• Aitken Family Violence Clinic

Aitken Family Violence Clinic

»Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Violence Clinic


A few blocks north of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, is an area very different than the idyllic Magic Kingdom. Here, you will find lower income neighborhoods with a high population of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, South America, Asia and the Middle East. Life is not easy or safe, and when domestic violence enters the picture, even the home is no sanctuary. When such victims are undocumented immigrants, options are few.

In 2007, Chapman University's Fowler School of Law created the Family Violence Clinic to address the unique challenges faced by survivors of domestic violence. Located at the secure Anaheim Family Justice Center, the clinic is directed by Chapman professor Marisa Cianciarulo, a veteran immigration lawyer and legal clinician. Underwritten through a generous gift from Bette and Wylie Aitken, the clinic offers free assistance in immigration, human trafficking and protection order matters for clients who meet income eligibility requirements.

The Aitken Family Violence Clinic served approximately 200 survivors of domestic violence last year. In a recent victory, our law students helped a victim of domestic violence who was married to an abusive U.S. citizen. The victim was escorted to a shelter and referred to the Aitken Family Violence Clinic for help. Our students worked with the victim, listened to her story, gathered evidence of the abuse that she and her son suffered, and ultimately filed a petitioner for relief though the federal Violence Against Women Act. She and her son are now legally living in this country, safe and far away from her attacker. She is legally employed and her son is happy, healthy and in school.

Unlike externships, where student work supports a program director, the Family Violence Clinic gives students primary responsibility for cases and direct interaction with clients. This model is facilitated by special rules that allow students enrolled in clinical courses to do anything a lawyer can do, so long as there is supervision by a licensed attorney. 

The Student Experience

  • Michelle S. ('14)
  • Joanna W. ('13)
  • Michelle Standfield"The skills I have learned in the Family Violence Clinic are too numerous to name. Not many law students have the opportunity to experience client interviewing, case planning, preparing for trial or actually participating in a trial proceeding. Realizing that you are dealing with a real case, and a real person's life, brings a sense of urgency.  It can be frightening, but it makes the work you put into to the case all the more rewarding."

    -Michelle S. (J.D. '14)

  • Joanna Wong"I learned that every client has a story, and every client wants to be heard.  Whether I represented the client in court or just gave advice in a quick counseling session, I had the privilege and honor to give the simple gift of listening, a gift that many abuse victims had been denied for so long. In law school there is a tendency to focus on rights and responsibilities and nuances of the law - and those are all essential - but the clinic offers a very human element that is important to remember and cherish."

    -Joanna W. (J.D. '13)

+-Course Information for Students

The clinic offers 3 units for the semester program, with 10 hours of combined classroom and fieldwork per week. Students may elect to register for the immigration track, which focuses on written advocacy, or the protection order track, which focuses on oral advocacy.

Participating law students will engage in the following activities:

  • client counseling and interviews 
  • fact investigation 
  • legal research 
  • preparation of affidavits 
  • writing legal arguments
  • submitting applications for domestic violence-related protection orders and immigration benefits

Each of these areas are covered extensively in classroom components taught by Professor Julie Marzouk (immigration track) and Professor Wendy Seiden (protection order track).

The course is open to 2L and 3L students. Space is limited, so register early.

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Recent News

Rosie Anaya’s Work in The Aitken Family Violence Clinic at Chapman is Recognized by the OCFJC Foundation. Read more »

The Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Violence Clinic Receives another Generous Donation from Wells Fargo. Read more »

Professor Marisa Cianciarulo

“I feel it is crucial to the learning process to allow students to run the show under the close supervision of knowledgeable professors. The amount of student effort is actually dictated by the needs of the client, not a per-week hourly requirement. Students become very attached to the clients and their cases, and they are struck at how much of role they can play in a person’s life.” 

    Contact Us

    Professor Marisa Cianciarulo, Director
    Phone: (714) 628-2612
    Email: cianciar@chapman.edu

    Professor Wendy Seiden, Associate Clinical Professor 
    Phone: (714) 628-2636
    Email: seiden@chapman.edu

    Professor Julie Marzouk, Assistant Clinical Professor
    Phone: (714)628-2669
    Email: marzouk@chapman.edu

    Rosie Anaya, Legal Secretary/ Administrative Assistant
    Phone: (714)765-1579
    Email: rgarcia@chapman.edu

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