This fall, Penn Law’s first class of Catalyst Grant recipients began their work in the public sector, working on everything from prosecuting criminals to determining the legal status of shipwrecks. Established last year, the Catalyst Grant program provides a year of support for Penn Law graduates who serve in government or conduct human rights work.
With funding from the Catalyst Grants, graduates can take unpaid positions at government organizations and nonprofits that wouldn’t ordinarily have the funds to hire them. Through the program, they gain valuable practical experience and provide a strong incentive for their organizations to hire them as full-time lawyers when their grant year is up, or as soon as funding becomes available.
“Keeping a clear route open for lawyers who want to work in the public interest is critical,” said Interim Dean and Presidential Term Professor Wendell Pritchett. “Giving these five Penn Law graduates the opportunity to serve in government guarantees that the public will benefit from the talents of these exceptional young lawyers.”
“This year’s Catalyst Grant recipients embody the public service ethic we prize here at Penn Law,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs and Executive Director of the Toll Public Interest Center. “They’ve put their legal educations into action by doing critical work at local, state, and federal agencies.”
The 2014 TPIC Catalyst Grant recipients:
- Elisa Downey-Zayas L’14 is working with the Defender Association of Philadelphia, which represents clients in adult and juvenile state courts and at civil and criminal mental health hearings. Lawyers from the Defender Association also serve as child advocates for dependent and neglected children. Around 70 percent of people arrested in Philadelphia are represented by the office. Downey-Zayas joined the new class of attorneys training to be Assistant Defenders, where she will work on preliminary hearings, then move into municipal court trials.
- Sheryl Golkow L’14 is working in the Appellate Division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is an independent agency that enforces statutes prohibiting employment discrimination, investigates complaints, files discrimination suits, adjudicates claims, and mediates and settles disputes. As part of the Appellate Division, Golkow tracks litigation to find ways that advance the law to offer greater protection to workers.
- Andreas Kuersten L’14 is working as a Legal Fellow in the international section of the Office of the General Counsel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Kuersten works on projects concerning international law and the oceans and atmosphere, such as analyzing and comparing treaties, determining the legal status of shipwrecks, and cataloguing protected marine areas throughout the world.
- Caroline Merideth L’14 is working in the Travis County Attorney’s Office in Austin, Texas, where she prosecutes misdemeanor crimes, obtains protective orders for victims of domestic violence, obtains involuntary commitments for mentally ill persons, and advises the elected officials of Travis County regarding their official duties.
- Will Moine L’14 is working at the Office of the Clark County Public Defender in Las Vegas, Nevada, serving as a court certified Post Bar Clerk. In his position, he represents clients in misdemeanor cases — including their initial arraignment, preliminary hearings, and misdemeanor bench trials. He also conducts direct and cross examination of witnesses, prepares arguments, and assists other public defenders by interviewing clients in and out of prison and drafting motions.
Penn Law’s Public Interest Program is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, and events will continue throughout the year. The 34th Annual Edward Sparer Symposium, “Law 2.0: Progress & Challenges for Justice in the Digital Age,” will be held on November 14, 2014, and Public Interest Week will kick off on February 23, 2015.