Anne Gell ’09 speaks passionately about the varied public interest work she has undertaken over the past three years. From working at the Legal Aid Society in the Bronx to interviewing genocide survivors in Cambodia, she explains that “the theme in all of this is being drawn to the underdog.”
The desire to help those with few advantages has left Gell with an impressive resume studded with human rights work, as well as the honor of being Columbia Law School’s Outstanding Public Interest Student of the Year.
Gell, who grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, first came to the Morningside Heights campus as an undergraduate at Columbia College. The Law School’s rigorous human rights initiatives helped convince her to stay and pursue her J.D.
During her second year, Gell worked on a brief for the Jessica Gonzales v. United States of America case, which involves a woman whose three young daughters were abducted and killed in 1999 after police officers failed to enforce a restraining order against her estranged husband.
Then last summer, she traveled to Cambodia to work with the Documentation Center of Cambodia. “There are very few Cambodians over the age of 35 or 40 because of mass killings by the Khmer Rouge,” she says. “All the paid employees at the center were Cambodian and in their 20s and 30s. I really felt like I was working with the future of Cambodia.”
After graduation, Gell will take on human rights issues much closer to home. As a Kirkland & Ellis fellow, she will spend a year working with Sanctuary for Families on a new project to unite immigrant domestic violence victims with their children.
“I really couldn’t do anything else,” Gell says of her career in public interest law. “There are so many human rights challenges out there, and now with my law degree, I have the opportunity to make a real difference.”