Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

News Release

September 26, 2014
Southwestern Establishes Youth Offender Parole Hearing Practicum

In 2013, California passed a law that created a specialized parole hearing process for prisoners who were convicted for offenses they committed as juveniles. When this law went into effect in 2014, an estimated 6,000 people in California prisons became eligible for Youth Offender Parole Hearings. These differ from typical parole hearings because the Parole Board must give great weight to the diminished culpability of young offenders, hallmark features of youth (such as poor impulse control), and evidence of rehabilitation. 

Southwestern’s new Youth Offender Parole Hearing Practicum has been launched this semester to provide law students with the opportunity to thoroughly research and prepare a case specifically for these proceedings. 

Pictured from left to right: Professor Beth Caldwell, Maritza Agundez, Terrance David, Lindsey Hay and attorney Michael Beckman.

Professor Beth Caldwell, supervising professor for the practicum, will be the pro bono attorney of record for these cases. She has been working with Human Rights Watch, which spearheaded the efforts to pass the legislation that created these new hearings. Third-year students Maritza Agundez (part-time Day program), Terrance David (traditional Day program) and Lindsey Hay (part-time Evening program) are the first students to participate in the course. These three have all been involved in a research project in conjunction with Human Rights Watch where they have been reading through surveys, transcripts, and other documents to identify promising candidates for these parole hearings.

“Our students have been a key part of this process,” Professor Caldwell said. “This is great because they'll be able to hit the ground running since they already know a lot about the parole hearing process. Each student will be assigned to represent one client. Ideally, the student will be able to make the arguments in the hearing with my assistance.”

Professor Caldwell began her career at the Venice Community Housing Corporation as the Youth Development Director, where she supervised job training, education, counseling, Teen Court and advocacy programs for at-risk youth. From 2005 to 2009, she served as a public defender in Los Angeles County, representing thousands of indigent criminal defendants in adult court and juveniles in delinquency proceedings. She subsequently practiced appellate law for two years in San Diego, where she represented juveniles in delinquency appeals.

Throughout the practicum, students will develop practical research, writing, and oral advocacy skills while learning more about the substantive areas of criminal sentencing, juvenile justice, and post-conviction law. Under Professor Caldwell’s supervision, each student enrolled in this course will also prepare a written brief in preparation for a parole hearing. Michael Beckman, a highly regarded attorney who specializes in parole hearings, has volunteered to serve as an advisor for the practicum.

In addition to good academic standing, students who wish to take this practicum in the future should have a strong interest in this area. In addition, it would be best for the student to have taken (or be taking) Criminal Procedure and Evidence.

“The practicum is the ideal learning opportunity for law students,” Professor Caldwell said. “They have the opportunity to develop a wide range of critical lawyering skills, ranging from interviewing clients to legal writing to oral advocacy. At the same time, we are providing quality legal representation to clients who are in dire need of assistance.”

For more information, click here.