Public Service Fellowships
Ohio State law offers four public service fellowships – one general public service law fellowship, a wrongful conviction fellowship, a bankruptcy fellowship, and a fellowship in juvenile human trafficking. For more information on public services fellowships, please contact Cybele Smith at email@example.com.
Fellowship Program in Public Service Law
The Reinberger Foundation invested in the College’s Fellowship Program in Public Service Law, providing funding for one post-graduate fellowship as a prosecutor and four internships for current students who would go to work in prosecution offices. Zoe Lamberson ’12, the first fellow, is expected to handle 100 to 200 cases during the course of her fellowship with the Fairfield County Prosecutor’s Office.
United States Bankruptcy Court Pro Bono Project Fellowship
This three-part pro bono program received support from bankruptcy court judges in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. They saw an immense need for legal services in the wake of the economic recession and subsequent rise in joblessness.
The program focuses on three areas: a Chapter 7 referral program for low-income clients; providing brief counsel to pro se debtors prior to their appearance at monthly hearings; and creating a training program for lawyers without bankruptcy experience to represent clients in adversary proceedings.
The first bankruptcy fellow was Melissa Baker Linville ’11, who was drawn to public interest law and had experience working for the Legal Aid Society of Columbus prior to graduating from law school. After graduation, she worked part-time for the Franklin County Public Defender’s Office and conducted legal research for solo practitioners. When a member of the Career Services Office at Moritz shared information about a new United States Bankruptcy Court Pro Bono Project Fellowship, Linville wasn’t sure it would be an exact fit.
With little experience in bankruptcy herself, Linville studied everything she could find on that area of law and attended proceedings with the Honorable John E. Hoffman Jr. “Judge Hoffman has been a great instructor in the ways of bankruptcy and has helped me to understand what bankruptcy procedure is all about,” Linville said. “I also shadowed different attorneys and trustees early on.”
In its first six months, the Chapter 7 referral program recruited about 50 volunteer attorneys who began handling more than 100 client referrals from Southeastern Ohio Legal Services and the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. In August, Linville was thrilled to report that of the 20 cases filed already, 12 were discharged. She hoped to gain even more ground in the fall, when students from Moritz and Capital University Law School would join the effort to guide clients in the process of collecting the overwhelming amount of documentation needed. “Hopefully it will save the attorney one meeting, and the students will gain experience with client interviewing,” Linville said. “In law school, I always liked any opportunity to do something real.”
When her fellowship ends in February, Linville is confident that the experience will enable her to find work in more places. The new lawyer who lacked bankruptcy experience before is now more experienced in its nuances. “I definitely am interested in practicing bankruptcy law. I was only interested in public interest opportunities before and didn’t have experiences that translated to firms very well,” she said. “I’m excited to have a skill that I can relate to the public and private sectors.”
Wrongful Conviction Project
As media seized upon stories in which the Innocence Project exonerated wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing, Moritz alumni in Ohio diligently pursued appeals on behalf of those for whom DNA evidence does not exist.
The Wrongful Conviction Project is the state’s first program to focus exclusively on wrongful conviction claims in non-life-sentence cases. Launched in 2009 by Kelly Schneider ’96, the program is run by the Office of the Ohio Public Defender for inmates whose cases meet seven criteria:
- The inmate must be indigent.
- The inmate claims factual innocence of the convictions.
- The inmate did not contribute in any way to the commission of the offense.
- The inmate is serving a lengthy prison sentence.
- The inmate has no prior history of violent crimes or lengthy criminal record.
- The basis for claimed innocence is not outcome-determinative as to DNA evidence.
- The inmate has exhausted the legal process.
Joe Bodenhamer, director of the Wrongful Conviction Project, explained that evidence commonly relied upon at trials – including eyewitness misidentification, invalid forensic evidence, false confessions, and incriminating statements – can be unreliable and lead to an innocent person’s incarceration. To date, there have been nearly 300 post-conviction exonerations in the United States, he said.
Two Moritz graduates have had an opportunity to serve that need as fellows of the Wrongful Conviction Project thanks to a fellowship program created by Erin Moriarty ’77, a journalist with CBS News who has covered stories about innocent people locked in prison for crimes they did not commit. She hopes others contribute to the fund so that the work can continue.
Fellow Leon Sinoff ’10, for example, identified cases with challenges to the reliability of evidence, including arson science and shaken baby syndrome. His acquired knowledge of the medical challenges to the traditional theory of shaken baby syndrome allowed him to co-counsel a trial-level case with a senior public defender, Bodenhamer said. Sinoff identified the proper defense expert witness, fully participated in trial preparation, and cross-examined a state’s witness during trial. The defendant in that case was acquitted.
As an undergraduate at Ohio University, Joanna Feigenbaum ’11 became aware of the growing problem of wrongful convictions in her social sciences studies. She entered law school with hopes of helping those wrongfully incarcerated and contributing to systemic changes that would prevent innocent people from being convicted in the future.
She is the longest-tenured member of the Wrongful Conviction Project, having started as a law clerk shortly after the program’s creation in 2009.
The fellowship also allowed Feigenbaum to practice law immediately upon passage of the Ohio Bar Exam. She has gained invaluable experience interacting with other attorneys, the courts, clients, and witnesses. “These experiences have enhanced my competency and confidence as a new attorney immensely,” she said.
Greif Fellowship in Juvenile Human Trafficking
The Greif Fellowship in Juvenile Human Trafficking is devoted to providing legal representation and advice to child victims of human sex and labor trafficking in Ohio. Juvenile victims can face serious legal issues once they become involved with a trafficker, ranging from the equivalent of adult criminal charges to running afoul of child protective services for placing their own children in risky situations and environments.
The Moritz College of Law, in partnership with the Greif Packaging Charitable Trust, hires, trains, and supports a one-year fellowship. Under the supervision of Professor Kimberly Jordan, the director of the Justice for Children Project, the fellow provides quality representation in a full range of criminal and civil legal matters affecting juvenile human trafficking victims, carrying a caseload of up to 50 youth clients at a time. Additionally, the fellow assists in obtaining protection orders from the court to ensure victims’ safety from their traffickers, helping undocumented victims adjust their immigration status, and keeping families together in cases where victims have children.