Summer 2017 Fellows
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.
I am unable to express how thankful I am to PILF for giving me the opportunity to take a
position like this. 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. I could not have asked for a better
experience during my 1L summer.
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. This work was incredibly fulfilling because I was able to help keep
families together and keep dreams on track.
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 aftermy internship was over.
Overall, I really enjoyed working at OPD. The vibe in the office was laid back, but
hardworking. All of the attorneys were happy to help and happy to answer any questions. I felt
that I was given a wide variety of tasks, and I learned a lot about both legal issues and ethical
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.
Thanks to PILF, I was able to work for the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Northern Districtof 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. I would like to thank the USAO and OSU PILF for making my placement possible.
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
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.
Maddie Rettig (Columbus Bar Association Fellow)
This summer, thanks to funding from the Public Interest Law Foundation via the
Columbus Bar Foundation, I was able to work as an unpaid intern at the job that best fit my
interests. 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
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.
Without the financial assistance from the Public Interest Law Foundation and the
Columbus Bar Foundation, this internship experience would have been impossible for me
to take advantage of. I extend my deepest appreciation for the contributions made to my
success in this position and my legal career in public interest.
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.
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. Office culture is very
laid back–they let you set your own schedule and everyone wears jeans and tee shirts. I am
very grateful PILF allowed me to have this opportunity.
I spent my summer interning at the California Attorney General’s Office in the Health,
Education, and Welfare division. The division represents most of the educational, health, and
welfare state agencies and entities in California. 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. I am unaware of any transactional legal work done in my division.
The internship provided me with exposure to the world of government litigation. Prior to
my internship, I had only interned at places that were transactional focused. 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. It was very cool to see everything I have learned in law school in action.
People often think government takes advantage of people, and thus the state agencies are
not on the side of the people. It became clear to me during my internship that the role of the
attorney general’s office is to represent the state agencies, but it is more to protect the general
public. The state agencies often are serving as regulatory bodies, and the attorney general’s
office seeks to provide assistance to the agencies in their attempt to regulate and protect the good of the general public. The internship certainly provided me with a different outlook on
government. I also worked a little on California healthcare policy as it relates to the federal
While at my internship, I tried to take advantage of meeting people in the other divisions
in the attorney general’s office, so I could learn about different types of law. 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 fieldtrip with her interns to theRichmond DNA lab, which ended up being one of my favorite parts of my internship. The Richmond DNA lab is the most advanced DNA lab in California and arguably the country. I learned about the advanced uses of DNA evidence in prosecuting crimes.
It was also a great experience to live in Sacramento, a major government town.
California’s state government is on the forefront of so many innovative laws. Unlike Columbus,
which has significant industry, Sacramento is truly centered on the state government. Most
everyone you meet in downtown Sacramento works for the state in some capacity. As a result,
government and policy are frequently discussed amongst everyone.
Thank you so much to PILF for providing me with the financial assistance to pursue this