UCI Law students recognized with scholarships, awards

May 4, 2016

UCI Law courtyard

Over the course of the academic year, UCI Law students have continued to earn top honors by winning competitions, scholarships, fellowships and grants, including the following:


  • Nefi Acosta ’16. Acosta is the recipient of a 2015-16 MALDEF Law School Scholarship, granted to law students who will further MALDEF’s mission of advancing the civil rights of the Latino community in the United States. Acosta also received the California Bar Foundation 3L Diversity Scholarship co-sponsored by the Mexican American Bar Foundation. Designed to alleviate the costs associated with taking the California Bar Exam, 3L Diversity Scholarships provide a free BarBri review course (valued at $4,000) and a living stipend. In awarding stipends of up to $2,000, the MABF scholarship committee considers the applicant’s financial need, academic achievement, community service and leadership experience.
  • Aaron J. Benmark ’16. Benmark received the Paul Miller Scholarship Award from the Los Angeles Copyright Society, a members-only organization of attorneys who practice in copyright, trademark, communications and related areas. The scholarship is given to outstanding students in copyright and entertainment law.
  • Michelle Chung ’16. Chung received the 2016 Outstanding Student Award from the Orange County Asian American Bar Association (OCAABA). The $500 award is given annually to a law student who has made significant contributions to the OCAABA and the Orange County legal and general community.
  • Tawny Do ’16. Do is the recipient of a July 2016 Bar Stipend Award from the Orange County Women Lawyers Association. The award is offered twice a year to worthy law students about to take the bar exam. Awardees are chosen based on a connection to Orange County and a commitment to scholarship, community service, advancement of women or women’s issues and financial need. Do also received a California Bar Foundation 3L Diversity Scholarship co-sponsored by the OCAABA. Valued at $5,000, the scholarship provides a free BarBri prep course and a living stipend. It is awarded to a third-year law student who shows leadership and service commitment within and beyond the Asian Pacific American community; demonstrates academic and extracurricular excellence and achievement in law school; and intends to practice in the legal profession in Orange County.
  • Tilman Heyer ’16. Heyer won the California State Bar Public Law Section Student Writing Competition with his article, “Santa Brought Measles: California’s 2014 Measles Outbreak and the Constitutionality of Mandates and Religious Exemptions,” published in the fall 2015 edition of Public Law Journal as part of his award. Submitted essays are judged by the executive committee of the Public Law Section based on the quality of writing, complexity of topic, timelessness of topic to current developments in public law, originality, compliance with contest rules, and the relevancy to one or more of public law. Heyer also won a cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to the 2016 State Bar Annual Meeting.
  • Nick James ’16, Stephanie Johnson ’16. The team of James and Johnson won first place at UCI Law's 2016 Ballard Spahr LLP Mock Trial competition, which featured a criminal murder case. U.S. District Court Judge Josephine Staton presided over the trial.
  • Shirley Kim ’16, Zoe McKinney ’16. Kim and McKinney were part of the UCI Law team that advanced to the Pacific Region quarterfinal round of the 2016 Jessup International Moot Court Competition. The team also received special recognition for their brief.
  • The article was published in the Oxford Journal of International Economic Law.
  • Vinhcent Le ’16. The article “Can Informal Law Discipline Subsidies?” co-authored by Le, UCI Law Prof. Gregory Shaffer and Queen’s University Prof. Robert Wolfe, won the Oxford Journal of International Economic Law’s inaugural John Jackson Prize.
  • Lawrence Liu ’16. Liu won the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association Law Foundation Scholarship. In addition to his activities with UCI Law's Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, Liu co-founded the Business Law Society, which aims to provide leadership training and networking opportunities for law students.
  • Ricardo Lopez ’16. Lopez is the recipient of a 2015-16 MALDEF Law School Scholarship, granted to law students who will further MALDEF’s mission of advancing the civil rights of the Latino community in the United States. Earlier, an article by Lopez proposing specialized health care courts was a winner in the The National Law Review May 2016 student writing competition. “Terminally Ill Minors and the Right to Refuse Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment” by Lopez was also selected for a $500 honorable mention prize by the Beverly Hills Bar Association in its 7th Annual Rule of Law Competition. Lopez wrote “Terminally Ill Minors” under the guidance and supervision of Prof. Michele Goodwin. Lopez also took top place in the annual Greenhalgh National Writing Competition sponsored by the ABA Criminal Justice Section, for his paper “An Impenetrable Shield: How the Supreme Court’s Reformulation of the Qualified Immunity Doctrine Undermine Constitutional Rights.” He is also among the Orange County Hispanic Bar Association’s 2016 Wally Davis Scholarship recipients. The scholarship provides financial assistance to Orange County Latino students currently enrolled in law school, who have demonstrated involvement in the Latino community. It was named in honor of the late Wallace (Wally) R. Davis, one of the first Hispanic attorneys in Orange County and co-founder of the HBA. A team that includes Lopez, Samantha Rodriguez ’16 and Eric Vera ’16 also won Best Petitioners Brief in the National Latino/a Law Students Association Moot Court competition held October 2015 in Chicago.
  • Lauren Mendelsohn ’16. Mendelsohn was elected Chair of the Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP); the board represents SSDP's chapters at the national level. Mendehlson is the founder and past president of Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy at UCI.
  • Kellye Ng-McCullough ’16. Ng-McCullough won Student of the Year at the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPALSA) Convention held November 2015 in New Orleans. She serves as the Pacific South Regional Director for NAPALSA and has dedicated numerous hours of pro bono work to become involved in political and legal processes to create much needed protections for Asian Pacific Americans.
  • Bree Oswald ’16. Oswald has been awarded a Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Bar Association Scholarship for law students. Awardees received paid registration to the Association’s 13th Judicial Conference in Washington, D.C., a sold-out event that featured presentations from notable authorities in the field of veterans law.
  • Ariela Rutkin-Becker ’16. Rutkin-Becker was selected to attend the most recent Osnabrück Summer Institute on the Cultural Study of the Law. Held at the University of Osnabrück in Germany, the Summer Institute brings together doctoral and postdoctoral students from various academic fields all over the world whose research interests rest at the intersection of law and humanities. “The incredible week-long workshop is a dream come true for any students interested in thinking about the law from an interdisciplinary perspective,” said Rutkin-Becker, one of just a handful U.S. students who attended the 2015 institute and the only J.D. candidate.


  • Jiaxiao Zhang ’17. Zhang was awarded the inaugural Outstanding Student Scholarship from the Howard T. Markey Intellectual Property Inn of Court, an Orange County-based American Inn of Court focused on Intellectual Property Litigation, and dedicated to upholding the standards of the legal profession, practicing law with dignity and respect, and encouraging respect for our system of justice. Zhang applied to the organization and became a “Pupil” member in September 2015, on the recommendation of Professor Dan Burk. She has been active with the Markey Inn since then, helping plan and present a program on Ethics in IP with her Pupilage Group in February, which incorporated an interactive polling feature suggested by Zhang. The group, also comprising Associate, Barrister, and Master of the Bench members with over 20 years of experience, won “Most Outstanding Program of the Year 2015-2016,” and Zhang was named “Outstanding Student Member 2015-2016.”
  • Robin Gray ’17. An Equal Justice America Law Student Fellowship enabled Gray to work at Bet Tzedek Legal Services last summer. In a letter about her EJA Fellowship experience, Gray wrote: “I spent much of the summer working to help clients living in some of the most uninhabitable buildings in Los Angeles... One of our cases involved a building where the units consisted of mostly low-income families … living in a building with inadequate plumbing, vermin infestations … inadequate fire safety equipment, broken locks on the front door, and more. We were able to help the families finally leave these terrible conditions by getting them large settlement funds to aid with their relocation. Getting to participate in such a life-changing event for these families was truly one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
  • Harvey Meza ’17. Meza has been awarded a Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund Law School Scholarship, given to law students committed to advancing the civil rights of the Latino community in the United States. Meza volunteers his time to assist detained indigent clients seeking asylum. Prior to law school, he interned at the Catalonia Department of Justice in Barcelona, Spain, where he conducted award-winning research on comparative mediation alternatives for alleged juvenile offenders.
  • Boanerges Rodriguez ’17. Rodriguez has been selected as a summer 2016 Employee Justice Fellow by the Foundation for Advocacy Inclusion and Resources. As part of this prestigious fellowship, Rodriguez will receive a supplemental stipend while working to advance workers' rights as a summer clerk at Weinberg Roger & Rosenfeld. He is one of only 13 students in California to receive this fellowship. He also received a scholarship from the Mexican American Bar Foundation, awarded annually to deserving law students based on their academic achievement, community service, leadership, financial need, and success in overcoming hardships. This year’s awardees were honored at MABF’s Annual Gala on June 11, 2016.
  • Ann Tran ’17. Tran received an AABA Law Student Summer Grant from the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area. Selection criteria include community service or public interest work for the Asian Pacific American (APA) community or other underrepresented communities; demonstrated leadership in the APA community; demonstrated financial need; and commitment to the Bay Area. Tran’s grant enabled her to work with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.
  • Enid Zhou ’17. Zhou received the Dick Osumi Civil Rights and Public Interest Scholarship from the Japanese American Bar Association Educational Foundation. Mr. Osumi was a prominent civil rights and labor attorney who served as JABA President in 1992 and was a founding member of JABA’s Community Education Committee, and one of the founders of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. This scholarship is intended for those law students interested in practicing in the areas of civil rights, public interest law, and/or public policy. Zhou is an editor of UC Irvine Law Review, pro bono chair of APALSA, and publicity chair of the Public Interest Law Fund.


  • Thea Alli ’18. Alli was selected by the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association  to serve as a Law School Ambassador for UCI Law.
  • Robert Winson ’18. Winson attended the National LGBT Bar Association’s Annual Lavendar Law Conference in D.C. in August, and has been selected for a national mentorship program led by National LGBT Bar Association Board Member and former Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Goldman Sachs, Bendita Cynthia Malakia.
  • Zackory Burns ’18. Burns was named the 2016 M. Katherine Baird Darmer Equality Scholarship winner at the OC Lavender Bar Association 6th Anniversary Party on July 13. The annual scholarship is named after the late Chapman Law Professor Darmer, a passionate advocate for LGBT equality, and is given to students who share her vision of a just society and a progressive Orange County. Zackory is currently the co-chair of the Transgender Name and Gender Marker Change Clinic launched by UCI Law students to serve the legal needs of the transgender population in Orange County. In addition to his passion for community activism, his interests span the intersection of science and the law, including the environment, biotechnology, Big Data, health care, and intellectual property.
  • Emma Gunderson ’18. Gunderson was awarded the Orange County Lavender Bar Association’s 2015 M. Katherine Baird Darmer Equality Scholarship and is the third UCI Law student to receive the scholarship since it was established in 2013. Named after the late Chapman Law Professor Darmer, a passionate advocate for LGBT equality, the scholarship is given to students who share her vision of a just society and a progressive Orange County.
  • Shunya Wade ’18. Wade received a California Bar Foundation Diversity Scholarship, which financially supports first-year California law students with the goal of furthering diversity in the legal profession. According to the foundation’s 2015 Diversity Scholars page, as the Klinedinst PC Scholar, Wade’s goals include continuing to empower people of color by bringing needed resources to underprivileged communities.