Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Liman Center Announces 2022–2023 Fellows

Stone carvings in an archway of Sterling Law Building

The Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law will welcome 10 incoming fellows for 2022–2023, and, with substantial support from their host organizations, extend the fellowships of four current fellows. Since its founding in 1997, the Liman Center has awarded fellowships to more than 170 Yale Law School graduates to work for a year in the public interest.

The incoming fellows will join organizations across the country to explore a variety of issues including environmental conservation, economic and housing insecurity, workplace discrimination, tribal governance, and immigration and criminal law enforcement. This year, fellows will be based in California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina. 

Three of the incoming fellows will hold specially designated fellowships. In 2017, in celebration of the Liman Center’s 20th year, former fellows helped to fund a Resnik-Curtis Fellowship to honor Judith Resnik, 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 created the Meselson Fellowship in memory of Amy Meselson ’02, a former Liman Fellow who worked tirelessly on behalf of immigrant children. This fellowship continues through the generosity of her family, friends, and classmates. In 2019, Alan Bersin and Lisa Foster provided funds for a Curtis-Liman Fellow to address issues of immigration and criminal legal reform as part of Yale Law School’s Clinical Program.

Brendan Bernicker ’22, the incoming Resnik-Curtis Fellow, will join the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center in Washington, D.C. During his fellowship, he will build a software program to identify cases from U.S. District Court rulings in which a self-represented person may have grounds for an appeal. In addition to developing the program, Bernicker will be part of a team providing assistance for some of those appeals. Bernicker received a B.A. in philosophy of justice, law, and values and an M.A. in political science from the Pennsylvania State University. At Yale Law School, he has been involved with the Criminal Justice Advocacy Clinic, the Challenging Mass Incarceration Clinic, and the Re-entry Clinic. In these clinics, Bernicker has developed innovative software on behalf of incarcerated people at risk of COVID-19.

Helia Bidad ’22 will advance environmental and racial justice in partnership with the Land Loss Prevention Project in Durham, North Carolina. Through direct services and broader-based advocacy, she aims to lessen the loss of land held by Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color and by farmers and landowners with limited resources. Bidad earned a B.S. in society and environment from the University of California, Berkeley. Now in her final semester at Yale Law School, she is a research assistant at the Yale Center for Environmental Justice. Following her Liman Fellowship, she will clerk for the Honorable Kimberly J. Mueller of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Samuel Davis ’20 will work with the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation in Raleigh. He will focus on the scope and consequences of North Carolina statutes used to sanction children for their conduct while at school. His project will contribute to the broader movement to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Davis is a graduate of Duke University, where he majored in international studies and political science. At Yale Law School, he was co-director of the Rebellious Lawyering Conference and a member of the Veterans Legal Services Clinic. He is currently a law clerk for Associate Justice Anita Earls of the Supreme Court of North Carolina. 

Erin Drake ’20 will spend her fellowship year at the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, which is based in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Her project will focus on protecting the interests of union members, many of whom are athletes from marginalized communities. Drake earned a B.A. in history and literature from Harvard University. While at Yale Law School, she was a Coker Fellow, worked at the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization, and served as a peer advocate and as a board member of Yale Law Women. Drake is currently a law clerk for Judge Robert L. Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Previously, she clerked for Chief Judge Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

Hannah Duncan ’21, the incoming Curtis-Liman Fellow, will be based at the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Connecticut in New Haven, as well as at Yale Law School. During her fellowship year, she will create and compile materials to support judges and advocates as they work to develop less coercive community supervision for convicted individuals. In addition, she will supervise Yale Law students in developing resources on these issues. Duncan holds a B.A. in classics from Brown University. At Yale Law School, she was a student director of the Liman Center and a co-chair of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. Currently, she is clerking for Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Following the Curtis-Liman Fellowship, she will clerk for the Honorable John G. Koeltl of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

Grace Judge ’22 will spend her fellowship year with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana. She will join the staff as an in-house attorney for CSKT and focus on environmental justice and resource scarcity. Judge earned a B.A. in politics, philosophy, and economics from the University of Michigan. At Yale Law School, she is a Coker Fellow and an Articles and Essays editor for the Yale Law Journal. After her fellowship year, she will clerk for Judge Allyne R. Ross of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and the Honorable Jennifer Sung of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Aseem Mehta ’20, the incoming Meselson-Liman Fellow, will join the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, in San Francisco, California. He will provide holistic representation to individuals held in immigration detention centers and support organizers who have led efforts inside detention to help others who are detained seek freedom from confinement. Mehta earned a B.A. in ethics, politics, and economics from Yale College. At Yale Law School, he was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic. Mehta is currently a law clerk for Judge Edward M. Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Prior to that, he clerked for Judge Richard A. Paez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 

Medha Swaminathan ’22 will work with the ACLU of Massachusetts in Boston. Her project aims to lessen the role of police in responding to mental health crises and to increase public health oversight in jails. Swaminathan graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in psychology and French studies. In addition to being a Coker Fellow at Yale Law School, she is a student co-director and member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic. Following her fellowship, Swaminathan will clerk for Judge Amit P. Mehta of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the Honorable Robert L. Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Chelsea Thompson ’22 is a Gruber Fellow who will be a Liman Affiliated Fellow. She will spend her fellowship year in New York City on the direct services team of A Better Balance, where she will provide representation to low-wage workers who face discrimination because they are caregivers. Her focus will include educating workers about their rights as caregivers and helping develop the law in this arena. Thompson received a B.A. in political science from Scripps College and worked in the tech industry for four years. At Yale Law School, she is a clinic student practitioner with the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project. She also served as the Editor in Chief of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

Evan Walker-Wells ’22 will join the NAACP General Counsel’s Office in Atlanta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. Through his project, he will work to slow evictions among some of the most disadvantaged Southerners and to protect voting rights. In 2015, Walker-Wells founded Scalawag, a journalism nonprofit focused on Southern movement politics. At Yale Law School, he is a student director and intern at the Housing Clinic, through which he teaches tenants about Connecticut eviction law and helps them stay in their homes. In May, he will receive a joint J.D.-M.B.A. degree from YLS and the Yale School of Management, where he is co-founder of Business Students for Racial Equity.

2022–2023 Fellowship Extensions

Sophie Angelis ’21 is a Liman Fellow at Rights Behind Bars, in Washington, D.C., where she works to improve conditions for incarcerated people and enable some to be released. During her first year as a Fellow, she represented older prisoners bringing claims under disability rights and state compassionate release statutes. In her second year, she will continue that work, as well as focus on how to require jails to offer medication assisted treatment to people with opioid use disorder. At Yale Law School, Angelis was a student director of the Green Haven Prison Project and a student member of the Lowenstein Clinic, where she supported litigation and legislation to change conditions in Connecticut prisons. Before coming to law school, she studied prisons in Norway on a Fulbright fellowship and interned at Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts.

Allison Durkin ’21 is a Liman Fellow with the Legal Aid Society of New York, where she works in the DNA Unit of the Criminal Defense Practice. During her fellowship extension, she will build on her project to improve the transparency of forensic technologies in the criminal legal system. At Yale Law School, she was a Coker Fellow and a member of the Criminal Justice Advocacy Clinic, the Pediatric Care Medical-Legal Partnership, and the Clinical Student Board. She also served on the board of the Thomas Swan Barristers’ Union and the Yale Health Law and Policy Society. Prior to law school, Durkin worked at the Seaver Autism Center for Research and Treatment at Mount Sinai in New York.

Sophie Laing ’21 joined Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Portland, Maine, to help provide remedies for low-income borrowers who are struggling with student loan debt. Laing’s project includes defending borrowers in debt-collection proceedings, enhancing education about student loans, and helping borrowers to emerge from default. During Laing’s fellowship extension, she will assist borrowers transitioning back into repayment as the pandemic protections end, continue to litigate debt collection cases, and develop affirmative litigation under Maine’s recently passed Student Loan Bill of Rights and Private Student Loan Bill. At Yale Law School, Laing co-directed the HAVEN Medical-Legal Partnership and the Yale Health Law and Policy Society. Through the Housing Clinic, she represented homeowners facing foreclosure.

Kshithij Shrinath ’21 will extend his fellowship at the Bronx Defenders, where he focuses on systemic civil-rights violations affecting individuals in the Bronx. As a Liman Fellow, he has helped reshape the procedures used by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and immigration judges when they decide whether to keep an individual in custody. Shrinath will build on this work in his second year and focus on limiting the use of allegations of criminal activity as a basis to deny immigrants release from detention. At Yale Law School, he was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and a co-chair of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association.

The Liman Center promotes access to justice and the fair treatment of individuals and groups seeking to use the legal system. Through research projects, teaching, fellowships, and colloquia, the Liman Center supports efforts to bring about a more just legal system.