(L to R) California Innocence Project attorneys Alissa L. Bjerkhoel ’08, Professor Justin P. Brooks, Michael A. Semanchik ’10, and Professor Jan Stiglitz
California Innocence Project Staff Named California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year
Attorneys with California Western School of Law clinical program honored for helping to exonerate former high school football star Brian Banks
SAN DIEGO, February 15, 2013 - California Western School of Law Professors Justin P. Brooks and Jan Stiglitz, and attorneys Alissa L. Bjerkhoel ‘08 and Michael A. Semanchik ‘10 have been named Attorneys of the Year by California Lawyer magazine.
The state’s leading legal magazine recognizes the California Innocence Project attorneys for helping to exonerate Brian Banks after he served more than five years in prison for a wrongful conviction. Banks is the former Long Beach high school football standout who was falsely accused of the rape and kidnapping of a classmate. Last year, California Innocence Project attorneys and students helped clear his name, thanks to new evidence and more comprehensive investigatory work.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized alongside such distinguished members of the bar,” said Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project. “I am particularly proud to be honored alongside my longtime colleague Jan Stiglitz, and former students Alissa Bjerkhoel and Michael Semanchik. Seeing Alissa and Michael advance from eager young law students to the outstanding attorneys they are today has been a great privilege.”
Brooks, Stiglitz, Bjerkhoel, and Semanchik will be honored, along with 60 other attorneys from around the state, at the 17th Annual Attorneys of the Year awards ceremony on March 12 in San Francisco and in the March 2013 issue of California Lawyer magazine. This marks the second time in recent years that Brooks and Stiglitz have been honored with the Attorneys of the Year award for their work with the California Innocence Project.
“The California Western community takes great pride in the valuable community service the California Innocence Project provides and the unique learning opportunities the clinical program offers our students,” said California Western Dean Niels B. Schaumann. “We thank California Lawyer for recognizing their work with this prestigious award.”
About the California Innocence Project
Founded in 1999, the California Innocence Project is a California Western School of Law clinical program dedicated to the release of wrongfully convicted inmates and providing an outstanding educational experience for students enrolled in the clinic. The California Innocence Project reviews approximately 2,000 claims from inmates each year and has earned the exoneration of nine wrongfully convicted clients since its inception.
On April 27, 2013, California Innocence Project attorneys and students, along with exonerees and family members of the wrongfully convicted, begin a march from San Diego to Sacramento with clemency petitions for 10 of their clients who are innocent yet remain incarcerated. The Innocence March kicks off at the San Diego Courthouse and finishes at the Governor’s office roughly 55 days later.
The public is invited to join the 600-plus mile freedom march across the state. The march includes 11 rallies and three public walking days. For more information about the Innocence March, visit http://innocencemarch.com/.