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Penn Law students receive coveted fellowships for public interest lawyering

January 20, 2015

Two Penn Law students and one recent graduate were recently awarded prestigious Skadden Fellowships, joining a long line of Law School graduates who have previously served in the public interest with the fellowship’s financial support. In addition, a Penn Law student has also just been selected for the highly coveted Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellowship from the American Civil Liberties Union in New York.

This year’s Skadden recipients from Penn Law are Tara Grigg Garlinghouse L’14, Katrina Cohen L’15, and Nina Martinez L’15. The Skadden Foundation awarded 28 fellowships for 2015. Established in 1988, these highly competitive two-year fellowships provide a salary and benefits to recent law graduates who want to pursue work in the public interest, particularly in service of the poor, elderly, homeless, and disabled.

This year’s Karpatkin Fellowship recipient is Britney Wilson L’15, who will join the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program litigation team. The Racial Justice Program challenges racial discrimination and works on other issues that disparately impact communities of color.

“The work done by these fellowship recipients epitomizes the commitment to public service that we have here at Penn Law,” said Arlene Rivera Finkelstein, Associate Dean for Public Interest Programs. “Our best and brightest go on to make a significant impact in the world by working with people who critically need talented, dedicated lawyers.”

All of the recipients came to Penn Law to pursue public interest careers, and these fellowships are the culmination of years of hard work and preparation.

With the support of the Skadden Fellowship, Garlinghouse will represent poor and disabled children at Medicaid Fair Hearings through Disability Rights Texas in Houston. After the wrongful denial of claims for necessary services, financial burdens often force parents to put their children into foster care. Garlinghouse will work to keep children at home with their parents and advocate for children already in the foster care system.

Martinez will partner with the New York Legal Assistance Group in New York City to provide low-wage workers with access to justice through mediation services in employment matters. She will mediate a range of employment issues, including wage and hour violations, discrimination, and accommodations claims. By working toward low-cost, innovative solutions, she will enable parties to determine damages and construct creative remedies for workers who may not normally have access to legal representation.

Cohen will work with Philadelphia Legal Assistance to address and ameliorate the fragile financial stability of working poor individuals and families through direct representation and community education in the intersecting areas of consumer, family, and public benefits law.

Cohen will join Julia Simon-Mishel L’13, who received a Skadden Fellowship last year and is also working at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, representing low-wage workers fighting wage theft and the unjust denial of unemployment benefits. Penn Law Skadden Fellows have a long history with Philadelphia Legal Assistance. Jesse Krohn L’11, a 2012 Skadden Fellow, is currently a Staff Attorney there, and Susan Pearlstein L’98, a 1998 Skaden Fellow, is a Supervising Attorney.

With the support of the Karpatkin Fellowship, Wilson will conduct legal research and analysis; draft pleadings, affidavits, motions, and briefs; interview witnesses and potential plaintiffs; and participate in discovery and trial practice as part of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Racial Justice Program in New York City.

Penn Law is committed to supporting students as they launch careers in the public interest. In addition to helping students apply for national awards like the Skadden Fellowship and the Karpatkin Fellowship, the Law School also offers postgraduate fellowship and Catalyst Grants to financially support graduates who pursue work at public interest organizations, government agencies, and NGOs.