PILA Provides Record $378,000 in Grants
The Public Interest Law Association distributed a record 81 grants worth $378,000 to law students working in public service jobs this summer, according to PILA organizers.
“This year’s applicants’ commitment to public service and enthusiasm for public service was just incredible,” said PILA President Rebecca Vallas. “Choosing from among those candidates was one of the hardest tasks any PILA board has ever had to undertake.”
Nine more students will receive grants this year than did last year; 15 second-year law students will pocket grants of $7,083 and 66 first-year law students will each get $4,123.
Vallas said a record number of students applied for the grants this year, which she attributed to an increase in the number of students interested in public interest careers, and the current state of the economy.
Students who apply for the grants complete a lengthy application and an interview with the PILA Board. To be eligible, first-year students must have completed 10 public service hours; second-year students must have completed 25 hours.
“This year was just incredible — the number of people who not just met, but exceeded the minimum requirements. We had applicants with as many as 200 and 300 public service hours completed prior to the deadline, 1Ls included,” Vallas said. “The PILA board was just blown away by the public service hour requirement.”
The money PILA awards in grants comes from several major fundraising campaigns, including an annual auction, used book and study guide sales, and a large game tournament. Typically, the Law School Foundation matches PILA’s funds, but Vallas said the foundation was especially generous this year.
“The Law School Foundation has been even more generous this year, exceeding its one-to-one match, allowing us to extend grants to a greater percentage of the applicants,” Vallas said.
Grant recipients will undertake a variety of public interest internships this summer, some working internationally while others remain in the United States to work in areas such as civil legal services, public interest organizations and state, local and national government.
First-year law student Jeree Harris will use her PILA grant to work for JustChildren, a Legal Aid Justice Center program that works to improve Virginia’s public education, juvenile justice and foster care systems.
“Child advocacy and juvenile justice is really my passion and I’ll say that this job with JustChildren is like getting my dream job for the summer,” Harris said.
In her first year of law school, Harris worked with JustChildren through the Law School’s Pro Bono Program and also through the Black Law Students Association. However, Harris’ interest in the organization began before she even became a law student, when she was a senior at the College of William and Mary.
“My senior year, I came here for the annual Conference on Public Service and the Law, and I had the opportunity to meet some of the folks who work at JustChildren,” Harris said. “I realized I really wanted to go to law school at UVA, and that I wanted to be involved with JustChildren.”
If it weren’t for her grant from PILA, Harris said she’s not sure if she would be able to accept an unpaid internship for the summer.
“The grant made it feasible. It made it possible, because I still have to pay rent. I’m really grateful to PILA,” she said.
Erin Crowgey, a second-year law student, will use her PILA grant to intern at the Colorado Springs Public Defender’s Office. Because she holds a third-year practice certificate, she will represent her own clients.
“I want to work hard for something I care about and am passionate about,” Crowgey said. “This summer I’ll get experience in the courtroom and I’ll get experience with the clients by going to jail and doing the interviews and dealing with the caseload in a public defender office.”
Crowgey wants to work as a public defender after graduation, and hopes to provide services for children. Prior to law school, she worked with victims of domestic violence providing advocacy and counseling, and became interested in combating inequalities in the criminal justice system.
“I’ve always had an internal sense of justice and fairness, and there’s such injustice in the criminal system for people who don’t have money,” she said.
Jesse Stewart, a first-year law student, will use his PILA grant to work for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. He will work with attorneys who represent juveniles.
Stewart’s interest in working with children began before law school when he was a legislative aid for New York City Councilor Eva Moskowitz, who chaired the Council Education Committee. He then taught first grade at a public school in Newark, N.J., through Teach for America.
“When I got into the classroom, I saw the disparities in education,” Stewart said. “I realized that success isn’t just about going to school and working really hard. It’s also about being lucky enough to have good teachers and high standards set for you.”
Now, because of PILA’s grant, Stewart will have the chance to explore the juvenile justice system.
“When kids get caught up in the justice system at such an important part of their lives both educationally and socially, and they’re often being pulled out of nurturing environments and just sort of stuck in the system,” he said. “My interest in kids, my interest in social justice, draws me to this type of work.”
2009 PILA Grantees
|Civil Legal Services|
|Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation||Brooklyn, N.Y.||Sara Wood|
|Central Virginia Legal Aid Society||Kasey Levit|
|Central Virginia Legal Aid Society||Charlottesville, Va.||Megan Poitevint|
|Greater Boston Legal Services, Mental Health Law and Elderly Law Divisions||Boston||Beth Zweig|
|Legal Aid Justice Center, JustChildren||Charlottesville, Va.||Jeree Harris|
|Legal Aid Justice Center||Charlottesville, Va.||Joseph Bailey|
|Legal Aid Justice Center, Civil Advocacy Program||Charlottesville, Va.||Jessica Vormwald|
|Legal Aid Justice Center, Immigrant Advocacy Project||Charlottesville, Va.||Kristin Weissinger|
|North Penn Legal Services||Williamsport, Pa.||Brian Wright|
|Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation||Springfield, Va.||Brian Colas|
|Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic||Durham, N.C.||Katherine Hart|
|Federal Government||Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights||Washington, D.C.||Rob Sherman|
|Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights||Washington, D.C.||Melanie Stuart|
|Department of Justice, Child Exploitation & Obscenity Section||Washington, D.C.||Sally Handmaker|
|Department of Justice, Civil Division||Washington, D.C.||Elspeth England|
|Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Employment Litigation Section||Washington, D.C.||Alexandra Morgan|
|Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Appellate Division||Washington, D.C.||Julia Snyder|
|Department of Justice, Domestic Security Section||Washington, D.C.||Neepa Mehta|
|Department of Justice, Environmental Defense Section of the ENRD||Washington, D.C.||Ryan Carra|
|Department of Justice, Federal Tort Claims Act Division||Washington, D.C.||Alex Blanchard|
|Department of Justice, Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance & Training||Washington, D.C.||Dan Perell|
|Department of Justice, Tax Division||Washington, D.C.||Virginia Bruner|
|Department of Justice, Tax Division||Washington, D.C.||Tommy Krepp|
|Environmental Protection Agency||Washington, D.C.||Veronica Knapp|
|Federal Public Defender, Western district of Virginia||Roanoke, Va.||Kaitlin Bottock|
|Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Competition||Washington, D.C.||Megan Peloquin|
|National Labor Relations Board||Washington, D.C.||Matthew Turner|
|U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)||Washington, D.C.||Matthew Donaldson|
|U.S. Army JAG, Africa Command||Stuttgart, Germany||Mike Wakefield|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia||Washington, D.C.||Adam Schulman|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia||Washington, D.C.||Helen Sim|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts||Boston||Troy Lieberman|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York||Brooklyn, N.Y.||Christopher Cariello|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia||Cameron Kynes|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia||Atlanta||Ashley Wilkinson|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York||New York||Mark Littmann|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Michigan||Dan Morgenstern|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina/Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, VA||Richmond, Va.||Brent Schultheis|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania||Pittsburgh||Ravi Sharma|
|U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of Virginia||Roanoke, Va.||Jonathan Brent|
|U.S. Small Business Administration||Washington, D.C.||Rachel Paul|
|U.S. Small Business Administration||Washington, D.C.||Priya Roy|
|Asylum Access||Ecuador||Patricia Cooper|
|Human Rights Law Resource Centre||Australia||Whitney Blair|
|Institute for International Law & Human Rights||Washington, D.C.||Erin Houlihan|
|International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda||Tanzania||Gary Lakowski|
|International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda||Tanzania||Benjamin Lee|
|International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda||Tanzania||Erik Risendal|
|International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia||The Hague, Netherlands||Emily Higgs|
|International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia||The Hague, Netherlands||Rajat Rana|
|International Criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia||The Hague, Netherlands||Charles Shin|
|International Justice Mission||Uganda||Thomas Peyton Smith|
|Justice and Peace Commission||Liberia||Sam Schultz|
|Lawyers Centre for Legal Assistance||Sierra Leone||Estelle Hebron-Jones|
|Alaska Public Defender||Kathleen Doherty|
|California Appellate Project||San Francisco||Kristina Wilson|
|Cambridge Superior Court Office of Public Defenders||Cambridge, Mass.||Jeffrey Thibault|
|Colorado State Public Defender||Colorado Springs, Colo.||Erin Crowgey|
|Cook County Public Defender's Office||Chicago||Christopher McCoy|
|D.C. Public Defender Service, Civil Legal Services Division||Washington, D.C.||Paul Feinstein|
|D.C. Public Defender Service, Juvenile Division||Washington, D.C.||Jesse Stewart|
|Washoe County Public Defender||Reno, Nev.||Veronica Bath|
|public interest organizations|
|American Council of Education||Washington, D.C.||April Nicole Russo|
|American-Arab anti-Discrimination Committee||Washington, D.C.||Jordan Lane|
|Compassion Over Killing||Washington, D.C.||Sumner Drew Givens|
|Conservation Law Foundation||Portland, Maine||Jacqueline Leonard|
|Defenders of Wildlife||Washington, D.C.||E. Rebecca Gantt|
|Electronic Piracy Information Center||Washington, D.C.||Nichole Rustin-Paschal|
|Fair Trial Initiative||Durham, N.C.||Peggy Nicholson|
|Future Leaders for America||Arlington, Va.||Anthony Napolitano|
|Goodbye Minimally Adequate||South Carolina||Daniel Hervig|
|Human Rights First, Latin American Defenders||New York||Alexa Taylor|
|Public Citizen Litigation Group||Washington, D.C.||Kristin Russell|
|Southern Environmental Law Center||Travis Pietila|
|Virginia Capital Representation Resource Center||Charlottesville, Va.||Caroline Donovan|
|Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression||Charlottesville, Va.||Susan Kruth|
|public interest organizations / state and local government|
|Southern Environmental Law Center/Commonwealth's Attorney's Office of Prince William County||Woodbridge, Va.||Rianna Barrett|
|state and local government|
|Cambridge Public Schools Legal Counsel||Cambridge, Mass.||Claire Blumenson|
|Chesterfield County Commonwealth Attorney's Office||Chesterfield, Va.||S. Mario Lorello|
|New York State Department of Environment Conservation||Albany, N.Y.||Caitlin Gregg|
|North Carolina Attorney General's Office||Raleigh, N.C.||Kristin Uicker|
|Prosecuting Attorney's Office in Thurston County, WA||Olympia, Wash.||Melanie Smith|
|San Francisco District Attorney's Office||San Francisco||Daniel Ross|
|Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Boston||Boston||Benjamin Cooper|
• Reported by ashley matthews