USD School of Law Recent Graduate Alexandria Heins ’20 (JD) Argues on YouTube Before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Alexandria Heins ’20 (JD) Argues on YouTube Before U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Alexandria Heins ’20 (JD)

SAN DIEGO (August 10, 2020) – Recent University of San Diego (USD) School of Law alumna Alexandria Heins, ’20 (JD), appeared live on YouTube before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit as an advocate for a USD Appellate Clinic case. The case hearing, which is usually presented during the end of the academic school calendar, was delayed this year due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

On June 11, 2020, Heins appeared virtually before the court in the case of Felicia Awuzda v. William Barr, an immigration appeal under the request of asylum. The case was heard previously by the Board of Immigration Appeals and remanded to the lower court, with the initial focus on the issue of adultery as a case for asylum, rather than the client’s identification as a member of the LGBTQ community in Ghana. In the hearing, Heins presented procedural and jurisdiction missteps made by the government in the process of this immigration case, highlighting the court’s lack of attentiveness to the client’s potential future persecution as a lesbian if she returned to her country. Of contention in the court were procedural concerns regarding when the client had access to counsel and submission of required disclosure statements of dangerous cultural bias in Ghana toward the LGBTQ community. These issues, along with the client’s personal fear of persecution as a member of a targeted group, were presented to the court as her grounds for asylum.

This case is the first time a USD School of Law student has appeared virtually to argue on behalf of a client for the Appellate Clinic. While the evidence has been presented, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has not yet rendered their final decision on the claim of asylum.

Heins is a 2020 graduate of USD School of Law who became involved with USD’s legal clinics because she was interested in pro bono work, ultimately wanting to take advantage of the unique opportunity the Appellate Clinic provides to third-year law students. “I had high expectations for the clinic and it really was the best experience I had in law school,” said Heins. In addition to presenting this case in front of the Ninth Circuit, she also spent time at USD doing casework for both the Education and Disability and Federal Tax clinics.

Click here to watch the full argument in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recorded on YouTube.

About the Appellate Legal Clinic at the University of San Diego School of Law

The Appellate Clinic at USD School of Law provides an opportunity for third-year law students to litigate an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Each year, USD accepts eight students into the clinic to focus on two cases during the academic calendar, working in teams of four. During the fall semester, students prepare and write their opening briefs and await the government’s brief in December. While on holiday break, students review the brief from the government and file a rebuttal once they return to campus in the spring. From there, they practice and prepare for oral argument, determining who will present the case in court before the end of the semester. In the past, these cases were heard in person at the court location in Pasadena.

The Appellate Clinic was started by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judge and current law school Jurist in Residence, M. Margaret McKeown, and Professor of Law Michael Devitt to give students direct access to the appellate process and the ability to practice in the appellate court. Currently, the clinic is supervised by Professor Devitt and Adjunct Professor of Law David Schlesinger. It offers students the opportunity to earn semester credits while preparing and presenting a case for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Beth Colton
(619) 260-4097


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