For the fourth year in a row, a University of Pennsylvania Law School student or alumnus has been awarded a prestigious Skadden Fellowship to assist public interest work.
Law School graduate Evan Smith L’12 has received a fellowship for 2013-2015 – one of 29 awarded by the Skadden Foundation to law students and recent graduates around the country – to support his work representing coal miners and their families in mine safety and black lung cases.
Smith, who is currently clerking with Judge John M. Rogers on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, will work with the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center, a non-profit law firm in Whitesburg, KY, where Smith is from.
His project will focus on enforcing legal rights afforded miners under two federal, statutory regimes: the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977, which protects miners who raise safety concerns; and the Black Lung Benefits Act, which assists disabled miners ravaged by exposure to coal dust. Smith’s background and familiarity with eastern Kentucky make him a unique advocate for this underrepresented group: in addition to providing direct client representation, he also plans to use his knowledge of and family connections in Kentucky to expand the network of attorneys working on mining issues and to identify potential impact cases to effect systemic change.
Described by the Los AngelesTimes as a “legal Peace Corps,” the Skadden Fellowship program was established by the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in 1988 to address the need for greater funding of young lawyers who wish to devote their careers to providing legal services to underserved communities, whether the poor, the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, and those deprived of their civil rights. Fellowships are awarded for two years. To apply, students create their own projects at public interest organizations.
Since its founding, the Skadden Fellowship program has funded 677 law school graduates and judicial clerks to work full-time for legal and advocacy organizations. Penn Law students and alumni have secured Skadden Fellowships in each of the past four years.