PILA Fellows Provide Legal Support Services Increasing Public Access to Justice

UW Law is proud to announce the summer projects that 19 PILA Fellows completed through contributions from UW Law friends, faculty and staff who generously funded their work in the form of fellowships.

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. They worked on issues ranging from denied unemployment benefits to animal rights and Medicaid billing fraud. Their work ensured that the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society receive more equitable access to justice.

“Coming to law school, I was interested in human rights work, but I did not imagine that I would ever get the opportunity to work on cases like the ones I have been able to work on this summer,” said Lyndall Bervar, 3L, who worked with International Rights Advocates. “I am so grateful to PILA for making it possible for me to have this experience.”

The fellows pursued projects associated with public interest organizations, legal services offices, social service agencies, public defender officers, nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and tribal entities.

“Working alongside passionate attorneys developed my legal research and writing skills and gave me valuable perspective regarding the complexity of advocacy work that first prioritizes the needs of those my team aimed to serve,” said Megan Haygood, 2L, of her work in the Wing Luke Civil Rights Division of the Office of the Attorney General. “The PILA fellowship allowed me to fully submerge myself into the fast-paced rhythm in the division.”

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 PILA Fellows

Carmen Adams, 2L

Unemployment Law Project

Carmen Adams

Applying for unemployment benefits is a complicated and confusing process for many people, even more so since the start of the pandemic. Many people depend on those benefits, whether regular unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and if they want to appeal a denial of benefits, they are asked to navigate the administrative court system without any guaranteed legal representation.

I conducted intake interviews with clients to learn more about their cases. I also successfully represented clients at administrative hearings. I worked closely with staff attorneys to develop the most effective legal arguments for each case, questioned my clients, cross-examined the opposing parties and gave closing statements on behalf of my clients.

The work I did was incredibly meaningful and rewarding. It provided invaluable practical experience working with and representing clients. I'm eager to bring this experience with me as I continue my legal career.

Lyndall Bervar, 3L

International Rights Advocates

Lyndall Bervar

International Rights Advocates works to give those who have experienced human rights abuses in the global supply chain access to justice. This summer, I had the opportunity to work directly on cases aimed at preventing and remedying forced child labor as well as other human rights violations. I also honed my legal research skills to help craft legal arguments.

The summer project reaffirmed my interest in public interest law. Getting this first-hand experience helped me to feel more confident in my capabilities.

Coming to law school, I was interested in human rights work, but I did not imagine that I would ever get the opportunity to work on cases like the ones I have been able to work on this summer. I am so grateful to PILA for making it possible for me to have this experience.

Bridget Bryck, 3L

Center for Environmental Law and Policy

Bridget Bryck

I interned with the Center for Environmental Law and Policy (CELP) this summer to gain conservation policy experience and to learn more about Washington’s waters and water policies from the CELP team. As an intern with CELP, I drafted public comments challenging proposed hydro power projects due to their impacts on tribal resources, attended mitigation policy task force meetings with legislators and conducted legal research on practical implications and foreseen issues with Washington’s Municipal Water Law.

I am grateful to CELP for the opportunity to research issues at the intersection of my interests in conservation, tribal rights and climate change and to PILA for the funding that enabled me to do so.

Raised in the foothills of the White Mountains, I have been passionate about the outdoors since childhood. After spending time as a volunteer in American Samoa, I decided to pursue a career that would allow me to work towards protecting natural resources and the wild places I love. I have developed an interest in the intersection of Indigenous rights and environmental law.

Julia Davis, 2L

Office of the Attorney General, Social and Health Services Division and Aging and Disability Services

Julia Davis

I worked on the team within the Social and Health Services Division that represents the Department of Children, Youth and Families, as well as on the Aging and Disability Services team. The team works to ensure that children, elders and those living with disabilities across Washington state are protected from abuse and neglect.

Among other activities, I had the opportunity to write two motions for Superior Court, conduct legal research for a range of projects, including a multi-million dollar settlement, and attend trainings and client meetings. Through these experiences, I was able to better understand the scope of a litigator's practice and gain insight into the many different ways that attorneys can serve their clients.

My most rewarding experience this summer has been getting to know attorneys who have devoted their careers to child welfare and to serving Washington state. The assistant attorneys general are some of the smartest, most passionate people I've ever met, and it is truly a privilege to observe and learn from them!

Juliana Maria DeFilippis, 3L

Unemployment Law Project

Juliana Maria DeFilippis

The Unemployment Law Project (ULP) is a non-profit law firm that provides free representation and legal advice to individuals who want to contest a denial of unemployment benefits in an administrative law hearing. During my internship, I conducted client intakes and case research and, most importantly, I represented clients at their administrative law hearings.

I learned more about how the inherent failures of our public benefit systems land on the shoulders of our community members — particularly marginalized community members — who were trying their best to provide for themselves and their families during a pandemic. The best part of my internship was being a part of an organization that advocates for these claimants and increases access to justice in an inequitable legal system. ULP is a pillar in our community, and it was an honor to learn from the ULP attorneys and from the experience of my clients.

Cristina Gamundi Garcia, 2L

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Cristina Gamundi Garcia

I interned in the Child and Youth unit at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. The Child and Youth unit represents and advocates on behalf of immigrant children and youth who suffer persecution in their home country, face a lack of parental support and/or experience poverty.

I assisted on asylum, T-Visa and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases by preparing declarations, drafting legal briefs, and interviewing children and youth. I also observed dependency court cases.

I am truly thankful to the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for enriching my legal skills and, most importantly, for allowing me the opportunity to serve my community. I am also thankful to PILA for making my summer internship possible. With my legal degree, I hope to continue to serve and empower immigrant communities.

Maria Gomes, 3L

Brooklyn Defender Services

Maria Gomes

This summer I interned in Brooklyn, NY at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS). I directly assisted clients in applying for immigration benefits and relief, including asylum, adjustment of status and work authorization. I took the lead in preparing country conditions reports in support of clients' asylum claims and learned how to advise clients about the immigration consequences of contact with the Criminal and Family Court systems.

I developed my legal research and writing skills by helping my supervisor draft a memo describing the complications of adjusting one’s status based on the specific facts of a client. One of my most memorable experiences of the summer was receiving a handwritten thank you card from one of the families that I helped in obtaining their work authorizations.

Working with BDS has been memorable and extremely rewarding. The dedication of the staff at BDS and the amazing work they do to support and protect immigrant communities have solidified my desire in becoming an immigration attorney.

Megan Haygood, 2L

Office of the Attorney General, Wing Luke Civil Rights Division

Megan Haygood

The Wing Luke Civil Rights Division is a unique part of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General because it focuses exclusively on affirmative civil rights litigation. This summer, I had the opportunity to work on consumer protection and employment discrimination issues. I also updated the statewide civil rights guide so that Washingtonians understood the robust protections the state has to offer. In addition, I had the opportunity to draft a civil investigative demand into practices that adversely affected youth of color.

Working alongside passionate attorneys developed my legal research and writing skills and gave me valuable perspective regarding the complexity of advocacy work that first prioritizes the needs of those my team aimed to serve. The PILA fellowship allowed me to fully immerse myself in the fast-paced rhythm of the division.

Thomas Heiden, 2L

Office of the State Appellate Public Defender for Idaho

Thomas Heiden

I spent the summer at the Idaho State Appellate Public Defender’s Office (SAPD) in Boise, ID, where I worked on criminal appeals from across the entire state. My family lives in Idaho, so it was wonderful for me to be close to home. I also absolutely loved the work, and learned so much about criminal procedure, appellate practice and legal writing. It was a great time!

At SAPD, I did a substantial amount of research and writing in the form of briefs, memos and legislative histories. These assignments touched on a wide variety of issues including excessive sentencing practices, illegal seizures and the right to counsel. While I enjoyed all of the work, my favorite assignment was the reply brief that I wrote for one of my supervisors toward the end of the summer. This assignment gave me the chance to utilize the skills of persuasion and analysis that I honed over 1L year and the summer.

My work at SAPD was not only intellectually stimulating but deeply satisfying as well. I was and am humbled to serve the indigent defendants of my home state, and the experience solidified my desire to pursue appellate defense after graduation.

Tanya Helbig, 2L

Animal and Earth Advocates

Tanya Helbig

I was a summer law clerk for Animal and Earth Advocates PLLC (AEA). I leveraged the power of the law, of informed advocacy and of strategic partnerships to reform Washington’s environmental and wildlife management agencies and to protect and preserve the state’s wildlife and wild spaces.

The AEA internship offered a variety of opportunities to exercise the research and legal writing skills I learned in class and to apply it to real case law practice. In addition to legal research, I used my advocacy skills through public comments at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where I advocated for a more diverse commission and better wolf and cougar management. I also learned how to be a better advocate for underserved communities by holding agencies accountable for environmental exploitation that has disproportionately affected minority communities.

My internship gave me hands-on experience with litigation and court proceedings and practice with professional client-attorney relationships. I am excited to pursue environmental law as I move forward and explore litigation in greater depth.

Arren Hernandez, 2L

Housing Justice Project

Arren Hernandez

In my internship with the Housing Justice Project (HJP), I learned a great deal about housing law, tenant advocacy and just how much has shifted in that field over the last few years.

I gained valuable experience at the HJP interacting with clients and doing hands-on legal work. I watched the attorneys at HJP litigate in court each morning and had the opportunity to talk to many clients one-on-one, asking them questions and writing declarations on their behalf that would be submitted to the court. I also assisted the appellate team in helping draft motions to revise appellate briefs. I also assisted attorneys with the trial process by helping them to spot issues and draft trial briefs for their use.

My internship with the HJP has taught me a lot about what it means to be an advocate for your client. I hope to continue to be an advocate for marginalized and underserved communities for the rest of my legal career.

Aiken Muller, 2L

Office of the Union County Public Defender

Aiken Muller

This summer I worked at the Union County Public Defender’s Office in Elizabeth, NJ. I assisted several public defenders in preparing for trial, writing motions, visiting detained clients and developing mitigation strategies. I felt honored to be among such a dedicated team of attorneys who showed me how to provide unrelenting advocacy for their clients.

One of my most memorable experiences was working on a petition to prosecutors to consent to a re-sentencing hearing for a client incarcerated 30 years for a crime they committed at 18 years old. I interviewed many of the client’s family, friends and mentors and was struck by how much work the client had done while confined inside the prison system.

This internship provided me with a welcoming environment to adjust to the harsh realities of our criminal justice system, improve my legal writing skills and develop communication tools for working one-on-one with clients. It has been a very affirming few months and only solidified my resolve to become a public defender upon graduation!

Lily Parker, 3L

Snohomish County Public Defender Association

Lily Parker

I was a Rule 9 intern at Snohomish County Public Defender Association assisting on the felony probable cause calendar. I had the opportunity to visit the Snohomish County Jail, meet with individuals who had been recently arrested and accused of felony charges and advocate for their release in probable cause and bail arguments. I was able to speak in court daily and learn how to effectively orally advocate for a client in front of a judge. Through this experience I was able to meet many new clients at the jail every day and further my experiences working with individuals with disabilities. I additionally completed a research assignment on breached plea agreements and potential remedies.

Sam Parry, 3L

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington

Sam Parry

The ACLU of Washington seeks to protect the rights of all Washingtonians through impact litigation, policy work and public outreach. As an intern, I helped with all elements of this mission. I participated in litigation to protect the identities of low-level sex offenders, updated “know your rights” guides about accessing the democratic process and helped draft an amicus brief about the history of involuntary commitment and its disparate impact on women and people of color.

My internship with the ACLU of Washington has been an amazing opportunity to collaborate with different legal organizations around the state and to participate in truly meaningful work. The learning and the mentorship opportunities that I have had access to thanks to the PILA grant will serve me for years to come.

Nathanial Putnam, 3L

Northwest Justice Project

Nathanial Putnam

I worked at Northwest Justice Project in the Consumer, Housing, Education and Employment Rights (CHEER) Unit, which provides no-cost legal consultation, advice and representation to indigent clients in King County.

My favorite part of the summer position was having regular, direct contact with the wide variety of clients seeking help in disputes with landlords, employers and debt collectors. I conducted intakes and weekly clinics for drop-in clients and interviewed witnesses for established clients. I assisted at a client interview with the EEOC and have been asked to represent another client at a local hearing.

By applying my research and writing skills towards litigation, I drafted demand letters, declarations and complaints on issues ranging from service of process in evictions to employment discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Disputes at CHEER turn on contract law, statutory interpretation, civil procedure and tort theory as much as they draw on constitutional law, evidence rules and questions of federal jurisdiction. At the same time that my role demands a high degree of trauma-informed case management, it also provides stimulating opportunities for creative thinking and rewards collaboration with colleagues and other agencies.

Hanna Redenbo, 3L

Legal Services of Northern California

Hanna Redenbo

I worked over the summer for Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC), which focuses on providing free legal assistance to low-income families and individuals. Poverty disproportionately impacts historically marginalized communities, and LSNC’s work supports these communities by providing them with quality legal services that are crucial to addressing systemic oppression and defeating the cycle of poverty.

At LSNC, I was able to assist clients with a variety of issues, including those involving landlord-tenant law, public benefits, and educational rights. I worked on substantive tasks such as making intake calls to clients, preparing briefs and memorandums, and assisting with research projects and hearings. One project involved the legality of anti-camping ordinances. I worked on an educational appeal, which included representation of the client at their appeal hearing.

I am extremely grateful to have been able to work with the amazing attorneys at LSNC and for all that they taught me while I was there. The work I was able to do at LSNC was extremely rewarding and I am excited to continue to pursue my passion for public interest upon my graduation.

Niyura Jasso Romo, LL.M. '22

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

Nijura Jasso Romo

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) is a nonprofit that strives for justice and equity for all persons, regardless of where they were born. I felt it was an honor to witness work at NWIRP, where attorneys are driven by a commitment to serve immigrants facing systematic injustices. I learned a great deal by interacting with clients by gathering information related to their immigration cases, interpreting during meetings, assisting in the preparation of client cases, preparing immigration forms to support low-income immigrants seeking citizenship and preparing them with my supervisor for their naturalization interviews. I also completed legal research for complex cases regarding the intersection between criminal law and immigration law.

My time at NWIRP has been an inspiring and powerful experience, and I am so grateful to be surrounded by incredible colleagues who deeply care for our clients. This experience has strengthened my desire to pursue a career in public interest law.

Rebecca Schumacher, 2L

Eastside Legal Assistance Program

Rebecca Schumacher

I worked as a summer legal intern in Eastside Legal Assistance Program’s (ELAP) Housing Stability Program. ELAP provides free civil legal aid services, legal clinics and “know your rights” community education programs for communities most impacted by injustice in the legal system. The Housing Stability Program assists low-income individuals with pre-eviction defense, challenging retaliation by landlords, disputing illegal rent increases and negotiating payment plans with landlords. The program also finds legal solutions to emergencies and other barriers threatening individuals’ housing or ability to pay rent, such as domestic violence, unemployment, citizenship status and criminal records.

In my internship, I helped low-income tenants in King County navigate the current housing crisis and expiration of COVID-19 eviction protections to prevent loss of housing. I conducted legal research to develop clients’ defenses to eviction, wrote demand letters to landlords disputing invalid eviction notices and illegal charges and assisted with client intake interviews. I also had the opportunity to prepare self-help materials for tenants’ rights workshops and participate in weekly legal clinics.

I really appreciate ELAP’s trauma-informed advocacy approach and emphasis on empowering clients to advocate for themselves. It has been very rewarding to work alongside our clients to secure and maintain safe housing.

Ethan Silver, 3L

Office of the Attorney General

Ethan Silver

I worked in the Washington Attorney General’s Office, the state’s largest public law firm, in Olympia. I was involved with affirmative litigation on behalf of the state with the Medicaid Fraud Control Division (MFCD), which recovers state Medicaid funds that were improperly paid to healthcare providers. This occurs through fraudulent billing practices, such as overbilling by providers or billing for services not actually rendered. In addition, the MFCD oversees litigation related to violations of elder neglect and abuse statutes.

I witnessed how various cases in MFCD develop, and the evidentiary standards that criminal and civil cases in these areas must clear. Even more importantly, I was able to see how the state aids directly in assisting those Washingtonians who are most vulnerable. Every time there is a misuse of state Medicaid funds, it drains from what is left for the legitimate healthcare needs of low-income Washingtonians.

After law school, I hope to pursue a career in public interest or government service, working on behalf of people who are most in need of access to justice.