PILA Fellows Transform Access to Justice

Public Interest Law Association Fellows share the impact of their experiences and the contributions they are making in the public interest.

UW Law is proud to announce the projects completed through contributions from UW Law friends, faculty and staff that supported public interest law fellowships for 20 students through the Public Interest Law Association (PILA).

PILA 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. Public interest law fellowships allow students to engage in life-changing work and ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our society receive more equitable access to justice.

The 2023-2024 PILA Fellows pursued projects associated with public interest organizations, legal services offices, social service agencies, public defender officers, nonprofit organizations, governmental agencies and tribal entities.

The PILA Fellows

Project Descriptions

Sara Becker-Mayer, 2L

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Anchorage, AK

Sara Becker-Mayer

I am grateful for the fellowship because it allowed me to take an out-of-state unpaid position that I would not have been able to participate in otherwise.

Working for the judge, I conducted legal research, drafted memoranda, observed oral arguments, and drafted a dissent. This experience significantly enhanced my understanding of the intricacies of the judiciary. Observing oral arguments strengthened my advocacy skills, showing me the strengths and weaknesses of different techniques. I contributed to the judge's understanding of the cases and her decision process, ensuring she had every detail necessary for proper adjudication. The judge’s commitment to excellence inspired me to be diligent in my future work. This internship not only broadened my legal knowledge but also instilled a sense of responsibility as a future advocate. Overall, the experience cultivated a more nuanced perspective on the legal profession, and I am grateful that PILA allowed me to have this opportunity.

Christina Day, 2L

Seattle City Attorney's Office
Seattle, WA

Christina Day

Growing up, access to public amenities and safe spaces such as libraries, parks, and transit were instrumental to me and my family when we struggled with financial hardship. I want to pay it forward, and this fellowship empowered me to pursue that passion and a potential career in public service.

The Land Use division at the Seattle City Attorney’s Office works with city departments on projects that protect public health, safety, and general welfare, including those related to housing, recreation, and transportation. With the division’s attorneys, I drafted a motion to dismiss a lawsuit about floating on-water residences. I researched the State Environmental Policy Act to advocate for Seattle's most famous recreational trail. I studied the Seattle Municipal Code to advise the City’s clients on solutions for addressing homelessness and housing issues. It’s amazing to walk around Seattle and point to the different projects I supported. I honed my legal research, writing, and advocacy skills and gained valuable insight into the wonderful world of public service. I hope to take this experience with me and continue making positive impacts on our communities.

Sarah Fassio, 2L

King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Special Assault Unit
Kent, WA

Sarah Fassio

Thanks to the PILA Fellowship, I was financially able to engage with an incredible professional and personal learning opportunity – one that has shaped the trajectory of my future legal career.

Last summer, I was an extern in the Special Assault Unit (SAU) of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO). During my externship, I created detailed discovery logs, analyzed witness interviews for inconsistencies, researched controlling precedent for issues on cases with rape and rape of a child charges, and wrote facts sections. One of the most impactful experiences overall was the opportunity to sit at the counsel table for the entirety of a trial. Outside of the SAU, my larger KCPAO extern group gained valuable hands-on experience with “field trips” to a shooting range and a tour of the King County Medical Examiner’s Office. Working with such dedicated and compassionate prosecutors in the SAU was a privilege. Their patience, commitment, and tireless advocacy inspired and solidified my intention to utilize my law degree in service of my community as a criminal prosecutor.

Joshua Hass, 2L

King County Bar Association, Housing Justice Project (HJP)
Seattle, WA

Joshua Hass

The PILA Fellowship afforded me the opportunity to spend my summer learning about housing law and engaging in tenant advocacy—an area of the law that holds personal significance for me and my family.

This summer, under the supervision of Housing Justice Project (HJP) attorneys, I interviewed clients facing eviction, reviewed client records, and assessed their legal options. My work contributed to HJP's mission of providing free legal assistance to low-income renters facing eviction in King County. HJP's legal assistance prevents unfair evictions, improves stable living conditions in rental units, combats housing discrimination, and promotes community resilience. Throughout my internship, I shadowed HJP attorneys, observed court proceedings, and gained insight into landlord-tenant law. I watched how a team of skilled lawyers can ensure fair access to housing, promoting the dignity and stability of individuals and families across the socioeconomic spectrum.

Tyler Hwang, 2L

Tacoma Pro Bono Community Lawyers
Tacoma, WA

Tyler Hwang

The PILA Fellowship gave me the opportunity to work for and give back to my hometown community of Tacoma!

I wrote memos, sat-in for client meetings, and created legal guides for attorneys and clients alike. I liked learning about tenant-landlord laws in Washington state, but I loved applying the law to protect tenants and keep people housed. My internship solidified what I already knew— that the law is powerful and impactful and that anybody can make a difference.

Rachael Idiarte, 2L

Washington State Supreme Court
Remote / Olympia, WA

Rachael Idiarte

The PILA Fellowship supported my dedication to public service through the courts. The Fellowship refined my commitment to social justice and amplified the need to serve marginalized communities through ongoing legal programs.

During my summer externship at the Washington Supreme Court with Justice Mary Yu, I delved into the profound influence justices wield in shaping law via opinion and dissent writing. Witnessing the amplification of underrepresented voices and diverse perspectives enlightened me on the court's role in addressing overlooked social justice issues. Under Justice Yu's mentorship, I learned how strategic litigation can significantly impact these causes. My experience highlighted the power of litigation in advancing social justice, outside legislation, or advocacy-driven movements. It instilled a deeper understanding of the complexities within America's current social tensions. My work emphasized the importance of advocating for marginalized communities and reinforced the significance of diverse perspectives in legal discourse. Working closely with Justice Yu expanded my legal acumen and improved my legal writing. It also solidified my commitment to effecting change through prudent and well-reasoned litigation.

Koby Jargstorf, 2L

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Seattle, WA

Koby Jargstorf

This fellowship allowed me to gain valuable experience in my field of interest and finally let me apply the knowledge from my first year of law school to support members of the Seattle community.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) is an organization supporting immigrants across the state of Washington. This summer, I interned in the Violence Against Women (VAWA) unit supporting survivors of abuse and trafficking. I had the opportunity to work with clients one-on-one to prepare different affirmative applications for asylum relief and got to visit the NWIRP Seattle and Granger offices. Before this internship, I had little exposure to the options available to immigrant survivors of domestic violence or sex/labor trafficking. Now, as a participant in UW's Immigration Clinic, I've been able to carry forward and apply the skills I learned at NWIRP this past summer. I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to serve my community at NWIRP and am doubly grateful for the excellent mentorship I received from the attorneys on the VAWA team.

Maddie Krueger, 2L

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington
Seattle, WA

Maddie Krueger

The PILA Fellowship allowed me to pursue a summer internship where I wanted to without such a significant financial barrier.

During my summer at the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO), I worked with Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a variety of criminal and civil litigation. Through my internship, I gained tangible experience in legal research and writing, with some memos being turned into motions submitted to the court. My bosses were extremely supportive of us watching court proceedings and we visited and met with several constituents of the U.S. government. My experience this past summer really opened my eyes to all the ways the U.S. government is involved in litigation and what it takes to be a successful litigator.

Veronica La Mont, 2L

Fair and Just Prosecution
Seattle, WA and San Rafael, CA

Veronica La Mont

Receiving the PILA Fellowship gave me the opportunity to participate in a split-summer externship that went across state lines, and ultimately contributed to my understanding of criminal justice reform from both the District Attorney’s office and Public Defender’s office.

At the Marin County Public Defender’s Office, I learned that there are many ways to pursue criminal matters in the interest of justice that go beyond the representation of one client. I drafted a writ petition focused on the scope of discovery allowed under California’s Racial Justice Act. At the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Juvenile Unit, I conducted interviews, performed case and discovery analysis, and gathered information on school violence statistics to shape my reform-minded policy recommendation paper. Through Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP), I learned about the value of gathering reform-minded prosecutors together to discuss policy initiatives. I wrote a policy recommendation paper about the effectiveness of felony diversion programs for youth involved in the justice system. My recommendation of the proposed program’s structure was informed by research, interviews with community members, and knowledge I gained during my time in both offices.

Maxwell Lowthian, 2L

King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Seattle, WA

Maxwell Lowthian

The PILA Fellowship allowed me to contribute to our community in a way that I would have otherwise never have been able to. It enabled me to take a job in public service and spend the summer receiving invaluable litigation experience.

Working at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was an incredible experience that provided me with firsthand experience of important aspects of the criminal justice process. Becoming part of a team of passionate and friendly attorneys committed to effecting positive change was extremely rewarding. I was lucky enough to observe court proceedings almost every day. Watching talented prosecutors and defense attorneys present their cases was exciting and educational. Writing numerous memos built upon my legal research and writing skills and I was frequently able to see my work being used by attorneys in their cases. The experience taught me a lot about what makes a good litigator and attorney and public servant. It was an incredible way to contribute to my community.

Prentice Mackey-Moseley, 3L

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Tacoma, WA

Prentice Mackey-Moseley

The PILA fellowship allowed me to relocate to Tacoma for the summer and take the job I wanted without worrying about being able to pay rent or needing to find a second job.

Over the summer, while working with the Tacoma South Unit of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), I did a great deal of work with immigrant clients. This included prosecutorial discretion requests for clients, T-visa and U-visa paperwork, working on ex parte U-visa motions for a state court judge to sign, and working directly with young clients who needed to update ongoing paperwork to stay in the country. These contributions helped many clients stay in state and receive more favorable status, including the U-visas that were argued ex parte in court and were signed by Pierce County judges, and many prosecutorial discretion requests were approved that otherwise would have waited longer to be filed. I learned a great deal about interacting with clients, the immigration system and immigration law, and working in a fast paced, proactive public interest environment. This internship prepared me for public interest work after graduation.

Arshia Nilchian, 2L

U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington
Tacoma, WA

Arshia Nilchian

The PILA Fellowship was significant because it made it much more viable to pursue work that can have a positive impact.

I spent the summer conducting legal research and helping draft court orders for the Judge and her law clerks. This included work on social security cases, premises liability cases, and Habeas Corpus petitions. Throughout the summer, I was able to work closely with the law clerks and help them manage their high caseloads. This had an impact in allowing cases to be resolved faster. I learned how judicial chambers function— how a case is managed and examined from its filing to its conclusion. It was also critical that any court materials that were drafted were accessible to the audience it was drafted for, as many plaintiffs were representing themselves. Spending a summer looking at a wide variety of legal issues and focusing on honing my legal writing in chambers was an incredible opportunity.

Samuel Ogden, 2L

Alaska Department of Law, Environmental Division
Anchorage, AK

Samuel Ogden

Without the PILA fellowship, I would not have been able to work with the Alaska Department of Law. As an unpaid intern I would not have been able to pay rent, much less eat.

I worked for the Alaska Department of Law – Environmental Division mainly researching and writing. I primarily worked to hold parties responsible for contaminating land around the state under their version of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). I also helped prepare lawyers for oral arguments, won the intern mock trial, shadowed a power plant inspection, and put 12,000 miles on my car. My research was used in direct client and adverse party meetings to head off potential arguments for escaping liability and was designed to help increase inspection ability. Hopefully, my work will directly lead to more, faster clean-up of contaminated sites around Alaska. I learned a vast amount about environmental law, working for state agencies, and more importantly about life in Alaska and Alaskan Native law.

Gracie Dawn Pakosz, 3L

Department of Education Office of Civil Rights
Seattle WA

Gracie Dawn Pakosz

At the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, I helped process, research and investigate allegations of discrimination in education. I spoke directly to students and families to help them formulate complaints. This helped create an accessible pathway for grievance for these families. I drafted multiple resolution agreements with schools which helped ensure a plan was in place for the school to provide adequate and equitable services to students. The Office of Civil Rights does important work to uphold the promise of education and equal access to education for all.

Karla Partida Castro, 3L

National Immigration Project
Washington, DC

Karla Partido Castro

The PILA Fellowship allowed me to fulfill my dream of working in impact litigation!

While at the National Immigration Project, I worked on advocacy projects and several federal litigation matters. I am thankful to the attorneys at NIP who allowed me to jump in on drafting motions and research. Working at the National Immigration Project confirmed my passion for impact litigation. Moreover, in the future, I also want to work in policy advocacy. It is imperative to adopt a multi-faceted approach to protecting immigrant rights and working at NIP allowed me to explore a variety of avenues.

Jake Poffenbarger, 2L

King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office
Seattle, WA

Jake Poffenbarger

The fellowship meant I could focus on my goal of making a positive impact and change with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO). Personally, it helped alleviate a ton of the stress that comes from an unpaid externship.

I worked on a variety of projects including discovery, charging documents, research memos and trial preparation. My work had a tremendous impact on myself in that it reaffirmed my dreams of being a prosecutor, helping victims, working on collaborative justice and restorative justice. I learned that while the work can be emotionally taxing, the impact and sense of personal and communal fulfillment from working in public interest is unmatched.

Michael Savell, 2L

Family Violence Appellate Project
Seattle, WA

Michael Savell

My hope was to gain experience applying what I learned in school to real-world situations and practicing my legal writing skills. I got to do that with the memos I worked on, and two motions published. Everyone I worked with was dedicated and invested in my success.

I worked at the Family Violence Appellate Project appealing domestic violence cases on behalf of survivors. I reviewed admitted evidence to determine appeal eligibility. I compiled case summaries and evaluated appeal possibilities against existing legal precedents, presenting this analysis in a comprehensive memo for supervising attorneys. During strategy sessions, I provided in-depth case insights and legal analysis, addressing inquiries from the legal team. By the end of the summer term, I helped draft and refined two Motions to Publish, advocating for the establishment of survivor-friendly cases as binding precedents. Both motions were granted. This experience significantly enhanced my capabilities in legal research and communication, and gave me the opportunity to work with wonderful, dedicated attorneys fighting for the rights of domestic violence survivors.

Jason Spencer, 3L

The Legal Aid Society
New York, NY

Jason Spencer

Because of PILA I was able to have the learning experience of my dreams. The fellowship made a public-interest focused internship possible.

Through discovery review, drafting oral and written arguments, meeting with clients and assisting with trial preparation, I served New Yorkers facing potentially life-in-prison sentences. In New York City, a coalition of nonprofit organizations are tasked with providing defendants with their constitutional right to an attorney. These organizations rely on interns to help evaluate the massive amounts of discovery for each case, analyze legal issues and meet with clients. Since large amounts of disclosed discovery turns out to be immaterial or inadmissible, by sorting through and flagging only the relevant discovery, I was able to decrease the amount of time attorneys spent sorting through useless discovery. This allowed them to meet with clients more often and focus more on preparing a defense.

Faye White, 2L

Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
Tacoma, WA

Faye White

The PILA fellowship gave me the funding to pursue immigration law, the field I came to law school to practice. PILA allowed me to accept an unpaid internship and gain valuable legal experience working with clients. I am so grateful.

Over the summer, I interned at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), a nonprofit that provides no-cost legal services for low-income and no-income immigrants. I helped clients with asylum and U visa applications. Most of my summer was spent working on an asylum case, where, per federal regulations, I was able to file an evidence packet and represent my client in immigration court, under the supervision of my supervising attorney. This experience taught me so much about immigration law and the challenges that immigrants face in navigating the legal system. Being granted asylum for a case I worked on was a huge accomplishment. I am so grateful to NWIRP for this opportunity and honored to have worked with some of the most passionate and kind attorneys. I’m also grateful to PILA, without which this valuable experience would not have been possible due to the nature of the field of public interest. My summer experience has furthered my desire to work in immigration law and I am excited to continue to serve and advocate for immigrant communities in the future.

Annie Wu, 2L

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association
Seattle, WA

Annie Wu

I am interested in environmental law, so working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) was an exciting opportunity for me to delve more into fisheries and oceans law.

At NOAA, I worked on legal documents pertaining to the Endangered Species Act and was able to learn in depth about biological opinions and ESA Section 7 consultations. I also helped to edit fisheries rules issued by NOAA. At the end of my internship, I completed a memorandum analyzing the court decision in Maine Lobstermen’s Association v. National Marine Fisheries Service (D.C. Cir. 2023). My time with NOAA has given me valuable work experience and shown me what it looks like to work at a regulatory agency. I was able to work hands-on with different types of legal documents and rules, and additionally honed my skills in legal writing. After this summer, I am excited to continue my journey working in environmental law.