Grant recipients start summer of public interest work

June 3, 2019

The Public Interest Law Foundation has awarded 21 full-time and two part-time grants to law students working at government agencies and nonprofit groups this summer.

These grants, at the newly increased amount of $5,000 each for full time, make it possible for students to accept unpaid legal internships at organizations that need help but don't have the budget to cover an intern's salary. Funds for the grants are raised at PILF's annual auction and gala.

Here are the 2019 grant recipients:

Alex Askerov, 3L
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
Askerov worked with NWIRP last fall in the Naturalization Unit, where he assisted the immigrant community with their applications for citizenship. He returns to NWIRP this summer, as an intern in the Children and Youth Advocacy Unit, where he works with migrant youth seeking immigration relief in the United States.

Renee Ballou, 3L 
King County Bar Association's Housing Justice Project (HJP)
HJP is a homelessness prevention program providing accessible volunteer-based legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction in King County. Ballou has volunteered for HJP since her first year of law school and looks forward to stepping up from volunteer legal assistant to Rule 9 intern. She seeks to join the civil legal aid community upon graduation from law school.

Allison Bruning, 2L
Snohomish County Legal Services (SCLS)
Bruning's work at Girl Forward, an after-school program for refugee girls in high school, taught her about the struggles facing women in marginalized communities. Those experiences made her want to fight for women's rights, to help refugee women gain legal status, to help women subjected to domestic violence, and to, ultimately, help women realize their full potential. At SCLS, she works with an attorney on domestic violence and sexual assault civil cases.

Will Gorbaty, 2L
King County Bar Association's Housing Justice Project
Gorbaty's previous work with the homeless in Pierce County, through Catholic Community Services, allowed him to recognize the magnitude of the suffering taking place in our community. He got to know the people behind the suffering. This summer, he continues his commitment to this population by working at a homelessness prevention program providing accessible volunteer-based legal services for low-income tenants facing eviction in King County.

Vanesa Hernandez-Rodriguez, 2L
Hernandez-Rodriguez looks forward to helping youth from underserved communities. Many of the people she grew up with would have been able to do so many more things in their lives if they would have had an organization like TeamChild fighting for them. She'll learn more about the juvenile system as she works side by side with attorneys who dedicate their time to help students.

Grace Porter, 2L
King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Domestic Violence Unit
Porter, who previously worked in the Czech Republic as an advocate for migrant/underrepresented women, hopes this summer to offer advocacy and protection order services to domestic violence survivors, as well as learn more about representation of the state and county in DV cases in King County district and superior Courts and the state and federal courts of appeal.

Emily Justin, 2L
Solid Ground
Solid Ground works to end poverty and undo racism and oppression by assisting single adults and families whose cash, food, medical, and child care benefits have been reduced, terminated, or denied. Justin assists in this process, which allows her to synthesize her passion for social justice and her knowledge of the law.

Christine Kettel, 2L
Unemployment Law Project
While an undergraduate at Western Washington University, Kettel volunteered at a local public defender's office where she learned about how to give those in marginalized communities a voice. This summer she represents clients who have been denied unemployment benefits. This opportunity allows her to be an advocate for those facing difficult times, which is the reason she decided to pursue a career in law.

Rosemary Kim, 3L
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Kim grew up in an immigrant household and came to law school because she was committed to becoming a translator for her community to help them navigate the legal system. She has previously interned at the Seattle City Attorney's Office, Seattle Justice Probation, and King County Superior Court. At the FTC, she hopes to further her role as a translator who assists consumers in understanding their fundamental rights to fair bargaining and privacy.

Justin Loveland, 3L
Resource Equity
Resource Equity is a Seattle-based nonprofit working to empower and advance women's rights to land and access to resources throughout the world via legal, policy, and social change. Coming from a spring internship with Landesa, another international women's land rights organization, Loveland is excited to continue this work.

Natalie McCarthy, 2L
Disability Rights Washington (DRW)
DRW is a nonprofit organization protecting the rights of people with disabilities in Washington. McCarthy, who lost her sight to brain cancer at age 10, will provide technical assistance and referrals regarding disability-related legal questions, assess reports of abuse and neglect, and complete litigation-related tasks such as legal research, writing memoranda, drafting letters and pleadings, and assisting with discovery.

Sandy McPhee, 3L
Snohomish County Legal Services' Housing Justice Project
McPhee held a judicial externship last summer at the Denney Juvenile Justice Center in Snohomish County, which affirmed her belief that competent representation and sound adjudication can make a life-altering difference in a child's future. This summer, she hopes to gain greater insight into both the challenges attorneys face in representing clients with limited means and the ways they can use the law as a means to effect social change.

Torri Pittman, 2L
Skagit County Volunteer Lawyer Program
In her childhood, Pittman's family struggled financially, resulting in her having an unstable home life and eventually peaking when the family became homeless. This summer she assists low-income populations with civil matters and assists in the legal clinics. She hopes this experience will show her the civil side of the law and the different ways in which the legal community can helped underserved populations.

Peggy Rodriguez, 2L
Attorney General's Office, Labor and Industry Division
Rodriguez works for the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA) section. WISHA handles cases regarding employer violations of safety and health guidelines across 30 industries like agriculture, construction, and manufacturing. She welcomes the opportunity to work on legal issues that intersect with foundational workplace rights and provide support to the Seattle workforce.

Jessy Romero, 2L
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
As the child of immigrant parents, Romero has seen the struggles of unequal access to legal services and hopes to help support her community in the future by advocating for immigrant rights and reproductive justice. At NWIRP, she works with immigrant survivors of violence and hopes to learn about the filing process for survivors and assist with immigration relief.

Haley Sinclaire, 3L
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
Sinclaire, who previously interned at Center for Children and Youth Justice and the ACLU of Washington, continues her work in civil rights at MALDEF in Chicago. MALDEF is committed to protecting and defending the rights of all Latinos living in the United States and the constitutional rights of all Americans.

Vallen Solomon, 3L
Northwest Justice Project
Solomon works in the newly created King County Housing and Consumer Protection Unit as a Rule 9 intern. He advocates for low-income tenants facing eviction and other housing-related issues. Through this work, he has found that advocating for low-income tenants has implications beyond just housing; in fact, a successful life first begins with a stable home life.

Megan Spence, 2L 
Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center
A former social worker, Spence witnessed firsthand the impact of the legal system on underrepresented communities. Kitsap Immigrant Assistance Center (KIAC) provides high-quality, low-cost immigration services to foreign-born individuals. At KIAC, Spence hopes to learn more about the current legal issues concerning removal proceeding, immigration court proceeding, and family petitions.

Lavena Staten, 3L
Unemployment Law Project (ULP)
Prior to law school, Staten was a community organizer for Working America and the AFL-CIO, and a labor organizer for SEIU 1199. This summer, she represents workers denied unemployment benefits. She will also research how unemployment law disadvantages women and low-income people.

Sara Suryan, 2L
Lavender Rights Project
Suryan values and honors the unique assistance and relief attorneys are able to provide by assisting other individuals in our communities. The Lavender Rights Project advances a more just and equitable society by providing low-cost civil legal services and community programming centered in the values of social justice for trans and queer low-income people and other marginalized communities.

Beverly Tsai, 4L 
Washington Appellate Project (WAP)
In previous judicial externships, Tsai had the opportunity to observe advocacy in action by reading briefs and observing oral argument. She looks forward to learning from and working with the attorneys at WAP, and learning more about how to be a successful advocate. She is excited to work with an organization that values both indigent representation and criminal justice reform.

Zenobia Walker, 2L
King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, Domestic Violence Unit
Walker has seen firsthand the struggles of poor and middle-class families in her community of Richmond-Oakland, California. Lack of comprehension and representation in the legal system inspired her to go to college. This summer, she hopes to continue to gain knowledge on how the prosecutor's office is approaching systemic issues and what steps she need take to improve her skills as an advocate for justice.   

Jamie Wilson, 2L
Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel
Wilson came to law school with a desire to create social change by representing marginalized communities. This summer, she is primarily assigned to the Dependency Unit but will have opportunities to work in other units and to observe every phase of a criminal trial. She will be exposed to both civil and criminal issues faced by indigent persons, putting her in direct contact with the communities she hopes to serve as an attorney.

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