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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Access to Justice Practicum (Spring 2019)

  • Course Number: LAW-711
  • Class Number: 03393
  • Instructor: Clare Pastore

Course Description

The Access to Justice practicum is an opportunity for up to 4 students to work closely with Professor Clare Pastore on advocacy projects from the real world.   Projects will differ from semester to semester, but will generally include amicus briefs, litigation, and/or drafting of legislation, reports, advocacy manuals or public education materials in such areas as access to court, civil rights, disability rights, foster care, public benefits, health care, etc.  Each project will involve an important civil rights, poverty law, or access to justice issue for low income people in California or the nation, and students will join a team of advocates working on the project.  Unlike in a traditional supervised research project, students in the practicum will be working with Professor Pastore and outside advocates, generally from Los Angeles nonprofits, as colleagues on a joint project.  They will be held to appropriate standards of professionalism with regard to quality of work and responsibility for meeting deadlines, etc.  Past Practicum projects have included litigation (including drafting of complaints and briefs) of three foster care impact litigation cases, ongoing litigation over suspension of drivers licenses for low-income Californians, a report on working conditions in California=s underground economy, amicus briefs to the Ninth Circuit, California Supreme Court and California Court of Appeal in housing, disability rights, FOIA, and labor cases, and drafting of a proposed law and explanatory white paper to combat wage theft.

Students will complete one or more substantial pieces of written work and will have the opportunity to interact with practitioners in the Los Angeles or national nonprofit legal community.  The class will meet as a group 1-2 times at the start of the semester and 1-2 times at the end, with students working individually or in pairs with the professor and the outside advocates in the interim. (Meeting times will be set at a time convenient for students and professor.)   Although enrollment is determined by registration priority (not professor selection), each student considering the practicum must also make an appointment and meet once with Professor Pastore before the start of the spring semester.

The course is offered for 3 units. It is not available for CR/D/F grading.  There is no final exam. Grading will be based upon the quality and timeliness of work completed during the semester, including drafting of documents, timekeeping, and one or two short reflection papers.  Because the projects are driven by the needs of litigation or advocacy rather than the academic calendar, it is likely that work will not be spread precisely evenly through the semester.  Every effort will be made to accommodate student preferences as to type of project and timing, but accommodation of these preferences cannot be guaranteed, for obvious reasons.  Depending on the timing of each project, the final due date for course work may be as late as the last date of the exam period.

Enrollment is limited to 4 students.  Each student must meet with Professor Pastore prior to the beginning of the semester.  Email if you are interested in the Practicum.

Projects 2008-2017


Not offered


Mata-Alvarado v. Los Angeles Superior Court (LA Superior Court # BC 628849)

Statutory and constitutional challenge to court practice of referring drivers to DMV for license suspension upon failure to pay traffic fines, despite statute allowing such referrals only for willful nonpayment. (Western Center on Law and Poverty, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, ACLU, Neighborhood Legal Services)

Hernandez v. DMV (Alameda Co. Superior Court # RG16836460)

Statutory and constitutional challenge to DMV suspensions of drivers licenses for failure to appear and failure to pay, despite statute allowing such referrals only for willful nonpayment. (ACLU, BALA, Lawyers Cttee, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, East Bay Community Law Center, Western Center on Law and Poverty)



Mata-Alvarado v. Los Angeles Superior Court (LA Superior Court # BC 628849)

Statutory and constitutional challenge to court practice of referring drivers to DMV for license suspension upon failure to pay traffic fines, despite statute allowing such referrals only for willful nonpayment. (Western Center on Law and Poverty, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, ACLU, Neighborhood Legal Services)


Compton v California Dept of Social Services (Los Angeles Superior Court # BS153400): Challenge to state policy denying Dual Agency benefits to caregivers of foster children and former foster children with significant disabilities on the basis of an eligibility requirement not authorized by statute.  (Alliance for Children=s Rights).

Traffic Court/Criminalizing the Poor: Intensive research and pre-litigation analysis of California Vehicle Code statutes imposing fees, penalty assessments, and license suspensions on persons who fail to pay for or appear on traffic tickets; representation of individual clients on motions to reopen/motions to vacate convictions for failure to pay or appear.  Student work has been instrumental in securing changes to California Rules of Court regarding bail before arraignment in traffic court and in ongoing advocacy and is in use by advocates in other states working on similar issues.  (Western Center on Law and Poverty, A New Way of Life Reentry Project).

2014: Not offered


Homeless veterans

Support work on Valentini v Shinseki (challenge to non-use of Veterans Affairs bureau land in West Los Angeles for homeless veterans) and comprehensive advocacy memorandum regarding access for veterans to various VA and other public benefits.  (Inner City Law Center)

Payroll cards

Comprehensive analysis of legal status of payroll cards and potential legal challenges to employer use of payroll cards without employee consent under California and federal law, in support of ongoing campaign in restaurant industry. (Restaurant Opportunities Center)


Reproductive Health White Paper: White paper analyzing problem of inadequate access to reproductive health services for low-income women in California (National Health Law Program, Maternal & Child Health Access)

Freedom of Information Act: FOIA request and amicus brief regarding US Government=s policy of filing false declarations in court in FOIA litigation under 5 USC 552c. (ACLU of Southern California)


Bautista v. State, 201 Cal.App.4th 716 (Cal.Ct App. 2011): amicus brief on behalf of farmworker advocacy group urging enforcement of California constitutional provision mandating comprehensive system of workers safety and health (Public Counsel)

Wage Lien Law (Drafted proposed statute and White Paper supporting adoption of a lien law enabling workers victimized by wage theft to file and foreclose liens against employers= property; widely distributed to national advocates for low-wage workers.  Statute eventually passed (in weaker form) as SB 588 (Stats 2015, Ch 803). (Wage Justice Center)


Butler v. Housing Authority (assistance to pro per plaintiff with sec 1983 claim in U.S. District Court for search of Section 8 tenant=s home) (Public Counsel Pro Se Appellate Project)

Gofas v CDSS (San Francisco Superior Court, writ of mandate challenging foster care underpayment and state policy of denying rehearings. Settled in 2011 for complete relief for client, repeal of unlawful state policy, and attorneys= fees to USC and co-counsel (Alliance for Children=s Rights)


Brinker v. Superior Court (California Supreme Court, amicus brief on behalf of Coalition of Low-Wage Immigrant Workers in case regarding meal and rest breaks for hourly workers) (Coalition of Low-Wage Immigrant Workers [CLIWA])

AVoices from the Underground Economy@ (Report on meal and rest break requirements, history, & current conditions for low wage workers) (Bet Tzedek Legal Services)

Harris v. CDSS (Sacramento Superior Court, writ of mandate challenging lack of due process for families seeking to become foster parents) (Alliance for Children=s Rights)


Stanley v Dorn, Platz (California Court of Appeal, amicus brief urging appointment of counsel as reasonable accommodation for litigant with cognitive disabilities) (Disability Rights Legal Center)

Apt Owners Assn v LA (California Court of Appeal, amicus brief opposing challenge to LA rent control ordinance) (Bet Tzedek Legal Services)

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: See Instructor
  • Exam: None
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: yes
  • Participation: Required and graded
  • Enrollment Limitation: 4 students