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2012 Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program

Thursday, September 20, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Max Rodriguez
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Each year, dozens of public interest organizations, local and national government agencies, and judicial chambers send representatives to the Summer Fellowship Fair at the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. Their mission: to recruit UDC-DCSL Summer Public Interest Fellows!

Summer Fellows provide a minimum of 400 hours of attorney-supervised, law-related work. The program is funded by alumni, law firms, foundations and friends of the School of Law, which provides $4,000 stipends for all 1Ls and as many 2Ls as possible. Students learn about a substantive area of law, deepen their commitment to public service, and make wonderful professional contacts for themselves and those law students who will follow them.

To meet the urgent need for increased funding for legal services, the D.C. Access to Justice Commission formally launched the Raising the Bar in D.C. Campaign in December 2010, with the endorsement of the D.C. Bar Foundation and the D.C. Bar. The Campaign’s goal is to substantially increase financial support to the District’s legal services community by establishing benchmarks for law firm giving and annually recognizing and celebrating those firms that have donated at benchmark levels. This year 6 law firms contributed $21,000 to UDC-DCSL to support summer fellows providing civil legal services in the School of Law's legal clinics and in other direct DC legal services provider organizations. Here are the firms:

Raising the Bar Campaign Funds Received in FY12

Arent Fox $4,000
Arnold & Porter $4,000
Jones Day $4,000
Klein Hornig $1,000
Sidley Austin $2,000
WilmerHale $6,000

Total $21,000


Aisha Ching
Aisha Ching, 3L, worked at Ayuda, a legal non-profit that focuses on the empowerment of the low-income Hispanic community in the Washington, D.C. area. Specifically, Ayuda provides legal assistance in immigration law, family law, domestic violence, custody, child support, and divorce. Working in the Domestic Violence/Family Law ("DV/FL”) unit, Ching had the opportunity to work on an immigration case involving a Guatemalan woman seeking to obtain a U Visa. Ching said, "My summer was amazing. I learned so much and had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people.” After her fellowship ended, Ching decided to continue working with Ayuda during the fall semester, this time with the immigration team.


This year, a record 69 students participated providing a total of 28,000 hours of legal services. Six students worked for the Office of the Attorney General and 6 students at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Julia Gagne, 2L, worked in the U.S. Attorneys’ General Crimes Felony Trial Unit of Superior Court, including assisting her two supervising Assistant United States Attorneys by providing defense counsel with discovery documents and plea offers, writing motions in opposition to the suppression of evidence, writing sentencing memos, researching novel legal issues that arose during trial, participating in witness conferences, and assisting with trial preparation. Gagne said, "I now understand more fully how necessary it is for every member of the criminal justice system to seek justice.” Ggochsaem "Sammy” Kim, 2013 PT, also worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, handling employment discrimination cases in the Civil Division. Her legal research detailed trends in the District Court - specifically how the courts treat telecommunication as a reasonable accommodation for employment discrimination cases. The memo was used by two of her supervisors in their Title VII cases!

Julia Gagne
From left to right: Noha El Maraghi, Jamie Tunis (Washington College of Law),
Gina Lawrence (Harvard Law), Julia Gagne, 2L, and Ben Goldberg (NYU Law)

Several students worked in D.C. government, including 2Ls Dominick Mecca and Kelly Douglas. Mecca worked in the Legislation Clinic this past spring, helping to draft a bill in D.C. providing a hiring preference for young people who have passed through the foster care system. This work prepared him for his work in the Office of Aging and Community Affairs under D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry and the Council of the District of Columbia. Mecca is proud to have drafted 2 different pieces of legislation– one bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and the other bill naming ex-offenders as a protected class under the D.C. Human Rights Act in the areas of employment and housing. Kelly Douglas, 2L, worked on unemployment insurance cases for Administrative Law Judge Steven Wellner. Douglas said, "Through this internship, I have learned about D.C. administrative law, networked with ALJs and obtained a writing sample that I will use for both job and internship applications.”

Jon Steingart, 2L, worked this past summer as a legal intern at Local 12, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE Local 12). Steingart primarily worked for 2 clients – one challenging a disciplinary suspension and the other case involving disability discrimination. Steingart says, "Interning for AFGE Local 12 this summer was a privilege. I have never worked with a group of colleagues who are more dedicated to their mission, and I am glad to have been a part of it. I got to go home and tell my friends and family that I spent my days working to protect the workers who protect America’s workers.” Steingart added, "I can happily say that as a result of this experience, public sector union work is on my list of career interests for after law school.”

Sammy Kim
Ggochsaem "Sammy" Kim, 2013 PT (2nd from right), Ashley Cooks, 2L (right).
This photo was taken during a trip to the U.S. Supreme Court with other
law school students interning at the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office.


Many of our students, including 3Ls Erika DuPree and Jill Vonnahme, and 2L Rosana Chavez, spent the summer working for nonprofit organizations. DuPree worked for 2 different offices of the NAACP - the Office of the General Counsel and the Financial Freedom Center. There, she helped launch a new referral system for homeowners facing foreclosure and eviction, and she prepared and moderated a panel on fair housing. Jill Vonnahme, 3L, worked as a legal intern at the Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church, VA, helping to protect immigrant women and girls from gender-based violence. Vonnahme said, "Working at Tahirih Justice Center taught me many things about asylum law and U Visa applications that I previously did not know. My time at Tahirih has reaffirmed my need to feel the hurts of the world, understand them, and work to be an agent of their healing.” 2Ls, Rosana Chavez worked at CASA de Maryland, a non-profit community organization that seeks to empower low-income community members, regardless of immigration status, through legal, health and education services. Chavez said she was happy to see that the housing attorney’s "approach to lawyering was much like what we had been taught at UDC in our Lawyering Process course - client focused interviewing.”

Several of our students worked in the court system, from North Carolina to Queens, NY and, of course, in the District of Columbia. Kenneth Isaacs, 2L, spent this summer working for the District Attorney’s Office for the 24th District in North Carolina. Isaacs said, "I would like to specifically acknowledge Judge Pryor’s instruction in Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure for providing the knowledge that allowed me to make sense of what I was observing in court.” Other students had the opportunity to clerk for judges in the District of Columbia. Madeline McKeller, 2L, worked for Judge Harold Cushenberry in D.C. Superior Court, and got to see up close how the legal memos she wrote for the chambers had an effect on cases before the court. McKeller said, "I was exposed to the true nitty-gritty of how the justice system works. I learned how things work behind the scenes and was able to expand on my legal writing and research techniques through practice.”



This photo was taken at AFGE 12's 4th of July barbeque on the roof of the Department of
Labor building, where Local 12 interns and staff served lunch to hundreds of union members.
On the left is Shereen Hamed, 2L, also an intern at AFGE 12. On the right is Jon Steingart, 2L.


Full List of Summer Public Interest 2012 Placements

  • Advocates for Justice & Education, Erika White, 3L
  • AFGE Local 12, Shereen Hamed, 2L
  • AFGE Local 12, Jonathan Steingart, 2L
  • Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, Esther Oh, 3L
  • Ayuda, Aisha Ching, 3L
  • Break the Cycle, Jamie Jacobson, 2L
  • Casa de Maryland, Rosana Chavez, 2L
  • Casa for Children of DC, Teresa Cole, 2L
  • Casa for Children of DC, Puja Phull, 2L
  • Central American Resource Cente, Malvina De La Canal, 2L
  • Committee on the Judiciary, Council of the District of Columbia, Harrison Magy, 2L
  • Commonwealth of Virginia, Office of the Public Defender, Naomi Smoot, 3L
  • D.C. Council – Office on Aging and Community Affairs, Dominick Mecca, 2L
  • D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, Kelly Douglas, 3L
  • D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, Natasha Hudgins, 2L
  • D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, Ryan McCoy, 2L
  • D.C. Office of the Attorney General, Patrice Wedderburn, 3L
  • D.C. Office of the Attorney General, Byron White, 3L
  • D.C. Superior Court Chambers of Judge Alfred Irving, Jr., Samantha Holley, 3L
  • D.C. Superior Court Chambers of Judge George Jackson, Jonathan Webb, 2L
  • D.C. Superior Court Chambers of Judge Harold L. Cushenberry, Jr., Madeline McKeller, 2L
  • District Attorney’s Office, 24th District North Carolina, Kenneth Isaacs, 2L
  • District Attorney’s Office, Queen’s County, Kathryn Blevins, 2L
  • Endangered Species Coalition, Elisabeth Fernandez-Kimmel, 3L
  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, Eva Seidelman, 3L
  • Legislative & Legal Policy Advisor, Office of the DC Senator Paul Strauss, Rema Wahabzadah, 3L
  • Maryland Circuit Chambers of Judge Cathy Serrette, Stacey Massaro, 2013 PT
  • Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Prince George’s County, Jasmin Copeland, 3L
  • Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Prince George’s County, Louis Frohman, 3L
  • Ministry of Tourism & Legal Affairs, Pat Henry, 2L
  • Ministry of Tourism & Legal Affairs, Jeremy Ridgeway, 2L
  • NAACP, Office of the General Counsel, Erika DuPree, 3L
  • National Crime Victim Bar Association, Kristen Walker, 3L
  • National Fair Housing Alliance, Jamila Shand, 2014 PT
  • Office of Congressman John Carney (D-DE), Ashley Christopher, 3L
  • Office of Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ), Elizabeth Stevulak, 3L
  • Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Qalim Cromer, 3L
  • Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, LaToia Williams-Dyson, 2L
  • Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Clayton Vormstein-Fox, 2L
  • Our Place DC, Megan Challender, 3L
  • Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Pegah Eftekhari, 2L
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Legal Education and Advocacy Department, Julie Case, 3L
  • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Legal Education and Advocacy Department, Susanne Obrock, 3L
  • Responsive Law, Jen Roy, 3L
  • Saheli HIV/AIDS Karyakarta Sangh, Jaime Canizares, 2L
  • Salem Commonwealth Attorney’s Office, Peter Offen, 2L
  • SOME (So Others Might Eat), Royale Simms, 2L
  • Tahirih Justice Center, Jill Vonnahme, 3L
  • Texas Fair Defense Project/Texas Advocacy Project, Andrea Zahrastnik, 3L
  • UDC-DCSL HIV/AIDS Clinic, Meredith Mathis, 3L
  • UDC-DCSL Housing and Consumer Clinic, Umar Khan, 2L
  • UDC-DCSL Low-Income Tax Payer Clinic, Amina Addul-Fields, 3L
  • UDC-DCSL Low Income Tax Payer Clinic, Prasant Dubey, 2L
  • United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Ashley Cooks, 2L
  • United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Jason Facci, 2L
  • United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Julia Gagne, 2L
  • United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, John Millar, 3L
  • U.S. Committee for Refugees & Immigrants, Jehan Fatemi, 2L
  • U.S. DOJ, Attorney’s Office, Sondra Jones, 2L
  • U.S. DOJ, Attorney’s Office, Sammy Kim, 2013 PT
  • U.S. DOJ, Criminal Division, Carl Engstrand, 3L
  • Washington Bar Association Judicial Council, Morris Barren, 2013 PT
  • Washington Bar Association Judicial Council, Amelia French, 2L

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