The San Juan Capistrano City Council voted last month to repeal a city ordinance banning the display of for-sale signs in cars parked on public streets. The demise of the suspect ordinance is directly attributable to the combined efforts of Chapman University Fowler School of Law alumnus Michael Cefali (’16) and current student Christina Vier (JD ’17), along with the work of the law school’s Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic.
The issue first came to Cefali’s attention while in law school when he received a $50 ticket for posting a for-sale sign on his vehicle, a ticket he immediately suspected was unconstitutional. “I saw my ticket and thought, ‘Boy, that doesn’t sound right in relation to Central Hudson,’” Cefali said in an interview with the Los Angeles Daily Journal, referring to a case he studied in law school.
After looking further into the matter, he discovered that the city had cited hundreds of residents over a three-year period, resulting in $15,000 in revenue. Surprised by the number of incidents similar to his own, Cefali reached out to Professor Larry Salzman of Fowler School of Law’s Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic (CJC) to inquire about pursuing a lawsuit against the city.
Student Christina Vier worked with Professor Salzman and the CJC in collaboration with the Pacific Legal Foundation to file a federal First Amendment lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. In response, the San Juan Capistrano City Council voted to amend the municipal code and repeal the ordinance.
“An opportunity to uphold the fundamental right of free speech where the government has unconstitutionally generated revenue in the process is truly priceless,” Vier said.
The CJC is one of six law clinics at Chapman where students gain valuable practical experience working with professors on actual cases. “The Constitutional Jurisprudence Clinic offered me the unique opportunity to work on a case protecting one of the most fundamental rights in the U.S. Constitution,” Vier said. “This work took me beyond the ordinary textbook setting, and immersed me into a role as a lawyer.”
The Cefali v. City of San Juan Capistrano case is just one example of how Chapman’s clinical programs have directly impacted local communities. Read more about the hands-on work experience students receive in the law school’s clinics.
Above: (From left) Fowler School of Law Adjunct Professor Larry Salzman, alumnus Michael Cefali, and student Christina Vier.