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UH Law Center alumna Vanessa Garza ’19 wins national legal writing award 

UH Law Center alumna Vanessa Garza ’19

UH Law Center alumna Vanessa Garza ’19

Feb. 24, 2020 — Vanessa Garza, a 2019 graduate of the University of Houston Law Center, has won the prestigious Burton Award/Law360 Distinguished Legal Writing Award — the second winner in the school’s history and the first in more than 18 years.

“I am beyond honored to have been named a recipient of the Burton/Law360 writing award,” Garza said. “This milestone would not have been possible without the support of the many professors at the University of Houston Law Center who read and critiqued my work.

“I would especially like to thank Professor Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the Immigration Clinic, for his guidance, insight and patience throughout the process. Thank you also to the noncitizens who live in the shadows of our judicial system.  I hear your voice.”

Garza, and 14 other winners in the law school category, will receive their awards at the annual Burton Awards program at the Library of Congress in June.

“This is a remarkable honor for Ms. Garza and the Law Center,” said Clinical Associate Professor Sarah Morath, director of Lawyering Skills and Strategies who nominated Garza for the award. "The Burton Awards are perhaps the most prestigious legal writing awards in the nation." 

According to the call for nominations, the national award honors "legal articles that demonstrate creativity, knowledge, and know-how….winners will display a true understanding and mastery of the law and their writing must be clear, cogent, and concise." Entries are judged by law school professors, members of law firms and outstanding leaders in law.

Her article, “Unheard and Deported: The Unconstitutional Denial of Habeas Corpus in Expedited Removal,” was published in the Houston Law Review in 2019.

In her article, she explains the expedited removal process under which most immigrants are removed from the United States, from its inception in 1996 to President Trump’s current proposal that would expand its scope to the entire country and to all noncitizens who entered the U.S. in the previous two years. The writ of habeas corpus is the only avenue for noncitizens contesting an unlawful detention under expedited removal. But, Garza writes, congressional limitations on jurisdiction and executive policies expanding the application of expedited removal effectively deny noncitizens the protection of the writ and due process.

Her article explores the constitutionality of executive policies in regards to expedited removal, the scope of habeas corpus protections for noncitizens, and cost-effective solutions that address the constitutional void in immigration policy.

"As faculty mentor for Vanessa on this paper, it was a great pleasure to see that all her hard work paid off," said Hoffman.

A native of San Antonio, Garza earned an undergraduate degree at Boston College and currently litigates labor and employment issues at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. She credits her commitment to immigrant issues to her previous work at Catholic Charities where she learned the intricacies of the country’s immigration system, including the family-based policies that allowed her parents to immigrate to the United States more than 30 years ago.

“I am excited for my legal career and the opportunities presented along the way,” Garza said. She plans to continue practicing in the employment field, but said she will commit her pro bono work to helping immigrants achieve their dream of living productively in the United States.

William C. Burton, a partner in Sagat/Burton LLP., New York, created the Burton Foundation and the Burton Awards program in 1999 to encourage perfection and reward excellence in the legal profession. The nonprofit Burton Awards program is run in association with the Library of Congress and sponsors Law 360 and the American Bar Association.

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