McGeorge School of Law

Students Move Quickly To Protect Victims' Rights

February 17, 2012

Sarah Tobias, Professor Kathleen Benton, and David Fleishman.

Notable victory: Sarah Tobias, Professor Kathleen Benton, and David Fleishman.

The Crime Victims' Rights Clinic, established in 2005 at McGeorge, has enjoyed notable victories in recent months.

Clinic students, working under the supervision of professor and staff attorney Kathleen Benton, '84, represent crime victims in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Typical cases involve enforcement and collection of restitution orders and preservation of victims' privacy through the filing of motions in court. The semester-long clinic normally attracts eight-to-10 students, some of whom enjoy the work so much they stay on longer.

David Fleishman, '12, who worked in the clinic in the spring, summer and fall of 2011, was involved in several cases where he drafted motions to successfully quash defense attorney subpoenas for victims' private records. He filed motions and appeared on the eve of trials in Sacramento Superior Court to protect victims' privacy rights.

Sarah Tobias, '12, worked in clinic last fall and opted to continue her service there this semester. She was involved in an unusual case where a victim of sexual assault by her father sought to change her last name and distance herself from the perpetrator. Changing a last name seemed a simple legal chore, but the biological father normally must be notified of a minor's name change. That would, of course, have defeated the victim's purpose. Tobias used a dual strategy to help her client by filing motions and serving the imprisoned father who later agreed to terminate his parental rights. She appeared in court on January 20 to complete the process.

"Working in the clinic has provided me with very valuable exposure to, and experience in, the criminal justice system," said Fleishman, who aspires to work for a district attorney or public defender office. "The victims' perspective offers a unique point of view, and I learned how to balance a client's needs with other aspects of life."

"It's hands-down my most rewarding experience in law school," Tobias said. "Dealing with the emotional side of being an attorney, the interaction with clients and attorneys, and especially the experience of dealing one-on-one working my cases with Professor Benton has been very rewarding."

The Crime Victims' Rights Clinic is one of 10 specialized on-campus legal clinics for upper-division students. The others deal with administrative adjudication, appellate advocacy, bankruptcy, elder and health law, the Federal Defender's Office, housing mediation, immigration law, prisoner civil rights mediation, and parole representation. Some are year-long, and others are one-semester commitments.

McGeorge also continues to operate the nearly 30 year-old Victims of Crime Resource Center, with its toll-free telephone information service for California residents, with funding by the state and the University of the Pacific.