Al Meyerhoff Public Interest Fellows - 2010
The first group of Al Meyerhoff Public Interest Fellows, all Class of 2012 students, worked in a variety of public interest jobs during the Summer of 2010, thanks to stipends funded in part by the Al Meyerhoff Fund. Read on about their experiences.
This past summer, I worked for the Alaska Public Defender. My most memorable experience was watching my motion be defended in court and succeed. I felt proud of the work that I did for the client who was accused of a cold case murder. The motion was reported in the newspaper! In addition, I sat second chair on two felony trials. I learned that public defenders are very smart and committed attorneys.
This summer I worked in Santa Ana at the Public Law Center (PLC). The PLC provides civil legal services to low-income residents. Cases are handled by staff attorneys and volunteer pro bono attorneys. The most memorable experience I had was working with a mentally ill client who had just left jail after six months. Shortly after returning home, he received court documents naming him as a cross-defendant in an interpleader action. He trusted my employer enough to let us handle his case and chose not to resort to violence. The underlying issue was that a now-defunct car dealer had not forwarded the title-license information to DMV when the client purchased a used car. I was surprised at the skill level of the attorneys and the very impressive case load they manage.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office gave me a unique experience through my work as a homicide law clerk. The attorneys there love their jobs and put a ton of faith in the summer law clerks. They are willing to let you write the most important trial brief. The level of interaction and responsibility varies depending on the unit you are assigned to and the individual attorneys. The homicide law clerks were given the chance to observe an autopsy of an individual who died of a drug overdose. It was an experience I will never forget, even though it was very gruesome. I was also able to write several briefs which were actually filed on murder trials.
My summertime job in the consumer fraud unit with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office was AWESOME! I worked on a case crusading against colon cleansers. In my opinion, the consumer fraud unit is unique because the attorneys usually employ a combination of civil and criminal legal processes and most cases settle out of court. I contributed to two noteworthy projects: a 20-page substantive strategy memo and a trial brief requesting a finding of law that certain environmental violations were strict liability crimes.
The most impressive work I did this summer was on SB 1070. Even though we put in long hours for about a week, I felt like I was contributing to truly amazing work. My co-clerks and I had a fairly important part on the civil rights lawsuit, filed by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center and other civil rights organizations, against the famous Arizona immigration law. I was surprised at how truly interdisciplinary the work was at APALC. There was deep respect for all the work being done there and I had a chance to meet with other units and understand how all the work was important for advancing social justice.
This summer I worked at a plaintiff’s public interest law firm. The work was intense but incredibly engaging. I supported an attorney who focused on international human rights work. He filed for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court in an Alien Tort Statute case two months before the summer interns started working. I couldn’t have imagined a more interesting job or a better group of people with whom to work. In essence, you have to be into international human rights and you have to like to read and write. This is not a client-contact kind of job. But if you do, this is an unparalleled summer opportunity.
I had an amazing experience in Atlanta, Georgia, on a voting rights project with the ACLU. I was assigned the task to draft cross-examination questions for opposing counsel’s voting rights statistics expert witness. It was extremely challenging, but also very interesting because I learned substantive information on voting rights and continue to remain interested in it for my future.