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Sonoma County Gazette
Barrister Bits - by Debra A. Newby

Free Law Clinics at Empire College School of Law

Jun 26, 2017
by Debra Newby, Newby Law


DEAR READERS: Do you have a legal question on your mind? If so, please email me at Your name will remain confidential. This Q & A Legal Column is intended as a community service to discuss general legal principles and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Elder Law Clinic:

Who says there isn’t a Santa Claus? Every Tuesday evening, a band of law students, under the guidance of supervising elder law attorneys Lauren Gardner andMaggie Brothers, offer free legal guidance to seniors (age 62 or over) in our community. The issues vary but the commitment and the quality of legal guidance offered is consistent. “Most of our clients are low-income,” comments Lauren Gardner, who has supervised the clinic for almost six years. “We do not appear in court or draft court documents, but we can ‘ghost write’ a letter for the elder if they are being hounded by creditors or the victim of a scam. We can also help draft a simple estate plan, for example, a Will, Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive, but not a Trust.”

The Elder Law Clinic is the first and the oldest community legal clinic supported by Empire College School of Law. The drop-in clinic is held Tuesday evenings from 4:15 to 5:45 pm (but participants must show up and sign in by 5 pm to be seen that evening) at the Salvation Army Silvercrest Residence, located at1050 3rd Street in Santa Rosa. Phone: (707) 736-6150.

“The clinic offers a great resource for the law student to go beyond reading case law and instead deal with real life situations that impact the daily lives of another human being”, notes Lauren Gardner. Some of the elder clients are so grateful, that they return to the clinic with baked goods or other goodies for the legal elves. See…there is a Santa Claus!

Immigration Law Clinic: 

Immigration Law is a complex web of laws and policies…so complex that just about every letter of the alphabet (plus double-letters, just like the seating at Oracle Arena) are used to define the type of visa required to enter and remain legal in the United States. The Immigration Law Clinic is offered every Monday from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on campus, located at3035 Cleveland Avenue, Santa Rosa (just north of Redwood Credit Union and next to the Family Law and Civil Courthouse).

The clinic offers advice and support on one very narrow yet important immigration issue, what is called U Nonimmigrant Status, which is available only to victims of violent crimes, such as sexual abuse, assault, and/or domestic violence. The underlying public policy is to encourage undocumented individuals to report offenders and to feel safe in their cooperation with law enforcement. Sadly, many of these “U” cases involve children.   

“We serve some of the most vulnerable immigrants in our community,” quips Robyn Mancini, a local immigration attorney and supervisor of the Immigration Law Clinic at Empire Law School. “The law students take the case from start to finish. The unfortunate part is that the process may take years and only 10,000 are granted every year. Plus, the system is backlogged.” 

Once the crime is reported, the process for the victim to obtain U status begins. California law is unique in that the “Certifying Official” from law enforcement must respond within 90 days to the request for certification, so at least that timeline is shortened a bit. The process not only gives the victim a voice, but it also paves the path to legal residency for the victim. 

The Immigration Law Clinic boasts a powerful track record on securing U Nonimmigration Status for their clients, as they have had “many, many granted” over the years since the Clinic was started in 2009 by immigration law attorney Julie Cyphers. Robyn Mancini, an immigrant herself from Canada, is an Empire Law School graduate and was drawn to immigration law early-on in her legal career. “The greatest part about being an immigration attorney is that I keep families together or put them back together. That work is extremely rewarding to me,” says Robyn.

If you would like more information about the legal services offered at the Immigration Law Clinic, or if you are a licensed attorney and wish to volunteer and help at the Immigration Law Clinic, please callRobyn Mancini at 707-528-3917.

Kudos to Empire College School of Law – offering free legal guidance to our community with the help of curious and motivated law students, under the steady hand of committed licensed attorneys. The spirit of giving is alive and well in our legal community.


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