Blog Entry 3

Posted by David Koelsch
David Koelsch
David C. Koelsch is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration Law C
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on Thursday, 20 October 2011
in Faculty Blogs

Our students never cease to amaze me.  We are in the midst of final exams right now and some students are looking a little haggard (so are some professors, present company included!).  Law school final exams are unique:  a term’s worth of incredibly dense material is packed into one test and that test is generally heavy on essays and applying the law to the facts of a hypothetical fact pattern.  They are not easy and students devote a tremendous amount of time and energy to not only learning the subject matter but also thinking about how to apply it. 

In any event – back to our amazing students. Two students in the Asylum Law Clinic had worked with a client for the past eight weeks to prepare for his trial.  The problem was that we would not find out when his trial would be until we went to court with him for a short hearing on December 3.  At that hearing, the judge set the trial date for January 4; if we rejected that date, the next available trial date was in July 2011! 

So, we accepted that date and, without any hesitation, the two students changed their travel planindexphotomenuwebmenus for the holidays and worked out a schedule of moot sessions and rehearsals during the holiday break.  The students knew the class ended in December and that I could not make them come back to do a trial that falls in the next semester.  Yet they were so invested in their client’s case and had worked so hard for him, they did not think twice about upending their personal lives for the sake of our client.  Now that is what makes our students amazing!

Our client has an interesting and difficult case.  He is a gay man from Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and gays and lesbians are actually arrested and many have died in government custody.  It is hard to imagine such an atmosphere when we live in a society where discrimination against gays exists but acts of physical violence are not perpetrated by the government.  His case is difficult because sexual orientation is a very personal matter and there is little documentary evidence to prove it.  In his case, we are calling six witnesses to testify and the students found a wealth of documentary evidence regarding the treatment of gays in Uganda. 

By January 4, the students and client will be fully-prepared for the trial.  The students will act as attorneys at the trial by conducting direct and re-direct examinations, introducing documentary evidence, and delivering closing arguments.  It is a fitting end to their time in the Asylum Law Clinic and a process that will serve them well when they get into practice and are representing their own clients. 

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About the author

David Koelsch

David C. Koelsch is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration Law Clinic and the Asylum Law Clinic at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. The Immigration Law Clinic represents immigrants on a variety of legal issues, including abandoned immigrant children and abused immigrant women. Professor Koelsch also teaches U.S. Immigration Law and a comparative U.S.-Canada Immigration Law course as well as a Seminar on Spirituality and the Law. Koelsch was named the 2009 Outstanding Immigration Law Professor by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.