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Crime Victim Litigation Clinic Students Work on Appellate Case with Arizona Supreme Court

June 04, 2018

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Two Lewis & Clark law students, Sarah Fine ’18 and Kaylee Dickerboom ’19, spent the past few months researching and assisting in drafting arguments to inform an appellate brief that was to be filed in Arizona on behalf of a victim of crime.

In the underlying case, the victim suffered severe injuries from a brutal dog attack. Her injuries required numerous surgeries and there was clear evidence that full recovery would necessitate several more future surgeries. Despite the evidence and defendant’s guilty plea, an Arizona trial court ordered $0 in restitution to the victim. In so ruling, the trial court relied on a limited civil settlement to find the victim had been made whole.

Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, representing the victim, moved for reconsideration and initially prevailed. In granting the motion, however, the court ordered the victim to make a full accounting of her economic loss to defendant by a specific date. Notably, despite significant effort, the very nature of her injuries made it impossible for the victim to comply with the deadline. Defense then moved to vacate the hearing and reinstate the prior restitution order. The court granted the motion and once again ordered $0 in restitution.

Arizona Voice for Crime Victims partnered with the National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI) in crafting the victims’ appeal. The focus of the appeal was that the court violated the victim’s rights, including her rights to due process. The Crime Victim Litigation Clinic, under the auspices of the NCVLI and a Lewis & Clark law professor, provided the research and analysis.

Fine began volunteering at NCVLI in her first year of law school and worked in the Victims’ Rights Litigation Clinic in her last semester of law school. She regards this appellate work on behalf of an Arizona crime victim as the most significant project she worked on while at the Institute.

“First, we made a detailed review of the trial court record—including FTRs (audio recordings)—and researched Arizona case law, statutes, constitutional provisions, and appellate rules,” Fine said. “We also strategized effective argument and organizational structure with clinic director Meg Garvin and member of the NCVLI legal team Terry Campos, and learned about the big-picture, national viewpoint NCVLI takes. Then, Kaylee and I each drafted pieces of the argument to inform the final appellate brief.”

Victims’ rights is an area of law that is still young. This means that almost every case is a case of first impression and NCVLI is the only national group doing this work.  As such, it is recognized nationally and internationally for its leadership. What this means is that simply by virtue of enrolling in the clinic, Lewis & Clark Law Students develop a unique expertise in crime victims’ rights, an expertise that is critical in serving victims.

“How can we expect laypersons, often in the worst times of their lives, to correctly and strongly assert their own rights in ways the majority of attorneys don’t understand?” Fine remarked.

For Dickerboom, the opportunities offered by NCVLI were a main reason she chose Lewis and Clark Law School. “I knew that NCVLI was nationally known and unique in its practice and focus area. As a future prosecutor, I knew that victims would be a part of each and every day of my practice, therefore I wanted to learn more about laws protecting them,” she said. “It’s important that every lawyer knows about victims’ rights in his or her state because their client will either be a victim or a victim will become a part of their litigation.”

Dickerboom reflected on how NCVLI changed her law school experience. “It’s easy to get used to going to class every day and just learning case law and black letter law. When you participate in a clinic, it’s real,” she said. “There are real people that need your help, and it’s no longer about remembering case names and reciting elements of a legal principle. Participating in the NCVLI clinic reminded me why I came to law school — to be an advocate.”

The case has been fully briefed and is now pending.