Most students find the stress of balancing classes, final exams, student organizations, internships and social lives to be more than enough to keep them busy during law school. Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law student Jonathan Shin (JD ’16) added one more layer of responsibility to his workload: he took a case.
That case – an immigration deportation matter involving 53-year-old Korean-born Joon Young Kim, which was profiled in the OC Weekly earlier this semester – went before the Los Angeles Immigration Court in September. After nearly three years searching for a way to keep Kim from being deported, Jonathan claimed a major victory by receiving a waiver from deportation.
The case was recommended by Jonathan’s father before he even began law school. Kim, a family friend, was facing deportation due to a previous felony on his record. The incident occurred in the early 1990s, when Kim sold counterfeit goods shortly after his arrival from Korea. Despite serving six months at a community corrections center and five years’ probation, and paying a $10,000 fine, Kim was facing deportation after re-entering the country following a trip to South Korea for his father’s funeral.
Despite the risks and his own doubts about taking the case on as a new law student, Jonathan knew he would take the case as far as he could to help his friend.
“I wasn’t a lawyer, and experienced attorneys were telling me this was an extremely complex case that would result in severe consequences if I failed. I knew if I worked hard and diligently, this case wouldn’t be impossible,” Jonathan said. “When times got tough, I reminded myself that my client was someone’s husband and father. When I wanted to give up, I thought to myself ‘If this was your wife or father would you give up or would you fight back harder?’ From that point on, it was very clear to me that no matter what, I was going to fight till the very end.”
Providing guidance in the case was Fowler School of Law Professor Richard Green, whom Jonathan met at an on-campus Immigration Law Society meeting. A supervising attorney is required for all law students appearing in court, according to the California Rules of Court. In addition to his work as an adjunct professor, Green is a partner and chairman of the immigration practice group at Carothers DiSante & Freudenberger.
“I agreed to take the case because of Jonathan’s level of care and concern for Mr. Kim. This was someone important to him,” Professor Green said. “I also agreed to help when I heard the facts: A gentleman who had a single, rather old criminal conviction and had turned his life around and lived a law abiding life for years was staring at being banned from returning to the United States for that one old criminal conviction. That is not fair. That is not just. This is the ‘Atticus Finch’ kind of stuff that motivates people to go to law school.”
Professor Green said he was impressed with how well Jonathan handled the case, which would even challenge experienced attorneys.
“Given the other demands on Mr. Shin’s time (law school, family, his business), I was concerned that he would not have the time to devote to this matter. Jonathan rose to the occasion, met the deadlines, argued the law, and presented the facts well and prevailed,” Professor Green said.
While Jonathan and Professor Green were able to secure continued residency in the United States for Kim, he is still considered an alien and a felon. Next, the student/professor team will file an application for a Presidential Pardon. Should it be granted, which Professor Green says is still a risk, Kim will begin the naturalization process.
Read more in the OC Weekly.