Announcing the 2019 Public Interest Law Association Fellows

The University of Washington School of Law is proud to announce that 18 first- and second- year law students were named 2019 Public Interest Law Association Fellows.

The Public Interest Law Association at UW Law is a student-run organization dedicated to promoting legal work that serves the public and improves the quality of life for individuals in Washington and the world.

The 2019 fellows are Peter Barber, Emily Erickson, Julia Fleming, Ryan Giannini, Devin Glaser, Rachel Gluckman, Matthew Hernandez, Catherine Holmes, Emily Kawahigashi, Kate McCracken, Olivia Ortiz, Korica Simon, Alisa Smith, Eleana Stevens, Derek Tsang, Stephanie Verdoia, Tierney Vial and Madeleine Vidger.

Public interest law fellowships allow students to engage in life-changing work, not only for law students, but also for the underrepresented people and causes they support.

“PILA fellowships recognize students’ strong commitment and passion for public interest law that supports a wide array of underserved populations,” said Kolby Cameron, 2019-20 PILA co-president and 1L law student. “These fellowships not only make the summer work possible, they send an important message to students that the community supports and values their dedication.”  

This year, the UW Law community gave $75,000 in support of the summer fellowships, which allow students to pursue projects associated with public interest organizations, legal services offices, social service agencies, public defender officers, nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and tribal entities.

“By supporting PILA fellows, you are ensuring that the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society receive more equitable access to justice,” said Stephen Hatton, PILA 2019-20 co president and 1L student. “Thank you for making it possible for fellows to serve the community through their work on behalf of clients and advocacy for public policy.”

Learn more about the 2019 projects

Peter Barber, 2L

Washington Appellate Project

The Washington Appellate Project provides free legal services to indigent clients in Washington state seeking to exercise their constitutional right to appeal. Barber will work to ensure clients have access to justice and serve a cause that lessens the strains of growing economic inequality on the country’s foundational principles. He will work closely with clients and be assigned a case, under the supervision of senior attorneys, to carry through each stage of the appellate litigation process. At the end of the summer, he will present oral arguments before the Washington State Court of Appeals.

Emily Erickson, 1L

Washington Civil and Disability Advocate

Washington Civil and Disability Advocate works to ensure all lives have equal dignity and worth by providing free legal services to people with disabilities. In addition to litigation, the organization assists with disability education and awareness efforts, including informing the disability community on disability rights. Erickson will conduct legal intake meetings with potential clients struggling with disability discrimination. She will investigate the accessibility of various locations according to standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. She will speak to groups of disabled people about their rights and complete a research project.  

Julia Fleming, 1L

Unemployment Law Project

The Unemployment Law Project provides low-cost representation and free counsel to people in Washington who have been denied unemployment benefits or whose award of benefits is being challenged. Fleming will help ensure people from underrepresented and diverse communities, including recent immigrants, victims of domestic violence and people living in rural areas, receive access to the legal system in times of financial insecurity. She will provide representation to more than 40 people under attorney supervision and will conduct research, draft petitions for appealed cases, make legal arguments at hearings and build a strong factual record.

Ryan Giannini, 1L

Disability Rights Washington – Community Inclusion and Services Program

The Disability Rights Washington Community Inclusion and Services Program advocates for the provision of accommodations, services, treatment and technology necessary to support the choices of people with disabilities to safely and meaningfully participate as equal citizens in any social, economic, or political aspect of community life. Giannini will help clients access to pro bono legal services and overcome barriers to education, employment and accommodations. He will work on a variety of assignments related to disability and poverty law, such as case screening, investigating abuse or neglect, and meeting with community stakeholders and policy-makers.

Devin Glaser, 1L

CAMBA Legal Services

CAMBA Legal Services provides free, high-quality legal representation and advice to New Yorkers facing eviction or foreclosure, people fighting high consumer debt, immigrants and refugees seeking U.S. residency and victims of domestic violence. Glaser will work with clients both in office and in housing court by helping draft ex parte motions to temporarily stay evictions, preparing presentations on relevant legal issues affecting clients, and advocating for program expansion to support the needs of low-income residents in New York City. He hopes this experience will allow him to bring similar rights to Seattle after graduation.

Rachel Gluckman, 1L

Center for Children & Youth Justice

The Center for Children & Youth Justice works to create better lives for generations of children and youth by reforming the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Gluckman will work with young adults who were formerly in foster care, are homeless, or are at risk of becoming homeless. She will help dismantle systemic injustice and will work hand-in-hand with communities who most need representation, but have the least access. She will conduct intake interviews, prepare presentations at Know Your Rights workshops for clients, conduct legal research for cases and complete juvenile record sealing cases.

Matthew Hernandez, 2L

Creative Justice

Creative Justice provides youth facing a nonviolent charge the opportunity to self-elect to participate in a 12-week art program, led by mentor artists and legal advocates, in lieu of serving a traditional jail sentence. Hernandez will teach, mentor and work collaboratively with youth who are appearing in the criminal justice system. He will independently research and develop strategies for community lawyering and consortium models to better understand how communities share resources, diversify funding and measure restorative justice. The work will culminate in an art show highlighting youths’ visions of the future for criminal justice.

Catherine Holmes, 2L

Lavender Rights Project

The Lavender Rights Project advances a more just and equitable society by providing low-cost civil legal services and community programming centered in values of social justice for trans and queer low-income people and other marginalized communities. Holmes will work to provide trans and gender nonconforming foster youth access to information about their rights regarding care, a level of access that does not require an attorney and can reach those who do not trust the system. Lavender Rights Project will be able to use the information when considering future projects regarding this population.

Emily Kawahigashi, 1L

Columbia Legal Services - Institutions Project

The Columbia Legal Services Institutions Project represents people in Washington’s jails, prisons and other confinement facilities through litigation and public advocacy. Kawahigashi’s work will critically analyze our criminal justice system to challenge systems of oppression and help empower those who have been historically disenfranchised. She will conduct research related to legal financial obligations, fines imposed by courts on top of criminal sentences. These fines help fund court proceedings and provide financial disincentives. However, they disproportionately affect vulnerable populations and often put impoverished individuals in a cyclical process of increasing debt and reincarceration.

Kate McCracken, 1L

Disability Rights Washington – Treatment Facilities Team

The Disability Rights Washington Treatment Facilities Program advocates for facilities that effectively deliver treatment in humane and therapeutic conditions, in the most integrated manner possible, with effective and timely discharge planning that is consistent with available community services. McCracken will help individuals understand their legal rights and identify avenues for immediate relief, as well as support the organization in identifying discrete rights violations. She will liaise with individuals housed in state institutions, monitor conditions within these facilities and identify potential rights violations. She also will help individuals identify and access alternative resources where appropriate.

Olivia Ortiz, 1L

Northwest Justice Project - Family Unit

Northwest Justice Project is Washington’s largest publicly funded legal aid program. The program provides critical civil legal assistance and representation to thousands of low-income people in cases affecting basic human needs, such as family safety and security, housing preservation, protection of income, access to health care and education. Ortiz will serve low-income victims of crime as they navigate challenges with family law. Her work will help empower historically marginalized survivors in the Seattle area. She will provide direct services to victims of crime, as well as supplementing Northwest Justice Project’s educational initiatives.

Korica Simon, 1L

Legal Voice – Ending Gender-based Violence

Legal Voice works to end gender-based violence, which plays a crucial role in the lives of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Simon will work to ensure survivors have access to protections for themselves and their children through litigation, legislative advocacy and community education. She also will support the discrimination division and help prevent companies from discriminating against LGBTQ+ people in Washington because of sexual orientation. She will work on a case in which a bisexual person is challenging a nonprofit’s refusal to consider them for a position because of their sexual orientation.

Alisa Smith, 1L

King County Prosecutor - Special Assault Unit

The King County Prosecutor's Office Special Assault Unit was one of the first – and only – specialized units in the country to deal exclusively with cases involving the sexual and physical abuse of children, as well as sexual offenses against adults. Smith’s work will help improve the quality of life and provide relief for children and adults in the community who have survived sexual abuse and promote social change by holding those who commit sexual abuse responsible for their crimes. She will work alongside a supervisor as part of the daily functions of the unit.

Eleana Stevens, 1L

Disability Rights Washington - AVID Project

The Disability Rights Washington Amplifying Voices of Inmates with Disabilities project focuses on improving conditions, treatment, services and reentry for people with disabilities who are incarcerated in our state’s jails and prisons, as well as those who reside at the Special Commitment Center. Stevens will serve as the first contact for individuals in crisis behind bars. Through receiving intake calls and writing legal memoranda on abuse allegations, she will help attorneys understand the most critical avenues of advocacy for clients. She will join attorneys in investigatory visits to correctional facilities and prepare for litigation.

Derek Tsang, 1L

Seattle Community Law Center

The Seattle Community Law Center provides legal advice and representation to low-income individuals with disabilities in matters related to their entitlement to Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits. Tsang’s work will help disabled individuals living in poverty gain a measure of income stability: the first critical step toward stability in housing, medical treatment and quality of life. He will work on the full process of client intake and representation under the supervision of staff attorneys, including client interviews and counseling, legal and factual research, discovery, and written and oral advocacy.

Stephanie Verdoia, 1L

Legal Voice - Crisis Pregnancy Centers

As part of their efforts to advance and protect women’s rights to reproductive autonomy, Legal Voice works to arm people with knowledge about deceptive tactics of some crisis pregnancy centers, which are non-profit organizations – not medical clinics – usually religiously affiliated, that oppose abortion. Verdoia will analyze public school districts’ relationships with crisis pregnancy centers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. This research will provide foundational information necessary to assess potential violations of state procurement laws and constitutional establishment issues. She will identify legal issues and determine the most effective strategies to help affected communities.

Tierney Vial, 1L

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project - VAWA Unit

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project - Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Unit, or Domestic Violence Unit, provides direct representation to immigrant survivors of violence seeking immigration benefits and helps ensure that immigration status does not make people dependent on their abusers. Vial’s work will empower domestic violence survivors to seek legal resources and engage in legal proceedings to get the help they need. She will interview clients about domestic abuse they have suffered, translate their testimonials from Spanish to English, and complete their U-Visa applications. She also will be available to assist in hearings.

Madeleine Vidger, 2L

Brooklyn Defender Services

The public defender organization for New York City's most populous borough, Brooklyn Defender Services provides high quality legal representation and related services to people who cannot afford to retain an attorney. Vidger will assist attorneys in the Special Litigation Unit who work with BDS defenders and clients, outside counsel and activists to identify and litigate systemic deficiencies and constitutional violations in the criminal legal system. This work aims to dismantle systems that create and perpetuate harm to poor persons of color, such as money bail, implicit bias, aggressive policing and prosecution, and racial disparities in sentencing.