Summer 2017 Fellows
Maddie Rettig (Columbus Bar Foundation Fellow) – Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, Capital Habeas Unit
My summer at the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio in the Capital Habeas Unit provided me the opportunity to engage with complex legal issues at a critical time as Ohio resumed executions, under a rigorous schedule, after a three-year hiatus. During my time in the Capital Habeas Unit, we had Eighth Amendment and judicial estoppel claims reach the Supreme Court of the United States in a petition for certiorari. I contributed to research on these claims and attended the en banc hearing at the Sixth Circuit when we had oral arguments over the constitutionality of Ohio’s lethal injection protocol. Unfortunately, we lost these claims, but not without strong dissents from Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Although we ultimately lost our client, we walked away from the experience knowing we did all that we could and still have surviving claims pending in state court for our other clients. Another unique opportunity arose when I was asked to write a clemency application to the Ohio Parole Board and Governor John Kasich for another client. I met this particular client on death row in Chillicothe and received the most heartfelt gratitude from him for working on his case that I have ever heard. He said, “I want to say thank you for working on my case. I really, truly appreciate it and don’t want you to think that I don’t.” After the meeting, he requested that I come again next time because he valued my input. I also conducted a research project regarding the relationship between death penalty indictments, death sentences, and race in Hamilton County to prove that black citizens are indicted with and actually receive the death penalty more often than their white counterparts. Our data conclusively showed that this is the case in Hamilton County over a ten-year period. Finally, I worked on a case involving one of my strongest passions in public interest work: wrongful convictions. It was abundantly clear from the evidence that our client was innocent, but was ultimately railroaded by the system in ways that included prosecutorial and police misconduct. My role in this case included cataloging evidence to identify evidence suitable for new DNA testing and reading through transcripts for conclusive evidence of prosecutorial misconduct.
Morgan Govatos (Student Bar Association Fellow) – Ohio Public Defender’s Office, Legal Division
My experience at the Ohio Public Defender Legal Department provided me with great exposure into appellate litigation practice and public defense. The attorneys in the office are kind, approachable, smart, and truly care about their work. Attorneys often approach you with projects, but you can always go talk to them if you are interested or have time to start something else. I got to work on very interesting cases, including a case where a man was convicted of felonious assault and kidnapping for forcing someone to renovate his house by paying him in heroin. I got involved in office working groups, including the Racial Justice Initiative and Jail Time Credit Group. These groups work on projects regarding specific issues to benefit clients and the community. As a part of the Racial Justice Initiative, I researched the law regarding Constitutional rights at airports and borders, and created a presentation that I got to help present in the community. There are experiential opportunities that take you outside of the office. I observed Ohio Supreme Court oral arguments, spent a day in prison, and went to a motion to suppress hearing with the Trial Department.
Masallay Kanu (Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Fellow) – Legal Aid Society of Columbus
Over the course of the summer, I spent majority of my time conducting interviews with clients whom contacted the Public Benefits Department for assistance. On average, I interviewed about 5- 10 clients a week, sometimes more, regarding issues with their Medicaid, Medicare, Unemployment Compensation, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps), Cash Assistance, Veteran Benefits, etc. The interviews could last anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour and half. Most of the interview questions were made available by the Public Benefits team, however, often I had to move past the preliminary questions and use my own investigative skills to better understand the exact issue. I also participated in a weekly brief legal advice clinic for Veterans at the Columbus Veteran Affairs Office. On average, the attorneys assisted with 15-20 cases a day involving divorces, child custody battles, discharge upgrades, expungements, and disability benefits. The VA Clinic provided an eye-opening
experience involving various areas of the law and allowed for in person interviews, which I greatly enjoyed. I also attended professional development meetings and trainings, as well as community involvement meetings with my supervisors. This summer allowed for a realistic, hands-on experience, assisting members of the community who needed it the most.
Rebecca Barnard – California Attorney General’s Office
I spent my summer interning at the California Attorney General’s Office in the Health,
Education, and Welfare division. Major clients of the division include the
California Department of Education and the California Department of Public Health. While
many, if not all, of these agencies have in house counsel, the attorney general’s office litigates all or some of the cases on the agencies behalf. The internship provided me with exposure to the world of government litigation. During my time at the internship, I worked on a variety of projects for different state entities and agencies. This allowed me to work on a variety of cases and have a wider range of opportunities. My favorite project I worked on concerned a pharmaceutical drug contract dispute. I also worked on cases on behalf of the state mental hospitals and the department of disability services, among others. Towards the end of my internship, I began working closely with the California Department of Education (CDE). And I attended part of a federal jury trial for CDE during my final weeks at my internship. I also worked a little on California healthcare policy as it relates to the federal government. While I was at my internship, I started considering the idea of becoming a prosecutor. I connected with an attorney who works in the criminal division. She invited me along on a field trip with her interns to the Richmond DNA lab, which ended up being one of my favorite parts of my internship where I learned about the advanced uses of DNA evidence in prosecuting crimes.
Emily Bowen – Ohio Public Defender’s Office, Death Penalty Division
For the summer of 2017 I was fortunate enough to work in the Death Penalty Division at
the Ohio Public Defender’s Office. My direct supervisor was Kandra Roberts, but I received
work from a number of different attorneys. At the beginning of the summer, Kandra eased me into the internship with some data collection and entry tasks. She assigned me to a specific case and asked that I complete a couple of different evidence collection projects. For example, I spent part of my first week watching traffic camera video and logging each time a black truck appeared. I was also asked to review the jury questionnaires from the trial to spot any answers that would suggest a conflict of interest or an inability to follow the law. After my first week, Kim Rigby asked me to conduct some research for her about “abuse of the writ” which she later used in a motion. This was just one of the many research projects that I was given. In the middle of the summer, I went with four of the attorneys to the visit some of our clients on Death Row. Getting to visit the clients was one of my favorite parts of the internship. I felt that getting to meet some of the men that we were representing made the job a bit easier. I realized that as a society we often view criminals as just their crime and we forget that they are people with feelings, favorite foods, mothers, and fears. During the visit, the attorneys met with their clients in individual cells within an empty cell block. The attorneys updated the clients on their cases, answered questions the clients had, and generally just chatted. Near the end of the summer, I was given the opportunity to write from scratch a Motion for a New Trial for one of the clients based on juror misconduct. I worked closely with two of the attorneys and was told that they were going to file the motion with the court the Monday after my internship was over.
Ian Fasnacht – Ohio Environmental Council
I spent the summer of 2017 working under the general counsel at the Ohio Environmental Council. My 10 weeks were filled with projects addressing pressing issues involving Ohio’s water and land management. For example, I helped draft notice and comments on various decisions made by the Ohio EPA, researched and drafted memos regarding Ohioans rights against oil and gas pipelines, and assisted with the beginning stages of the litigation process. Furthermore, as an intern under the general counsel, I assisted with many of the legal questions facing nonprofit organizations, which included the OEC’s rights under current contracts and maintaining proper documentation in compliance with the federal tax code. Working directly with the general counsel demonstrated the depth of legal work available in non-profit legal departments because my boss was truly a general practitioner despite the specialization of the organization. My time at the OEC was not restricted to research and writing but encompassed several out of office experiences. I attended committee hearings, met with local families who installed solar panels on their property, and attended agency public hearings. During these events, the staff at the OEC took the time to explain the connection between the events and the legal work the office, and myself, were performing. The time at the OEC was rewarding and reaffirms the importance of supporting nonprofit legal work.
Alyson Houk – Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, Capital Habeas Unit
This summer I had the privilege to work at the Federal Public Defender for the Southern
District of Ohio in their Capital Habeas Unit (CHU). I had the opportunity to conduct research
for a case before the Sixth Circuit en banc on the current lethal injection protocol in Ohio, draft sections of a client’s traverse for their second habeas petition, and assist in a client’s application for DNA testing in state court. One of my favorite moments this summer was when I visited clients on death row. Putting a face to the work that I was doing and learning more about their families and personalities was an experience I will never forget. One of the clients I had the opportunity to meet that day ended up being the client that I assisted with arguing for DNA testing in state court. Hopefully, the DNA testing will one day lead to the client being exonerated. The work I did while at CHU will be something I am passionate about for the rest of my life. My work this summer allowed for tremendous personal and professional growth and hopefully ends in favorable results for my clients.
Brittnee Pankey-Qualls – Ohio Domestic Violence Network & Simakovsky Law
This summer I shared my time between two organizations. I worked part time at the Ohio
Domestic Violence Network (“ODVN”) and Simakovsky Law, an immigration firm that serves
many local nonprofits in Columbus. ODVN is a statewide coalition of programs and agencies
that work together to address domestic violence. ODVN works with and provides trainings to
organizations all over the state to assist survivors of domestic violence. In my role as legal intern, I conducted legal research and created documents for the staff attorney, Micaela Deming. I also provided support to attorneys partnering with ODVN on the Justice for Incarcerated Battered Women’s project, a clemency project for women who killed their abusers. On occasion, I sat in on client meetings. In fact, on my second to last day, I was brought in to look over a survivor’s immigration papers to determine her status and assess what resources were available to her and whether she needed to speak with an immigration attorney. Being able to explain the family visa process to the staff was exciting and made me feel useful. I developed this knowledge by working as an intern at Simakovky Law. During my time there, I worked on visas for immigrants who were victims of crimes in the U.S. Many immigrants are either in the U.S. as a result of a crime committed against them or become victims once they arrive in the U.S. Human trafficking, sexual assault, and domestic violence are the most common crimes I dealt with this summer. I also did research for asylum and naturalization applications.
Jay Payne – U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Secretary
My legal internship at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary (OST) provided me the level of fulfillment and excitement that initially led me to law school. I was drawn to the DOT because of my engineering infrastructure-related background and the amount of growth associated with new and innovate technologies such as self- driving cars, drones, space tourism, and hyperloop railways. My PILF grant this summer helped me build upon my participation in last year’s Washington, D.C. Program. As an Office of Regulations intern, I witnessed Administrative Law first-hand. I was exposed to the agency’s multi-modal communication and witnessed the rulemaking process between the DOT and the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). My work focused on the following three areas: Executive Order 13711 “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs;” APA rulemaking research; and an oral presentations to the Deputy General Counsel regarding jurisdictional determinations for new infrastructure-related technologies. Throughout the summer, I visited a DOT research facility, attended a Congressional committee inquiry and the President’s “Infrastructure Week” speech in our building. Prior to leaving, I interviewed for the DOT’s Attorney Honors Program Class of 2018.
Jake Thorn – U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio
Thanks to PILF, I was able to work for the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Northern District of Ohio in the Cleveland/Akron area. The Northern District of Ohio runs a fantastic summer clerk program. Law students engage with substantive legal work within the office and gain invaluable experience about the inner workings of the courtroom. Over the summer, I drafted motions, responses to defense motions, and legal memoranda. I conducted legal research and briefed Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) on developments in constitutional and criminal jurisprudence within the Sixth Circuit. I gained experience drafting plea agreements, attending proffers, and I learned more about how AUSAs coordinate with local and federal law enforcement to conduct investigations that eventually lead to indictments of US citizens and foreign blocks that break the law in the United States from abroad. The AUSAs also coordinated field trips wherein the clerks traveled to various federal agencies to meet with leadership to discuss their duties as law enforcement officers. I spent as much time in the courtroom as possible, attending criminal trials, sentencings, probation hearings, pretrial conferences, detention hearings, and civil proceedings on federal offenses. My experience with the USAO for the Northern District of Ohio opened my eyes to a thrilling, fast-paced practice of law that I am excited to explore as my career continues to develop.