Allison Nasson L’24 and Mikaela Wolf-Sorokin L’24 have been awarded prestigious Skadden Fellowships.
“I’m thrilled for Allison and Mikaela because they are tenacious, client-centered advocates who have put in so much work to achieve this incredible result,” said Jamie Reisman, Director of Public Interest Career Strategy & Counseling. Reisman helped guide Nasson and Wolf-Sorokin through the application process. “I can’t wait for them to get started on their impactful projects providing critical advocacy to clients and communities facing barriers to justice.”
Nasson and Wolf-Sorokin are two of 28 law students from across the nation to be named Skadden Fellows. The prestigious program will fund their public interest projects—in Portland and Philadelphia, respectively—for the next two years at their host organizations.
Allison Nasson L’24
Nasson will return to her hometown to the Oregon Law Center in Portland, where she will provide both direct services and contribute to impact litigation involving citations for the unhoused and police sweeps of homeless encampments.
She interned at the Oregon Law Center last summer. “During my time there, I met wonderful people who share my love of Portland,” Nasson said. “I’m really excited to continue those relationships.”
She will work alongside attorneys there who are challenging anti-camping ordinances that criminalize unhoused people camping on public property. “Half of Portland’s arrests are people experiencing homelessness,” Nasson said.
She will also focus on those who are both unhoused and disabled, noting that unhoused people are disproportionately people with disabilities. Many emergency shelters are not disability-accessible, leaving some unhoused people with no option other than camping. Residents of homeless encampments are frequently evicted, or “swept,” by police pursuant to local anti-camping ordinances. Encampment sweeps often result in the loss of belongings like identification, birth certificates, and medication, making it harder for people to access services or get into housing. Nasson plans to represent such clients in legal challenges to tickets and fines for camping. She hopes the Oregon Law Center’s efforts result in ending punitive anti-camping ordinances, creating disability-accessible emergency shelters, and funding for permanent supportive housing.
“In the various jobs I’ve had over the years in social services, an undercurrent or through-line of my clients’ experiences has been a lack of access or insecure access to housing,” Nasson said.
Before law school, she gained experience in her home city as the leader of Catholic Charities’ Trafficking Victims Assistance Program as an anti-trafficking specialist and case manager. She also served as a legal assistant at Immigrant Law Group.
At Penn Carey Law, she served as a spring law clerk for Prisoners Legal Advocacy Network and then spent much of 2022 in intern and extern roles at the Homeless Advocacy Project. Nasson is a Toll Public Interest Fellow and was previously an Associate Editor of Journal of Law and Social Change; a Research Editor and Board Member of the Civil Rights Law Project; a Student Representative in the Transnational Legal Clinic; and a research assistant to Dorothy E. Roberts, George A. Weiss University Professor of Law and Sociology and the Raymond Pace and Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander Professor of Civil Rights, and Jasmine Harris, Professor of Law. In 2022, she was named Penn Carey Law’s Prisoner Legal Advocacy Network (PLAN) Volunteer of the Year.
“The news that I got this fellowship was exciting on so many levels,” Nasson said, “largely because I’ll be able to go back and contribute to my community.”
Mikaela Wolf-Sorokin L’24
Following graduation from Penn Carey Law, Wolf-Sorokin will remain in Philadelphia with Nationalities Service Center (NSC), where she served as a law student extern and volunteer in 2022.
“I’ve wanted to work with NSC since I came to law school,” she said, adding that a focus will be with the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (“PAIFUP”), which launched in 2019 as the state’s first publicly funded defense counsel project for detained immigrants.
Her project as a Skadden Fellow is twofold. First, she will provide direct services to immigrants held in Moshannon Valley Processing Center, an Immigration & Customs Enforcement building in Philipsburg that holds almost 1,900 individuals. Obtaining counsel in Moshannon is difficult, she said, and numbers show that having an attorney makes a difference in achieving positive outcomes. Wolf-Sorokin will represent immigrants with ties to Delaware and Montgomery counties. Currently, PAIFUP is only funded to represent noncitizens with ties to Allegheny and Philadelphia counties. She hopes her work will show the need for expanded representation of immigrants in the state, she said.
The findings of Wolf-Sorokin’s research as a law student inspired the second aspect of her Skadden project. Last year, she was a Research Assistant for Liz Bradley, Lecturer in Law, who is adjunct faculty with the Transnational Legal Clinic. She also worked with Whitney Viets C’09, L’15, now immigration counsel at the Defender Association of Philadelphia and a staff attorney at NSC. They examined 20 counties in Pennsylvania with large immigrant populations and researched how public defenders’ offices provide advice and advocacy to noncitizen clients following the decision in Padilla v. Kentucky. Their findings, to be published in an article in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law in March, sparked Wolf-Sorokin’s plans to create a pro se post-conviction relief manual with templates for immigration related due process violations.
Avoidable deportation hearings can arise, according to Wolf-Sorokin, because of failure to receive proper advice and advocacy about immigration consequences of criminal convictions. “(A manual) would help people make sure they could vindicate their rights through post-conviction relief if there was a previous due process violation,” she said.
Experiences at the Arizona border opened Wolf-Sorokin’s eyes to many injustices immigrants face. In 2017, she was an undergraduate intern at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project; she also provided humanitarian aid as a volunteer at No More Deaths in Arivaca, Arizona. She then spent a summer in Washington, D.C., at Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition as an administrative intern. Wolf-Sorokin also spent significant time as community engagement manager and coordinator for the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project in Boston.
As a law student, she has served at the Youth Advocacy Project, Center for Appellate Litigation, Nationalities Service Center, Philadelphia Immigration Court, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Transnational Legal Clinic. Wolf-Sorokin is a Toll Public Interest Fellow and was named Youth Advocacy Project Volunteer of the Year in 2022.