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Tessa Nevarez and Navnit Bhandal

Tessa Nevarez (left) and Navnit Bhandal (right) lobbied the two bills

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Pacific law students help win new rights for California dogs and cats

Jul 26, 2016

Four-legged Californians have important new protections thanks to two bills lobbied by students at Pacific McGeorge School of Law and signed Monday, July 25, by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The first new law gives dogs seized as part of a fighting ring a chance at adoption, sparing them automatic death sentences. The second bans the use of carbon monoxide gas to kill dogs and cats.

Navnit Bhandal and Tessa Nevarez, students in McGeorge’s groundbreaking Legislative and Public Policy Clinic, worked with noted animal welfare lobbyist Jennifer Fearing on behalf of the Humane Society of America and the SPCA of San Francisco to get the laws on the books. The students also worked with Assemblymember Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park), who carried the dog-fighting measure (AB 1825), and Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), who carried the bill banning carbon monoxide to euthanize animals (AB 2505).

The victories bring to six the total number of laws enacted with the help of students in the McGeorge Legislative and Public Policy Clinic since its founding three years ago, as the first program of its kind in California. In all, students in the class have helped introduce 15 bills into the California Legislature, racking up a 40 percent enactment rate. Another three student-lobbied bills introduced this year are still pending.

"This is a testament to the notion that individuals can make a difference - if you're smart about it and know how to pick your fights," said Rex Frazier, adjunct professor of law at McGeorge and founder of the clinic, which was ranked among the top 15 most innovative legal clinics in the country by PreLaw magazine in 2014.

Each year, students in the class have the same assignment: Find an issue that can be addressed with a law -- and make one.    

The previous bills lobbied into law by McGeorge students:

  • enabled revenge porn victims to get offensive material taken off the Internet using a pseudonym
  • required child care centers to consider job applicants' arrest warrants in hiring decisions
  • called for training for police in recognizing signs of elder abuse
  • allowed prisoners to seek a new trial if the scientific evidence that convicted them is later discredited

In May, that last bill helped overturn the murder conviction of William Richards, a man who spent 28 years in prison for killing his wife. In reporting on the decision of the California Supreme Court to throw out Richards’ verdict, the Los Angeles Times credited the McGeorge clinic for helping “to persuade lawmakers to instruct courts that ‘false evidence’ – grounds for a new trial – includes discredited forensic testimony."

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