McGeorge students make law – and history

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Revenge porn victims can get offensive material taken off the Internet using a pseudonym. Child care centers can consider job applicants' arrest warrants in hiring decisions. Prisoners can seek a new trial if the scientific evidence that convicted them is later discredited. And police will get training to recognize signs of elder abuse.

Californians won these new rights and protections thanks to four bills developed by students at Pacific McGeorge School of Law and signed into law by Gov. Brown.  

"It is rewarding to have our students not only studying the law on the books in the nation's most important state capital, but also helping to put those laws on the books," said Francis J. Mootz III, dean and professor of law at McGeorge.  

The students were part of a new Legislative and Public Policy Clinic at McGeorge, the only program of its kind in California. Their assignment was to find an issue that could be addressed with a law - and make one.    

"This process showed me that our generation can have an impact on something that is important to all of us," said Marisa Shea, one of the students who developed the "revenge porn" bill, AB 2643. "It speaks to the whole idea that we can do something that materially addresses problems in our society."  

The 12 students in the inaugural clinic developed a total of five laws over the past year. All five were introduced into the Legislature and made it out of their house of origin. Four reached the governor's desk. The first was signed on Saturday and the fourth this morning.  

"It's a testament to the notion that an individual can make a difference - if you're smart about it and know how to pick your fights," said Rex Frazier, adjunct professor of law at McGeorge, who teaches the innovative clinic.  

The fight that law students Jacob Smith and Vincent Wiraatmadja picked was on behalf of a woman Smith met while working in McGeorge's Elder Law Clinic.  

"I represented a client who called law enforcement 30 times to remove her methamphetamine-addicted, abusive grandson from her home," Smith said.  "Law enforcement was hesitant to remove the grandson because he had not committed a crime in their presence.  On the 31st call to law enforcement, a sheriff's deputy informed my client that she could petition the court to issue an elder abuse move-out order. If knowledge about elder abuse move-out orders were more widespread, my client's problem could have been solved on her first call for help, not the 31st." 

The clinic's four-for-five record is one to make any professional lobbyist envious.  

"It's a better record than some lobbyists," said Chris Micheli, a McGeorge alumnus and member of the board of the Institute of Governmental Advocates, an association that represents professional lobbyists and lobbying firms in California's Capitol. "It's fantastic."  

Developing the measures required extensive research into existing law and discussions with advocacy groups. Next came crafting language and convincing a legislator to introduce the laws.  

And then the real work started. Lobbying the measures meant finding a legislator to introduce the measure, drafting backgrounders for legislative staff, gathering support from sympathetic groups, orchestrating testimony, calling on members of key committees, and myriad other tasks entailed in turning an idea into a law.  

The results:   

Getting "revenge porn" off the Internet without going public: AB 2643, developed by Shea and fellow student Christopher Wu, will give victims of revenge porn the right to use a pseudonym when they file to have offensive material removed from the Internet. Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski of Fremont sponsored it with support from domestic violence groups.   

Ability to appeal a conviction based on "junk" science: SB 1058 will give prison inmates the ability to get a new hearing if the expert testimony used to convict them later becomes discredited. A divided California Supreme Court last year issued a ruling that prohibited this. Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco carried the bill with support from the California Innocence Project. Student Sosan Madanat lobbied the bill.   

Police trained in recognizing signs of elder abuse: AB 2623 will train peace officers to spot signs of elder abuse. Assemblyman Richard Pan of Sacramento introduced the measure. Smith and Wiraatmadja were the law student lobbyists.   

Greater scrutiny of child care center job applicants: AB 2632 would prohibit the Department of Social Services from ignoring a job applicant's arrest record in making hiring decisions for workers in state-licensed child care facilities. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein of San Diego carried it, with support from the Children's Advocacy Institute. Lexi Howard, Kristina Brown and Aaron Briano lobbied the bill.   

About Pacific McGeorge School of Law

The University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law has grown into an internationally recognized leader in the field of legal education since its establishment nearly 90 years ago. Its location in Sacramento, the capital of California, has shaped its focus on public law, international law, and advocacy. The school is part of the University of the Pacific colleges and schools, which offer acclaimed professional degree programs in law, dentistry, pharmacy – as well as 80 undergraduate majors and graduate degrees – on three Northern California campuses. For more information, visit www.mcgeorge.edu.