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Thursday, March 26, 2020
Announcing the 2020–2021 Liman Law Fellows
The Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law announced its list of incoming Fellows for 2020–2021 and extensions for three current Fellows.
“In this complex time, the Liman Center is grateful to be able to report on the selection of the incoming Fellows,” said Arthur Liman Professor of Law Judith Resnik. “We are indebted to our current and former Fellows, as they have been and are tireless in trying to help the many communities with which they are working.”
The 2020-2021 Fellows will focus on helping people to get housing; limiting discrimination; protecting the environment; assisting immigrants; and changing criminal law enforcement practices related to the police, misdemeanor warrants, sex registrations, and the death penalty. Their host organizations are based in Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Since its founding as the Liman Program in 1997 and including the incoming group of Fellows, the Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law at Yale Law School has awarded fellowships to more than 150 of the school’s graduates. As part of this program, a few specially-designated fellowships have also been created. In 2017, at the behest of former Liman Fellows, the Center created the Resnik-Curtis Fellowship to honor Judith Resnik, the Arthur Liman Professor of Law and the Center’s Founding Director, and Dennis Curtis, Clinical Professor Emeritus and a pioneer in Yale Law School’s Clinical Program. In 2018, the Liman Center honored Amy Meselson ’02, a former Liman Fellow who worked tirelessly on behalf of immigrant children, by creating a fellowship in her memory, and with the generosity of her family, this fellowship will continue. In 2019, Alan Bersin and Lisa Foster provided funds for a Curtis-Liman Fellow to address issues of immigration and criminal justice reform as part of Yale’s Clinical Program.
Colin Antaya will join Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) in its Boston and New Haven offices to work on the development of legal and policy approaches to reduce the use of pesticides in the region. Colin, a 2012 graduate of Rhodes College, earned a master’s degree in 2019 in Public Administration from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, as well as a law degree from Yale. While in law school, he was co-director of the International Refugee Assistance Project and a member of the Housing Clinic. Colin is currently clerking for the Honorable Steven D. Ecker of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Josh Blecher-Cohen will join the ACLU of Illinois, where he will work to combat housing discrimination faced by LGBT+ people who have criminal records. Josh graduated from Harvard in 2016, and holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Oxford. He will graduate from Yale Law School in 2020, where he has been the co-chair of the Yale Civil Rights Project, managing editor of the Yale Law Journal, and a student director of the Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic. He has also worked to reform Connecticut’s parentage laws to improve the protection of LGBT+ families.
Sam Frizell will spend his fellowship year with the Legal Aid Society of New York in the Civil Practice Law Reform Unit, where he will represent New Yorkers who face discrimination because private landlords decline to rent to individuals who must use housing vouchers. Sam graduated from Bowdoin College in 2012 and, between 2013 and 2017, was a freelance journalist and a Time Magazine staff writer. Sam, who will graduate from Yale Law School in 2020, is a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic and the Housing Clinic. After his fellowship year, Sam will clerk for the Honorable Ronnie Abrams of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Elise Grifka Wander will join the Death Penalty Department of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender. Her work will focus on challenging death sentences imposed on people who have serious mental illnesses. Elise graduated from the University of Chicago in 2015 and from Yale Law School in 2019, where she was a student director of the Appellate Litigation Project and a member of the Immigrant Rights Clinic, the Gender Violence Clinic, and the Ethics Bureau. She is now a law clerk for the Honorable Beth Robinson of the Vermont Supreme Court.
Nathan Leys will spend his fellowship year at the New Haven Legal Assistance Association’s Housing Unit, where he will help to create a program to assist unrepresented individuals in New Haven’s housing court, through what is known as a “Limited-Scope Representation,” which specifies the services provided. In addition, Nathan will focus on challenging unsafe housing conditions. Nathan is a member of the Yale Law School class of 2020, where he serves as co-chair of the Clinical Student Board, a student director of the Housing Clinic, and communications chair of the First Generation Professionals. He graduated summa cum laude from George Mason University in 2017. After his Liman Fellowship, Nathan will clerk for the Honorable Diana G. Motz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Kelley Schiffman will spend her fellowship year at the San Diego County Public Defender Office, where she will focus on the implementation of a newly-enacted state law that enables eligible individuals to petition for removal from California’s sex offender registry. Kelley’s project will include notifying and representing registrants of these provisions and ensuring state implementation. After Kelley graduated from UC San Diego in 2009, she became a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy and received her degree, specializing in the history of moral philosophy, in 2015. She then entered Yale Law School, where she was active in the Immigrant Rights Clinic of New Haven Legal Assistance and the Clinical Student Board. Upon graduating in 2018, Kelley clerked for the Honorable William A. Fletcher of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and is now clerking for the Honorable Keith P. Ellison in the Southern District of Texas.
Joseph Schottenfeld will join the NAACP, where he will work to help people retain stable housing. He will be based in Georgia and will focus on the Southeast to develop community-led local services to support tenants and to deter evictions. Joe graduated from Yale Law School in 2019 and was a participant in the Rule of Law Clinic. Joe is now clerking for the Honorable Marsha Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Mary Ella Simmons will spend her fellowship year with the Orleans Public Defenders in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her project will focus on resolving the thousands of outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrants in the city’s Municipal and Traffic Court by seeking dismissal or reduction of charges rather than arrest and incarceration. Mary Ella graduated from the University of Chicago in 2014 and will graduate from Yale Law School in 2020. At YLS, she has been a Coker Fellow and a member of the Yale Law School Working Group, the Reentry Clinic, and the Rule of Law Clinic. After her fellowship year, she will clerk for Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Alexander Wang will be the inaugural 2020-2021 Curtis-Liman Clinical Fellow at YLS. Alex graduated in 2014 from New York University Abu Dhabi, in 2016 from the University of Oxford, and in 2019 from Yale Law School. He was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and a Coker Fellow. This year, as a Heyman Fellow, Alex is on the staff of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship at the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Megan Yan will spend her fellowship year as the Resnik-Curtis Fellow with the ACLU of the District of Columbia, where she will help clients facing abusive police practices. Her project will include direct representation, efforts to obtain legislative reforms, and support for community advocacy to protect rights and create police accountability. Megan graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Yale Law School Class of 2020. At YLS, she has been a Coker Fellow and a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic. She also served as the Diversity & Membership Editor of the Yale Law Journal, and co-chair of the Title IX Working Group and APALSA. After her fellowship year, she will clerk for the Honorable Theodore Chuang of the District of Maryland.
2020–2021 Fellowship Extensions
The Liman Center is pleased that, with substantial support from the host organizations, it can contribute to a second fellowship year awarded to three of the 2019–2020 Fellows.
Diane de Gramont will continue her fellowship at the National Center for Youth Law, based in California, where she represents children in federal immigration custody. In her second year, Diane will work on a class action on behalf of detained immigrant children with behavioral, mental health, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. She will also focus on policies to reform the treatment of children with disabilities in the immigration detention system. In addition, Diane continues to defend and enforce the Flores Settlement Agreement, a federal consent decree entered in 1997 that guarantees basic protections for children in immigration custody. The district court denied the government's motion to terminate the Flores Settlement in 2019, and the government has appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Diane graduated from Yale Law School in 2017 and clerked for the Honorable Stephen A. Higginson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Honorable Sarah S. Vance on the Eastern District of Louisiana. This fellowship honors Amy Meselson ’02.
Megha Ram will spend a second year at the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center in Washington, D.C. During her first year, she worked on cases to improve access to medical care for people held in jails within the Tenth Circuit. During her second year, she will expand her project by challenging inhumane conditions, including the denial of medical care, in jails across the country. Megha earned her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, the International Refugee Assistance Project, the Clinical Student Board, and the Yale Law Journal. Before joining the MacArthur Justice Center, she clerked for the Honorable Michael P. Shea of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Bassam Gergi will continue to work at Fair Share Housing Center in his home state of New Jersey, where he has litigated to ensure that suburban towns in New Jersey permit the construction of their fair share of affordable housing. In addition, Bassam has also worked on legislation to protect persons with criminal records and persons with low credit scores from being arbitrarily excluded from housing. During his second year, Bassam will also focus on encouraging state agencies in New Jersey to implement rules to ensure that residential developments on state-owned lands include affordable housing. Bassam earned his B.A. in history from King’s College London and his M.Phil. in comparative government from the University of Oxford. He graduated from Yale Law School in 2017 and clerked for the Honorable Stuart J. Rabner, Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.