O'Melveny Wins Debut Case Before Ninth Circuit as Part of UCLA Appellate Advocacy Clinic

April 29, 2009

For Immediate Release:
Piper Hall
O'Melveny & Myers LLP

Sonja Steptoe
O'Melveny & Myers LLP

LOS ANGELES, CA - O’Melveny & Myers LLP achieved a pro bono victory for its client in the case Maria Victoria Gemma Roco Ramirez v. Michael Mukasey. O’Melveny associate Grant Gelberg and UCLA third year law student Carol Igoe argued that immigration officials erred in attempting to deport Ramirez, a 44-year-old mother of three who emigrated from the Philippines in 1995, became a lawful permanent resident in 1999, and went on to serve four years in the US Navy. The government sought to remove her from the country based on a criminal conviction in California.

The issue on appeal was whether the government met its burden of establishing that her conviction constitutes a removable offense under federal law. Through O’Melveny’s Ninth Circuit Appellate Clinic at UCLA Law School, Gelberg and Igoe prevailed before the federal appellate court on behalf of their client, Maria Ramirez, who has been in immigration detention for more than two years under threat of deportation.

In its order, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the government's argument that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal, finding that Ramirez had exhausted her remedies in the immigration courts. On the merits, most significantly, the court held -- on an issue of first impression in the Ninth Circuit -- that her California conviction did not qualify as a deportable offense under federal law. The court also declined the government's request to send the case back to the administrative agency for further hearings.

“We’re thrilled -- this decision is a great result for Ms. Ramirez,” said Gelberg. “For me, it was particularly rewarding to collaborate with Carol and the UCLA Clinic. Carol is a terrific colleague who did tremendous work on our client’s behalf. We also received invaluable guidance from Charlie Lifland, the O’Melveny partner overseeing the case.”

The clinic, founded as a joint effort between the Firm and the law school last fall, provides O’Melveny lawyers and UCLA Law School students with a unique experience to represent pro bono clients at the federal appellate level. The lawyers and students collaborate on challenging issues of importance including immigration, criminal procedure, and criminal law, among other issues, immersing themselves quickly in areas of law that are not part of their daily lives in an effort to provide outstanding representation to under represented individuals who deserve quality legal service. This case is one of three cases the clinic is arguing before the Ninth Circuit during its inaugural year.

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