The Gonzaga Public Interest Law Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization established to promote otherwise uncompensated public interest legal work and provide law students with $2,000 – $4000 grants for internships in public interest and pro bono practice firms. For the summer of 2013, four students were awarded grants for their extensive work in public interest.
2L Jon Jackson : East Bay Children’s Law Offices
Gonzaga Public Interest Law Project (GPILP)’s 2013 $4000 grant award winner Jon Jackson completed over 400 service hours at East Bay Children’s Law Offices in Oakland, California. As a legal intern, Jon worked on over 150 different cases representing youth in the dependency system. These children were most often in the dependency system because of abuse or neglect by their parents or caregivers. Jon’s work increased these children’s access to justice by providing them with a voice in the decisions which will impact their futures.
Jon experienced how the legal system acts as an intersection with community-based social services and families while working on one child’s case. This child was displaying severe behavioral issues in school that if continued, could lead to more serious legal issues. However, these concerns were abated by Jon working with the family to enroll the child in a community youth football program. Jon identified the football program as a positive solution because it provided structure and an incentive for the child to improve his behavior and avoid continued problems. Jon’s success with this client was not accomplished by writing a brief or winning a hearing, however, Jon’s creative problem solving and collaboration skills are without a doubt important skills he can translate to his future successful practice as an attorney.
To read more about East Bay Children’s Law Offices, see http://www.ebclo.org/index.html
3L Katie Shircliff : Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
Katie Shircliff was awarded a $2,000 GPILP grant to support her summer legal internship work at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in San Antonio, Texas. Katie worked on policy and legal issues related to school finance and student academic performance in various Southwestern states. The research and case development will serve as foundational and supporting materials for constitutional challenges to states that are underfunding their public school systems. The program’s goal is to provide all students an adequate and equitable education regardless of race, language, or socioeconomic factors.
Katie said the most challenging aspect of her work was working in a vast service area that spanned multiple state jurisdictions and federal jurisdictions. This required her to research numerous different state constitutional structures and interpretations, as well as different civil procedure rules and case precedents. She described her summer internship as a “crash course” in Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, and Civil Procedures.
Katie provided this advice to future public interest legal interns: “Public interest organizations are great places to learn a lot about different types of cases and different bodies of law. However, with that diversity often comes a great quantity of work to be done. Given nonprofits’ budgetary and staffing limitations, expect to work hard – really hard – but that the work you do will be the best, most rewarding kind you can do as a legal professional.”
Katie’s advice underscores the value that GPILP interns bring to their internships. GPILP grants provide Gonzaga Law Students with the financial support to allow them to provide high-level legal work for non-profit organizations that would otherwise not have the resources for to support legal internships.
To read more about at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund see http://www.maldef.org/
2L Catherine Disarno : Youth Rights and Justice
Catherine received a $2,000 GPILP grant to support her work at Youth Rights and Justice (YJR), a non-profit law firm in Portland, Oregon. Catherine’s work on delinquency and dependency cases focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, and avoiding the costly and ineffective use of detention for children. Catherine assisted YJR attorneys by conducting legal research, client interviews, identifying alternative-to-detention placements, and representing the agency at meetings.
One of Catherine’s many successes over the summer was her work on a Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths Assessment (CANS) appeal. The appeal’s goal was to increase funding so the foster child could receive necessary additional support services. In preparation for the appeal, Catherine worked with the client’s caseworker, foster family, psychiatrist, and attorney to coordinate a strong case for the appeal hearing. Catherine’s assignment was to argue that the client required full payments to cover the cost of additional services as a result of the client’s past physical and sexual abuse, neglectful treatment, and parental abandonment. Catherine described assisting the client as “an incredible honor” and a rewarding experience to help this client through these challenges.
See more about YJR at http://www.youthrightsjustice.org/
2L Peter Ramey : The Center for Justice
Peter Ramey used his $2,000 grant to support his work as a legal intern at the Center for Justice in Spokane, Washington. The Center for Justice is a non-profit law firm that focuses on civil litigation of cases involving civil rights, discrimination, government accountability, poverty, and the environment. Peter worked directly on cases involving veteran’s issues, landlord-tenant disputes, student rights, police and sheriff accountability, government accountability under various public records acts, excessive force and wrongful death cases, and access to water as a civil issue. Peter described his work as focusing on more qualitative than quantitative measures. What interested him about the work was the opportunity to develop depth of understanding and comprehensive involvement on the cases he was assigned.
Peter worked extensively on a landlord-tenant dispute that resulted in a successful settlement stopping the fraudulent actions on part of the landlord and ensuring the clients would have affordable and safe housing. Peter contributed at every stage of the legal process with this client. He conducted the initial client-intake, identified and researched legal issues, composed briefings, continued to meet and work with the clients, and eventually assisted his supervising attorney negotiate a successful settlement. Peter found this work was a valuable and enlightening experience and truly appreciated the opportunity to work with and assist the Center for Justice’s clients.
For more about the Center for Justice, visit http://www.cforjustice.org/
Supporting Gonzaga Public Interest Law Project
GPILP is a 501(c)3 organization that is student organized and operated, and funded through donations. The 25th annual Gonzaga Public Interest Law Project fundraising auction will be held February 7, 2014. At that event, the Gonzaga Public Interest Law Project Hero Award will also be awarded.