Seven members of the class of 2018 receive Graduating Student Awards

Seven 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. Dean Ward Farnsworth and Eden Harrington, the director of the Justice Center, presented the recipients April 17 at the Law School’s annual Ice Cream Social/Celebration of Service.

The class of 2018 Graduating Student Award winners are:

Reema Ali began volunteering with the Equal Justice Center as a University of Texas at Austin undergraduate and has been involved there ever since, most recently as a student in the Transnational Workers Rights Clinic. She also participated in the Immigration Clinic and Civil Rights Clinic; co-directed GRITS (the annual Getting Radical in the South conference); and volunteered for numerous pro bono projects. She interned with Disability Rights Texas, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Diego Cervantes participated in the Civil Rights Clinic and the Immigration Clinic. He helped win asylum for a Honduran journalist and his son; won freedom for a Honduran man who was detained in Laredo; and helped argue suppression cases on behalf of clients targeted in immigration raids. As a Pro Bono Scholar with the Mithoff Pro Bono Program, Cervantes helped respond to the immigrant community’s needs, from DACA clinics to family preparedness clinics.

Elizabeth Esser-Stuart participated in the Criminal Defense Clinic and Civil Rights Clinic; volunteered for numerous pro bono projects; and interned with Orleans Public Defenders, the Texas Defender Service, and the Alaska Public Defender Agency. She was the Chief Online Content Editor for the Texas Law Review. She published a note on the constitutionality of sex offender laws as applied to the homeless and helped spearhead a Law School screening of “Untouchable,” a documentary on sex offender laws.

As a Mithoff Pro Bono Scholar, Sarah Mae Jennings co-led the Expunction Project as a 2L. As a 3L, she developed the new Drivers License Reclamation Project. She also participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic, the Criminal Defense Clinic, the Civil Rights Clinic and the Immigration Clinic, and interned with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and Orleans Public Defenders. (Special Recognition for Pro Bono)

Annie Jones, who will graduate with a joint degree from the LBJ School, interned with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee, and the University of Texas System’s Office of General Counsel, and was a research assistant at the UT Office of Educational Innovation. She has served as the sole student representative on the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board since June 2017. (Special Recognition for Government Service)

Marissa Latta helped organize and develop disability-related projects as a Pro Bono Scholar, and participated in the Housing Clinic, Civil Rights Clinic, Mental Health Clinic, and Transnational Worker Rights Clinic.  She worked for Texas Appleseed, Disability Rights Texas, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. Latta was Editor in Chief of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties & Civil Rights and a Teaching Quizmaster as both a 2L and 3L. She is a class of 2018 Chancellor and “Keeper of the Peregrinus.”

Luis Ortiz was President of the Public Interest Law Association.  He participated in the Criminal Defense Clinic, Immigration Clinic, and Civil Rights Clinic. He served on the leadership team for Pro Bono January as a 2L and 3L, and as a Pro Bono Scholar as a 3L. Ortiz interned with the Bronx Defenders and Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.