Criminal Clinics in the Pursuit of Immigrant Rights: Lessons from the Loncheros

33 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012 Last revised: 22 Oct 2015

See all articles by Ingrid V. Eagly

Ingrid V. Eagly

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law; University of Oxford - Border Criminologies

Date Written: April 11, 2012


In 2006, mobile catering vendors in Los Angeles — known colloquially as lunch truck vendors or loncheros — found themselves subject to a municipal ordinance that severely limited the amount of time that they could sell food in public streets. Under the new local law, catering trucks were required to move every thirty minutes (if parked in a residential zone) or sixty minutes (if parked in a commercial zone) to a location at least one-half mile away. Vendors who did not comply were subject to steep fines.

This Essay examines the work of the UCLA criminal defense clinic on behalf of a grassroots group of lunch truck operators that formed to contest, and ultimately invalidate, the Los Angeles ordinance. Specifically, this Essay assesses the clinic’s effort to link an individual client’s defense to a broader community-based campaign to organize immigrant workers around legal reform. Toward this end, Part I offers a descriptive account of the loncheros’ political mobilization to challenge the Los Angeles durational restriction and of the clinic’s legal work on behalf of an individual vendor to advance that goal. Part II draws on the lonchero case study to examine three underappreciated aspects of criminal defense practice and, by extension, criminal clinics: law reform, problem solving across the civil-criminal line, and community mobilization. In sum, this Essay contributes the story of the loncheros as a case study in clinical process, while also using it to explore alternative conceptions of the criminal defense attorney’s role.

Keywords: cause lawyers, mobile catering vendors, criminal clinics, criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, clinical legal education, immigrant workers

Suggested Citation

Eagly, Ingrid V., Criminal Clinics in the Pursuit of Immigrant Rights: Lessons from the Loncheros (April 11, 2012). 2 UC Irvine Law Review 91 (2012); UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 12-04; Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 2012117. Available at SSRN:

Ingrid V. Eagly (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

University of Oxford - Border Criminologies ( email )

Manor Road Building
Manor Rd
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

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