Ashwini Velchamy ’20 Awarded Public Interest and Government Fellowship

At the Capital Appeals Project, in New Orleans, Velchamy will represent individuals on death row.

Headshot of Ashwini Velchamy ’20

Before enrolling at Columbia Law School, Ashwini Velchamy ’20 earned a B.S. in computer science and a B.S. in economics from American University. During law school, she was an articles editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, co-president of the Society of Law, Science and Technology, vice president of professional development for the South Asian Law Students Association, and events chair of the Criminal Justice Action Network. She was a member of the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic and served as a research assistant to Professors Kimberlé Crenshaw and Bernard Harcourt. Through the Capital Post-Conviction Defense Practicum, she had an externship at Phillips Black, a nonprofit law firm that represents death-sentenced individuals. During her 1L and 2L summers, she worked respectively at the ACLU Capital Punishment Project and at the law firm White & Case LLP in Washington, D.C.

Why the Capitals Appeals Project: “I don’t believe the death penalty should exist. I think our criminal legal system is fundamentally cruel, and I think the existence and continued use of the death penalty is one of the most flagrant signs of it. The state has the authority to extinguish human life, and we are supposed to accept it. I chose to work at the Capitals Appeals Project (CAP) because I want to use the privileges and opportunities I’ve had to advocate for those who have not had the same and work toward ending this cruel practice.”

Fellowship Goals: “I would like to develop a stronger feel for how the law works in practice rather than just in theory. Additionally, outside of the Mass Incarceration Clinic, clients I worked with in law school were all out of state, and I am looking forward to working more directly with clients during my fellowship year since CAP’s focus is in Louisiana.”

The Office of Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) guides Columbia Law School students who want to pursue public interest work throughout their academic careers and after graduation. SJI also assists in the process of applying to prestigious postgraduate fellowships. Read about other 2020 fellowship recipients.