Marc Van Der Hout

Golden Gate University School of Law 1977
Area of Practice: Immigration
Location: San Francisco

In 1974 Marc moved to San Francisco to attend law school at Golden Gate University, where he became involved with the Bay Area chapter of the Guild. After graduating, Marc went to Guatemala to perfect his Spanish, eventually returning and establishing a community-based practice in the Mission District. Marc often represented Central American refugees, fighting for political asylum. In the Matter of Sanchez & Escobar, Marc and his co-counsel Patty Blum collected various testimonies showing that young Salvadoran men perceived as “anti-government” constituted a social group worthy of asylum; although they did not win the case, they did set the theoretical groundwork for the “imputed political opinion theory” that later benefited many refugees worldwide.

Marc was also instrumental in the Public Sanctuary Movement, which started in Berkeley in 1982 and quickly gained national attention. Catholic congregations publicly granted sanctuary to Central American refugees seeking asylum, with the movement growing from five to five hundred congregations within a couple of years. In 1985 Marc filed the class action suit American Baptist Church et al vs. Thornburgh as a lead attorney for the case. The case accused the government of denying “equal protection” in political asylum to Salvadorans and Guatemalans due to foreign policy reasons; it also challenged the prosecution of sanctuary workers as a violation of the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion. In 1990 Marc was victorious as the government settled and committed to reopen all Salvadoran and Guatemalan political asylum cases that had been denied since 1980, benefiting an estimated 400,000 refugees.

Marc continued to work on large-scale immigration cases, most notably with the LA 8 case. In 1987, the government arrested and attempted to deport seven Palestinian student activists and one Kenyan woman for their alleged support of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a communist group within the Palestine Liberation Organization. The defendants were not charged with acts of terrorism, but for affiliation with a communist group. Over the course of twenty years Marc fought for the political rights of the LA 8, who were being persecuted for lawful activities completely within their First Amendment rights, including distributing newspapers and organizing humanitarian fundraisers. In 2007 the case was finally dropped, and the presiding judge declared that the government had violated the defendants’ rights to due process by subjecting them to a deportation proceeding for twenty years while still being unprepared to prosecute the case.

Marc’s commitment to social justice extends beyond his casework. He served as the national president of the NLG in 1985, and for the past twenty years Marc has been part of the governing board of the NLG’s National Immigration Project. Marc is an active member of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA), AILA’s national Litigation Committee, and the Board of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association of Northern California. Marc has received the American Immigration Lawyers Association premier award twice for outstanding litigation in the field of immigration law, along with the American Immigration Law Foundation’s Honorary Fellow Award and the 2008 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year Award for his work in 2007. Marc was an adjunct professor at Boalt Hall School of Law and Hastings College of the Law and has authored many articles on immigration law. Currently Marc practices at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, of which he was a founding member.