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California Western’s Top Attorneys’ work has tangible impact in the legal world

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California Western School of Law professors William Aceves, Thomas Barton and Justin Brooks are not only Top Attorneys, but top advocates in their fields of law practice and scholarship — with tangible impact in the world outside of academia.

Aceves has been a legal activist for global human rights for many years. In 2015, he has written supporting briefs in cases such as a lawsuit by Haitian citizens against the United Nations for causing a deadly cholera outbreak there through its peacekeepers. He also wrote a brief for a lawsuit against U.S. corporations that financially benefitted during the apartheid era in South Africa. His work was cited recently by a judge in a lawsuit against some U.S. corporations doing business in Indonesia for allegedly violating international criminal law. He also wrote a recent law review article in the form of a criminal indictment against former CIA Director George Tenet holding him accountable for authorizing torture of prisoners that may have happened during his tenure.

Barton’s research focuses on how social problems affect the creation and operation of legal procedures. Since the law is primarily a set of tools for addressing human problems, Barton believes that the law should change to meet the new challenges that arise as social problems change shape. These challenges have dramatically increased with the arrival of information age technology, and with globalization of problems and how information is generated, packaged and distributed. He also believes legal procedures must become more agile, open and inclusive to reinvigorate the rule of law globally.

Barton recently co-authored a report for the United States Patent and Trademark Office that surveyed the ways in which alternative dispute resolution techniques are being used to address legal problems surrounding patent, trademark and copyright matters.

As the director of the California Innocence Project, Brooks gets a first-hand look at problems in the justice system; he and his colleagues have been at the vanguard of fixing those problems by working for new state laws to help free the innocent. The California Innocence Project spearheaded the push for SB 980, a new law enacted in 2014 to better preserve DNA samples in criminal cases and streamline the post-conviction DNA analyzation process. According to Brooks, more innocent people will be freed from prison and more guilty people will be identified, prosecuted and convicted for their crimes.

Brooks and his team also advocated for SB 618, a new law that helps wrongfully convicted inmates get compensation from the state for their time served in prison. Since Brooks co-founded the California Innocence Project in 1999, he and his team of lawyers and students have exonerated 15 wrongfully convicted prisoners.

The three California Western professors who have been named as Top Attorneys are all agents of change. Their work is not just a purely abstract or academic exercise, but helps bring about positive change in the world, whether through involvement in litigation or via research and scholarship.

-Submitted by California Western School of Law.

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