Sax Prize winner Mark Feeser (center) with Tirien Steinbach (l)
and Elisabeth Semel (r).
Mark Feeser, who was nominated for his work in the Death Penalty Clinic and the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), was chosen as the 2007 winner of the Brian M. Sax Prize, which is awarded annually to a graduating student who has displayed excellence in advocacy and professional judgment on behalf of clients in a Boalt Hall in-house or faculty-sponsored clinic.
In his second year, Mark Feeser participated in EBCLC’s Clean Slate Practice, where he represented clients seeking to expunge their criminal records in order to overcome barriers to employment, housing, educational opportunities and civic participation. Mark carried a significant caseload, providing full representation to clients from initial intake to post-conviction hearings. He demonstrated professionalism, determination, insight and thoroughness in client relationships, case preparation and courtroom advocacy. Tirien Steinbach, Executive Director of EBCLC and Mark’s supervisor, remarked, “While Mark was always a consummate professional, he also cared very deeply about the clients and continually questioned whether he could do more for them. That level of passion and commitment is rare enough, but particularly in the service of clients who are too often ignored or disparaged.”
In his third year, as a student in the Death Penalty Clinic, Mark has been part of the team representing a client on Alabama’s death row. The breadth of projects that he completed is exceptional. One assignment concerned the development of the theory of defense at the guilt phase of the trial. Mark immersed himself in the physical evidence in the case, and learned the language of unfamiliar fields such as ballistics, crime scene reconstruction and forensic pathology. He worked with several experts to bring together a coherent and compelling defense theory, and drafted the post-conviction claims concerning that theory. Mark also tackled several complex evidentiary issues. His briefing positions the Clinic to marshal the facts within the proper legal framework. In another project, Mark brought his grounding in statistics and meticulous research skills to bear on the question of race discrimination in the case. His work reshaped and reinvigorated a challenge to race-based charging practices. Elisabeth Semel, Director of the Death Penalty Clinic said, “Mark is always willing and able to push the envelope, but with sound judgment and respect for members of the legal team. Mark questions everything. When he is not satisfied with the answer, he takes the next step. He does the difficult work and proposes a solution to a problem that he has identified.”
The annual Brian M. Sax Prize Luncheon — honoring all of the 2006-2007 Clinical Students, as well as our Sax Prize recipient — was held on Friday, April 20.