The eight third-year students in the Federal Defender Clinic in Spring 2021 have been busy working on every stage of misdemeanor federal cases. “Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, their participation has been remote, but this has not deterred them from ably representing their clients as certified misdemeanor student attorneys in federal court,” says Federal Defender Clinic co-director Rachelle Barbour.
The students of the Federal Public Defender represented dozens of clients each month during regular misdemeanor and veterans court intake calendars. The students also engaged in motions hearings and disputed sentencing hearings. The federal misdemeanor docket has particularly impacted by COVID closures in 2020, with numerous cases being prepared for trial in the next few months. Despite the changes in practice, the Federal Defender Clinic students have rapidly learned how to use technology to continue to provide strong, effective representation for their clients.
To date, Federal Defender Clinic students have participated in three bench trials on Zoom. One bench trial was done by Richanne Roope with assistance from Gonzalo Duran—both who were also alums of the Immigration Clinic. And recently, students Hector Perla and Garrett Porter represented a client accused of alleged timber theft from the El Dorado National Forest. The government failed to prove the case and the client was acquitted. In their case, student attorneys showed that the client had properly used his timber permit. “Key to that victory was an excellent opening statement by Garrett and a superb cross-examination of an officer by Hector,” reports Linda Allison, co-director of the Federal Defender Clinic.
Allison shares that Student lawyers Josh White, Brittany Gamlen, Henry Ng and Ryan Dugan have been doing fantastic work as well in helping to prepare for the trials and managing their own caseloads. “Josh was singled out by a judge after court today for going above and beyond for a blind, homeless client,” reports Allison. “His client did not have the means to appear via Zoom so for each court appearance Josh went and picked her up in his car and appeared in court with her.” Students continue to work hard as the Clinic prepares for a number of bench trials scheduled for April and May.