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2014-2015 SPIN Fellows

2014-15 application and deadline coming soon. SPIN anticipates being able to provide fellowships for approximately $3,500 each; please read the application for details. All 1L and 2L students working in public interest legal positions this summer are encouraged to apply.

All 1L and 2L students in good standing are eligible for a fellowship if they will be working in a public interest organization for at least 300 hours this summer. Students may not receive academic credit for their summer work. While being a member of SPIN and helping with fundraising activities is an important application consideration, it is not required to receive a fellowship. Every year, non-SPIN members are awarded fellowships. Please see the application itself for detailed information about eligibility.

2014 SPIN Fellowship application.

For additional information, read our frequently asked questions.


SPIN Fellowship Essays:

Ali Sprott-Roen

The SPIN Fellowship I received allowed me to intern at Alpha Resource Center in Santa Barbara, California. Alpha Resource Center provides lifespan services to individuals with developmental disabilities, including legal advocacy, family support, recreation opportunities, day-time programs and many others. I worked primarily in the Office of Advocacy, but also assisted with other programs and projects as needed.

Working in the Office of Advocacy gave me the opportunity to work on cases related to service eligibility. With the ongoing California budget crisis, many people with developmental disabilities are denied crucial services as a first means of reducing government expenditures. However, these are often necessary services which individuals are entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and/or Lanterman Act, so we provided representation at fair hearings in order to get the services back or prevent them from being suspended. These experiences made me acutely aware of the impact of of legislation on the daily lives of people with developmental disabilities. One thing I found of particular interest is how medical evaluations and reports are analyzed and interpreted in order to qualify or deny a person for services, no matter how accurately those reports reflect the reality of the person̢۪s daily life.

Another interesting project I had the opportunity to work on was analyzing and providing feedback and recommendations on a new government contract making Family Service Agencies the point of first contact for children expected to be eligible for the Early Start Program in California. These services were previously provided through Regional Centers which are government agencies, so the new contract required a shift in structure, allowing for non-profits to take over the responsibilities. It was exciting to put to use the things I learned during the first two years of my JD/MPA program on something that will affect so many people throughout the state.

Again putting to use what I have learned at SU as well as through previous experience, the project I enjoyed the most this summer was developing a volunteer program from scratch for Alpha. Based on organizational and stakeholder analysis, I established a program designed to best to meet the organization̢۪s needs and maximize the opportunities for volunteer contributions. The new volunteer program will assist Alpha in continuing to serving as many people with developmental disabilities as possible in a sustainable way, especially given the continuing budget cuts expected in response to the budget crisis.

Working and volunteering with people with developmental disabilities has been my passion for the past thirteen years, so I could not have imagined a better fit for a summer internship. The SPIN Fellowship made it possible for me to continue turning my passion into a career and provided me with experiences that will be extremely valuable when working in the public interest field of disability rights advocacy.

Brandon Hill

This summer, I was a law clerk in the Maryland Office of the Public Defender. I assisted attorneys with a wide variety of cases and tasks in representing indigent defendants. The majority of my time was spent assisting attorneys in court, researching legal issues, and writing motions. In court, I would assist attorneys by getting the plea offers from the state̢۪s attorney, interviewing clients, and looking over cases to see if there were any legal issues that I thought the attorney should raise. If I did not go to court with an attorney, I would be doing research to figure out what arguments we could make and to develop a case strategy. In some cases, I would then write motions to suppress certain evidence.

Obtaining the SPIN Fellowship allowed me to dedicate all of my time this summer to my work. It allowed me to learn all of the ins and outs of being an effective representative for indigent defendants. I did not have to worry about paying for housing or other financial concerns that I otherwise would have been focused on if I had not received the fellowship. Receiving the fellowship and being able to focus on my internship also helped me determine that I would like to practice criminal law after I graduate.

Cady Gerlach

The SPIN Fellowship provided me with the opportunity to work at the Volunteer Lawyer Project of the Onondaga County Bar Association this summer. My work with the VLP included doing intake to support the volunteer attorneys in Landlord-Tenant Court every morning, learning the ins and outs of Landlord-Tenant law in New York, and gaining familiarity with social services in Syracuse and referral systems. I also was responsible for intake determining client eligibility for the Pro Se Divorce Clinics the OCBA runs through the Volunteer Lawyer Project Project. My SPIN fellowship gave me the opportunity to learn about the importance of pro bono attorneys and their responsibility in helping those who cannot afford access to legal services. My position helped me to develop relationships with local bar association members, judges, and attorneys all over town. Due to the SPIN Fellowship at the Volunteer Lawyer Project I have improved my work as the SUCoL Pro Bono Fellow, now exploring pro bono projects that students can become involved in a volunteer capacity and working to increase student knowledge and involvement in pro bono activities. The SPIN fellow summer experience also taught me about a variety of public interest positions available to law school graduates, including exploring other possibilities outside of the traditional legal field.

Emilee Gaebler  

This summer I worked in New York City for the Division of Human Rights. I primarily worked with low-income families who were filing discrimination complaints in the housing department. The office was located in the Bronx and was a free and accessible way for anyone who felt discriminated against to have their claims investigated. The Division seeks to resolve claims before adjudication is necessary and this lead to my involvement in field visits, phone interviews with witnesses, extensive research and negotiating settlements between complainants and respondents.

I would not have been able to work in this rewarding position without my SPIN Fellowship. It provided me with a way to work in a city that has vast wealth disparity and a multitude of public interest issues that often get overlooked. I was able to work in a unique position where it was possible to reach out and help those who were economically challenged and facing discrimination in a variety of forms. I look forward next summer to working in another human rights advocacy position and turning my focus from domesticto international concerns.

Jeannie Chung

I had the wonderful opportunity to intern at Volunteer Lawyers for Justice (VLJ) this past summer. VLJ is a firm that provides free legal services to under-served residents in New Jersey. I worked primarily within Newark Reentry Legal Services (ReLeSe), a division within VLJ that helps individuals with criminal records address civil legal matters that act as barriers to successful community reintegration. I was able to work on various cases, including expungements, driver’s license restoration, and child support modifications. With the collaboration of Judge Nunes and prosecutors from the Newark Municipal Court, I was also involved in developing the first “ReLeSe Court,” a special court hearing for individuals with outstanding violations in Newark.

I applied to law school with a deep commitment to public interest law. The SPIN fellowship supported and made possible my goal of getting an internship within this field. I plan to continue my vision of using my legal education to reach out and help others in the community.

Jenna Gansworth

The SPIN Fellowship gave me the opportunity to work in environmental law at the law office of Joseph Heath. As a law clerk, I worked on several pressing environmental issues facing central New York. Specifically, I represented many concerned clients on the issue of hydrofracking and helped to voice their opinion on this controversial topic. While working on the issue of hydrofracking, I learned the basics of grassroots lobbying and the legal hurdles many non-profit environmental groups must face in our current adjudicative system. Additionally, I worked on several projects involving the restoration of Onondaga Lake so that our Syracuse community will be able to enjoy this natural resource in the near future. Without the SPIN Fellowship I would not be able to undertake these projects and I am truly grateful for the opportunity SPIN has given me.

JR Cummings

This summer, I had the pleasure of interning for the Empire Justice Center in Albany, NY. While in Albany, I focused mostly on foreclosure prevention. I also got the opportunity to do a great deal of policy work during the end of the New York Legislature’s session. Along with our legislative director and our foreclosure policy expert, I was fortunate enough to accompany them while we lobbied members of the State Senate and State Assembly to pass a Foreclosure Standing Bill. This bill would mandate all mortgage servicers to attach a copy of both the note and the mortgage to their complaint when filing for a foreclosure as to prove standing to sue up front in the process rather than at the end of the suit. Additionally, I attending various meetings on the Marriage Equality Bill, which passed, and a Child Care Work Waiver Bill, which did not pass. I co-wrote and article on the latter, which was published in the Center’s “Legal Services Journal.”

In addition to policy work, I had the chance to work closely with the office̢۪s foreclosure attorney on many of her cases. I wrote motions, attended settlement meetings, and sat in on many meetings. My summer in Albany was a fantastic learning experience that I was glad I had the opportunity to take advantage of. I would not have been able to do so without being a SPIN Fellow. Considering my internship was unpaid, I quite literally would not have been able to afford to live or eat in the Capital Region this summer, and my internship with the Empire Justice Center would not have been possible. I was honored to be selected as a SPIN Fellow for this past summer.

Katie Tastrom

The SPIN grant helped me to spend a very rewarding summer working on Prisoner Reentry issues in Rochester, NY at Monroe County Legal Assistance Center. I was able to work on affirmative litigation against companies who discriminated against people with criminal records in employment matters (which is illegal in New york State - with a few exceptions). Without the SPIN grant I would not have been able to pursue this opportunity because I would have had to spend my summer working somewhere that paid, as few nonprofits do.

As a student dedicated to public interest, I am very grateful to SPIN for the work they do and for the grants that let us help organizations to maximize their resources.

Linda Choe

Interning at Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV) was an invaluable opportunity for me. I learned about all facets of civil law, and worked with attorneys providing free legal services to low-income individuals in the areas of housing, consumer, family, and elder law. Where my prior experience was based mostly in criminal defense, this summer broadened my horizons into areas of the law I had never been exposed to. During my ten week internship at LSNV, I drafted wills, property and settlement agreements in uncontested divorces, answers and counterclaims to opposing counsel̢۪s bill of particulars, and even attended pro bono clinics sponsored by LSNV and local law firms in the Northern Virginia area. The most rewarding part of my internship, however, was the client interaction. I worked with clients on a daily basis and developed relationships with them throughout my time at LSNV. I gained insight on what it means to be an effective advocate that I hope to put to use throughout my career. I am thankful for the honor of being chosen as a SPIN Fellow, and my experiences this summer have only heightened my desire to pursue a career in the public sector.

Meaghan Gallagher

There is no other way to put it: the SPIN fellowship made my summer possible. Without it, I would not have been able to move my car and myself all the way from the humid mountains of upstate New York, to the dry desert of Arizona. The SPIN fellowship made it possible for me to focus on my internship, without having to split my time with a paying job. I fully enjoyed my summer and performing public interest work at the Pima County Public Defender̢۪s Office in Tucson, Arizona. Thank you SPIN for making that possible.

Rachel Parks

The SPIN Fellowship I received for summer 2011 gave me the opportunity to clerk for the Environmental Law Institute, a nonpartisan research and policy group based in Washington, D.C. ELI works to strengthen environmental protection by improving law and governance both domestically and abroad, and to ensure that environmental law offers protection for all citizens and protects livelihoods of resource dependent communities.

The broad mission of the organization gave me the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects. I managed the first volume of a series of case studies about post-conflict peacebuilding through natural resources management. This project included editing a chapter on the diamond mining sector in Sierra Leone and the country̢۪s need for alternative livelihoods. I completed a law review article on the FDA seafood inspection program, and how third party certification schemes can be used to ensure not just food safety and economic benefits, but social and environmental benefits. I also participated in a project comparing habitat conservation and restoration legislation from the Gulf states, and drafted an assessment of weaknesses in legislation and agency coordination as it relates to habitat restoration and conservation in the Gulf. Throughout all of these projects I gained a deeper understanding of how environmental law can facilitate employment, economic growth, and healthy communities, particularly for impoverished populations.

My experience this summer was made possible entirely by the SPIN fellowship I received. I am especially grateful to all of the supporters of SPIN and to the SPIN members whose dedicated work made it possible.

Reta Raymond

This past summer I was an intern at a local law firm in Kampala, Uganda. The law firm is a leader in public interest litigation, which has included establishing the Constitutional right to bail and the right to a fair trial in the Constitutional Court.

I arrived in Kampala just two weeks after the opposition party ended its “Walk-to-Work” campaign, as they determined that the protest had come at a cost of too many people’s lives. Over roughly a month, people protested high fuel and commodity prices by walking to their respective offices, instead of driving. The military responded with liberal use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition and killed at least ten civilians, including two children. The government has yet to investigate these deaths. President Yoweri Museveni’s proposed constitutional amendment was another response to the protests. He vowed that if he could not get parliamentary approval, he would seek a public referendum vote on to pass the amendment. The president wished to amend the Constitution so that persons charged with murder, rape, defilement, economic sabotage (a term that has is not found in the Penal Code and remains undefined) and rioting, would not be able to apply for bail until they had served a mandatory 180 day sentence on remand. This proposed amendment has drawn sharp criticism from local and international groups and also from members of parliament, who believe that the proposal would violate fundamental human rights and freedoms. “In the last meeting, we told him that the move was unconstitutional and would one day fall back on us,” stated one NRM MP. Another MP, Barnabas Tinkasimire said, “the proposal is against people’s human rights and there are so many oppressive laws being forced on our people which we shall not accept.”

My assignment for the summer was to draft and publish a memorandum for the legal community and the general public to discuss the inherent dangers of the proposed amendment. The Uganda Law Society had requested that my employers spearhead this project because of their experience in constitutional matters.

The thrust of the argument was that if enacted, the amendment would cause disharmony within the Constitution and would violate the fundamental democratic nature of the Constitution. Specifically, it would abrogate several constitutional provisions including the presumption of innocence, the right to be free from detention without trial, the right to bail, the non-derogable right to a fair trial and the protection of liberty.

I am continuing to work with publishers at Makerere University in Kampala, and meanwhile, the President continues to push the amendment. This will likely go for a public referendum vote, at least for show, as the results will be certain. The President has won every election since 1986, in what the international community does not call free and fair elections. Therefore, the President̢۪s interests in a public referendum vote will likely be successful for many of the same reasons.

Stephanie Woodward

I worked at Empire Justice in the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP). DAP focuses on assisting low-income individuals with disabilities who have been denied Social Security Income and Social Security Disability. Throughout my time in DAP I was exposed to the full range of duties that the attorneys in the office deal with regularly. I was able to conduct client intakes, review medical files, request documentations from doctors and schools, write pre-hearing memos and even represent a client in his SSI appeal.

Without the SPIN Fellowship, I would not have been able to afford to work at Empire Justice. The SPIN Fellowship allowed me to achieve my goals of helping people with disabilities and learning more about legal practices. In the future, I hope to continue to help the disability community. I plan to expand beyond SSI and SSD appeals to ADA compliance and other issues that will help protect and further the rights of people with disabilities.

Stephen Wallace

Thanks to my stipend from the Syracuse Public Interest Network (“SPIN”) this past summer, I had the opportunity to work at the not-for-profit Center for Community Alternatives (“CCA”) in downtown Syracuse. CCA’s mission is to promote reintegrative justice and a reduced reliance on incarceration through advocacy, services, and public policy development in pursuit of civil and human rights. At CCA I worked as a legal intern in their reentry clinic. In the reentry clinic I worked with members of the community who have had previous contact with the criminal justice system, and assisted them in overcoming the barriers that result from such contact. These include barriers to obtaining employment, housing, as well as admittance into higher education programs.

My work at CCA this summer was directly related to the public interest because I worked to help protect the rights of citizens who are discriminated against unjustly under New York State law. Many of my clients were denied employment opportunities because of their criminal convictions, which directly violated New York State law. Additionally, my work helped to enhance the public good by aiding deserving community members in finding employment, which numerous studies have shown reduces recidivism.

My experiences this summer had a great impact on my future legal career. I really enjoyed working to make a difference in my community, and hope to continue to work in the public interest sector following graduation, most likely as a public defender. I want to thank SPIN for the opportunity to be a fellowship recipient because I could not have spent my summer working for as great an organization as CCA without financial backing.

Tovah Miller

My SPIN Fellowship allowed me to intern at the Disability Services Office at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY. As a graduate intern I was given the opportunity to work with a wide range of students in various different capacities. I was also given a small group of my own students for whom I was the designated disability services specialist. I have been interested in disability rights law and education since before I came to law school and I cannot imagine a better place for me this summer, this would not have been possible without the SPIN Fellowship.

Working at OCC I was able to observe and contribute to the important public service of providing access to affordable higher education. I primarily worked under the Director of the Disability Services Office who has an educational background in Rehabilitation Counseling. My supervisor has worked at various different disability services offices and helped me to explore the field of disability services with the aid of her experienced and insightful background.

As a Graduate Intern I was able to delve right into various issues of accessibility in a higher education context that I would not have been able to access in a classroom or any other educational setting. As it is in any educational situation, each student that I worked with presented different issues and personalities. I was surprised to find that I enjoy working with students from community colleges more than students from four-year schools because community colleges are open admissions institutions. To a disability services provider this means that students, who for various reasons may not be able to be accommodated at a four-year institution, apply to community colleges and expect that community colleges accommodate them so that they have equal access to education. This provides a unique opportunity for these students and disability services providers to work together to include this student in the classroom and optimize their educational experience.

In addition to working one on one with students and their parents, I was able to attend, and act as the note taker for two conferences, the Pre-Conference for the New York State Disability Services Council (NYSDSC) with Salome Heyward, Esq. as the keynote speaker. Ms. Heyward spoke in detail on ADA/AA compliance in a Higher Ed context. The other conference was on concussions and how they affect young athletes. The keynote speakers were Dr. Brian P. Rieger, PhD and Deb Blanchard, MS RN CNRN from the Upstate Concussion Management Program & Sports Concussion Center.

These experiences do not even begin the scratch the surface of what I was given the opportunity to experience with summer. I am so grateful to the SPIN Fellowship for making it possible for me to pursue this internship and helping me further my career goals of working as a disability education lawyer with an emphasis in public interest. Additionally, it allowed me to enter my third year of law school with a new enthusiasm for the law and how it is applied.

Tristan Simoneau

This summer I had the privilege of working with the Rochester Legal Aid Society. As an intern in the domestic violence unit, I spent most of my time prepping clients for the ex-parte process. The ex-parte process allows those seeking relief to come into court and be directly examined without having the other party to be present, if the requisite burden of proof is not met, there is no temporary relief granted. I gained valuable experience and was given an opportunity to represent clients pursuant to a student practice order. On most days in court it was my job to read through petitions and find prospective clients that had strong claims of family law offenses. I would interview them and make sure that they were prepared for direct examination in order to be entitled to temporary protective orders. Other time in court was spent in integrated domestic violence court where I would also help to represent clients in custody matters.

When I was at the office I would spend much of my time researching for the family law unit attorneys. I also called clients in to meet with me so that I could put them on the path to getting permanent orders of protection. This often times entailed the collection of evidence and direct examination preparation. I gained valuable experience this summer and will never forget the clients I represented.