Kelsey McCowan Heilman L’10
Kelsey is a Senior Staff Attorney with the Portland Regional Office of Oregon Law Center. At Penn, Kelsey gained practical experience representing clients through the Penn Law Immigrant Rights Project, the Criminal Defense Clinic, and an externship with the Employment Unit of Community Legal Services. She took a year of leave following her second year of law school to volunteer for Mayan Medical Aid, a rural medical clinic in the highlands of Guatemala. As a third year, she was a Senior Editor for the University of Pennsylvania Law Review and an Arthur Littleton and H. Clayton Louderback Legal Writing Instructor. She earned her law degree summa cum laude and was awarded the Dean Jefferson B. Fordham Human Rights Award at graduation. After graduation, Kelsey worked as a staff attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, where she focused on healthcare, access to public benefits, consumer protection, and education. In that role, she was a registered lobbyist during three legislative sessions in Santa Fe and provided expert testimony by invitation of the New Mexico legislature. She also led New Mexico Health Care For All coalition healthcare reform actions, including a successful campaign to expand Medicaid to cover 200,000 more New Mexicans under the Affordable Care Act.
In 2013, Kelsey returned to her home state of Oregon. She clerked for the Honorable Susan Graber at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 2014 to 2015, and from 2015 to 2018 clerked for the Honorable Ann Aiken at the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon. In addition to research, writing, and case management duties, Kelsey oversaw the law student externship program for the District. Kelsey joined Oregon Law Center, a statewide provider of civil legal services, in 2018. She balances an individual caseload of primarily Spanish-speaking clients with complex litigation, including class actions, in state and federal court. Her primary areas of practice are civil rights, public benefits/administrative law, and consumer protection, along with some employment and housing cases. In recent years, she has litigated and settled cases involving long delays in the payment of unemployment benefits during the pandemic, police-assisted unlawful eviction, and onerous municipal civil “nuisance” fines.
Her current impact caseload includes Booth v. Cardona (in which the plaintiffs, on behalf of a putative class, contend that the federal government’s practice of collecting student loan debt by garnishing Social Security retirement and disability benefits violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses) and Casillas v. Gerstenfeld (in which six Oregonians assert that the state’s processes for establishing and collecting alleged overpayments violated their due process rights.) Kelsey is Vice President of the Board of Directors for Northwest Housing Alternatives, one of the state’s largest providers of affordable housing. She is also the Chair of the Executive Board for the Diversity Section of the Oregon State Bar. In 2022, the Oregon Chapter of the American Constitution Society honored her with its Rising Star Award.
Kelsey is married and a mother of two daughters, ages 9 and 12.