Austin Ward & Jake Douglass Selected By CAOC As 2017 ‘Street Fighter of the Year’ Finalists

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Panish Shea & Boyle LLP is pleased to announce that two firm attorneys, Austin G. Ward and Jake Douglass, have been selected as finalists for the 2017 CAOC Street Fighter of the Year award. Eligibility for this distinction is limited to CAOC members who have practiced law for no more than 10 years or work in a firm with no more than five attorneys. Three cases are among the 2017 Street Fighter of the Year finalists, with the winner to be chosen in November this year.

In the Matter of Julia Romelia Mejia-Mejia, assigned through pro bono law firm Public Counsel, Mr. Ward, Mr. Douglass and Shannon H.P. Ward of The Aaron Law Firm, obtained asylum for the young Guatemalan women who fled her country after suffering brutal violence at the hand of her brother-in-law for more than a decade. Ms. Mejia-Mejia, who spoke only Spanish, was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol as she crossed into the United States and processed for removal. With the assistance of Public Counsel and Spanish-speaking PSB staff members who assisted as translators and help to gather the necessary facts for the asylum application, the attorneys worked diligently for their client and asylum was granted for the  young woman in December 2016.

From the press release:  CAOC Announces 2017 Award Finalists

Consumer Attorneys of California president Greg Bentley today announced this year’s finalists for the organization’s two major member awards, Consumer Attorney of the Year and Street Fighter of the Year. The winners will be revealed at CAOC’s Annual Installation and Awards Dinner Nov. 18, to be held in conjunction with CAOC’s 56th Annual Convention at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

STREET FIGHTER OF THE YEAR

Austin G. Ward, Shannon H.P. Ward and Jake Douglass

In the Matter of Julia Romelia Mejia-Mejia, In Removal Proceedings

HELPING A WOMAN WHO FLED VIOLENCE IN GUATEMALA STAY IN THE U.S.

Julia Romelia Mejia-Mejia fled to the United States from Guatemala when she was 17 to escape years of brutal violence by her brother-in-law, including being sexually assaulted from the ages of 6 through 16. Julia’s brother-in-law was a member of Mara-18, a vicious gang in Guatemala, and he promised to kill Julia and her family if she ever told anybody what he did to her. The police would not respond to her repeated calls for help. Julia’s neighbors loaned her enough money to get to the U.S., but Julia was detained by Customs and Border Patrol as she crossed into Texas, and she was processed for removal from the country. Austin Ward, Shannon Ward and Jake Douglass represented Julia pro bono after being assigned the case by the public interest law firm Public Counsel. With the assistance of Public Counsel, the attorneys worked to learn the procedural rules and substantive law surrounding asylum relief, having had no previous experience in that area. Because Julia was a minor at the time of her detention, the attorneys were able to apply for asylum for her as an unaccompanied minor and take the process out of an adversarial setting. The attorneys interviewed Julia and her family, obtained documents, retained experts, and prepared the asylum application, setting forth various persecuted groups in which they argued she should be included and through which she should be granted asylum. Just before Christmas 2016, Julia’s request for asylum was granted, preventing her from being sent to a likely death in Guatemala.

For a full list of 2017 finalists, or to read the CAOC press release in its entirety, click here.