2015 Summer Fellowship Highlights
Saturday, February 06, 2016
Posted by: Joe Libertelli
One way in which UDC David A. Clarke School of Law supports its commitment to preparing students for careers in the public interest is by offering summer public interest fellowships to all qualifying first-year law students, and to as many second-year students as funding will allow. Through their full-time summer placements, students build substantive expertise and commitment, make valuable professional contacts, and provide vitally needed legal services — often to individuals and communities who otherwise could not afford a lawyer.
Below are snapshots of some of our students' fellowship placements in Summer 2015.
Marti Doneghy has a strong background in legislation, previously working as the Senior Legislative Representative for AARP’s Office of Government. For her Summer Fellowship, she further honed these skills at the DC Department of Health’s Office of General Counsel, helping to rewrite legislation authorizing the functions of the Vital Records Division. The legislation, first enacted in 1981, was in need of amendments that align with advances in medicine, such as in vitro fertilization, cremation and the emergence of end of life issues, as well as social issues such as same sex marriage and transgender discrimination. Deputy Gen. Counsel Rudy Schreiber, '95, described Marti’s efforts as “well regarded and on track to producing new legislation governing the role and responsibilities of the Vital Records Division.”
Jason Imbiano was the inaugural recipient of the Hadley Fellowship, awarded to an outstanding student who focuses on worker’s rights. Prior to the summer, Jason worked at the Employment Justice Center as his 1L Community Service placement.
Jason’s summer placement was with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Local 12, an organization which represents Department of Labor union members in agency workplace issues. He won a mini-arbitration on behalf of his client concerning an annual appraisal. The client received a higher appraisal and more bonus award money.
Jason’s supervising attorney said “Mr. Imbiano seems to have an intuitive sense of the work assignments and goals of the clients. By his second arbitration he was performing at least at the level of an attorney who had been practicing for several years.”
Dean’s Fellow Aysha Iqbal interned for the Civil Rights Department of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which counsels, mediates and advocates on behalf of individuals who have experienced religious discrimination, defamation and/or hate crimes. Aysha managed incoming complaints through the Civil Rights Intake Line and received calls from clients in distress due to hostility in the workplace. Overall, Aysha heard 51 stories of injustice and wrote 51 letters consisting of retainers, referrals and requests for accommodations. Her performance was described as “consistently high-quality” and “exceeding expectations.”
Shakira Hansley is the first UDC-DCSL student to receive a “Just-The-Beginning” Internship, awarded to qualified students who want to work within a Judge’s chambers. Shakira interned at the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland for the Honorable Chief Magistrate Judge William Connelly, where she reviewed briefs on discovery disputes and researched tort liability issues.
During the remainder of the summer, Shakira worked in the Upper Marlboro’s State Attorney’s Office’s Family Violence Unit, where she completed legal research and wrote motions on domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. Shakira credits her successful work in the Family Violence Unit to her passion for child advocacy, saying “Not only do I want to ensure that those who harm children are prosecuted, but that the children receive the proper services to prevent them from becoming victims, or perpetrators, of sexual and physical abuse.”
Judge Connelly described Shakira’s analytical skills as “excellent.” Her supervisor at the State Attorney’s Office described Shakira as “passionate and focused.” Both agreed that Shakira will be a great attorney.
Matt Kaplan interned at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the Honorable Judge Reggie Walton. Matt primarily focused on drafting a Memorandum of Opinion, which served to resolve several motions to intervene in a civil matter before the Court. He also drafted an order directing the dismissal of an appeal to the Court.
Matt was praised for his work within the Judge’s chambers. His supervisor’s statement that he had “no doubt that he will be a great judicial law clerk someday” may prove prescient, as Matt was recently selected for a prestigious clerkship for the D.C. Court of Appeals!
During his summer work at the Service Members Law Center, an organization established by the Reserve Officers Association to provide legal information to reservists, Michael Bailey wrote a compelling article detailing the disparate treatment of reservists. The article titled “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Reserve: Past, Present, and Future” will be published in the ROA’s periodical, The Officer. Michael also attended several congressional meetings, completed background reviews, and wrote letters on proposed legislation to members of Congress.
Michael’s supervisor described him as “going above and beyond what is normally expected of an intern,” and said “there is no doubt in my mind that he will go on to be very successful in his future endeavors!”
Prior to law school, Nermin Abdelwahab worked as a law clerk and Parent Support Worker with Advocates for Justice and Education (AJE), a non-profit law firm co-founded by Class of 1996 alumnae, Kim Jones and Bethann West James. In the spring, Nermin was a student attorney in the Juvenile and Special Education Legal Clinic and during the summer, she continued her student advocacy as an Equal Justice America Fellow.
Nermin managed the Clinic’s entire caseload and helped ten adult students and their families assert their educational rights. Nermin helped a 12-year-old student who was denied a free and appropriate education by the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) throughout his life. She made several written requests and succeeded in obtaining evaluations for the student, which she presented to his mother at an Individualized Education Plan meeting. As a result of her efforts, the student is now receiving ten hours of special education services and four hours of behavioral support services each week.
Juvenile and Special Education Legal Clinic Director, Professor Joe Tulman, said Nermin has a “strong understanding of special education law, and is a natural and passionate advocate.”
Jamie Chakhtoura, ReShawn Johnson & Ryan Blankenship worked with Judge Arthur Burnett this summer at the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc., a nonprofit promoting policies and laws that focus on the public health nature of drug abuse and humane approaches to the chronic societal problem. Jamie researched federal cases where documents submitted to the court included discriminatory words, and determined the duty of a Judge to take such words into consideration. ReShawn researched alleged unlawful discrimination and retaliation, the effect of life sentences in both federal and state courts and their impact on parole. Ryan investigated a complex case in West Virginia, where the prosecutor admitted coaching witnesses during trial, and the presiding judge spoke to the jury without counsel or a court reporter present to rush the jury in rendering its verdict. To help his client, Ryan worked with a private investigator to obtain sworn statements from jurors about the judge’s ex parte meeting. Ryan also helped draft a complaint to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in West Virginia, and urged the FBI to launch an investigation. Ryan’s efforts resulted in stay of execution of the client’s sentence.
Judge Burnett described Jamie, ReShawn and Ryan’s work as “exceptional, on target and thorough” and said that they will all make “excellent attorneys.”
After previously serving in the Legislation Clinic, Dara Gold did her summer fellowship with the DC Council’s Committee on Business, Consumer, and Regulatory Affairs, which focuses on higher education, employment, and housing law.
Dara drafted a bill to improve health literacy in the District after learning that adults of all ages – particularly those who had reading issues – were having difficulty navigating the new health insurance system. The Council reviewed the bill, and introduced it. Her supervisor praised Dara’s “great insight” and her ability to “handle difficult constituent issues.” As a result of her excellent work, Dara was recently hired as a law clerk for the Committee.
Before law school, Ben Voight was a legislative intern with the European Parliament in Brussels. As a law student, he worked as an advocate in the Legislation Clinic in the spring, and during the summer expanded his legislative focus as an intern in the DC Council’s Office of General Counsel.
During his fellowship, Ben drafted two technical amendment bills totaling over 50 individual amendments across all titles of the D.C. Code. Technical amendment bills are known for being one of the most complex drafting exercises, requiring the drafter to carefully weigh the impact of the amendments so that the bill results in the intended consequences.
Ben’s supervisor was impressed with his work, noting the difficulty of legislative drafting and crediting him for grasping the nuanced principles quickly. He also said that Ben “would be an asset to any law office.” Ben has just accepted a judicial clerkship for 2016.
Angele Nsenga’s summer placement was with So Others Might Eat (SOME), which helps the poor and homeless in D.C. by providing food, healthcare, clothing, and access to affordable housing. After SOME was notified that several residents at their sites were no longer qualified for priority housing admission, Angele researched federal case law and regulations to determine if the homeless residents’ rights were being violated.
Angele’s supervising attorney referred to Angele’s work as “very fine and very useful, often exceeding expectations,” and said, “she is in the process of developing into a highly valuable attorney, analyst and policy advocate.”
Stacy Fuller continued her work in the UDC-DCSL Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) this summer, as an Equal Justice America Fellow. She managed the Clinic’s 20 ongoing cases. One of her clients had many different health issues and was unable to work a steady job. With Stacy’s help, the IRS accepted a compromise, which saved the client thousands of dollars. Professor Jacqueline Lainez, Director of LITC, said “Stacy continued her outstanding work from the previous semester” and “she provided invaluable assistance to clients.”