As part of its expanding commitment to supporting public interest legal careers, the University of Pennsylvania Law School has awarded five postgraduate fellowships for the coming year. These fellows will join the recipient of the inaugural 2013-14 ACE Rule of Law Fellowship, announced earlier this year, creating a total of six full-time Penn Law postgraduate fellowships for 2013-2014.
Launched in 2009, the postgraduate fellowship program has grown through the generous support of alumni and the University of Pennsylvania Law Review. As part of the program Fellows design their own public interest projects and work with partnering non-profit organizations locally, nationally, or internationally on pressing issues, including directly representing and advocating for clients.
“This year’s Fellows demonstrate a commitment to social justice and public-interest lawyering that is both inspiring and impressive,” said Michael A. Fitts, dean of Penn Law. “They have responded to a broad range of social needs with great passion and outstanding legal talent.”
“In their time at Penn Law, these students have worked hard to serve communities they care about deeply,” noted Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Assistant Dean & Executive Director of the Law School’s Toll Public Interest Center. “The projects they develop in conjunction with their partnering organizations have a tremendous impact and help to launch what will undoubtedly be wonderfully successful public interest careers.”
The 2013 TPIC Postgraduate Fellowship recipients and their projects are:
- Valerie Baron, L’12, awarded the Penn Law Fellowship. Along with the Environmental Integrity Project, Baron’s project, The Factory Farm Accountability Project, will work to elevate the voices of overlooked communities endangered by factory farms by using public records laws to document ways that factory farms endanger communities. Baron will enable citizens to engage with regulators with the resources and support of the Environmental Integrity Project, a national organization. Her project will enable citizens from impacted communities to exercise their federal rights to petition EPA for more effective protection from factory farm pollution.
- Shikha Bhattacharjee, L’13, awarded the University of Pennsylvania Law Review Public Interest Fellowship. Bhattacharjee will work with the Jan Sahas Social Development Society in Madhya Pradesh, India. Her project, Human Rights for Manual Scavengers, will support affected communities mobilizing to end manual scavenging by assisting Jan Sahas to raise manual scavenging as a violation of India’s obligations under international human rights law; working with affected communities to integrate human rights and existing advocacy strategies; and documenting manual scavenging to assist grassroots movements seeking government accountability for rights violations. Bhattacharjee will also work to generate a report regarding these important issues for Human Rights Watch.
- Liz Booth, L’13, awarded the S. Gerald Litvin & Dennis R. Suplee Fellowship, funded by Gerald McHugh L’79 in honor of his friends and mentors. Partnering with Community Legal Services (CLS), Booth’s project Housing Protection for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence, will work to protect and empower survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence in Philadelphia in enforcing their tenant rights, and engage the local advocacy community to expand available support for survivors experiencing landlord-tenant issues. Working closely with CLS and community partners, she will encourage enforcement of existing legal protections for tenants experiencing domestic or sexual violence and help vulnerable individuals maintain stability and prevent homelessness.
- Asher Levinthal, L’13, awarded the Toll Public Interest Fellowship. Together with the Bronx Defenders, Asher’s project, the Legal Advocacy for Young Parents in Care, aims to advocate for young parents in foster care who face extraordinary challenges because of their dual status as young parents and children in foster care. Levinthal will represent parents in Bronx Family Court in addition to connecting these young parents to social services that canempower them to retain custody of their children by developing educational toolsthat will help create greater awareness of these parents’ legal rights.
- Kathleen Norland, L’13, awarded the inaugural 2013-14 ACE Rule of Law Fellowship. Norland will spend a year with Human Rights First, working primarily with the Refugee Protection Program, which advocates for access to asylum and for U.S. compliance with international refugee and human rights laws. Each year, the program helps hundreds of individual refugees in the United States to win asylum through its pro bono Asylum Legal Representation Program.
- Joline Price, L’12, awarded the Langer, Grogan & Diver Fellowship in Social Justice. With partner organization Pennsylvania Health Law Project, Price’s project, Securing Health Care in a New Era: Realizing the Full Benefits of the Affordable Care Act in Pennsylvania, explores the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the hundreds of thousands of low-income individuals in Pennsylvania eligible for new, federally subsidized health insurance. Price will represent low-income Pennsylvanians in overcoming barriers accessing this health coverage and develop original materials and trainings about the new application and enrollment systems for health insurance coverage to help build the capacity of organizations that serve a disproportionate number of uninsured or underinsured individuals.
All Penn Law Postgraduate Fellows are selected by Advisory Boards comprised of legal professionals who serve as advisors to the law school. The Fellowships are awarded through a competitive process, and recipients are screened through written applications and interviews. Successful applicants must demonstrate both a strong commitment to public service and an effective partnership with a public interest organization that will allow them to provide a necessary legal service to an under-represented cause or community. The Fellowships are designed to launch long-term public interest careers.
In addition to the Penn Law Fellows, a number of Penn Law 3Ls and alumni have succeeded in obtaining other U.S. and international fellowships to engage in public interest work.
Founded in 1989, TPIC is at the center of public interest initiatives at Penn Law, helping all students to cultivate meaningful opportunities to provide pro bono legal service to under-represented communities, while mentoring students who hope to make public interest their professional focus. The Center’s pro bono program, which includes a 70-hour pro bono requirement and emphasizes students’ professional development, has been recognized with the American Bar Association’s Pro Bono Publico Award.