Good law schools give students the theoretical knowledge to understand a broad scope of legal cases and concepts. Great law schools give students the opportunity to apply this knowledge and hone skills central to the practice of law. The University of Houston Law Center’s clinics and institutes are once again proving how adept they are in putting theory into practice.
Two students working with the Law Center’s Immigration Clinic recently won a precedent-setting decision that will affect thousands of deportation competency cases across the nation. On behalf of a mentally impaired lawful permanent resident facing deportation, Andrea Penedo and Catherine Yen filed a motion to remand as well as an appellate brief presented to the Board of Immigration Appeals. They worked under the guidance of Clinic Supervising Attorney Janet B. Beck. In response, the Board in Matter of M-A-M-, 25 I & N Dec. 474 (BIA 2011), set forth procedural safeguards for mentally incompetent individuals in removal proceedings. The case has been attracting nationwide attention. The Houston Chronicle recently published an article about the ruling and the work of the Immigration Clinic headed by clinical associate professor Geoffrey A. Hoffman. The Clinic also has been contacted by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the American Immigration Council.
Not to be outdone, I would like extend my congratulations to a UHLC moot court team that brought home the first place trophy in the Texas Young Lawyers Moot Court Competition held during the State Bar Convention in June. Seth Gagliardi, Patrick McKee, and Jameson Watts, all May graduates, won the final round over a team from St. Mary’s Law School in a unanimous decision handed down by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The team was coached by Law Center alums Tom Van Arsdel, Kristina Van Arsdel, and Merle Morris. Jim Lawrence, director of the Law Center’s Blakely Advocacy Institute, mentioned to me that the win is particularly impressive because Texas is the most competitive moot court state in the nation. It is one more reason the Law Center’s advocacy program is recognized as one of the broadest and best in the country.
These recent achievements by UHLC students and graduates demonstrate how the Law Center continues to excel as the premiere urban law center of the Southwest with a balanced approach to the theory of law and the art of the practice.