Clinic Students Win Two Critical Asylum Cases

Students enrolled in the College of Law's International Human Rights Clinic recently won asylum approval for two Clinical Law Program clients who suffered severe atrocities in their native lands.

The first case involved a Zimbabwe woman who is part of a clan in opposition to President Robert Mugabe. Before fleeing the country, the woman and her family had been terrorized over many years by war veterans from Zimbabwe, who regularly ransacked their village, stole food and assaulted villagers. The Clinic client had been subjected to two gang rapes, which left her pregnant and positive for HIV. If the woman returned to Zimbabwe, she would be vulnerable to additional attacks, and she would be denied medical care due to her clan membership.

Third-year student Joseph Schoser championed the woman's cause, serving as the primary brief writer and representing the woman at the asylum hearing. He was aided on the case by Eric A. Lentz and Amelia D. Champion, both of whom graduated in 2009, and third-year student Jacey L. Liu. "The team of students that handled this case showed great compassion and caring toward this client and served as strong advocates for her," said Assistant Professor of Clinical Law Gwynne L. Skinner, who supervised the students' work.

The second important asylum win for Clinic students was on behalf of an Iraqi man who was kidnapped, tortured and held for ransom by terrorists because his father worked for the U.S. Army. Third-year student Megan L. Johnson represented the man throughout the long asylum process, representing him at the hearing and writing most of his brief and declaration. Keely M. Hopkins, also a third-year student, assisted in the case and was present at the hearing. Hopkins currently is representing the man's mother, who also has an asylum claim pending.

"The students who worked on these cases went above and beyond the call of duty in many ways," said Skinner. "They represent the best of Willamette's law school, and we should be proud of all of them. They have used their legal skills to make a huge difference in people's lives."