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 A GAUCHO FOR JUSTICE
                       Attorney Kevin King '12 Represents Those in Need



Kevin King is an attorney in the First District Appellate Project, a non-profit law office created in 1985 under the auspices of the Bar Association of San Francisco. Located in Oakland, California, King represents indigent criminal defendants, challenges felony convictions, contests juvenile procedings as well as provides legal assistance and training to panel attorneys.

Background

From the time King decided to "take the plunge" and commit to UCSB, he mastered using his environment to his advantage. He has achieved great success as an attorney and has been commended for his academic excellence and public service.

As an undergraduate he excelled in history, receiving both Dean’s Honors and graduating with distinction. It was through his participation in the UCSB LEAD program and interning within the field that he discovered a passion for law. Shortly after his time on our beach side campus, he gave up the sunshine and salty air for the concrete jungle of UC Hastings. Though the environment was a jarring change he found that the honors program had prepared him for a smooth transition into the competitive world of law.

                                                

            


5  Questions


Why did you choose to study at UCSB?

I first visited UCSB during high school as part of a college tour through our Advancement Via Individual Determination program. We toured about a dozen UC and Cal State campuses and it was UCSB that stuck out to me. When we stepped onto the campus it felt like a beach heaven. Everyone just seemed happy and I could see why. That impression stuck with me throughout the application process.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the few students in my graduating class of 500 to be admitted and jumped on the opportunity. It was a tough decision to make. I knew the environment would be a huge adjustment and the competition would be tough. Nonetheless, I took the plunge and it paid off immensely.


Were you involved in any student organizations or internships as a student?

During my freshman year, I lived in the Black Scholars floor in the Santa Rosa dorms. We were a close-knit community and supported each other throughout our four years together. Outside of studying, I spent most of my time working at the campus Recreation Center. I served as a student supervisor and then as chairman of the Governance Board.

To gauge my interest in the legal profession, I interned at the Santa Barbara Superior Court under the Honorable Judge Clifford Anderson. I also participated in the UCSB LEAD program, which was a great resource for connecting with practicing attorneys and learning about the law school application process.




Did you always want to pursue a career in law?

I did not always want to be an attorney. I began to seriously consider law school during college after reflecting on the various issues that plagued my hometown, such as poor education, poor job prospects, drugs, gangs and criminal justice. I knew that becoming an attorney would give me the platform to help alleviate these issues. Interning at the Santa Barbara Superior Court specifically sparked my interest in criminal law.

I began classes at UC Hastings College of the Law two-and-a-half months after graduating UCSB. I definitely had to adjust from the easygoing, beach culture of Santa Barbara to the rigors of first-year coursework in law school. Ironically, at Hastings, we called the main concrete plaza the “beach,” but it was far from one. Nonetheless, the academic transition was smooth given the rigors of my undergraduate course work. Francis Dutra, the sponsor for my senior thesis, told me the honors seminar would prepare me to think and write like an attorney and he was correct.


Describe at typical day at your job. What are some of your favorite aspects of your job - and what are some of your biggest challenges?

I represent indigent criminal defendants on direct appeal in the First District Court of Appeal. I have several cases at various stages, so my days depend on what task is due for each particular case. Most of my day involves research and writing to draft opening briefs and reply briefs. When a case is fully briefed, I argue the merits before the Court of Appeal.

My favorite part of my job is the process of attempting to make statewide impact through creative and nuanced brief writing. This is possible because, when the Court of Appeal renders its decision, they may release a published opinion, which can be cited as supporting authority in future advocacy. For instance, I used the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent opinion in Riley v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 2473 for its reasoning on the privacy interests implicated in searching cell phones. I applied this reasoning in challenging a probation condition, which allowed law enforcement to search my client’s cell phone, computer and social media without regard for the condition’s relatedness to the crime. I successfully challenged the condition in a published decision in In re Erica R. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 907. This outcome is important in not only protecting my client’s rights, but the rights of others statewide.

Though the above outcome is ideal, the standards of review make a successful appeal an uphill battle. Not only do I have to prove that the trial court made a legal error, I have to prove that this error was significant enough to warrant a reversal (i.e. prejudicial). Proving legal error is difficult because trial judges have broad discretion and the Court of Appeal gives deference to their rulings. Proving prejudice is difficult given that the amount of incriminating evidence is typically abundant.


What advice would you give to a student who hopes to pursue law school and a career in law after graduating from UCSB?

To prepare for law school now, you should focus on interning and making connections with attorneys so that you truly understand the commitment you'd be undertaking. It's never too early to start interning. It's perfectly fine to limit interning to summers at a public defender's office, district attorney's office or law office.

Interning is important to learn if you have a passion for the law that is worth the commitment. Most people take on a tremendous amount of debt, which affects financial choices post-grad. Also consider your ideal work-life balance. Most attorneys work long hours, which can be extremely stressful. Make sure you love the work and are willing to put in the time before taking the plunge.

Regarding skills and personality traits, this really depends on what type of attorney you want to be. For instance, the work of a trial attorney requires different skills than that of an appellate attorney and vice versa. Generally, research, writing, and oral advocacy skills are important for all attorneys. An ability to see both sides of an argument, actively listen, internalize and respond accordingly is also important.


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