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Erin Sweeney L’19

Erin Sweeney L’19

The Toll Scholar program has provided me with an opportunity I would never have had otherwise–to attend an Ivy League law school AND pursue my dream of becoming a public defender. If not for the Toll Scholar program, I would have been incentivized to prioritize paying off my loans, consequently delaying my public interest career. Instead, through the program’s incredible support, I will be able to do public interest work throughout and immediately following law school. The mentorship and community that the Toll Scholar program provides is unparalleled. I have never felt so supported or encouraged. If you have a passion, the Toll Scholars, staff, and faculty, will ensure that you develop a plan to incorporate it into your career. If you are unsure which of your many passions you want to pursue, they help you recognize which one connects to your purpose, and encourage you to pursue it relentlessly.

Prior to coming to Penn Law, Erin investigated police misconduct at the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB), a city oversight agency staffed entirely by civilians. She witnessed policing’s disproportionately negative impact on impoverished communities of color, and realized she wanted to advocate for–rather than investigate–the people sharing their stories of police abuse. An aspiring public defender, Erin plans to provide superb representation to every client while working toward a system that is more restorative than retributive.

At Penn Law, Erin was Co-President of the Equal Justice Foundation, a student-run 501(c)(3) that raises money for students working for public interest organizations over the summer and after graduation. She was also Co-Director of the Pardon Project, a pro bono project that empowers people to move past their convictions by applying for a Pardon from the Governor. Other highlights from her law school experience include being a Senior and Associate Editor for the Journal of Law and Social Change and planning the 2018 Sparer Symposium on Reparations with her Toll Scholar cohort.

Erin spent her 1L summer in the Public Benefits unit at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, and her 2L summer at the Contra Costa County Public Defender in Martinez, California. Erin majored in Public Policy at Duke University and enjoys running and biking along the Schuylkill, practicing yoga, cooking spicy food, and thinking about how to make the world more just and compassionate. Erin started working with the Office of the Public Defender in September 2019.