Eight third-year students at The University of Texas School of Law have been honored by the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law with Graduating Student Awards.
This annual award recognizes graduating students for their extraordinary commitment during law school to using the law to serve others. The faculty selection committee considered the applicants’ work in the public interest, pro bono, government, legislative, and other nonprofit sectors, as well as participation in law school clinical courses, pro bono projects, and student groups. At least one award specifically recognizes commitment to pro bono activities and at least one award specifically recognizes commitment to government service, in addition to other service.
“We are delighted to honor these outstanding graduating students,” said Eden Harrington, director of the Justice Center. “They have shown a remarkable commitment to public service and will make significant contributions as attorneys and leaders. We usually enjoy recognizing student achievements annually in a celebration at the law school, but this year we will be applauding in spirit as these students embark on their careers. We are proud they choose to begin their professional journeys at Texas Law!”
The class of 2020 Graduating Student Award winners are:
Fabiola Casas was chair of the Board of Advocates and executive editor of the Texas International Law Journal. She helped lead the Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s January 2020 winter break trip to south Texas, served as a Texas Law Student Ambassador for the Admissions Office, and was active in the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association. She participated in the Transnational Worker Rights Clinic and worked for South Texas ProBar in Harlingen, the Equal Justice Center and Texas Legal Services Center in Austin, and Judge Ricardo Hinojosa of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in McAllen. A nomination cited Casas’ dedication to pro bono at the law school, to nonprofit public interest work, and to fostering others’ involvement.
Julia Chung served as a 2018-19 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 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 ACLU Capital Punishment Project in Durham, North Carolina. Several nominations noted her deep passion for capital work: “Julia has the unique ability to inspire others but never passes judgment. She respects differences in opinion while remaining committed to her own beliefs. I can’t wait to see how she impacts her field.”
Savannah Kumar helped found the Law and Justice Discussion Group, advocated for racial justice on campus, was a teaching assistant for Race and the Law, served as a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar for educational equity, and was a co-organizer of GRITS, the Getting Radical in the South conference. She participated in the Civil Rights Clinic, Immigration Clinic, and Environmental Clinic, and worked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas in Houston and the Center for Court Innovation, Brooklyn Defender Services, and Bronx Defenders in New York. One nomination noted Kumar’s “creativity and activism in her justice pursuits in law school. She prompted her clinic peers to think in terms of movements, not just individual clients.”
Meredith Luneack was president of OUTLaw, a co-organizer of GRITS, and a member of the Law School’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. Luneack participated in the Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s winter break trip to south Texas all three years and was a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar, assisting with immigration matters as a 3L and with the Gender Affirmation Project as a 2L. Luneack participated in the Criminal Defense Clinic and Immigration Clinic, and worked for the Capital Area Private Defender Service in Austin and the Detroit Justice Center in Detroit, Michigan. One nomination described Luneack’s gift for creating community across the law school, citing her leadership of the Women’s Asylum Service Project as an example: “Meredith’s commitment to social justice is contagious. All felt welcome – 1Ls, social work students, policy students, undergraduates.”
Kate Moody was editor in chief of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights, helped lead the Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s 2019 winter break trip to south Texas, and was a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar with the Expunction Project. She participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic, Criminal Defense Clinic, and Civil Rights Clinic, and worked for the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee and the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia. According to a nomination, Moody is a tirelessly zealous and compassionate advocate for her clients and was a resource to other students: “When a new challenging case or emergency came up in the clinic, Kate was always among the first to volunteer to jump in.”
Natalie Neill was a co-organizer of GRITS and a research assistant to Professor Angela Littwin on topics related to bankruptcy and debt. She served as a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar for the Driver License Reclamation Project and volunteered as an Income Tax Assistance site manager for Foundation Communities in Austin. She participated in the Civil Rights Clinic and Domestic Violence Clinic, and worked with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Austin focusing on predatory lending and debt collection and with the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland focusing on housing and workplace justice issues. She will begin her career in consumer protection law working for the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Special recognition for government service)
Kevin Trahan was president of the Human Rights Law Society and helped lead the Mithoff Pro Bono Program’s 2019 winter break trip to south Texas. He participated in the Civil Rights Clinic, Capital Punishment Clinic, and Criminal Defense Clinic, and spent his summers working with the UN Criminal Tribunals in the Hague and the Southern Poverty Law Center in New Orleans. In Austin, he interned with the Capital Habeas Unit of the Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Texas, the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, and the Lone Star Justice Alliance. Trahan reported 834 pro bono hours volunteering with capital defense organizations as well as a variety of other projects, including assisting with applications for DACA, gender affirmation document changes, immigration asylum and parole. A nomination cited his devotion to his clients in clinic and pro bono cases. (Special recognition for pro bono service)
Allison Gordon Wright has volunteered with a variety of immigration-related pro bono projects and participated in the Children’s Rights Clinic, Immigration Clinic, and Transnational Worker Rights Clinic. In the summers, she worked on immigration matters with the Equal Justice Center and Casa Marianella, both in Austin. According to a nomination, “Allison models quiet strength and commitment in her clinic work. Over the many semesters, she has worked incredibly hard for her clients. She has been a constant among the chaos of the immigration world and is always willing to help.” Wright was an associate editor of the Texas Law Review and a Chancellor, one of the sixteen law students who achieve the highest-grade point averages in their class through their second year.