amendment law at the University of Southern California, and in 2017 was a First Amendment columnist for TheWrap. 

From 2007 until 2016, Prof. Seager served as a vice president in the litigation department of Fox Entertainment Group, where she worked for National Geographic Channel, Fox Television Stations, FX, and Fox Sports. Before attending law school, she worked as a journalist for the LA WeeklyLA Daily JournalLos Angeles Herald Examiner, and United Press International. She was awarded the Freedom of Information Award in 2004 by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists.

For more information about the grant and the Legal Clinic Fund, please click here

About the Legal Clinic Fund

The Legal Clinic Fund is a collaborative fund to support the growth and sustainability of legal clinics across the United States that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally. It is generously supported by Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, and The Klarman Family Foundation. The Miami Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor for the Fund.

About the UCI Law Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic

In the UCI Intellectual Property, Arts, and Technology Clinic, students work to support innovation and expression in the digital age by advising and representing clients on a range of matters dealing with copyright, patent, privacy and media law, among other areas. Clients include artists, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, journalists, nonprofits, policymakers, and scientists. Through this work, Clinic students gain important legal skills while examining the role of the public interest in intellectual property and technology law. For more information about the IPAT Clinic, visit https://ipat.law.uci.edu.

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 90,000 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