2012 BLSPI FELLOWS
Sarah Arena ’14 – U.S. DOJ Criminal Division, Office of International Affairs
Yekaterina Blinova ’14 – Day One
During an intake interview with a 16 year old client seeking an order of protection, I came to the question asking whether she has ever been sexually assaulted or raped by her abuser. The effect of my client’s response was “I wouldn’t call it rape, because he is my baby’s father, but…” She then proceeded to describe a violent attack by her ex-boyfriend, which by any objective measure could be best described as rape. For me, this moment encapsulated the heart-wrenching dilemmas faced by many domestic violence survivors, who constantly have to reconcile the rest of their lives with the horrible experiences they have gone through.
Mary Bruch ’14 – Office of the Public Advocate for New York City
Almost every issue I worked on was one in the news, or making news, and it was exciting to be able to relate legal work to important political and social issues. The Public Advocate identified the central winning issue, of municipal home rule, in litigation brought by the yellow cab industry against the city, which wanted to create new street hail licenses without getting City Council approval; and filed a lawsuit to protect small business owners from burdensome fines targeted at mom-and-pop operations to raise revenue. The New York Times said our office’s litigation “most irritated the mayor.”
Erin Covert ’13 – Indego Africa
Working with Indego Africa, an innovative social enterprise that partners women-owned cooperatives in Rwanda with New York designers such as Nicole Miller and Dannijo, I explored the interaction of law and international trade through a non-profit lens. Any earnings above Indego’s operation costs are used to run business and language training programs taught by Generation Rwanda scholars, some of the nation’s top students. Similar to my previous role as Treasurer in BLSPI, as a legal intern at Indego I tackled a large number of issues related to the expansion of the organization, from establishing a non-profit sister company abroad, to devising a strategy for the protection of intellectual property. I also took care of in-house matters, drafting the company’s first-ever formal personnel policy and arranging an employee health care plan for adoption by the Board of Directors. Since Indego is a small organization with only a few staff, I supported our team in Africa as well. Indego takes over the burden of navigating the importing, shipping and distribution process for cooperatives selling on the American market. Over the course of dealing with that process, I reviewed customs classifications and rules, also under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I also delved into the cooperative and corporate governance laws of Rwanda and cowrote curricula about cooperative governance for our training programs.
Our intern team always got a chuckle out of how difficult it is to eloquently sum up what Indego “does.” Indego accomplishes many different things, bringing people and groups together to reach its goals. The experience was remarkable because we weren’t operating with a familiar business model, market or even a typical corporate formation. I was always encouraged to be creative and to discuss my ideas with my colleagues. In the end I had not only developed my legal skills—I had learned how an international business operates, how to finance projects and start partnerships with other organizations, and how creative entrepreneurs can win the support of traditionally profit-oriented crowds by changing their dynamic.
Christopher Dey ’13 – New York State Attorney General’s Office
I was able to work on was a case where a company was marketing a diet drug as the new miracle cure for Americans who wished to lose weight fast. My supervisor said “Look into this, and see if we can do anything about it.” And that was it – I was given complete control of the investigation. The company’s website was filled with misinformation and false testimonial from fake clients, some who claimed to have lost 60lbs in a month. As I started to dig deeper, I found reports of people who had been hospitalized from using this product as well as people who had suffered serious reproductive complications by using this product.
It was clear that there was fraudulent activity but given the additional serious health concerns, I suggested to my boss that we involved the FDA and the FTC. I wrote up a memo that outlined the basic facts, the legal issues, and what I thought would be the appropriate course of conduct. My supervisor took my report, and that report became the basis of an investigation that now involves multiple federal government agencies. Ideally, these websites will be shut down, and this product will be pulled from the market. It is really cool to know that I did something that not only helped consumers in New York, but all over the country as well.
Kenya Dillon ’14 – Global Workers Justice Alliance
The experience that most stands out in my mind is when I learned of the enormity of the foreign workforce the United States is importing in order to supply U.S. employers in all areas – from agriculture to hotels and resorts, to restaurants, to camp counselors – as a source of cheap and exploitable labor. My most memorable experience was learning of the abuses suffered by the men and women who work in farms and factories across the United States to keep food in our grocery stores and meals on our table. These workers are paid unlivable wages, sometimes as low as $2 per hour. I had to remind myself that these human rights abuses were occurring in the United States of America and allowed to continue through a lack of legal enforcement despite numerous reports documenting the atrocities. The effects of this are reflected in international business and trade law, global economics, and depressions in wages for U.S. workers and the U.S. economy.
I have always maintained a focus on international affairs, law, and the economics of globalization. This internship expanded my comprehension of globalization and international law while I gained immense knowledge in U.S. labor law and federal agency regulation. I entered law school entirely aware of my passion for human rights, but this internship has expanded my deep interest in the intricacies and the legal issues the U.S. foreign work visa program poses in the unique combination of labor law, human rights, international law, and its effects on international business and trade law, global economics, and foreign relations. I have a strong dedication to pursuing a career in international law, and this internship has opened a door for me to a very unique area of the law where, with the ever increasing effects of globalization, I feel large developments are on the horizon. This internship greatly facilitated my overall development as an individual and lawyer and it would not have been possible without the Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest Fellowship.
David Goldberg ’14 – NYPD Department Advocate’s Office
I had the opportunity to handle a case that first went before the New York Supreme Court for manslaughter in the first degree. It was ruled as manslaughter in the second degree and brought to the New York Court of Appeals where it was overturned, finding that the evidence weighed in favor of the Prosecutor’s original theory of intentional actions. The officer, who was immediately fired upon his initial conviction of a felony, was seeking reinstatement with the department now that he was exonerated. This story sticks with me because it showed the amount of work that attorneys will do with a client. Here, I worked by myself to read literally 1000s of pages of transcript and trial documents from both the original trial and appeals before preparing the attorney to stand up in our court to refute his belief that he was qualified to remain an officer of the law. It was really gratifying to protect the law of this country both from the execution and the enforcement. That’s what my summer was really about: protecting citizens from police who were not enforcing the law properly.
Steven T. Hasty ’13 – The Bronx Defenders
At The Bronx Defenders, I had the privilege of helping literally anyone who walked in the door in the community intake program. As a summer-long project, I focused on actions brought by the city under the Nuisance Abatement Law, resulting in immediate evictions with no due process. In one woman’s case, the NYPD raided her public housing apartment, emptied her HIV+ son’s medications into a plastic bag, said it was ecstasy, and arrested her whole family. In criminal court, the family brought the prescription records, but the DA wouldn’t budge. After her cousin pleaded to a violation to end the case, they considered their ordeal over, but six months later, the NYPD evicted the family without warning in a nuisance abatement action. Listening to her story, I was moved by her resilience. She fought her case every step of the way, but came to us for help when the NYPD attorney would not settle unless she agreed to an oppressive stipulation permanently excluding members of her family from their home. We were able to represent her in the nuisance abatement action in Supreme Court, and the case eventually reached a favorable settlement.
Adam Horowitz ’13 – Legal Services of New Jersey, Immigration Representation Project
Many of my clients were immigrant women who had suffered a pattern of domestic violence at the hands of their husbands. One client’s personal declaration struck me – she had been abused by her husband, who had also sexually abused one of her daughters –when she appealed to immigration officials to grant her U Visa application so that she could live in peace with her children and “never again have to depend on a man.”
Jana Hymowitz ’14 – Legal Aid Society, Prisoners’ Rights Project
My most memorable correspondence regarded a woman who was incarcerated at one of the women’s max facilities upstate. She wrote to us to ask that we provide her with assistance on how to obtain a transfer so that she could pursue educational opportunities at another facility, and hopefully get her Bachelor’s Degree. Over the summer, I corresponded with her, and wrote to Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) to ask that the woman be transferred to another facility that had an appropriate college program. Unfortunately, despite months of correspondence with DOCCS, it was never resolved whether the woman would be transferred to a facility where she could continue her education. I will always remember her though, and wonder if she was able to obtain her transfer to get her Bachelor’s Degree.
Veronica Jackson ’14 – Medicare Rights Center
I was able to work with a client who is in chronic pain and has had her pain medication denied since the FDA had no approved it for her condition. She had previously been unsuccessful through three appeal levels and was referred to us for assistance in her Administrative Law Judge hearing. With the supervision of my supervisor, I was able to write a brief on her behalf and we represented her on a teleconference hearing. She was desperate to win the appeal, as no other medication has been able to mask her pain. Weeks later, when I called my client to let her know that she had won her appeal, she burst into tears; it was one of the best moments I have had in law school.
Gillian Kosinski ’13 – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
Early on in my internship, I began assisting my supervising attorney in work on an appeal to the Third Circuit. It was a unique experience for me in a few ways. Not only had I never worked on a Circuit appeal before, but I had also never worked on a case where I did not meet the client. Though I never met him, I felt as though I had gone through the entire process with him from reading the transcripts of each interaction he had with the judge over and over again. The client there had his original request for asylum denied. He had been in detention at the time of his hearing, spoke no English, and despite this had gathered and gotten translated a substantial amount of evidence, including medical records showing serious and lasting physical damage. He had been unable to retain a pro bono lawyer before his hearing, though HIAS had taken him on for his appeal. The original appeal to the BIA had been denied, and our client was deported back to his native country where he had been severely abused and feared death upon his return. I was assisting in the final days of putting together the federal appeal. We had little to go on, due to the extremely limited standard of review, but the work was extremely rewarding. Because we were so limited, any ideas that I, or my fellow intern, contributed were extremely well appreciated, and all the work we did from research and writing to spelling and citation checking felt important and received high praise from our supervisor. Though we are still waiting to hear the Court’s decision, we have high hopes that the case will be remanded and our client will be allowed back into the country and safe again.
Beile Lindner ’13 – Brooklyn Family Defense Project
One highlight of the summer was working with a client whose infant daughter had been removed from her custody at birth because she had other children already in foster care. I met this client and discussed her case with her, and then wrote a motion to ask for her baby to be returned to her. The Administration for Children’s Services then consented to let her baby come home. This was a tremendous feeling – knowing that I had a part in the reunification of mother and child – and I had the pleasure of meeting with this client again later in the summer and seeing how well she was doing with the baby back in her care.
Lisa Okomoto ’14 – AARP Foundation Litigation
At AARP, I had the experience of being part of an organization that had the power to influence policy matters that affected millions of people. I was always aware of the influence that AARP had on national policy matters regarding aging. However, I did not directly experience it until I was invited to work on AARP’s public comment for a proposed federal regulatory change on the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). I was challenged to think about how one regulatory change could potentially have a long-lasting effect on individuals who dependent on the SNAP benefit to maintain a basic quality of life. It was also eye-opening and encouraging to work with AARP’s collaborators on the issue, and to know that there were many organizations that had the same objective of maintaining a adequate living standard for the most vulnerable, the aging and the disabled. AARP published the public comment on the Federal Reserves based on the research that I did over the summer, and it was a rewarding experience to know that I played a part in a national dialogue about an important government benefit.
Jessica Peck ’13 – United States Capitol Police
Over the course of the summer, I was given various writing projects. However, the one I enjoyed most was an answer to Plaintiff’s Opposition to the United States Capitol Police’s request that the Court dismiss his Amended Complaint. The plaintiff sued the USCP under the Congressional Accountability Act (CAA), because Title VII does not apply to congressional employees. I particularly enjoyed the research and writing for the project, because learning about the CAA and Bivens actions was so interesting. The final brief was submitted to the District Court for the District of Columbia. Being able to file something I worked so hard on in federal court was a new and exciting experience. I felt like my work had really amounted to something.
Taier Perlman ’14 – NY State Attorney General’s Office
Back in 1998, one of the largest settlements in history was signed between 46 State Attorney General Offices and the four largest tobacco manufacturing companies in the US. The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) settled Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry in exchange for recovery of tobacco-related health-care costs the states were burdened with. In addition, tobacco companies agreed to limit/cease certain tobacco marketing practices. My summer with the NYS Attorney General’s Tobacco Compliance Bureau exposed me to the work involved in enforcing and complying with the MSA, and its importance in shifting the public health landscape regarding tobacco use.
I came during an exciting summer when the Tobacco Compliance Bureau was preparing for an arbitration hearing with big tobacco companies focused on settling a contractual dispute over the Master Settlement Agreement. I reviewed lengthy depositions for supportive designations, helped prepare exhibit documents, and assisted in organizing and assembling hundreds of pages of exhibits. This preparatory work culminated in attending and observing a week-long arbitration hearing presided by three retired federal court judges. The whole experience was invaluable exposure to the important work done by government attorneys focused on continuing a powerful public health policy in the State of New York.
Nuvia Skaden ’13 – Center for Constitutional Rights, Ella Baker Fellowship, New Orleans
The New Orleans right to counsel case I worked on was probably the most emotional and inspiring project, as it incorporated ideas of policy reform and human rights into an understanding of constitutional rights. This year, due to budget cuts, the New Orleans Office of the Public Defender (OPD) was forced to let go of 25% of its workforce, including 21 attorneys and its entire conflict division, leaving hundreds of indigent defendants without defense counsel. As a result, judges either appointed private attorneys with little to no background in criminal law to represent these individuals or did not appoint counsel at all. Working alongside Bill Quigley and my two other Ella Baker colleagues, we represented twelve clients in their criminal cases, three of whom were held in Orleans Parish Prison for months while waiting for an attorney. Through what is probably some of the most creative lawyering I have ever engaged in, we represented them in a limited capacity, solely to challenge the stat’s practice of not giving indigent defendants adequate representation. Arguing under Gideon, the 6th Amendment right to counsel and speedy trial, and human rights doctrine, Bill maintained that each individual is innocent until proven guilty, and that if the state does not have the funds to comply with the U.S. Constitution and appoint effective defense counsel, it should not be able to imprison and maintain cases indefinitely against the accused. I was responsible for case preparation and interviewing several of our defendants. Seeing the issues each of the defendants face, as well as the injustice that binds them all together, have been simultaneously heart-breaking, infuriating, and empowering. I was able to exercise all my empathetic abilities to learn from the individuals we’re representing: to be humbled by the experiences they’ve had, the decisions they’ve made, and their responses to a highly racialized and broken criminal justice system and facing the possibility of prison without an attorney. Best of all, I was able to work with renowned civil rights attorneys on a timely and prevalent problem towards a solution.
Peter Travitsky ’14 – Selfhelp Community Services, Evelyn Frank Legal Resources Program
It can be tough to work with people who live with mental illness because their treatment history can be inconsistent. Fortunately, that was not the case with my SSI appeal—my client was compliant with her treatment. Rather, what made her case difficult is that her medical records were scattered across the city. The client had been living in a shelter with her young son since her first two SSI applications, which were dispensed with before the client and her son were evicted from their apartment in another part of the city. And only the SSA office in her former neighborhood could easily access her old claim files. To make things worse, the hospital she once relied on had since closed, and her psychiatrist’s practice had also closed, when I needed records that predated her eviction. So a large part of the work of drafting her appeal was just assembling her history to document her symptoms and the ways her mental illness prevented her from working. By the time my internship ended the appeal was filed on her latest application for benefits and awaiting an ALJ hearing, but we were still waiting for all of the document requests to reopen her prior claims (she has since won the appeal!).
Mia Tomijima ’14 – New York City Department of Investigation
New York City is one of the few places in the United States to have an agency such as the Department of Investigation that independently investigates allegations of fraud so that they are untainted by bias and corruption. Working with the Office of General Counsel exposed me to a wide array of legal issues, anything from the use of wiretaps in our investigation of a white-collar crime to civil action against a major contractor for possibly mismanaging city money. One particularly memorable day at the office was when the Inspectorate General of Vietnam visited the office to learn how our office works independently from other agencies and what laws we use to implement our authority. Listening to the Vietnamese delegation revealed to me how unique this agency is and how useful the skills I learned from this internship could be for other organizations.
Leslie (Lee) Wellington ’13 – South Brooklyn Legal Services
Most of us New Yorkers live in apartment buildings, but rarely do we think about the rights of building superintendants. Through this internship, I learned about how important it is that superintendants are able to access the representation that they need and deserve. Building superintendants often live in apartments that are a condition of their employment—once they lose their jobs, they lose their homes. I worked with one building super, who for years was not fairly compensated for his work. This particular super even laid out his own money to make repairs, and was never reimbursed. He was working side-jobs (on top of his full-time work in the building) in order to support his family. When he tried to recover his unpaid wages, and the money that was owed to him, he was terminated. With the great supervision of Jane Landry-Reyes, we were able to raise a legal challenge to this super’s termination of employment, work to recover unpaid wages, and help get him additional time to find a new apartment. More generally, I learned about an important intersection of housing and employment law with respect to building superintendants, and how legal tools can be used to help building superintendants recover unpaid wages, and in some cases, remain in their apartments.
2011 BLSPI FELLOWS
- Matthew Allee ’13 – Southern Public Defender Training Center (Hinds County Public Defender Office)
- Nicholas Fribourg ’12 – The Bronx Defenders
- Catherine Frizell ’12 – LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund
- Julia Howard-Gibbon ’12 – South Brooklyn Legal Services, Housing Unit
- Shannon Karam ’12 – Urban Justice Center
- Amanda Levin – South Brooklyn Legal Services
- Rebecca McBride ’13 – Central American Legal Assistance
- Maura McCarthy ’13 – Bronx Legal Services, Education Unit
- Brandon Novelli ’12 – U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri
- Theresa Omansky ’12 – Lawyers Alliance for New York
- Kathryn Reiter ’13 – Center for Justice and Democracy
- Hannah Roth ’12 – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s General Counsel for International Law
- Lenny Sapozhnikov ’13 – Office of the Public Advocate for the City of New York
- M. Kathryn Seevers – The Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Project
- Natalie Serra ’13 – LGBT Domestic Violence Initiative, Sanctuary for Families Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services
- Neil Shah ’13 – South Brooklyn Legal Services
- Riti Singh ’12 – Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice
- G. Victor Suh ’13 – Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A
- Meredith Symonds ’12 – The Legal Aid Society, Criminal Defense Practice
- Sarah Udashkin ’13 – New York Legal Assistance Group, Domestic Violence Clinical Center
2010 BLSPI FELLOWS
- Kate Wood ’11 – Children’s Rights
- Melissa Livingston ’11 – New York State Division of Human Rights, Office of Sexual Harassment Issues
- Marisa Nack ’11 – American Civil Liberties Union, Women’s Rights Project
- Eben Saling ’12 – The Human Rights Project at the Urban Justice Center
- Amy Hsieh ’11 – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the General Counsel
- Emily Powers ’12 – U.S. Attorney’s Office, Criminal Division, Fraud and Public Corruption Section
- Erika Lorshbough ’12 – Legal Services NYC, Brooklyn Branch
- Dorothy DiPascali ’12 – NY State Division of Human Rights, Brooklyn Regional Office
- Lauren Maccarone ‘ 11 – Coalition for the International Criminal Court
- Rosa Cohen-Cruz ’12 – Sylvia Rivera Law Project
- Rachel Seelig ’12 – Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society
- Madeliene Elkan ’12 – Kings County DA’s Office, Domestic Violence Bureau
- David Shapiro ’12 – Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice
- Alison Schill ‘ 12 – Legal Aid Society of Queens, Juvenile Rights Practice
- Jesse Thompson ’11 – Center for Gender and Refugee Studies
- Antonia Pereira ’12 – Brooklyn Legal Services
- Hanna Morrill ‘ 12 – International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
- Kelly Shaw ’12 – The Exoneration Initiative
- Michael Berman ’12 – New York Legal Assistance Group, Legal Health Project
2009 BLSPI FELLOWS
- Andrea Clisura ’11
- Anthony Consiglio ’11
- Coco Culhane ’10
- Archana Dittakavi ’11
- Kristin Gallagher ’10
- Michael Higgins ’11
- Edward Huang ’10
- Michael Kennett ’11
- Shayna Kessler ’10
- Svetlana Kolomeyer ’11
- Angela Lam ’11
- Leigh Mangum ’11
- Michael Mastrangelo ’11
- Nithya Nathan ’10
- Cristina Pejoves ’11
- Alexandra Puleo ’11
- Elizabeth Retter ’10
- Sarah Westby ’11
- Laura Vogel ’10
- Laura Zimmerman ’11
2008 BLSPI FELLOWS
- Melissa Brennan – Labor Rights Promotion Network & UN Inter‐Agency Project on Human Trafficking (Thailand)
- Sundrop Carter – NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund (NYC)
- Kathleen Christatos – Legal Services for the Elderly (NYC)
- Seth Cohen – New York Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Bureau (NYC)
- Deborah Diamant – Legal Aid Society, Project FAIR (NYC)
- Nicholas Enrich – Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (NYC)
- Amy Friedland – U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Criminal Division (NYC)
- Eric Goldman – Safe Horizon, Domestic Violence Law Project (NYC)
- Leila Hull – Legal Aid Society, Prisoners’ Rights Project (NYC)
- Basil Kim – The Opportunity Agenda (NYC)
- Monica Lewis – Lawyers for Children (NYC)
- Kyle Marler – Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (NYC)
- Paul Molina – Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (New Orleans, LA)
- Samuel Palmer‐Simon – Legal Aid Society, Prisoners’ Rights Project (NYC)
- Rebekah Pazmino – Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (New Orleans, LA)
- Stephanie Pope – Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NYC)
- Benjamin Riskin – Lawyers for Children (NYC)
- Scott Ruplinger – Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (D.C.) & Kenya Education Partnership
- Haeya Yim – Urban Justice Center, Community Development Project (NYC)