BLOG - Pro Bono Award

October 16, 2018

Appellate Litigation Clinic, outperforms seasoned attorneys, earns Ninth Circuit's Pro Bono Service Award

On Monday, September 24th, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Pro Se Committee awarded Southwestern Law School’s Appellate Litigation Clinic with the distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. The award was proudly presented by Judge Marsha Berzon of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Molly Dwyer, clerk of court. 

Judge Berzon was effusive in her praise of Southwestern, commending the institution and its students on their steadfast commitment to pro bono work. 

“[Southwestern’s] clinic has enthusiastically accepted a large number of cases pro bono since its inception in 2011 and has provided an essential service and much-needed assistance to the court in its mission to provide access and justice to all litigants.”

- Judge Berzon

Highlighting the leadership of Professor Gowri Ramachandran, Judge Berzon remarked that the performance of Southwestern students in her court often exceeded that of seasoned attorneys. “Law school clinics handling immigration cases, Southwestern Law School’s clinic, in particular, have usually done a lot better than the run of lawyers who appear before us in similar cases. In particular, in 2015, when the clinic represented the petitioner in Dimaya V. Lynch, which turned into a Supreme Court case in which the court affirmed the petition on the grounds that crime of violence was unconstitutionally vague.”

Professor Gowri Ramachandran, who oversees the Appellate Litigation Clinic, credits the students, and their earnest desire to effect positive change in the lives of others, with the success of the clinic. While the award was deeply appreciated, for her and the students, she says, the work is its own reward. "The Appellate Litigation Clinic is inherently rewarding to students, who finish the school year with a sense of accomplishment that can't be beaten: They know they've helped someone who otherwise would have had no legal representation, and they've thereby helped the Ninth Circuit judges, too.  But the formal recognition was wonderful to receive in addition!" 

Judge Berzon concluded by acknowledging the inherent difficulty in pro bono work and expressing her gratitude for the effort and service provided by the students and faculty in the Appellate Litigation Clinic.  “It’s difficult for pro se litigants to understand and articulate complaints and legal issues. The court and its clients that you represent are thankful for your hard work.”