Seven Texas Law Graduates Received Prestigious Public Interest Fellowships for 2020

Three members of the Class of 2020, along with a 2016 Texas Law alum, have received postgraduate fellowships from Equal Justice Works, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., whose declared mission is to support “the next generation of lawyers who commit themselves to public interest law and endeavor to provide effective representation to underserved communities and causes.” The Equal Justice Works awarded 78 fellowships this year from more than 432 applicants. 

Caitlin Machell, ‘20, Laura Tucker, ’20, Harjeen Zibari, ’20, along with Chase Porter, ’16, received the prestigious two-year fellowships, which provide competitive salaries and loan repayment assistance after graduation. As applicants, they designed specific public interest projects, and Equal Justice Works has matched each of the fellows with sponsors who will support them throughout their tenure.

Additionally, Julia Chung, ’20, Savannah Kumar, ’20, and Brendan Van Winkle, ’20, received organizational-based fellowships to work for the public good. 

“These postgraduate fellowships are nationally competitive and are an extremely prestigious honor for our Texas Law graduates as they start their legal careers,” said Lawson Konvalinka, public interest career counselor with the Texas Law Career Services Office.  “The law school is proud to have them recognized for the impressive public interest work that they have already accomplished and for their commitment to the highest ideals of our profession.”

Caitlin Machell Pevey will be working at Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas in Dallas, Texas and is sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Caitlin’s project will target the places where potential clients receive the most care, maximizing access to civil legal aid through partnerships with homeless service providers, mental health service providers, mental health courts, and peer-led groups. As a student, she was co-president of the Public Interest Law Association, a co-founder of the Texas Law Disability Alliance, and a staff editor for the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights. As a 2L, she was a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar with the INCLUDE Project, focusing on Alternatives to Guardianship and Medicaid. She also participated in the Civil Rights Clinic and the Housing Clinic, and interned with Disability Rights Texas, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, and Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.

Chase Porter will be working at Lone Star Legal Aid in Houston, Texas and is sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Chase’s Fellowship will help improve public health and promote equitable development in at-risk communities. He will engage directly with community members to understand their concerns, educate and build capacity for public participation in development, and work with them to comment on and challenge permits for new and expanded industrial facilities. Chase will also engage directly with industry and advocate for a commitment to bettering the lives of their neighbors. At Texas Law, he participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, and was an editorial board member of the Texas Environmental Law Journal and Texas Review of Entertainment and Sports Law. He previously worked at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, the IRS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and interned with the Honorable Jane Bland, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas. 

Laura Tucker will be working at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) in Alpine, Texas and is sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. Laura will work with community leaders and TRLA’s in-house data analyst to conduct a needs assessment that identifies the most urgent and recurring legal issues faced by residents of different rural communities. She will raise awareness of TRLA’s services and increase access to them by implementing referral systems and organizing and executing clinics across the region. These day-long clinics will bring impactful one-stop legal services to underserved areas and lay the groundwork for long-term engagement. As a student, she was involved with the Civil Rights Clinic and Domestic Violence Clinic; staff editor of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights; and was a member of the Public Interest Law Association and OUTLaw. She interned with the Honorable Robert Pitman with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. 

Harjeen Zibari will be working at Texas Fair Defense Project in Austin, Texas and is sponsored by Lisa Foster and Alan Bersin. Harjeen will directly represent individuals to release them from their court debt, as a judge in Texas is statutorily required to consider a person’s ability to pay when assessing court fees. Once court costs are cleared, Harjeen will petition for their early release from probation. After collecting firsthand knowledge of this system, Harjeen will create pro se toolkits to empower others to advocate for their own early release and will also train pro bono attorneys to take similar cases themselves.   As a student, she was Managing Editor and an Articles and Notes Editor of the Texas International Law Journal. She served as the Peer Mentorship Coordinator for Women’s Law Caucus, focusing on more inclusive outreach for students of color, and students pursuing public interest, and was a member of the Public Interest Law Association. She was a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar with the INCLUDE Project; and participated in the Civil Rights Clinic and the Criminal Defense Clinic while at Texas Law.   

In addition to our EJW Fellows, three students from the Class of 2020 received organizational-based fellowships. 

Julia Chung has been named a Fellows with the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. As a student, she served as a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar leading disability and education-related projects and helped lead the Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s 2019 winter break trip to South Texas. She also served on the William Wayne Justice Center Student Advisory Board, organizing events focused on connecting students of color with the Justice Center. She participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic and Criminal Defense Clinic; and worked for the Texas Fair Defense Project and the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs in Austin and the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project in Durham, North Carolina.

Savannah Kumar has received the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas’ Samuels Family Legal Fellowship. As a student, she served as a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar for educational equity, a Public Service Scholar sitting on the Justice Center’s Student Advisory Board, a Human Rights Scholar with the Rapoport Center, and participated in the Civil Rights Clinic, Immigration Clinic, and Environmental Clinic. She was a co-organizer of the student-led Getting Radical in the South (GRITS) conference and a founder of the Law and Justice Discussion Group, served as the president of the American Constitution Society and was a submissions editor for the Texas Journal of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. She worked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Center for Court Innovation in Manhattan, and the Brooklyn Defender Services’ Family Defense Practice. During the spring of her 3L year, she participated in the New York State Unified Court System’s Pro Bono Scholars Program by passing the New York bar exam before graduating and interning full-time as a Pro Bono Scholar with the Bronx Defenders’ Criminal Defense Practice.  

Brendan Van Winkle will be a Yankwitt Fellow at Cornell Law School’s Death Penalty Project and Justice 360 in Columbia, South Carolina. While a student at Texas Law, Van Winkle was a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar performing more than 1,000 hours of pro bono service; participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic and Criminal Defense Clinic; and worked for the Office of the Federal Public Defender and the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs in Austin; Sedgwick County Public Defender Office in Wichita, Kansas; the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project and Center for Death Penalty Litigation in Durham, North Carolina.