Carlos Serna

Juvenile Innocence & Fair Sentencing Clinic

Carlos Serna
Carlos Serna, Juvenile Innocence & Fair Sentencing Clinic

Carlos joined the JIFS Clinic in Fall 2020 and is completing his second year in the clinic. He has distinguished himself by his thoroughness, his excellent writing, and his concern for the people he represents. Taking on difficult cases with complex sentencing issues, Carlos was able to achieve impressive results for his clients. Here are a few highlights:

  • In Fall 2020, Carlos represented Fernando L, who was serving life without the possibility of parole but getting his first suitability hearing under California law. In the middle of a pandemic, and communicating with his client only by telephone, Carlos thoroughly prepared his client for a hearing he had no reasonable expectation of winning. Nonetheless, with Carlos representing him, Fernando was found suitable and was released from prison the following April.
  • In Summer 2021, Carlos represented Sam L, a client on his second parole hearing, after an earlier, unsuccessful hearing. Again, Carlos helped his client craft a convincing parole narrative, resulting in a finding of suitability. Sam was freed from prison and went to transitional housing in Fall 2021.
  • Finally, in Fall 2021, Carlos represented Saul C, a client with a “meritorious conduct” letter from the California Department of Corrections, but with a long record of property crime and a sentence that would have had him die in prison. Carlos submitted a comprehensive “McCallum brief,” detailing Saul’s progress to rehabilitation. In front of a tough judge in Van Nuys Superior Court, Carlos again made the difference for his client, who was resentenced to time served, and released on parole.

What distinguishes Carlos, even among an impressive group of law students, is his ability to focus on the specifics of a case steadily and diligently. Seemingly mundane details have made a difference in his representation. With his thorough command of the record, his clients were fortunate to have Carlos representing them. Carlos was also instrumental in training students in the Independent Forensic Gang Expert College (IFGEC), which trains formerly gang-involved community service workers to be in-court gang experts. On a purely volunteer basis, he participated in several training sessions, playing a client, and then later served as the judge in the IFGEC students’ final examinations. This is just another example of Carlos’s willingness to go beyond the call of duty in the cause of criminal justice reform.

Carlos has accepted a post-bar position with the Public Defender. The JIFS Clinic expects him to make his mark in high-quality criminal defense representation.