Meet the 2021 J.D. and LL.M. Postgraduate Public Interest Fellows

Every year, recent Columbia Law School graduates receive prestigious fellowships that support positions in public interest and public service organizations.

Exterior of Jerome L. Greene Hall featuring the sculpture Bellerophon Taming Pegasus

Working at social justice and human rights organizations across the United States and abroad, the 2021 cohort of fellows will focus on such issues as child welfare and workers’ rights, election reform and environmental justice. As students at the Law School, these individuals built extensive résumés that demonstrate their commitment to social justice and human rights. The organizations hosting them will benefit from their legal knowledge and lawyering skills acquired through courses, clinics, externships, internships, summer jobs, pro bono projects, and leadership roles on journals and in student organizations.

“This class of fellows is especially impressive in the breadth of their academic accomplishments, diversity of extracurricular activities, and proven dedication to representing underserved communities and righting systemic injustices,” says Erica Smock, dean for Social Justice Initiatives and Public Service Lawyering. The Office of Social Justice Initiatives (SJI) offers comprehensive guidance and support to J.D. and LL.M. students who seek positions serving the public good, both in the United States and abroad.

The organizations hosting the fellows include the ACLU Racial Justice Project, Human Rights Watch, Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, Mercy for Animals, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

Below, meet some of the J.D. and LL.M. fellows and learn what drew them to their organizations and what they hope to achieve.
Emily Barber ’21

Emily Barber ’21

Name of Fellowship: Hueston Hennigan Fellowship

Organization: Social Justice Legal Foundation

Hometown: Batesville, Arkansas

A graduate of the University of Arkansas, where she received a B.A. in International Studies and African and African-American Studies, Emily Barber ’21 gained experience in direct services at the Law School through internships with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Defense Practice, and Gideon’s Promise. She was also a capital defense extern for the Squire Patton Boggs Public Service Initiative and a student attorney in Columbia’s Capital Post-Conviction Defense practicum. Her extracurricular activities included serving as articles editor for the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and professional development chair for the Student Public Interest Network.

Why the Hueston Hennigan Fellowship? “During law school, I became increasingly interested in impact litigation as a method of achieving the structural overhauls that are so badly needed to address the injustices that client-based litigators are fighting on the ground every day. I greatly admired the Social Justice Legal Foundation’s thoughtful approach in selecting the most pressing social justice battles to bring to the courts, and their commitment to investing in young litigators through mentorship and intensive training.” 

Fellowship goals: “By working in a small fellowship cohort with a talented team of mentors, I hope to sharpen my skills in brief-writing and oral advocacy and become an effective litigator for change. Additionally, while I plan to continue advocating for criminal legal reform through prison conditions litigation, I hope to become more well rounded and well versed in other areas of public interest lawyering, such as economic justice, housing rights, and voting rights.”

What’s next: After her fellowship, Barber will clerk for Judge Jenny Rivera ’93 LL.M. on the New York State Court of Appeals for the 2023–2024 term.

Susanna Booth portrait

Susanna Booth ’21

Name of Fellowship: Skadden Fellowship

Organization: American Friends Service Committee

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

After receiving an A.B. in International Comparative Studies and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies from Duke University in 2016, Susanna Booth ’21 spent two years as an Immigrant Justice Corps fellow at the Arab American Association of New York in Brooklyn. She became a Department of Justice accredited representative, which allowed her to represent clients before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in proceedings for naturalization and asylum. “Many of my clients were from Yemen, and witnessing how the Muslim ban impacted them inspired me to go to law school,” she says. At the Law School, she participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic for four semesters and had summer internships at Muslim Advocates after her 1L year and at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project after her 2L year. Booth is excited to be a Skadden fellow, “one of the preeminent public interest legal fellowships for young lawyers like me,” she says. “I have been constantly inspired both by the passion and creativity of my co-fellows, as well as the warmth and kindness from Skadden leadership and current and past fellows. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and especially to SJI for helping me craft my project and supporting me.” 

Why American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)? “American Friends Service Committee is a leader in the immigrants’ rights field, and it provides most of the representation to New Jersey immigrants detained in northern New Jersey. My project will provide representation to detained immigrants in New Jersey who already have removal orders, who are either seeking to appeal their removal orders, obtain collateral relief (such as motions to reopen), or secure release while they await the resolution of their collateral or appellate proceedings. There’s currently almost no representation available for immigrants detained post-order in northern New Jersey. AFSC is really the only organization in the area that consistently represents immigrants who are detained post-order, so it seemed like a great fit.”

Fellowship goals: “To ensure that immigrants who are detained post-order have access to high-quality counsel, so that they may access their rightful immigration relief. I also hope to train other practitioners in the area in collateral and appellate relief options, to really build up a network of immigration attorneys who feel confident and prepared representing immigrants in these often legally and procedurally complex proceedings.”

What’s next: After her fellowship, Booth will be a clerk for Judge Albert Diaz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Samantha Braver ’21

Samantha Braver ’21

Name of Fellowship: Bredhoff Law Fellowship

Organization: Bredhoff & Kaiser

Hometown: Warren, New Jersey

Samantha Braver ’21 received a B.A. in Government and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from the College of William & Mary and an M.Phil. in International Relations and Politics from the University of Cambridge. At Columbia Law, she participated in the Columbia Law Review, the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic, and Student Senate and was a peer mentor and teaching assistant. Braver is a strong believer in trying to make the world a better place. “I’m Jewish, and one component of Judaism is the concept of tikkun olam, or the idea that we should go about trying to repair the world,” she says. “If I could help repair the world even a little bit by using my law degree to advance the public good, then I will feel as if I did what I set out here to do.” 

Why the Bredholff Law Fellowship? “I chose Bredhoff & Kaiser because I was interested in learning more about labor law. I became especially passionate about the advancement of workers’ rights during the pandemic after reading countless stories on individuals suffering from COVID-19 in places like meatpacking plants due to the lack of enforcement regarding workplace safety standards. There is a long history of the intersection between the fight for unions and the fight for civil rights. As someone who is interested in pursuing full-time public interest work in these areas, the [fellowship] seemed like the perfect opportunity to immerse myself in a new area of law and meaningfully help others achieve better, safer lives.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to hone my litigation skills by learning practical skills, such as how to draft motions. . . . I also hope to learn how to effectively collaborate with other attorneys on cases and gain new mentors (and friends!) in the process. While Bredhoff & Kaiser primarily focuses on labor and employment law, the firm has done outstanding work in numerous fields such as civil rights class actions, so I would love to expose myself to as many different substantive areas as possible.” 

What’s next: After her fellowship, Braver will clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Anne E. Thompson of the District of New Jersey and then for Judge Patty Shwartz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Connie Budaci ’21 LL.M.

Connie Budaci ’21 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School LL.M. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: The Sentencing Project

Hometown: Toronto

Connie Budaci ’21 LL.M. earned a dual Canadian and American J.D. degree from University of Windsor and University of Detroit Mercy and a B.A. in philosophy from Queen’s University. She worked as counsel and manager of legal research in the Office of the Chief Justice at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, where she also clerked. During law school, Budaci volunteered as a student litigator and caseworker with Community Legal Aid in Windsor, Ontario; sat on various committees; and worked as a research assistant.  At Columbia, Budaci participated in the Columbia Human Rights Clinic and the Clooney Foundation for Justice TrialWatch. She performed pro bono work with the Bronx Defenders and had an externship with the Center for Public Research and Leadership. 

Why the Sentencing Project? “In both Canada and the U.S., the criminal justice system disenfranchises and, in many cases, actively oppresses the most vulnerable members in society. The Sentencing Project is committed to addressing these inequalities through policy reform and the promotion of justice and humane responses to crime.”

Fellowship goals: “I want to contribute to work that will have a positive social impact, while learning more about criminal policy reform. I am excited to build on my legal research and writing skills and to learn about how to strategically advocate for equality and justice to enact real change.” 

What’s next: “I am incredibly passionate about criminal justice reform and the intersection of criminal justice and human rights, and I want to build a career enacting positive social change in the criminal justice system.”

Joanne Choi ’21

Joanne Choi ’21

Name of Fellowship: Herbert and Nell Singer Social Justice Fellowship 

Organization: American Civil Liberties Union Racial Justice Program

Hometown: Los Angeles

After receiving a B.S. in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley, Joanne Choi ’21 spent four years working in the private sector before enrolling at Columbia Law School. At the Law School, she participated in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic and the Columbia Journal of Race and Law and was a member of student organizations including the Student Public Interest Network, Empowering Women of Color, and First Generation Professionals. She interned with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Still She Rises and was a team coordinator for the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project. 

Why the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Racial Justice Program (RJP)? “I wanted to work on a project challenging the criminalization of poverty, and the ACLU Racial Justice Program has a successful history of fighting wealth-based punishment in the legal system. RJP has brought strategic lawsuits and advocated for systemic solutions, all with an eye toward protecting the rights of people who cannot pay their court fines and fees. I am also excited about the opportunity to work with the RJP team, all of whom have dedicated their careers to litigating issues at the intersection of racial and economic justice.”

Fellowship goals: “I want to expand RJP’s work in this area by using strategic litigation to challenge excessive court fines and fees, which often push people into cycles of poverty and punishment. In addition to using litigation for tangible and direct outcomes, my hope is that highlighting the pervasiveness of unjust fines and fees radically changes the dominant social narrative about carceral approaches to poverty and trauma—that our work ultimately undermines people’s confidence in the entire punishment bureaucracy. And lastly, through this process, I hope to partner with community organizers, grassroots groups, and local ACLU affiliates to practice community-centered impact litigation that adds power and momentum to the communities we work with.”

Sin Ping Natalie Chu ’21 LL.M.

Sin Ping Natalie Chu ’21 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: Global Public Service Fellowship

Organization: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Hometown: Singapore

After learning firsthand the “intense realities of displacement and migration” during a summer study abroad program in Greece, Natalie Chu ’21 LL.M. volunteered with London-based organizations that provide legal aid and advocacy for asylum-seekers while earning her law degree from University College London. During her LL.M. studies, Chu participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, held an externship with Sanctuary for Families, and was a staff editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law

Why the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)? “Experiences across multiple jurisdictions have strengthened my conviction that greater international commitment and cooperation are necessary to achieve stability and security for some of the world’s most marginalized individuals.”

Fellowship goals: Chu will spend six months at U.N. headquarters in New York, analyzing and advising on displacement-related elements of international crisis situations and interacting with diplomats, other UN agencies, and NGOs. She will then spend six months at a UNHCR duty station working with refugees and local stakeholders. “The combination of high-level HQ work and on-the-ground fieldwork will bolster my knowledge and expertise in refugee law and international policy.”

What’s next: Chu plans to return to Southeast Asia and “endeavor to help formulate more concrete and durable solutions” for refugees there.

Matthew Dial ’21

Matthew Dial ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office

Hometown: Dallas

Before he enrolled at Columbia Law School, Matthew Dial ’21 put his undergraduate degree in theater from Northwestern University to good use by performing with the children’s theater organization Story Pirates for two years. At the Law School, he was a staff editor for A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual, a member of the Rikers Island Book Club, and the video director of Law Revue. He had externships with the Bronx Defenders and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. During his 1L summer, he was a judicial intern for Chief Judge Philip Gutierrez of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and during his 2L year he was a law clerk for Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office.

Why Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office? “I love LA County Public Defenders for their balance of holistic-style, client-centered criminal defense work with a focus on also providing resources and time to their attorneys so they aren’t overworked. I knew even from my remote summer work that this sort of attitude at the office was something that appealed to me. I have family and other connections here in LA, so I am excited to just generally be doing the work that I love in this place that I love.”

Fellowship goals: “To become the best zealous advocate I can be, and I know that will involve lots of training and practice to properly take on a public defender’s workload. I aim to get as much experience as I can helping our clients and doing my small part to alleviate the burdens of the criminal-legal system here in LA. And of course the short-term goal is to get hired full-time once I’ve passed the bar, so that I can give even more substantial help through my work in this office.”

James Drueckhammer ’21

James Drueckhammer ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: U.S. Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness

Hometown: East Setauket, New York

James Drueckhammer ’21 graduated with a B.A. in history from Washington University in St. Louis in 2018. During his time in law school, he interned for the World Trade Organization’s Development Division, participated in a U.N. externship, and worked in the legal office of the U.N. Development Programme. He also worked in the Litigation and Lien Recovery Unit of the New York City Department of Social Services. His extracurricular activities included serving as a staff editor for the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law and working as a research assistant for Petros C. Mavroidis, Edwin B. Parker Professor of Foreign and Comparative Law. 

Why the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness? “I wanted to work for the Senate Finance Committee because of my interest in international trade and development. The committee plays a key role in setting negotiating objectives for the trade agreements, and its approval is necessary for the approval of any congressional/executive agreements that relate to international trade. In the coming year, the Senate will play a key role in negotiations with our Asia-Pacific trade partners and oversee domestic debates regarding the Trade Adjustment Assistance program that allocates funds to workers and communities displaced as a result of imports.”

Fellowship goals: “My goals are simply to make myself useful and network while gaining experience. I know that I would like to have a career in the international trade realm, whether that involves domestic policy and remaining in Washington or returning to an international organization such as the WTO. This year in Washington will be key as I gain connections and hope to demonstrate my value as a trade lawyer.”

Jacob Elkin ’21

Jacob Elkin ’21

Name of Fellowship: Climate Change Law Fellowship

Organization: Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Hometown: Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

After graduating with a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, Jacob Elkin ’21 spent much of his time at Columbia Law School pursuing environmental law. He participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, conducted a supervised experiential project at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, was a team member and coach with the Environmental Law Moot Court, and was a representative and pro bono chair of the Environmental Law Society. He also interned with the Public Interest Law Center in Philadelphia, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services, and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest’s Environmental Justice Program, and he was a teaching assistant for Professor Michael Gerrard’s Advanced Climate Change Law seminar. 

Why the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law? “I have had the pleasure of working with a number of individuals within the Sabin Center throughout my time at Columbia Law School and have been continuously excited by the work that the Sabin Center is doing at the forefront of a wide range of climate law issues. I chose to work as a climate law fellow at the Sabin Center so that I could contribute to that work, particularly the center’s work on climate justice issues.”

Fellowship goals: “I am greatly looking forward to learning from all of the distinguished climate law scholars and practitioners working at the Sabin Center. I am hoping to develop expertise in a number of climate law and environmental justice issue areas in order to better represent the communities that are most vulnerable to climate impacts in the future.”

What’s next: After his fellowship, Elkin will clerk for Judge Gerald A. McHugh of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Katharine Friel ’21

Katharine Friel ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Brennan Center for Justice

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Katharine Friel ’21 graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in philosophy and minor in sociology. At Columbia Law School, she pursued her passion for voting rights advocacy, including through an externship with the ACLU Voting Rights Project and as a research assistant for Richard Briffault, Joseph P. Chamberlain Professor of Legislation, and Local Solutions Support Center on State Voting Laws and COVID-19. She was also an intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and a litigation legal assistant at Sullivan & Cromwell. At the Law School, she was a staff editor of the Journal of Law and Social Problems and vice president for events of Columbia ACLU. 

Why the Brennan Center for Justice? “I care very deeply about voting rights, and a fellowship with the Brennan Center will allow me to take the perfect first step in my pursuit of a career in this field.”

Fellowship goals: “As part of the Brennan Center’s Voting Rights and Elections Program, I will have the opportunity to gain litigation training and experience (in both federal and a variety of state courts), in addition to working on a range of policy initiatives to advance reform. I will also gain a national perspective and better understand the most effective strategies to combat common categories of voting restrictions across the country.”

Brenda Gonzalez Rueda ’21

Brenda Gonzalez Rueda ’21

Name of Fellowship: Immigrant Justice Corps Justice Fellowship

Organization: Brooklyn Defender Services

Hometown: Santa Maria, California

As a member of a mixed-status family of immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico, Brenda Gonzalez Rueda ’21 was motivated to go to law school to become an advocate for immigrants’ rights. While at Columbia Law, she was a student attorney and teaching assistant in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, a staff editor on the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, co-president of the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and social justice chair of the Latinx Law Students Association. She interned with the Immigration Practice of The Bronx Defenders and the Detention Action Response Team of the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. Gonzalez Rueda received a B.A. in Iberian and Latin American cultures from Stanford University. 

Why Brooklyn Defender Services? “Prior to law school, I worked with attorneys providing free immigration legal services to unaccompanied migrant children detained and facing deportation in Arizona. People, including children, facing deportation do not have a right to government-appointed counsel if they cannot afford one. My time in Arizona showed me the difference that having high-quality counsel in removal proceedings can make in a person's case outcome. After law school, I wanted to become just that. Brooklyn Defender Services is committed to providing high-quality legal representation and related services to people who cannot afford to retain an attorney as they face the immigration, criminal, and family justice systems. [As an Immigrant Justice Corps fellow], I will be advocating for clients at the intersection of the criminal justice and immigration systems and providing them with a wide array of immigration legal services as they face deportation or pursue lawful status or citizenship.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to greatly contribute to the missions of Brooklyn Defender Services and the Immigrant Justice Corps. I also hope to empower clients through zealous, client-centered advocacy; immigration legal services; and preservation of their dignity and humanity. Finally, I want to gain deep insight into the fight for immigrant justice at the intersection of the criminal justice and immigration systems.”

Jenna Lauter BC ’13, LAW ’21

Jenna Lauter BC ’13, LAW ’21

Name of Fellowship: Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Organization: New York Civil Liberties Union

Hometown: Great Neck, New York

After graduating with a B.A. in political science and human rights from Barnard College and before enrolling in law school, Jenna Lauter ’21 worked for a political consulting firm and served as the New York deputy organizing director of the Hillary for America campaign and a national organizing team member for the 2017 Women’s March on Washington. She came to law school to “become a more effective ally in the fight to reduce inequalities and improve access to justice for all.” During her time at Columbia, she was a democracy program intern at the Brennan Center for Justice and a policy intern at the New York Civil Liberties Union. Lauter was an active member of student organizations including the Columbia Law Women’s Association, the Jailhouse Book Club, and Columbia Law School Democrats. 

Why the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)? “I love New York—it’s my home, my community—and I knew I wanted to work for an organization that used law and policy to make life better and more just for the people in my state. As a 2L summer intern, I was impressed and inspired by the NYCLU’s approach to advocacy, which centered on impacted communities and used a range of tools to achieve change, from policy to litigation, communications to organizing. I knew then that I wanted to work for the NYCLU after graduation––not only because it would allow me to make a real difference in my community, but also because of the thoughtful, compassionate, and principled way they approached their work, which I hope will help me to become a better person and advocate.”

Fellowship goals: “During my two-year fellowship, I will work to combat family separation and surveillance through the child welfare system (‘the new Jane Crow’) by improving representation for indigent parents. I will advocate for statewide policy reforms to provide parents with early and holistic representation in child welfare cases and will conduct community outreach and education to support parents with information and resources that will help them more effectively navigate potential interactions with Child Protective Services (CPS). Additionally, I will work with health care providers to reduce the volume of CPS cases that originate as a result of unnecessary drug testing and reporting. I hope that through this fellowship I will be able to ensure that more parents have access to the resources they need to safely keep their families intact.”

Callen Lowell CC ’15, LAW ’21

Callen Lowell CC ’15, LAW ’21

Name of Fellowship: Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Organization: Brooklyn Defender Services

Hometown: Portland, Maine

Callen Lowell CC ’15, LAW ’21 graduated with a B.A. in political science and American studies from Columbia College. Prior to law school, they were the inaugural program coordinator of the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund at the National Women’s Law Center and a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Congressional Hunger Center. While at the Law School, they participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, externed with Bronx Defender Services and the Legal Aid Society, and were editor-in-chief of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Lowell was also a workers’ rights team intern at the Urban Justice Center and a workplace justice intern at Make the Road New York.

Why Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS)? “I was drawn to Brooklyn Defender Services because of their commitment to building worker power for those who are often most excluded from safe, equitable workplaces. Immigrant workers in low-wage and informal jobs who face exploitative working conditions are often incredibly isolated. For immigrant workers who are also entangled in the immigration and/or criminal legal systems (“crimmigration systems”), the consequences are dire: deadly workplace conditions, discrimination, wage theft, financial instability due to job loss, and the ever-looming threat of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. BDS has the community and client trust that is necessary to effectively represent these clients.”

Fellowship goals: “I will represent low-income immigrants in New York City who are entangled in the immigration and criminal legal systems on workers’ rights and related immigration issues through direct representation, systemic litigation, and policy reform. Through my project, I will represent immigrant workers at BDS involved in the immigration and criminal legal systems on issues of worker safety, paid leave, wage theft, and discrimination via administrative agency enforcement, litigation, arbitration, and mediation. For undocumented workers, I will work with BDS’s immigration practice to file U and T Visa applications for clients whose work conditions make them eligible for this form of immigration relief.” 

What’s next: After completing their fellowship, Lowell will clerk for Judge Jenny Rivera ’93 LL.M. on the New York State Court of Appeals from 2023 to 2025.

Meghan Lucas ’21

Meghan Lucas ’21

Name of Fellowship: Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Organization: Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina

Meghan Lucas ’21 received a B.A. in economics with a minor in Arabic from Davidson College. At Columbia Law, she participated in the Community Advocacy Lab, externed with the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Unit, and was a member of the Society for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and the National Lawyers Guild. She also did pro bono work for the COVID Workers’ Rights Response and International Refugee Assistance Project. In May 2020, Lucas temporarily moved back to Charlotte to be with family during the pandemic and interned with the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy Unemployment Insurance Project. After discussions about how she could help address some of the economic needs of existing clients, Lucas and the center decided to design a fellowship project together. 

Why Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy? “Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, with a significant unmet need of employment legal services for low-income workers. My host organization is the largest provider of low-income legal services in the Charlotte area, and while economic stability for clients underlies much of its work, in the past it has not had the resources to offer comprehensive workers’ rights resources. We designed a fellowship project together to focus on wage theft and other labor standards violations, taking advantage of the advocacy center’s existing relationships with community organizations and worker centers. My fellowship will prioritize low-wage immigrant workers and workers of color.”

Fellowship goals: “With the support of the advocacy center and our partners, I will use my two-year fellowship to develop a new permanent program focused on workers’ rights. I will support low-wage workers by filing wage-and-hour and overtime complaints with the North Carolina Department of Labor, litigating claims in certain industries, and engaging in community education on workplace rights. I will also work with legal services organizations and worker centers to advocate for state-level reform in labor standards monitoring and enforcement. Other underlying goals include helping low-wage workers in the Charlotte area share information in their industries, connect with other labor movements across the state, and combat misinformation about unions.”

Josh Malkin ’21

Josh Malkin ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: South Carolina Justice Project

Hometown: Albany, New York

After Josh Malkin ’21 earned a B.A. in Psychology from Tufts University, he taught middle and high school math in New Orleans for five years. At Columbia Law, Malkin spent his 1L summer with Orleans Public Defenders and 2L summer with the Mississippi Center for Justice. He also interned with the NAACP during his 3L spring semester. Malkin was a member of the Columbia EdLaw Society, Health Justice Advocacy Clinic, Community Advocacy Clinic, and Center for Public Research and Leadership, and he participated in the Constitutional Rights in Life and Death Penalty Cases Externship.

Why the South Carolina Justice Project? “The South Carolina Justice Project offers a really exciting opportunity to engage in racial justice work while also helping to build an organization. The organization is already involved in a variety of meaningful litigation, but it is relatively new, so I will have the opportunity to pursue issues that are of particular interest to me.” 

Fellowship goals: “I’m hoping to apply and further develop some of the skills I learned in law school. I just want to be as helpful as I can in assisting South Carolinians in their fight for justice.”

Shannon Marcoux ’21

Shannon Marcoux ’21

Name of Fellowship: David W. Leebron Human Rights Fellowship

Organization: Natural Justice (Cape Town, South Africa)

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

After earning a B.A. in International Political Economy from Fordham University, Shannon Marcoux ’21 taught high school in Micronesia for two years, and it was that experience that cemented her interest in the intersection of human rights and climate law. She interned with Human Rights Watch, EarthRights International, and Centro de Estudios de Derecho, Justicia y Sociedad in Bogota, Colombia. She also served as articles editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, participated in Environmental Law Moot Court, and interned with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment. Marcoux was a guest on the introductory episode of Columbia Law School’s podcast Defending the Planet

Why Natural Justice? “I was most drawn to Natural Justice’s community lawyering model in choosing them as a host organization. Their advocacy efforts ensure that the communities with which the organization works are the true decision makers. From its inception, Natural Justice has recognized the interconnectedness of human rights and environmental justice, and they are currently engaged in innovative human rights advocacy in the face of the climate crisis.”

Fellowship goals: “I hope to contribute to the growing climate justice litigation efforts in South Africa. There are so many lessons to be gleaned from current strategic litigation both in South Africa and globally, so I plan to use my fellowship year to learn from and contribute to this crucial and truly innovative climate advocacy.” 

What’s next: Marcoux hopes to continue working on environmental justice issues in collaboration with grassroots human rights organizations.

John Martin ’21

John Martin ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Brennan Center for Justice

Hometown: Nazareth, Pennsylvania

After earning a B.A. in International Relations from New York University, John Martin worked as a paralegal for the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. At Columbia Law, he interned at the Knight First Amendment Institute, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Campaign Legal Center. Additionally, Martin served as a teaching fellow for Professor Richard Briffault’s course Law of the Political Process and Professor Jane C. Ginsburg’s Legal Methods I course, was an articles editor for the Columbia Law Review, and was president of the Columbia American Civil Liberties Union. During his time at Columbia Law, he delved into speech rights and election law issues both as a research assistant for the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom and through publications in the Columbia Law Review and Virginia Law Review.

Why the Brennan Center for Justice? “Money in politics is the root cause of many problems in American society. Without strong campaign finance limitations and a robust public financing system, working-class interests will continue to be ignored in favor of the interests of those with enough wealth to influence our government leaders. I decided to work for the Brennan Center’s Election Reform Program because it is at the forefront of combating money in politics and political corruption.” 

Fellowship goals: “First, I hope to develop a mixture of litigation and policy advocacy skills. Second, I want to gain better insight into the current legal battles in the campaign finance sphere. Lastly, I’d like for the fellowship to launch me into a career dedicated to working on campaign finance issues.”

Elizabeth Orem ’21

Elizabeth Orem ’21

Name of Fellowship: Kirkland & Ellis Public Service Fellowship

Organization: The Door Legal Services Center

Hometown: Seattle

Elizabeth Orem ’21 describes herself as “passionate about immigration, education, and family law.” After earning a B.A. in English and Spanish from University of Notre Dame, Orem joined AmeriCorps and worked with low-income youths in Colorado. At Columbia Law School, she participated in the Bergstrom Child Welfare Law Fellowship and interned in the family defense practice at Brooklyn Defender Services. She also did the Immigrant Youth Advocacy externship with the Legal Aid Society and was a teaching assistant for the Center for Public Research and Leadership’s Public Education Policy seminar and practicum. She published a note in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and was a staff editor. 

Why The Door Legal Services Center? “I’ve had my eye on The Door since I started law school because I love their mission so much. The organization provides New York youth with everything you can think of, from dance lessons to tutoring to help finding a job to mental health counseling to legal services. The Door’s Legal Services Center has been focusing recently on immigration services because that’s been the greatest need of their clients. They want to expand their services to support clients in all of their legal needs. I chose The Door for my fellowship because I love their work and I love the task of helping them expand their services to better meet the needs of immigrant youth.” 

Fellowship goals: “The biggest goal of my fellowship is to expand The Door’s capacity for serving the civil legal needs of immigrant youth. This means working with a small caseload of clients on their immigration cases as well as the other issues that come up relating to their immigration status, including special education needs, housing and food security, and access to public benefits. I will also be working with The Door’s staff to create an intake form for immigration attorneys to use with our clients that is trauma-informed, developmentally appropriate, and allows attorneys to spot civil legal issues as well as immigration issues. I plan to create a guide that provides attorneys with information about how to respond to these issues once they’re recognized.”

Magdalena Oropeza ’21

Magdalena Oropeza ’21

Name of Fellowship: Norton Rose Fulbright Fellowship

Organization: The Door Legal Services Center

Hometown: Queens, New York

Magdalena Oropeza ’21 received a B.A. in criminology and Latin American and Latinx studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice and enrolled in Columbia Law School committed to pursuing immigration-related work. She interned for Sanctuary for Families, Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, and Judge Dora L. Irizarry of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She was also a program coordinator for John Jay College’s Rising Scholars of Justice and was a member of the Summer Student Honors Program for the Securities and Exchange Commission in New York. At Columbia Law, she participated in the Immigrants' Rights Clinic, the Latinx Law Students Association, and the Pro Bono Scholars Program, and she was a teaching assistant for Jane M. Spinak, Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law. 

Why The Door Legal Services Center? “I am deeply committed to providing culturally sensitive bilingual legal services to my community. My professional and academic experiences support my long-standing commitment to immigration work and have fueled an interest in pursuing direct legal services to meet the multifaceted needs of youth in New York City. As a young child, I was aware of my parents’ anxiety around their immigration status. They came to the United States at the ages of 12 and 16, respectively, seeking opportunities. They worked hard, had a family, and yet continued to experience distress and fear. Their experiences fueled my desire to serve similarly situated marginalized groups. While in law school, I continue to pursue this type of advocacy work. These experiences have equipped me with knowledge and skills on trauma-informed lawyering that will allow me to make a meaningful contribution to The Door and effectively serve its clients.”

Fellowship goals: “My goal is to become an effective advocate and attorney, to learn from my peers, and to take those lessons to serve my clients to the best of my ability.”

What’s next: After her fellowship, Oropeza hopes to continue doing pro bono work within the immigration field as an associate for Norton Rose Fulbright.

Sebastian Osborn ’21

Sebastian Osborn ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Mercy for Animals

Hometown: London

Sebastian Osborn ’21 earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh and then taught English as a second language in countries around the world. He spent two years as a management consultant in London; he then moved to Canada and pursued his lifelong passion for animal rights, working in an animal shelter. At Columbia Law School, Osborn led a Animal Legal Defense Fund student chapter and worked as a research and teaching assistant for a seminar in Food Systems and U.S. Environmental Law. He was a litigation intern for Animal Outlook and externed with Earthjustice in its Sustainable Food and Farming Program. 

Why Mercy for Animals? “I chose Mercy for Animals because of the innovative, impactul work they do to protect animals. . . .  I appreciate their effectiveness in building collaborative and inclusive partnerships. Their compassionate perspective recognizes that the effects of factory farming extend to farmers, farmworkers, marginalized communities, and the environment. I am truly excited by the opportunity to work alongside and learn from colleagues known for their leadership and exceptional quality of work.”

Fellowship goals: “I want to help Mercy for Animals advocate for federal laws and policies that promote a kinder, more just, and more sustainable food system. I’m looking forward to building my network and deepening my understanding of animal protection issues and federal lawmaking.”

Dark-haired woman in white turtleneck sweater

Sneha Pandya ’21

Name of Fellowship: The Millstein Public Service Fellowship

Organization: U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

Hometown: Sarasota, Florida

Sneha Pandya earned a B.A. in English from Northeastern University and worked as a paralegal for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office consumer protection division. At Columbia Law, she was a Davis Polk Leadership Initiative Fellow, was an articles editor for Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and served as a managing editor for the Blue Sky Blog, Columbia Law School’s blog on corporations and the capital markets. Pandya also interned for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and externed for the Public Rights Project. Along with her moot court partner, she was the 2019 national champion in the NBLSA Thurgood Marshall Moot Court. 

Why the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs? “I wanted to join the Senate Banking and Housing Committee because we are at such a unique time, crafting a recovery from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we need to ensure this recovery is equitable. My background was in consumer protection prior to attending law school, and financial regulation is the other side of the same coin. I am excited to get to continue this work in a space that has power to control legislative outcomes and provide input in the regulatory process on a systemic level. It is an exciting time to be on Capitol Hill and utilize the levers of government to draft equitable legislation and conduct meaningful oversight.” 

Fellowship goals: “I am hopeful that in my year with the committee I’ll learn about the financial regulatory space and be able to contribute to more-creative and sustainable policy. Having never previously worked on the hill, I’m also hoping to learn how to navigate the space and meet interesting, motivated people who want to take advantage of unified government, and do good work.

What’s next: “I hope to pursue a career in academia with this work—financial regulation from a racial and economic justice perspective—at the heart of my academic interests.”

Adi Radhakrishnan ’21

Adi Radhakrishnan ’21

Name of Fellowship: Leonard H. Sandler Fellowship

Organization: Human Rights Watch, Africa Division

Hometown: Detroit

Adi Radhakrishnan ’21 received a combined B.A. in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. His interests are “primarily in global health rights, with a focus on access to healthcare and essential medicines.” At Columbia Law, Radhakrishnan participated in numerous student organizations and experiential learning activities, including the Human Rights Clinic and Columbia Human Rights Law Review. As a competitor in the Jessup Moot Court, Radhakrishnan and his teammates won the Northeast Regionals two years in a row and advanced to the Finals at the World Championship in 2019. He has published papers on health and human rights and the legal history of the Genocide Convention, presented research at the Human Rights Institute Paper Symposium and was invited to present at the Salzburg Global Cutler Law Program as a Cutler Fellow.

Why Human Rights Watch? “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed existing human rights inequities and drawn attention to issues that must be addressed—from access to vaccines, to a closing civic space, to the importance of a healthy and sustainable environment. Human Rights Watch is not only able to expose human rights violations through rigorous investigations but also enable change by leveraging advocacy networks and uplifting local partners in interventions. We must continue to advocate and uphold human rights for a successful global health response to COVID-19.”

Fellowship goals: “During my fellowship year, I hope to expand my toolkit as a human rights advocate and further develop my skills in investigating and identifying human rights violations. I also hope to build critical insights into the steps necessary to design effective advocacy strategies that address the root causes of a human rights violation and ensure the experiences of victims and rights-holders are centered in the research and advocacy.”

Julia Rigal ’21

Julia Rigal ’21

Name of Fellowship: Equal Justice America Fellowship

Organization: Ayuda

Hometown: Chatou, France

Julia Rigal ’21 was born and raised in France and received a double licence in Law and Art History/Archaeology at Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. She worked for a year at a nonprofit EACP (Action Against Sex Trafficking) where, she says, “I first developed my passion for direct service work and working with immigrat survivors of human trafficking and other forms of gender-based violence.” At Columbia Law, Rigal did externships with the Legal Aid Society, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, and the Queens District Attorney Domestic Violence Bureau; worked with the Sanctuary for Families Anti-Trafficking Initiative as a New York Pro Bono Scholar; and was the president of the Domestic Violence Project.

Why Ayuda? “Ayuda is a great organization that provides services to immigrant clients throughout the Washington, D.C. area. I am excited to work at an organization that provides holistic services to clients, including legal services in both immigration and family law. Many of Ayuda’s clients are survivors of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence, which is an area that I am passionate about.”

Fellowship goals: “I aim to expand Ayuda’s provision of immigration services to clients. I hope to contribute [by] serving the area’s French-speaking population in addition to working with English and Spanish-speaking clients. I look forward to working on a variety of types of cases, such as defensive asylum cases, affirmative humanitarian applications, and family-based petitions, and to solidify my skills and knowledge as a well-rounded immigration lawyer.”

Sankeerth Saradhi ’21

Sankeerth Saradhi ’21

Name of Fellowship: Columbia Law School J.D. Public Interest and Government Fellowship

Organization: Legal Action Center

Hometown: Hyderabad, India

Prior to attending Columbia Law School, Sankeerth Saradhi ’21 spent three years teaching physics and math in the New York City public school system. He double majored in Physics and Mathematics at University of Chicago and received an M.S. for Teachers in Adolescent Education from Pace University. During law school, he interned at Advocates for Children of New York and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, was a research assistant for Elizabeth Scott, Harold R. Medina Professor of Law, and a teaching assistant for Bert Huang, Michael I. Sovern Professor of Law, and he participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, Columbia Law Review, the American Constitution Society, and Queer and Trans People of Color.

Why the Legal Action Center (LAC)? “The Legal Action Center has been using a multipronged law and policy approach to fight discrimination and promote health equity. . . . People with criminal records, substance use disorders, or HIV/AIDS are discriminated against and deprived of necessary resources and opportunities. Despite the growing awareness of substance use as a health disorder that requires support and treatment, those most affected by such disorders are most discriminated against. . . . LAC is making efforts to ensure that their voices are amplified and driving their efforts. My hope throughout my legal career is to contribute to this mission and ensure that people are helped and heard instead of punished when faced with difficult circumstances.”

Fellowship goals: “In addition to developing my skills as a representative, the other component of my fellowship will involve extensive community outreach to ensure that the voices of the people we’re working with are directly influencing our broader policy and litigation efforts. My hope is that this work . . . will help me develop a foundation in working directly with communities to achieve meaningful and sustainable change that shifts power and agency to those who need it most.”

What’s next: After his fellowship, Saradhi plans to clerk for Chief Judge Margo K. Brodie of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and Judge Susan L. Carney of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

Sana Singh ’21

Sana Singh ’21

Name of Fellowship: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Immigrant Rights Project Fellowship

Organization: ACLU of Northern California

Hometown: Naperville, Illinois

Sana Singh ’21 received a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At Columbia Law School, she participated in the Refugee and Asylum Law Moot Court through the Latinx Law Students Association, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. She also did an Immigrant Youth Advocacy Externship at Legal Aid and worked at the Legal Resources Centre in Cape Town, South Africa

Why ACLU of Northern California? “The ACLU NorCal is doing critical work around stopping state and local law enforcement cooperation with ICE, which was an issue particularly relevant to the work I did with the Irwin County Detention Center as part of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. In a moment when people are talking about addressing police brutality and the disproportionate policing and incarceration of Black people in America, I think it’s important to recognize that Black non-citizens are doubly vulnerable because of their immigration status. Arrests that might typically lead only to probation or a few weeks in jail for a citizen can trigger months or years spent in immigration detention and, eventually, deportation for non-citizens.”

Fellowship goals: “My hope is that all my work will be in furtherance of the national movement to abolish ICE. More concretely, I want to spend these next two years working to shut down detention centers and ensure that local law enforcement agencies are not cooperating with ICE in violation of California laws.”

Hinako Sugiyama ’21 LL.M.

Hinako Sugiyama ’20 LL.M.

Name of Fellowship: Global Public Service Fellowship

Organization: Access Now

As a corporate lawyer, Hinako Sugiyama ’20 LL.M. focused on investigating misconduct and strengthening compliance and ethics (C&E) systems in multinational companies. She earned law degrees from Hitotsubashi Law School and Keio University.  During an internship at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Sugiyama switched her focus to human rights and tech. 

Why Access Now? ”The negative impact of new technologies on human autonomy is too serious to overlook. I want to work on the front line of human rights and compliance issues in the tech sector. The mission of Access Now, which is to defend and extend the digital rights of users at risk around the world, perfectly fits my intention.” 

Fellowship goals: “ I want to use my unique knowledge and expertise in C&E to make an impact on how technologies are sold and used in societies. Currently, I am bolstering strategic litigation by preparing amicus briefs and providing support to local litigators against internet shutdowns, governmental use of surveillance technologies, and digital national ID programs. . . .  I am drafting model briefs that integrate the latest arguments under international human rights law and relevant court precedents across the world.”

Ashley Taylor ’21

Ashley Taylor ’21

Name of Fellowship: Assistant Federal Public Defender Fellowship

Organization: Office of the Federal Public Defender, District of Oregon

Hometown: Toledo, Ohio

Ashley Taylor ’21 received a B.A. in Public Policy and Management from Ohio State University. From 2016 to 2019, she was a member of the Ohio and New York Army National Guards. She also volunteered as a pro bono clerk for the Legal Aid Society of Columbus. At Columbia Law, Taylor interned for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the New York City Law Department and externed with The Bronx Defenders and Center for Appellate Litigation. She was also a member of the Black Law Students Association, OutLaws, and the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration clinic.

Why Office of the Federal Public Defender? “My dream job is to be a public defender in opposition to the criminal legal system. I wanted to do this fellowship because it gave me the opportunity to learn how to be an effective public defender in a great office.”

Fellowship goals: “To learn to handle criminal cases from inception through trial or sentencing and learn how to be a better advocate for clients. I also hope to learn about the differences that come with federal public defense.”

Anita Yandle ’21

Anita Yandle ’21

Name of Fellowship: Justice Catalyst Fellowship

Organization: Public Justice

Hometown: Seattle

Anita Yandle ’21 graduated with a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Washington. At Columbia Law, where she was a James Kent Scholar and Davis Polk Leadership Initiative Innovation Grant recipient, Yandle was a research assistant for organizations such as the African American Policy Forum, Clooney Foundation for Justice, and Human Rights Institute, and teaching assistant to Bernard E. Harcourt, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, and Professor Sarah A. Seo. She was also a law clerk for the ACLU National Prison Project and interned for the United Nations. Yandle volunteered for a number of pro bono initiatives, including for COVID-19 prisoner’s rights litigation and as a Trafficking in Persons panelist for the Oxbridge Human Development Research Group.

Why Public Justice? I became familiar with Public Justice while I was a public interest lobbyist before law school. [I worked] on many of the same issues—including employment discrimination, wage theft, workplace sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, anti-immigrant laws, police accountability, and access to civil justice. Because of our overlapping interests in access to justice, racial justice, and workers’ rights, I knew that Public Justice was the perfect fit for my fellowship.

Fellowship goals: “The goal of my fellowship is to advocate for farm workers facing forced arbitration clauses and other barriers to justice through litigation, legislative advocacy, and education, using a racial justice lens. Through movement-focused work, I will represent farm workers in court and arbitrations and bring attention to the impact of forced arbitration on low-wage immigrant workers of color, who are uniquely likely to experience coercion to sign such contracts. . . . Dedicating attention to the unique impact of forced arbitration on farm workers will help unite existing efforts in civil justice, labor and immigration rights, and racial and gender justice advocacy.”

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.

Postgraduate fellowships offered through Columbia Law School are made possible in part by the support of our alumni and friends, whose swift and generous commitment ensured that our students were able to begin their careers uninterrupted by the pandemic.