October 05, 2018

Appellate Ruling Supported by CVLC Research

Two Lewis & Clark law students, Sarah Fine ’18 and Kaylee Dickerboom ’19, spent the months researching and assisting in drafting arguments to inform an appellate brief filed in Arizona on behalf of a victim of crime. Their arguments prevailed and the court ruled in favor of the crime victim.

Editors Note: this is an update to the story originally published in June 2018.

An Arizona appellate court recently reversed a court order regarding restitution for a crime victim, ordering a new determination of restitution. The victim’s case was supported by two Lewis & Clark law students, Sarah Fine ’18 and Kaylee Dickerboom ’19, working in the Crime Victim Litigation Clinic (CVLC). They spent months researching and assisting in drafting arguments to inform the appellate brief filed in Arizona.

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.

The appellate court found that the trial court abused its discretion when it entered an order finding the victim was not entitled to restitution.  The decision was based in part on the fact that the trial court “appears to have conflated the civil settlement entered into by GE (the crime victim) and the insurance company with restitution, which is a defendant’s obligation.”

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 (CVLC), under the auspices of the NCVLI and a Lewis & Clark law professor, provided the research and analysis.

Victims’ rights is an area of law that is still young, explains law professor Meg Garvin, executive director of NCVLI.  “Almost every case is a case of first impression. NCVLI is the only national group doing this work and, as such, is recognized as a leader in the field. For CVLC (clinic) students, this means they develop a unique expertise in crime victims’ rights, an expertise that is critical in serving victims.”

Fine began volunteering at NCVLI in her first year of law school and worked in the CVL 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 Meg Garvin and NCVLI legal team member 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.”

For Dickerboom, the opportunities offered by CVLC and NCVLI were a main reason she chose Lewis & 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.”