Wayne Law students serving public interest through summer fellowships
DETROIT – Fifteen Wayne State University Law School students are gaining experience and serving a variety of agencies and legal clinics this summer, thanks to the support of the 2014 Public Interest Law Fellowships.
The 2014 fellowship winners and their organizations are:
- Shahar Ben-Josef of Detroit, rising third-year student – Freedom House Detroit
- Scott Boyer of Rochester, rising third-year student – Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
- Connor Brown of Detroit, rising third-year student – Legal Aid and Defender Association Inc.
- Kimberly Grzic of Sterling Heights, rising third-year student – Wayne Law Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic
- Marcus Johnson of Royal Oak, upper class part-time student – Wayne County Prosecutor's Office
- Melissa Kliemann of Ann Arbor, rising third-year student – Federal Defender Office
- Steven Knox of Mount Clemens, rising third-year student – Michigan Legal Services
- James Kresta of Ann Arbor, upper class part-time student – Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender
- Maureen O’Sullivan of Ann Arbor, rising second-year student – U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – New York
- Jillian Peterson of Novi, rising third-year student – Free Legal Aid Clinic
- Alexis Shull of Wolverine Lake, rising second-year student – Elder Law Advocacy Center
- Paul Taylor of Howell, upper class part-time student – Free Legal Aid Clinic
- Pamela Wall of Grosse Pointe Park, rising third-year student – Free Legal Aid Clinic
- Patricia Woodruff of Dearborn, rising third-year student – Michigan Children’s Law Center and Wayne County Solution Oriented Domestic Violence Prevention Court
- Ashley Zacharski of New Baltimore, rising second-year student – Wayne County Solution Oriented Domestic Violence Prevention Court
Wayne Law created the fellowships in 2009 to give students experiential education and help ease their financial stresses before graduation and to help the organizations for which they’ll be working. Fellowship recipients are selected each year by a committee of Wayne Law faculty members, staff and alumni.
Zacharski will spend her summer managing domestic violence cases and working with the judges in the Wayne County Solution Oriented Domestic Violence Prevention Court. “Some of my duties will include preparing judges for hearings and writing memos and orders,” she said.
A member of the Women’s Law Caucus and Damon J. Keith Students for Civil Rights at Wayne Law, she earned her bachelor’s degree in political science at Michigan State University and plans to continue doing public-interest work after graduation.
“I’d like to focus on advocating for sexually and physically abused women and children,” she said.
Woodruff will use her stipend to continue her work at the Michigan Children’s Law Center in Detroit and the Solution-Oriented Domestic Violence Prevention Court. She began her work at the Children’s Center last summer as an intern through Wayne Law.
“At the Michigan Children’s Law Center, I am able to advocate for the best interests of children involved in delinquency proceedings and children who are victims of abuse and neglect,” Woodruff said. “I advocate by researching for the center’s attorneys and by drafting motions and briefs on the center’s behalf. The Solution-Oriented Domestic Violence Prevention Court provides me with a different perspective from my work at the center. I work closely with judges specifically trained in handling family law cases where domestic violence is present.”
She earned her bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies at Eastern Michigan University and is vice president of community outreach for the Women’s Law Caucus at Wayne Law. She plans a career that involves advocating for women and children affected by family violence.
Wall will continue her work with the Free Legal Aid Clinic, where she is vice chair of the Board of Directors.
“I’ll be working on my own family law and elder law cases,” she said. “But my main role this summer will be training, supervising and supporting our 17 incoming student attorneys. I am very excited about the prospect of mentoring our new hires and helping them to be diligent and fierce advocates for FLAC’s clients.”
She would like to continue her public-interest legal work after graduation. Wall is an intern with the American Civil Liberties Union and Wayne Law Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Clinic, secretary of the Wayne Law ACLU Chapter and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University.
Shull won a fellowship to work at the Elder Law Advocacy Center of Neighborhood Legal Services in Detroit.
“I will be working as a student attorney assisting with cases that involve revocation of powers of attorney and wills; preparation of powers of attorney, wills, deeds, restore title to property; protecting and defending in consumer matters; education about co-signing loans; defending against unnecessary or improper guardianships or conservatorships; and assisting in landlord-tenant matters,” Shull said.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications and marketing from Eastern Michigan University and works as an associate communications specialist with Lady4Justice PLLC.
“I thrive in a working environment that benefits the public, and I am so grateful and excited for this opportunity,” Shull said.
Brown will spend his summer working for the Legal Aid and Defender Association Inc. in Detroit. He spent last summer as a fellowship recipient working for the Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice in Detroit.
“I learned just how much can be accomplished by a small number of dedicated people,” Brown said. “I learned how important the law is as a check on the political branches by working on the emergency manager lawsuit. And I learned how important it is that we have organizations to provide legal services to those who lack resources. This was crucial in my decision to work at Legal Aid this summer, and I hope to find similar public-interest work upon my graduation from law school.
“Lawyers at Legal Aid and Defender address themselves to the individual hardships of clients on society’s margins. These clients and their problems are many and varied. So, this summer, I will likely be involved in a wide array of case types and stages of litigation. The only thing they surely will have in common is clients in need.”
Brown earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan and has worked as a student attorney with Wayne Law’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Clinic.
Ben-Josef will work at Freedom House in Detroit this summer. She gained a fellowship last summer, as well, when she worked with the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations.
“This experience gave me my first opportunity to use my new legal skills to serve those most in need,” Ben-Josef said. “I filed asylum applications, applications for temporary protected status and applications for derivative asylum for Syrian refugees. This gave me a basis for the work I’ll be doing at Freedom House and helped me to better define the parameters of what I want to do and what I can do with my legal education.”
Ben-Josef, who also is pursuing a master’s degree in dispute resolution and a graduate certificate in peace and security studies at Wayne State while she attends law school, earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan.
“After graduation, I hope to find a job in the field of public international law, whether at a nonprofit or non-governmental organization or otherwise,” Ben-Josef said.
Photos from left to right, top to bottom: Shahar Ben-Josef, Scott Boyer, Connor Brown, Kimberly Grzic, Marcus Johnson, Melissa Kliemann, Steven Knox, James Kresta, Maureen O'Sullivan, Jillian Peterson, Alexis Shull, Paul Taylor, Pamela Wall, Patricia Woodruff, Ashley Zacharski.