Summer 2015 Fellows
Ashley Bailes – Federal Public Defender, Capital Habeas Unit
This summer I worked at the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio in the Capital Habeas Unit (CHU). This unit represents indigent clients on death row in Ohio through their federal habeas and parole board proceedings. I spent a large portion of my summer drafting an ineffective assistance of counsel claim consisting of twelve unique claims. This claim required an extensive amount of record review, legal research, and writing strategy to effectively advocate for our client. I was able to learn how to organize and present arguments in a compelling and strategic manner. I also spent time this summer researching forensic science issues and evaluating expert testimony for a viable innocence claim, which proved to be extremely fascinating while equally difficult. I learned to be exceptionally detail-oriented while analyzing and organizing thousands of pages of medical and social services records. I also was able to communicate with experts and clients over the phone, as well as visit with a client on death row. Overall, it was an incredible experience and I was able to enhance my legal research and writing skills and am now better able to represent clients in a strategic and persuasive manner thanks to PILF and the CHU. I owe both entities a great deal.
Tessa Kelbley, Columbus Bar Foundation Fellow – Disability Rights Ohio
My summer experience at Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) was not only enjoyable, but also extremely educational and rewarding. Over the course of the summer, I was able to work on different issues in the area of disability law, helping those with both mental and physical disabilities all throughout Ohio. These issues ranged from employment, education, family, housing and general intake. I worked on a lot of projects where there was no specific client but where I addressed a general systemic issue affecting a large amount of people. All the legal research I accomplished was used by attorneys in the office for litigation, mediation, to consider solutions for systemic legal issues and to advise clients of their rights. Receiving PILF funding made this summer opportunity possible. I worked full time at DRO without pay, while continuing to live on my own in Columbus. This fellowship allowed me to afford my living expenses that otherwise, I would not have been able to.
Scott Surovjak – Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Voting Section
This summer I interned for the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Voting Section. For the first half of summer I helped section attorneys in Washington, D.C. as they prepared for trial; for the second half of summer I joined those attorneys in Winston-Salem, North Carolina as they argued NAACP v. McCrory, a landmark voting rights case against the state of North Carolina. Not only did trial give me invaluable experience, but it gave me a sense of purpose. I watched as thousands of people marched together for voting rights and met inspiring leaders. Some overcame discriminatory poll tests in the 1930s; others sought public office at the encouragement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some fought for civil rights over 50 years ago and pleaded that the past not be forgotten or repeated now. This summer I was able to live my values, serve others, and seek justice. All of that was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Public Interest Law Foundation.
Kelsey Riffle – Fairfield County Prosecutor’s Office
This summer, I had an incredible experience working with the Fairfield County Prosecutor’s Office. My PILF fellowship allowed me to devote my summer to help the prosecutor’s in this office who have dedicated their lives to helping protect the community and to giving a voice to an often-forgotten underserved group of individuals—victims of crime. While interning, I conducted research, drafted memorandum, communicated with victims and/or their families, and helped prepare materials for trial. The generous funding through the Public Law Foundation allowed me to make the most of such a remarkable opportunity.
Jackie Fisher – Federal Public Defender, Capital Habeas Unit and the Ohio Public Defender
I spent this summer working at the Federal Public Defender and the Ohio Public Defender. PILF funding enabled me to supplement my experience at OPD by working at the federal level within the same topic area, death penalty litigation. Without PILF funding I would not have had such a well-rounded summer. Although I worked in the same subject area at both agencies, I tended to work more on research at the OPD and more on my writing skills at the FPD. These experiences complemented each other perfectly by allowing me to take on projects such as writing internal memorandum on the mitigatory effects of pre-arrest efforts to overcome substance abuse, drafting a traverse (a response to a return of writ), and conducting biographical research on topics of interest in our lethal injection litigation. I would not have been able to accomplish my goal of improving my legal writing and research skills to the extent that I did without PILF funding this summer. Thank you.
Scott Bison – Department of Justice, Natural Resources Section
Over the summer, I worked in the Natural Resources Section at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C, where I aided public interest attorneys who represent the United States in cases of environmental importance. Specifically, I assisted attorneys in cases dealing with endangered species, activities at National Parks, water, public land, and Native American land and resources. My responsibilities included conducting legal research, drafting memoranda and litigation materials, and assisting with trial preparation. The internship provided me the amazing opportunity to work on public interest environmental law cases and to gain insight into the work of public interest lawyers. I am extremely grateful for the support of the Public Interest Law Foundation. Without PILF, I would not have been able to afford to accept this internship.
Barbara Grman, Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation Fellow – Southeastern Ohio Legal Services
I was a law clerk at Southeastern Ohio Legal Services in Newark, OH this past summer as part of an Equal Justice Works and Americorp JD Veterans Project. The Newark office serves low income and homeless clients in four counties that are considered a part of Appalachia: Licking, Perry, Knox, and Muskingum counties. The counties are large geographically and the need for free legal services in civil matters is great so I had the opportunity to work with the four attorneys there on various cases. As a requirement of theAmericorp JD Veterans Project I had to spend half of my time working for Veteran clients. Many of these Veteran clients were homeless or at risk of homelessness. A unique aspect of the homelessness situation for Veterans in rural counties is that the services to help them are aplenty but connecting them to the resources is incredibly hard, especially when public transportation is almost non-existent. In many cases, if their military discharges were upgraded they could receive Veterans’ Association benefits to alleviate the financial turmoil they were facing. I researched military discharge law and collaborated with the Veterans Services Center in Newark to find ways for the clients to receive VA benefits. I helped with the first Legal Clinic for Veterans in Licking County and attended community meetings with other organizations helping Veterans. With the general client population I worked on expungements, social security benefits, evictions, child support cases, and sex offender registration law. PILF funding helped me incredibly. It allowed me to pay for my living expenses through the summer. Most importantly it allowed me to pay for gas to travel to Newark and back to Columbus every day. I appreciate this the most because it allowed me to work on Public Interest Law in rural communities.
Kristine Perry, Student Bar Association Fellow – Immigration Center for Women and Children
I spent this past summer as a law clerk at the Immigration Center for Women and Children in Oakland, California. ICWC serves a vulnerable class of people: undocumented immigrants who have been victims of crime in the U.S. Undocumented immigrants are often fearful of reporting crimes to the police, so cases of domestic violence, felonious assault, etc. go unreported. The U Visa, the visa I primarily worked with this summer, is helping to rectify this situation. The office consisted of four attorneys and several legal assistants and support staff. Working in a small office allowed me to dive into substantive work. I worked directly with clients, primarily taking their declaration statements in two-hour appointments for their U Visa filings. I also drafted responses for more evidence and final appeals, filled out immigration forms, and translated documents. Almost 100% of my client interaction was conducted in Spanish. The Public Interest Law Foundation’s support allowed me to take this unpaid internship and provide valuable service to an underserved and very appreciative population. PILF’s support also helped me solidify my passion for immigration law with a focus in public interest law.
Vincent Malainy – Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office
This summer I interned at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in Detroit, Michigan. Because of Wayne County’s financial difficulties, there are only 180 attorneys to serve approximately 1.7 million people. This results in huge caseloads and makes for a great intern experience. I got on the record the second day of my internship and conducted an entire preliminary exam on the Friday of my first week. The exam involved two police officers and required entering a defendant’s in-custody statement. I also had the opportunity to perform a jury trial over the summer. Every day I was assigned between one and six non-capital felony files to handle in court. Thanks to the support of the Public Interest Law Foundation, I was able to have a fantastic learning experience in criminal law and help a prosecutor’s office in need. Since the position was unpaid, PILF’s stipend paid for my summer expenses and made this internship possible for me.
Jenna Daniels – Habeas Corpus Resource Center
This summer I interned for the Habeas Corpus Resource Center (HCRC), which was established in 1998 to represent indigent men and women under sentence of death in California. The HCRC provides legal representation for indigent petitioners in death penalty habeas corpus proceedings before the Supreme Court of California. During my internship, I worked on petitions for two different inmates under the sentence of death. I researched the viability of several potential claims including police misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, juror misconduct, and a Batson challenge. Further, I researched the use of evidence of PTSD in the penalty phase of a death penalty trial and made a presentation on this topic to the HCRC staff. Without the PILF fellowship, I would not have been able to accept this internship due to the high cost of living in San Francisco. I would have missed out on the incredible opportunity to work in this office and learn from the talented HCRC attorneys.
Elisabeth Maddrell – Pickaway County Prosecutor’s Office
As a legal intern for the Pickaway County Prosecutor’s Office this past summer, I gained both criminal and civil law experience. My assignments included motion writing, preparation of discovery materials, trial preparation and facilitating arraignments and jury trials. I worked heavily on a case regarding whether a search and seizure of a defendant’s belongings violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Similarly, I aided in researching a cutting edge constitutional issue regarding whether a particular traffic stop was unconstitutional under the recent United States Supreme Court decision in Rodriguez v. United States. The Office also represented and advised county public officials, allowing me to work on contractual legal issues. Had it not been for PILF’s generous stipend I would not have been able to take advantage of this internship nor had the opportunity to work with such a great team at the Prosecutor’s office.
Megan Gokey – Ohio Public Defender
This summer I was fortunate enough to work at the Office of the Ohio Public Defender, Appellate Division (OPD). OPD employs incredibly talented and passionate attorneys to work with people who have been charged and found guilty of crimes and who cannot afford an attorney. I was tasked with legal research, motion drafting, and creating trial digests, all for the purpose of assisting attorneys with open cases. Working directly with and for indigent populations is what I will be doing for the rest of my life; without the financial assistance of PILF, it would not have been possible for me to work at OPD and get this essential hands-on training.
Sara Skwiertz – Federal Public Defender, Capital Habeas Unit and the Ohio Public Defender
Thanks to PILF, I was able to work this past summer at the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) in the Post-conviction and Appeals Unit and at the Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Ohio in the Capital Habeas Unit (CHU). At the OPD, I was able to draft jail time credit and post-release motions, write client correspondence, and conduct research for a statewide guide on eyewitness identification. At the CHU, I researched and wrote memos on issues related to death row inmates’ cases, including solitary confinement and lethal injection, and write portions of habeas filings. The experiences were very different but each allowed me to really begin to understand various aspects of the complex criminal justice system at the appellate level. I’m grateful that PILF allowed me to work at OPD and the CHU for the summer and help indigent clients in our state. I always felt like I was doing important work, and I was able to discover an area of the law about which I am passionate.
Shane Wiegerig – Federal Public Defender, Capital Habeas Unit
This summer I worked for the Capital Habeas Unit. In the course of my work, I was able to assist the Federal Public Defender’s clients who were currently on death row. My assignments varied from drafting memos, to helping investigate and prepare for possible innocence claims. Without the PILF Fellowship, I would not have had such a tremendous opportunity this summer. The PILF Fellowship allowed me to work on very complicated law while at the same time helping indigent people.