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JD fellows to fight for civil and criminal justice and broad, systemic change

August 12, 2021

The fellows’ work will be supported by several organizations including Equal Justice Works; Independence Foundation; Langer, Grogan, and Diver Foundation in Social Justice; Skadden Foundation; Toll Foundation; and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School has a long history of preparing students for impactful careers in the public interest sector, especially helping students apply for and secure essential fellowship funding.

The sixteen 2021 JD fellows plan to engage in work that spans both criminal and civil sectors. Six fellows will work in governmental capacities, and ten will work at non-profit organizations that serve historically excluded groups, advocate for democratic values, and protect human rights. Three graduates — Lauren Davis L’21, Kate DiVasto L’21, and Erik Nickels L’21 — secured funding from highly competitive national sources and will serve the public interest through work on projects that stretch across the U.S.

In addition to the JD graduates, two LLMs secured fellowships to serve the public interest in human rights and digital privacy following graduation.

Anna Malone L’21

During her time at the Law School, Catalyst Grantee Anna Malone L’21 focused on learning as much as she could about different areas of criminal justice reform, as she was not sure where she specifically wanted to direct her skills after graduation. When the Capital Habeas Unit (CHU) of the Federal Community Defender for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania advertised for externship opportunities, Malone sent in her resume and cover letter. Two weeks into externing, she knew it was the most important work she had ever had the opportunity to do as a law student.

As a fellow, Malone will both be working on cases and continuing to work on a research project that she first became engaged in as a student extern. Because this particular office is well-equipped and resourced to handle habeus cases, several other CHUs often collaborate with it, which gives this office a unique opportunity to collect broad swaths of data. In her research, Malone will be looking at this data and compiling it into a legal challenge to the death penalty.

Ariel Shapell L’21

Toll Public Interest Fellowship Grantee Ariel Shapell L’21 shares both Malone’s interest in criminal justice reform and her desire to effect both individual and larger-scale change. For him, his interest began before he set foot in law school, as a volunteer working on the ACLU of Pennsylvania’s cash bail reform efforts. This fall, he will return to the organization to work on a probation detainer reform project. He expects that his project will involve both casework in support of Pennsylvanians who are being held on probation detainers and impact litigation to more broadly challenge the constitutionality of current probation detainer practices.

“I saw, in the cash bail context, that low-income people were being detained for long stretches of time pretrial primarily because they were too poor to post bail, and how harmful those experiences of confinement were both for the people confined and for their communities,” Shapell said. “When I began working on probation detainer reform, I noticed parallels to the cash bail context. Low-income people were regularly being held in jail on probation detainers for long periods of time, without adequate due process, and they were suffering similarly profound harms.”

The Law School’s commitment to public service experience

Both Malone and Shapell credit the Law School’s unique blend of classroom and experiential learning opportunities to helping them to gain and hone the skills they intend to use as dynamic public interest advocates.

“I had a number of wonderful public-interest-oriented professors at the Law School. In addition to my great clinical experiences, taking [Kenneth W. Gemmill Professor of Law] Seth Kreimer’s Constitutional Litigation class taught me the nuts and bolts of bringing a civil rights action,” Shapell said.

From criminal justice to civil services and representation for underserved communities, the 2021 cohort of JD fellows exemplifies Penn’s enduring commitment to interdisciplinary lawyering on every level, with keen attention paid to both individual stories and large, systemic progress.

“Looking back on my personal statements from when I was applying to law school, I know I wrote things like, ‘there are people in the system now who need help right now. There’s also a problem with our system, and that needs to get fixed, so I want to work on two-pronged solutions that envelop the individual and systemic,’” said Malone. “Honestly, I expected that to be several years after law school. It just feels like this huge blessing of an opportunity to be able to step into that space now and to be able to be focusing on that now.”

The rest of the Class of 2021 JD fellows include:

Catalyst fellowships

Morgan Blomberg Morgan Blomberg L’21 will work as a member of The Docket at the Clooney Foundation for Justice, where she will work on investigating and gathering evidence about violations of international criminal law, which may include war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity, and the role that different individuals and groups may have played in committing or enabling these human rights abuses. Blomberg will advocate for those who have been subjected to international crimes and for broader reforms that will help to hold perpetrators and enablers of human rights violations accountable.

Emily Galik L’21 plans to work as a public interest attorney in her home state of Maryland. Galik aims to blend her interests in civil litigation and direct client services and to kickstart a career in government service.

Matthew Jerrehian L’21 plans to pursue a career in public defense and will work as a public defender at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, representing people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Jerrehian’s work during the Catalyst Fellowship will include representing clients in misdemeanor and felony trials as well as in juvenile adjudications.

Sanjay Jolly L’21 will be a Fellow at Free Press, an organization dedicated to strengthening democracy in our media system. Working with the Free Press organizing team and local coalitions, Jolly will conduct legal advocacy to revitalize journalism infrastructures, center racial justice in information policy-making, and uplift local voices. He will also provide legal support for Media 2070, a project to advance media reparations.

Chad Keizer L’21 will work with Colorado Legal Services to provide civil legal services to residents in rural communities. Keizer will provide direct representation and legal advice to clients on matters relating to housing, consumer debt, public benefits, and family well-being.

Caroline Mansour L’21 will be working in the New York State Office of the Attorney General’s Division of Criminal Justice. Mansour will help review potentially erroneous convictions for the Conviction Review Bureau and also assist prosecutors in the Office of Special Investigation who investigate and prosecute cases in which law enforcement officers cause the death of others.

Rachel Neckes L’21 will work at the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, Appellate Section, providing representation to indigent adults and young people who are appealing rulings from their New Jersey trial court cases. Neckes will focus on the expansion of post-conviction advocacy, and seeking meaningful sentencing review, for individuals who were convicted of crimes as adolescents and given life with parole sentences.

Noah Schoenholtz L’21 will work at the SeniorLAW Center where he will represent older adults in housing matters to save and maintain their homes. Schoenholtz will also engage in community outreach and education to seniors about available programs including city repair and property tax assistance programs.

Rebecca Wallace L’21 will work at the trial division of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Philadelphia where she will review discovery, conduct discrete research projects, and draft complaints, research memos, and sections of briefs. Wallace will also investigate claims and draft letters of determination to make recommendations as to whether a claim has litigation potential.

Project-based fellowships:

Emily deLisle L’21 will work with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) to support access to voting rights for Native Americans living on reservations. Funded by the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Fellowship, deLisle will focus specifically on addressing the barriers posed by the lack of on-reservation voter services, including the absence of registration opportunities, ballot drop boxes, and polling places in many Native communities. Emily will assist Tribes in working with state and local officials to establish these much-needed services. She will also help develop litigation strategies to ensure that Native people have meaningful access to the ballot.

Lynn McDonough L’21 will work with the Legal Clinic for the Disabled to provide legal services at supportive housing residences for Philadelphians with serious mental illness to promote long-term housing stability and wellness. Funded by the Langer, Grogan & Diver Fellowship in Social Justice, McDonough will advise and represent clients on matters related to disability benefits, identity and advanced-planning documents, custody, and criminal record expungement.

National fellowships:

Lauren Davis L’21 will work with Community Legal Services to increase access to safe, healthy housing for the most vulnerable Philadelphians. Philadelphia’s aging housing stock has serious habitability issues that fall most heavily on low-income tenants. As an Independence Fellow, Davis will file affirmative litigation against problematic landlords who neglect to make necessary repairs, create a toolkit that housing advocates can use to remedy habitability issues, and engage in community outreach efforts in partnership with tenants’ rights groups.

Kate DiVasto L’21 will work with the Youth Advocacy Foundation to provide client-centered legal representation and systemic advocacy for adolescents in foster care system. As an Equal Justice Fellow, DiVasto will engage with young people currently or previously in foster care to collect information that will help policymakers to create community-based resources that best serve youth in the under-served Springfield area. Kate will also train child advocates and pro bono attorneys in techniques for ensuring that youth in foster care have access to tailored transitional services and/or special education needs.

Erik Nickels L’21 will work with Mental Health Advocacy Services in Los Angeles to establish a medical-legal partnership for transition-age youth with mental health needs. Funded by the Skadden Fellowship, Nickels will utilize both direct legal service work and impact litigation.

Read more about the Law School’s commitment to public lawyering.