Orrick Team Achieves Habeas Victory in Hard-Fought Pro Bono Case


An Orrick team convinced a judge to issue an extremely rare finding of actual innocence in a federal habeas case on behalf of pro bono client George Souliotes, who has been incarcerated for 16 years in connection with a fatal arson fire.

United States Magistrate Judge Michael Seng recently issued a 99-page Report and Recommendation that Mr. Souliotes be permitted to pass through the "actual innocence gateway" and proceed to have his constitutional claims heard on the merits. The extremely rare finding is the result of a three-day evidentiary hearing held before Judge Seng in January 2012 after over eight years of litigation prior to reaching that point.  District Court Judge Ishii has adopted the magistrate’s Report and Recommendation in full, and this remarkable ruling permitted Mr. Souliotes to present his substantive habeas claims to the court with an aim towards ultimately winning his freedom.

On March 7, 2013 Magistrate Seng issued a second Report and Recommendation granting Mr. Souliotes’ Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus based on his claims for ineffective assistance of counsel and cumulative error.  That ruling, if adopted by District Court Judge Ishii, would require the state to release Mr. Souliotes within 30 days unless it decides to retry him.

Mr. Souliotes is represented by an Orrick team led by San Francisco associate Jimmy McBirney, along with associates Shannon Leong and Alexis Yee-Garcia, and supervised by litigation partner Thomas McConville. Mr. Souliotes is also represented by members of the Northern California Innocence Project.​