My Experience Working on Immigration & Farmworker Cases

picKatie Mesa and her classmates video conferencing with students at the University of Florida Levin College of Law to discuss relevant topics, current events and individual aspects of their Immigrant and Farmworker cases.

This semester, I have the privilege of being enrolled in the Immigration and Farmworker Project within the Public Interest Law Center at FSU College of Law. The clinic gives us the opportunity to collaborate with students from UF Levin College of Law through a grant provided by The Florida Bar Foundation. We assist immigrants and agricultural workers who face employment barriers such as undocumented status, lack of housing and lack of healthcare. Particularly, in this day and age, this clinic is exciting to be a part of because no two days are the same. In addition to meeting for class twice a week, every Wednesday we video chat with the UF class to discuss relevant topics, current events and individual aspects of our cases. Our professor, Darby Kerrigan Scott, has also brought in prominent members of the Tallahassee legal community to discuss their individual legal work, working with victims of trauma, and explaining how the immigration judicial system operates. As students, we are also actively engaged as civic-minded citizens by preparing comments on proposed rules on immigration and giving community presentations to local migrant populations. The ever-changing nature of immigration allows for this field to be dynamic, challenging, and stimulating. My classmates and I discuss even the most controversial topics in immigration to try to get to the heart of a given legal issue and also engage one another in productive and respectful discourse.

With aspirations to work in international human rights, I saw this clinic as an opportunity to learn about the U.S. immigration system and to help victims of human trafficking, refugees, and those seeking asylum. As the daughter of an immigrant, it is important to me that people recognize that there is no one image of what an immigrant looks like and no template for his or her story. Through this clinic, I am able to help clients who have come from all walks of life and seen all forms of hardship but who have a desire to build a better life for both themselves and sometimes their families. Participating in this clinic has been a humbling and eye-opening experience, one that has shown me the range of work that is available in the legal field.

If you had asked me four months ago if I had had an interest in immigration, I would have likely said no. Having partaken in this clinic now, I can only give a glimpse as to the value of my experience and the value of the clinic as a whole. In addition to helping clients, I have learned so much about the U.S. immigration system, the types of relief and visas available, how federal agencies and immigration courts operate, and the impact that various changes in U.S. policies can have on current and potential immigration proceedings and remedies. I have also learned the value of trauma-informed lawyering. The clients we work with are real human beings, people who have been trafficked, abused, or who have had to flee their home countries to escape dangerous, potentially life-threatening situations. I am honored to be a member of this clinic in its inaugural semester and I encourage students who have an interest or who don’t know exactly what they want to do to check the immigration clinic out.

Katie Mesa Katie Mesa, 2L

Public Interest Law on your mind? Check out FSU Law’s Unique Clinic Project

If you’re reading this, you may be considering the mere idea of attending law school, or your mind may be made up and you know you’ll be getting that J.D. as part of your five-year plan. Likely, you’re reading this because you are interested in public interest work and you have heard about FSU Law’s Public Interest Law Center.

The Public Interest Law Center, or PILC (pronounced like “milk”) for those of us who have started to take up second residence there, provides us with hands-on experience in real-life cases. We conduct discovery, draft pleadings, and even represent clients in court. It’s one of the opportunities we have on campus to actually practice our future career — and we get to help countless people from the community in the process.

PILC has three main clinics — the Children’s Advocacy Clinic, the Gender and Family Justice Clinic, and the Veterans’ Legal Clinic — but there is a special project that isn’t quite as well-known or publicized, but, to me, is one of the most important things we do at PILC: the Children in Prison Project. This project aims to legally represent children in adult prisons.

When I found out I was chosen to sit under Professor Paolo Annino in a 2:1 environment and learn from one of the most intelligent minds in this field, I was beyond ecstatic. Truly, what other law school could offer such an opportunity? I immediately jumped in with both feet, and now, after being in the clinic for a semester, I have made plans to continue on through a combination of school credit and pro bono work.

The Children in Prison Project was created by Professor Annino in response to Florida imprisoning children in the adult criminal system, especially for those who were sentenced to life without parole. Though this clinic, Professor Annino has helped shape national law and has been cited by the United States Supreme Court in a landmark decision in 2010’s Graham v. Florida.

Through this clinic I have been able to work with four main clients who have been sentenced to life in prison. I am actively working on research and discovery regarding resentencing, restitution, judicial reviews, probation, solitary confinement, access to prison programs and classes … and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve also been able to communicate with the imprisoned youth, discuss important case law with my peers, strategize with “outside” attorneys who are also invested in this cause, and learn about the science behind human development and growth as it pertains to these choices.

When I began working in the Children in Prison Project, part of my “homework” was to research the children we were representing and to gain an understanding of their crimes, their current situations, and, essentially, how they have changed and grown over the years. It’s been humbling to see those who, at the time, knew they had no chance of release (as they were sentenced to life in prison), yet they got their GED, took tons of classes, completed certifications, mentored others, and generally just blossomed into helpful, productive people as they grew up (in prison). It lends itself to the notion that children are amenable to rehabilitation.

It was through my homework and research that I ended up watching a handful of documentaries, two of which featured clients of the clinic. I was unprepared for how emotional I became in watching the footage of the crimes, the hearings, the interviews, and, in one case, the resentencing hearing. It made me more determined than ever to give my all to these clients.

This past semester, through the clinic, I got to fly down to Miami to attend a hearing for the project’s first ever client — and the youngest female to be in a Florida adult prison — and watch a judge order that her probation was over and her restitution was paid in full. I shared in the joyful tears as she hugged her husband, and then quickly pulled out her phone to make her first phone call as a free woman — a call to Professor Annino.

The Children in Prison Project’s very first client, Jessica, who was also the youngest female child to ever be placed in an adult prison in Florida, had her last hearing on her case. She is now a free woman and finished with probation! FSU Law students and alumni went to Miami and represented Jessica for the final hearing. Pictured (L-R) are 2L Dayna Maeder, Jessica, Caitlyn Kio (’18) and Katherine Perdomo (’17).
Jessica sharing the good news with Professor Annino on the phone.

This next semester I will help Professor Annino and the Children in Prison Project team — Caitlyn Kio, Esq. and fellow law student Deni Kolev — represent one of our clients in a resentencing hearing. This hearing will determine whether or not the client can move from life in prison without parole to a 40-year sentence with a judicial review after 25 years. I’ve been tasked with interviewing, preparing, and then direct examining in court two of our team’s witnesses as a Certified Legal Intern under the clinic and the Florida Bar. It is humbling, exciting, terrifying, life changing (for the client!) and so vitally important to the work we’re doing.

Through heartbreaking conversations and hopeful research, I’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotions as I navigate my way through the complex issues associated with incarcerating children. I am excited that the U.S. is on the right track for working to protect children, even when they are in the criminal justice system, and humbled to be working under the person who is driving this change, one case at a time.

Clinic work is a vital part of my experience at FSU Law, and I’m not the minority there. So many students find a second home at PILC, working with like-minded people to help provide justice, resources, and just all around help and hope to those who need it most. It’s a huge perk of attending law school here, and if you decide to attend FSU Law you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities and experiences you’ll get through PILC.

Dayna Maeder Dayna Maeder, 2L

Your Guide to FSU Football

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I’m a double ‘Nole, meaning it’s my seventh year here at FSU (yikes!), but more Football 2 importantly it’s my seventh FSU football season as a student here. This season isn’t exactly how I thought my last season as a student would go (see October 27, 2018, Clemson vs. FSU), however FSU football is still my favorite thing about fall in Tallahassee. So here we go, let’s get into everything you need to know about going to the football games as a student at FSU Law.

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At the beginning of the fall semester you will get an email from the FSU Student Ticket Office explaining how to activate your student ticket account and your Spear-It Rewards account (make sure to check your clutter and spam folders). The ticket account is how you will get tickets to football games and men’s basketball games. The Spear-It Rewards account will be how you accumulate points, which helps in getting tickets to high demand games, but we’ll get to that in a second. First let’s talk about getting a ticket to your non-high demand games. The FSU student ticket allotment is 16,000 tickets. All student tickets are given on a first come, first served basis starting at 5:00 p.m. the Sunday prior to the week of each home game. To get your ticket, sign into your student ticket account, click on “Student Football Home Games” and then follow the instructions on the website accordingly.

Second, let’s talk about those high demand games. Clemson, Miami, and UF are always going to be consideredFootball 4 high demand games. I’ve also seen Notre Dame, Louisville, and Virginia Tech be high demand games. The process for getting tickets to the high demand games has changed almost every year since I’ve been here, so I’m not going to explain the system for this year. You will get an email next year explaining the process for how those tickets are distributed. However, Spear-It Rewards points are always involved in how those tickets are distributed. The more points you have, the better chance you have at getting a ticket. Well, how do I get points? First things first, you’re automatically getting a lot of points by just being a law student! At the beginning of the school year, points are distributed according to your year in school. Seniors and grad students get 1,000 point and everyone else gets less.  You can earn additional points by linking your social media accounts to your Spear-It Rewards account and going to different athletic events on campus. You should take note that 25% of your points will roll over to next year and the rest will expire.

Last note on tickets: student guest tickets are available for all non-high demand games. I’ve seen them priced anywhere from $25-$55. I have no idea how they determine how much the guest tickets will cost. I’ve never seen guest tickets available for purchase for high demand games.

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WOO! It’s game day! Time to head to the law school to tailgate. The Student Bar Football 6Association, sometimes in connection with another organization on campus, hosts super fun tailgates on the Green at the law school in front of the rotunda. It’s a great place to get some food, play games, and meet up with friends before walking to Doak to see the game.

Once you get to Doak, you can enter the stadium at any gate except gate A. Students can sit in any open seating in the following sections: 40, 41, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. I recommend sections 6 or 7 because they offer the best view of the field in the student section. However, sections 40 and 41 get shadier quicker, which is a bonus because it gets hot.

So, what can you bring and not bring to the stadium with you? Bring your FSU ID with you. Sometimes they ask for it, sometimes they don’t. But always bring it just in case. Bring a clear bag, no larger than 12”x 6”x12”, to hold your things. Some very tiny non-clear bags are permitted in the stadium, but in personal experience, they sometimes still give you a hard time about it. My advice is to just get a clear game day bag. You can find a list of things not permitted in the stadium here:

And finally, learn the fight song so you can sing it every time FSU scores! My hope is that you guys will get to sing it more next year than I have this year. Go ‘Noles!

Danielle Nagy Danielle Nagy, 3L

Best Coffee Shops to Study at in Tallahassee

In addition to having a love for caffeine, I discovered that Tallahassee has some of the best local coffee shops. When I was in the process of deciding where to go to law school, the local community and atmosphere of a law school was a very important factor for me. Tallahassee has so much more than people realize when it comes to culture and local uniqueness. One of my favorite Tallahassee eccentricities is the plethora of local coffee shops it has that are perfect for the many long nights of studying every law student faces. Here are the coffee shops that were always there for me as a stressed 1L and continue to be my studying getaways in law school:

  1. Black Dog Café

Black Dog has the best outdoor studying area, there is a little waterfall and so many pretty plants and flowers. In addition, for a treat after studying, they have Sangria and spiked popsicles (they have regular popsicles too that are always nice in the Florida heat!). My favorite Black Dog location is the one at Railroad Square, because for study breaks, I love to climb at the rock climbing gym next door. The location at Lake Ella is nice as well, especially because you can get a big easy snowball, another local Tallahassee treat.

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  1. Au Peche

Au Peche is a new bakery/coffee shop and it is my current favorite place to study. They play French music and it is usually a very quiet, relaxing place to study. Plus, they have so many tasty treats, like macaroons and lavender chai tea lattes!


  1. Catalina Café

Catalina Café is only a five-minute walk from the law school. It has a trendy vibe and great outdoor seating. They serve food, too! Plus, it is right next door to Grasslands Brewery, so you can grab a beer with friends after long hours of studying.


  1. Red Eye

Red Eye is another local favorite that has a mission to make the world a better place. Its coffee and tea are all fair trade and its profits go towards local and global humanitarian causes. My Law Review note is on a potential ban on plastic straws, and it is fitting that I am drinking out of a biodegradable straw from Red Eye as I write it. Red Eye has three locations near campus, one in Midtown, one on Capital Circle and one at Bannerman Crossing.


  1. Lucky Goat

If a coffee connoisseur were to pick a Tallahassee coffee shop with the best coffee, he or she would probably pick Lucky Goat. Lucky Goat is a very popular study spot, so I try to go there in the mornings or on days I know it will be less crowded.


Many More:  All Saints Café, Chi Chi’s Café, Southern Velvet Café, Calvin’s Coffee House, etc.

Basically, in Tallahassee if you throw a rock you are likely to hit a local coffee shop or great place to study. Law school can create its fair share of stress and it is good to have a place to escape to. The local coffee shops of Tallahassee became my escape and continue to be where I get my best work done in law school.

Emily Michel Emily Michel, 2L

Hidden Lessons: How My Creative Writing Major Helps Me In Law School.

When I first got to law school, everyone was so shocked when they asked my major and I said “English, specifically Creative Writing.”  Most of my peers were political science, business, or international affairs or something equally as “pre-law” as those majors.  Everyone was curious about why I chose to go to law school.  To be honest, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be as prepared for law school as some of my poli-sci peers.  But, as the first semester of my 1L year started, I found that my creative writing major had some hidden lessons that apply to law school, and to life.

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  1. I Know The Grammar Rules

Starting with the most obvious benefits that could come from a writing major, I know how to write and edit.  I know the grammar rules and I know how to use a semicolon. In my creative writing classes, half of our work was writing our own pieces, and the other half was editing other students’ pieces, so not only am I confident in my own writing, but I am also confident helping my peers with their writing.

In the field of law (and in every field) grammar is extremely important.  When writing legal briefs and memos you have a very short amount of time to make your point.  With this in mind, you don’t want your legal professor (or the Judge in the case you’re working on) to be distracted from your argument with grammar mistakes.  Being able to condense, expand, twist, and shape what you’ve written into a coherent, succinct argument is extremely useful for legal writing and it’s something I was able to perfect in undergrad.

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  1. I Know How To Give And Receive Criticism

In the world of creative writing, we do these lovely little things called “workshops.”  Workshopping a piece consists of a student pouring their heart and soul into a short story, poem, or personal essay, handing out copies to the rest of the class, then coming back a week later and sitting, silently, while the rest of the class tears your work to shreds.  A common mantra of the creative writing major is “I want improvement more than praise.”  Through my degree, I learned to separate my own personal worth from the value of my work.  I learned that just because my work isn’t good right now, that doesn’t mean that I’m not good.  I learned to listen to others tell me everything wrong with what I did and take it as instructions for what to do in the future.  This was not an easy thing to learn, but it has been extremely beneficial.

I am going to let you in on a little secret… law school is HARD.  No matter what background you come from, you’re going to find that law school is an entirely different beast that needs taming.  As with anything in life, you’re going to stumble a few times.  The important thing is to pick up and keep going.  Luckily, law school is a learning environment.  This means your stumbles will come with lots of help to pick you back up.  This help is often found in the form of constructive criticism.  Whether it be red scribbles from your legal writing professor on your first memo, conversations in office hours with your torts professor going over a practice exam, or getting reviewed by your first employer in an internship, you’re going to experience constructive criticism.  My creative writing major helped me learn to be gracious in accepting this criticism and helped me know how to change these constructive criticisms into action.

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  1. I Know How To Communicate

Boiling creative writing down to its most basic form, what I really learned was communication.  I learned how to better communicate my thoughts, my opinions, and my ideas into a form for others to understand.  Whether this be in indirect ways like poetry, or extremely direct ways like in creative non-fiction, I learned how to say what I mean.  This may seem like something easy and obvious, but it is surprising how useful this skill is in everyday life.

One of the most important parts of law is being able to communicate.  With other lawyers, with judges, and with clients; a lawyer must know how to explain their thinking and their arguments.  A lawyer must also know how to explain other people’s arguments.  Communication is so important.  Not only must a lawyer understand the “legalese” but they must also be able to translate that into everyday language for their clients.  Everything about law is hinged upon communication, and my creative writing major makes me an expert in communication.

When I was looking at my options for my future, I talked to the pre-law advisor about what major I should choose and she said “it doesn’t matter what your major is, as long as your GPA is high enough to get in to the law school you want.”  I took that to heart.  Rather than going into political science or other pre-law major, I chose something fun that I could enjoy doing while still getting good grades.  I chose creative writing.  When I finally started law school, I didn’t expect my creative writing major to help me all that much, but I found that my poetry-writing, story-editing, sci-fi-fan-fiction-ing major had so many hidden lessons that have aided me in the transition to law school.

I fully believe what that advisor told me back then, it really doesn’t matter what major you’re coming into law school with.  Every single major has hidden lessons that help with law school, and with life.  For a chemistry major, they have been trained in seeing the way things fit together and break apart, so they might be faster to see trends in torts cases.  For a music major, they see how different instruments come together to make a symphony, so looking at how the different parts of government come together to make a nation will help them understand the constitution so much better than someone without that background.

Overall, come into law school with confidence.  You have so much to offer here, no matter what your background is.  We can’t wait to have you.

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Christina Ahrens Christina Ahrens, 2L

How To Get Involved In Your 1L Year But Not Overdo It

IMG_2588If you’re anything like me, when you choose a school, you don’t just go to class and go home. You go to that school! You’re involved. You take pride in being active on campus. You did so in high school and in undergrad. Even though you don’t want to overwhelm yourself because you’ve heard law school is hard, you still have a desire to be involved. Being involved is fulfilling. It makes you feel a part of the community.  I feel you! I am you!  I believe it can be done and have done it myself.

I am involved. I am an active member of a lot of students organizations at the law school: Black Law Students Association, Women’s Law Symposium, Trial Team, Griffin Middle School Mentoring, and I am an FSU Law Student Ambassador.

How? Here are my personal tips on how to balance:

First, pick and choose what you join. Choose student organizations which you know will meet your interests and even act as a break amidst the rigor of law school.  Don’t just join clubs because they may seem prestigious. This may become an added burden which you do not need or deserve. Being part of an organization doesn’t mean you have to be a leader. Try just being a member, especially as a 1L. As a member, you don’t have to attend every single event, but you can when you have time. Don’t be afraid to skip events, and even let things go, if you don’t enjoy them or they require too much of your time. Remember why you are here. You are here for your law degree.

Second, time management. Schedule everything in a calendar. Class time, organization meetings, organization events, study time, and personal time. When you can physically see your calendar getting too filled, it’s time to prioritize. Law school is a marathon and not a sprint. You cannot burn out in your first semester. Make sure, in the midst of joining extracurriculars, you still have time to cook, clean up, shower, and sleep. This sounds basic and laughable, but I promise, as things get hectic, some people forget the basics.

Third, I think it’s important to know yourself.  Once again, don’t just join organizations because you think it seems impressive when that’s not how you usually operate in school. On the other hand, catch yourself if you’re the person who knows they overextend themselves.

Law school is an amazing opportunity! You are more than capable and you can enjoy yourself along the way while still making great grades.  All the best. Please allow me to be a resource if you have any questions:

Student Ambassadors, College of Law Remi Abiodun, 2L

Why You Should Be Involved in Extracurriculars

As law students, it can be a struggle to find free time outside of attending class, reading, and studying.  This was a struggle for me not too long ago when I was a 1L.  Especially for 1Ls, it is easy to have tunnel-vision and focus only on your schoolwork.  To be clear, I believe doing well in your classes is what’s most important for 1Ls.  Your first-year grades can open a lot of doors and have far-reaching effects throughout your law school career and post-school.  However, by solely focusing on grades, you are missing out on other ways you can benefit yourself while in law school.

FSU Law has 25+ student organizations and several co-curricular organizations, including Law Review, Moot Court, and Trial Team.  These organizations are entirely optional, but I highly recommend becoming involved in at least a few.  It can be difficult to meet other law students when just attending class.  Student organizations provide the opportunity to not only meet other students but meet students who share similar beliefs and interests.  In addition, every student organization has an Executive Board.  Serving on an Executive Board shows employers that you have leadership skills and experience.  Holding a leadership position also allows you to be involved in the decision-making process for a student organization.  You can help improve, shape, and promote your organization.

Currently, I serve as the President of Christian Legal Society, one of FSU Law’s student organizations.  Many of the friendships I’ve made in law school have been because of my involvement with CLS.  Being able to interact with other Christian law students is important to me, because it allows me to take a break from the rigors of law school and be in community with others who share my beliefs.  Since we have such a diverse law school community, you should have no trouble finding an organization that aligns with your beliefs/interests.  Last, student organizations provide networking opportunities.  Many practicing lawyers and judges are former members of our student organizations and love to stay involved through networking events, speaking engagements, and workshops.

Co-curriculars are student-run organizations where students can gain practical skills, such as oral and written advocacy, and editing, research, and writing skills.  Being a member of a co-curricular is a way you can make yourself a more competitive job candidate.  More so, some employers require applicants to be a member of a journal or oral advocacy team such as Law Review or Moot Court.  While co-curriculars are resume builders, they are more than that.  A law school class can only teach you so much.  Co-curriculars allow students to develop skills that they will use as future lawyers that can’t be gained in the classroom.

When I started law school, I made it a goal to try out for at least one journal and one advocacy team.  Sticking with this goal, I tried out for Moot Court and Law Review.  While I didn’t make it on to Moot Court, I’m glad that I decided to try out.  As an introvert, trying out for Moot Court was a challenge for me.  Part of law school is breaking out of your comfort zone and trying things you aren’t comfortable with.  Even if you don’t make it on, the tryout process is a valuable learning experience.  As a 1L, you will have to present an oral argument as part of your LWR class so no additional work is required to try out for Moot Court.

After completing my 1L year, the last thing I wanted to do was participate in the FSU Law journal write-on competition.  I talked myself into doing the write-on and as a result was accepted on to Law Review.  Personally, this was one of my proudest achievements as a law student.  Being a member of Law Review has allowed me to hone my editing, research, and writing skills.  Part of being a member of Law Review is writing a Student Note, an academic research paper that must be of publishable quality.  As a law student, this Note provides an excellent writing sample for employers, especially if you are considering a judicial clerkship.  Additionally, co-curriculars like Law Review provide opportunities to hold leadership positions.

Nothing I’ve mentioned in this post is required for students, but you are doing yourself a disservice by not being involved in these organizations.  Be able to say that you have no regrets rather than saying “I wish I would’ve done this or that.”  You’ll be better off because of it, even if you stumble along the way.

College of Law. Student Ambassadors. Nick Cleary, 3L