L-R: Student attorney Justin Trinh, student attorney Michael Dastas and staff attorney Kishwer Vikaas after a successful post-conviction hearing in September 2021.

Are you afraid that your criminal record might prevent your application for a green card or citizenship from being approved? You might qualify for Post-Conviction Relief!

Community Legal Services recently won our client post-conviction relief in the form of multiple vacated convictions. Those vacated convictions allowed her to apply for the renewal of her green card, and the clinic is working on her application for Naturalization.

This post-conviction relief is relatively new to California. In 2020, the California Legislature amended Penal Code §1473.7 to allow noncitizens to move to vacate convictions on the basis that the noncitizen had not fully understood the immigration consequences of a plea they made. Many noncitizens may qualify for this relief because the requirement that attorneys inform noncitizens of the immigration consequences of a plea was only added in 2010 in the Supreme Court Decision Padilla v. Kentucky.

If the attorney failed to inform the noncitizen of the immigration consequences, then the non-citizen must prove that they would not have pled guilty with circumstantial evidence. Circumstances must show that the noncitizen would never have pled if they had been informed of the immigration consequences.

For example, in our client’s case, she was not informed of the consequences a conviction for a theft crime would have on her immigration status. Our client would have fought her case in court or pled to another charge if she had known that the conviction could bar her from green card renewal or citizenship.

Thanks to this change in California Law, our clinic is able to offer noncitizens the opportunity to apply for post-conviction relief. While our client obtained relief from vacated convictions, there are other vehicles to obtain relief. Other relief includes expungement for pre-trial diversion, expungements for non-prison sentences, and reduction of felony convictions to misdemeanors. If you are interested in pursuing post-conviction relief, call (916) 340-6080 for an intake or email clsmcg@pacific.edu.

About Michael Dastas

Michael is a third-year law student at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He has been a student attorney in the Immigration Clinic since August 2021.

According to a report on Asians in America released by Pew Research Center this April, about 14% of unauthorized immigrants in the United States in 2017 were of Asian descent. The number highlights the fact that Asians in America are not a monolith—we are a diverse group coming from diverse backgrounds with diverse needs.

In recent years, as anti-immigrant sentiment has increased, Asian communities have experienced the effects firsthand. For example, in Northern California, in the past few years alone, deportations of Cambodian Americans have gone up 279%. Continue Reading Immigration Resources for the AAPI Community

On December 2020, eligible immigrants could once again file initial applications for benefits through Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is an immigration policy whereby certain people who came to the United States as children and met several guidelines could receive temporary renewable protection from deportation.

However, a recent case has made that more challenging.

On July 16, 2021, Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA was illegal and enjoined the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from accepting new applicants. This means that first time applicants can still file DACA applications, but those applications will be put on hold because the DHS is currently prohibited from granting initial DACA requests. This new ruling has NOT affected existing DACA recipients and they are still eligible to renew DACA . Continue Reading The Current State of DACA

On July 1, 2021, McGeorge Legal Clinics welcomed Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Ron S. Hochbaum as the first-ever director of the Homeless Advocacy Clinic. We asked him to tell us a little about himself, his work and his teaching philosophy.

Tell us how you got into your line of work.

Although I went to law school on the East Coast, I knew I wanted to practice in California. My law school did not have the resources or connections to help me secure an internship in California, so I took it upon myself. I periodically bought plane tickets and would cold call or e-mail public interest attorneys asking to see if they would be willing to grab a coffee and give me advice on breaking into the public interest community in California.

One of these unsolicited e-mails turned into an internship at the Homeless Action Center in Berkeley. The internship was transformative experience that introduced me to client-centered and community lawyering models. I stayed in touch with the attorneys at the Homeless Action Center all throughout law school and when I graduated, they hired me as a staff attorney. I have been advocating on behalf of homeless individuals ever since. This experience is why I am always encouraging my students to grow their networks in the legal community.

What is your favorite part of clinical work?

Watching students develop their confidence. For many students, clinic is the first time they will talk to a client and engage in the real work of lawyering. Most come to the experience frightened and uncertain. In clinic, I can provide the scaffolding students need to explore their lawyering abilities and professional identities. Over the course of the year, a student’s confidence grows and grows. By the end of the year, most are ready to “spread their wings and fly”; it’s a joy and privilege to be a part of.

What is the hardest part of clinical work?

Saying goodbye to students and clients. As lawyers, we are often taught to keep our clients and their issues at arm’s length. However, the assumptions underlying that lesson are often detached from the reality of legal practice. Our clients are coming to us during some of the most challenging moments in their lives. For many of us, especially those of us in the public interest community, we are passionate about our work. It is not just a job but a vocation. That is why I started taking the advice of one of my mentors and teach a class on the end of attorney-client relationships. Honoring the nature of the relationship and putting as much intentionality into the end as the beginning of the attorney-client relationship yields numerous benefits. My experiences with students are no different. The low student-teacher ratio in clinic allows us to develop close bonds. We celebrate the highs and commiserate over the lows of our shared work. When I say goodbye to students it is bittersweet. I know they are ready for the next opportunity but I secretly hope we are just saying “goodbye for now” and that they continue to stay in touch over the course of their careers.

What advice can you give to students in order to have a successful experience in your clinic?

Listen to your clients and practice non-judgmentally. For most of us, our clients day-to-day and lived experiences are wildly different than our own. In my experience, when students truly listen to their clients, they learn more about the world than I ever could have hoped to teach them. Through this experience they will also start to interrogate the culture of stigma constructed around homelessness. Once that veil is lifted, we are better equipped to practice non-judgmentally and meet our clients “where they are at.” These two simple but oft-ignored methods will enrich students’ clinical learning experiences and provide them the foundations for their future practice.

Who has been the biggest influence in your legal career and what did they teach you?

My former supervisors at the Homeless Action Center – David Waggoner, Mary Gilg, Kris Chappel, and Pattie Wall. David, Mary, Kris, and Pattie taught me how to practice barrier-free and holistically. They taught me to reject the superficial and misguided hurdles service providers frequently erect for clients that not only frustrate our advocacy but also ensure that prospective clients who are most in need and hardest to reach go unserved. This approach to lawyering requires us to deconstruct hierarchies and remind ourselves that just because we do not charge for our services does not mean that we have license to impose expectations upon our clients while disregarding their expectations of us.

What excited you the most about the new Homeless Advocacy Clinic at McGeorge?

The faculty and administration at McGeorge deserve tremendous credit for establishing this clinic. Although law school clinics have been serving homeless clients since the birth of clinical legal education, there are only a handful of clinics at law schools across the country that exclusively serve homeless individuals. Dean Michael Schwartz, Professor Melissa Brown, and Professor Dorothy Landsberg’s work to establish this clinic is indicative of their visionary leadership and dedication to making sure the Law School’s Clinical Program responds to Sacramento and California’s most critical needs.

Moreover, I believe the Homeless Advocacy Clinic will provide tremendously engaging and enriching learning experiences for students while offering vital legal services for underrepresented Sacramentans. Working on cases for unhoused clients will allow students to apply the theories they learned in the first year or two of law school to real world practice. They will hone their lawyering skills, like interviewing, counseling, legal writing, and oral advocacy, while providing compassionate and empowering representation to their clients.

What do you do for fun?

I love to travel and eat. I have lived on four different continents and traveled to about twenty-five different countries and thirty states. When we cannot get away, you can usually find me and my partner, Mari, trying new restaurants and cooking delicious vegan meals. We are new to Sacramento and taking recommendations!

As of July 9, 2021, 18 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 36 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. Despite a trend where states are becoming more welcoming towards marijuana, it remains federally illegal. This means that lawful marijuana use can have disastrous immigration consequences–even in states where marijuana use is legal.

Furthermore, lawful employment in the marijuana industry may make non-citizens ineligible for certain forms of relief. Although President Biden stood for decriminalization of marijuana during his campaign, the Biden administration has not yet formulated policy changes regarding marijuana.

Non-citizens should avoid marijuana use in any form until they become a United States citizen, as this is the best guarantee against negative immigration consequences. This includes marijuana use for medical purposes.

Non-citizens should also avoid all employment in the marijuana industry. Though it is a rapidly growing industry, employment in the marijuana industry is risky for non-citizens. Examples of employment includes harvesting, sales, working for dispensaries, transportation and delivery.

Additionally, non-citizens should avoid storing marijuana-related photos on their phones or uploading marijuana-related content on social media. Non-citizens should  also avoid possessing marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia, either inside or outside of their homes. For more tips, see the video by Immigrant Legal Resource Center below.

If you have questions about marijuana and your status, you can also contact us at (916) 340-6080 to see if you qualify for a consultation at our Immigration Clinic.

About the Author

Jordan Mickele-Niemoeller is currently a rising third-year student at University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. He has been a student attorney in the Immigration clinic since Summer 2020. 

Every year an estimated 5 million, or 1 in 10 older Americans experience elder abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Together, we can build the social supports that can prevent this abuse and keep everyone safe as we age. World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) – commemorated on June 15th every year – is an opportunity for people to take action to protect older people by raising awareness about elder abuse, why it occurs, and what we can do to stop it. We can act collectively to support justice for all. Check out the McGeorge Elder Health & Law Clinic talk about why they are commemorating Elder Abuse Awareness Day and what tips you can use to identify elder abuse.

If you, or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, please call Adult Protective Services at (916) 874-9377. You can also contact the Family Justice Center at (916) 875-4673 or McGeorge Elder Health & Law Clinic at (916) 340) 6080.

Deepest condolences to the family and friends of civil rights legend, Justice Cruz Reynoso, who passed away today.  Justice Reynoso was the first Latino Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, first Latino appointed to the Third District Court of Appeals and one of the first Latino law professors in the country. A native of California, Justice Reynoso grew up in a family of farmworkers who immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico. As a child growing up, he picked grapes, walnuts and plums in the Central Valley. He was told that he would never attend college.

Justice Reynoso not only went to college, but law school and later became one of the co-founders and the first Latino director of California Rural Legal Assistance. He fought for striking farmworkers and advised Cesar Chavez. “When your justice bone is hurt very often you need to be a trouble-making person,” he would say.

His legacy included helping to draft the 1986 “amnesty” bill under President Reagan, which allowed nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants to gain status. In 2000, Justice Reynoso received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, for his efforts to address social inequities and his public service. Justice Reynoso’s life was commemorated in a 2010 documentary by Abby Ginzberg called “Cruz Reynoso: Sowing Seeds of Justice.”

In 2016, the Sacramento chapter of the state’s preeminent Latino lawyers group, La Raza Lawyers, decided to rename itself the Cruz Reynoso Bar Association in his honor. Justice Reynoso helped found the organization four and a half decades ago. Learn more about Justice Reynoso in this video narrated by clinic alum Brian Lopez, ’12 current president of Cruz Reynoso. And find his full obituary in the L.A. Times.

Thank you for your legacy, Justice Reynoso. Si se puede!



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. Continue Reading Welcome to the Federal Defender Clinic!

In May 2020, McGeorge alumnus Aaron Brieno, ‘14 joined Professor Cathy Christian as Co-Director of the McGeorge Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. “One of the biggest reasons why I teach is to ensure that students of all backgrounds have access to public policy making tools,” says Brieno, who currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Staff for California State Senator Ben Hueso. “Ideally the Clinic provides students with tools they can bring back to their community as social impact leaders.”

Despite the challenges of COVID, Legislative and Public Policy students are thriving. “I am so proud that all of our students groups were able to either introduce a bill or work on a bill this year,” says Brieno. “No small feat since the California Legislature has limited the introduction of bills during COVID.” Continue Reading Meet Alumnus Aaron Brieno, ’14

The Elder and Health Law (EHL) clinic, a civil practice clinic serving those age 60 and older, offers clients legal representation on matters including protection from physical and financial abuse, estate and end-of-life planning, contract disputes and more. In 2020 alone, the clinic recovered and/or protected $1,424,190 in assets for elders and fine/fees forgiveness.

Ten students joined the Elder & Health Law Clinic (ELHC) in the fall, which expanded to twelve this spring. Lacey Mickleburgh our fearless staff attorney and clinical fellow, Kendell Bennet, rounded out the team. Although COVID-19 presented significant access to the courts, student attorneys were able to assist and represent elders in a variety of legal matters. Cases included estate planning and powers of attorney to give peace of mind to their clients, consumer protection from suspect businesses, elder abuse restraining orders and elder financial abuse litigation. Continue Reading Elder and Health Law