Fellow Profile: Sage Stone

This summer I had the privilege to serve alongside the reputable prosecutors of the Consumer Fraud division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office. Not only did this opportunity help me to grow professionally, but it also sparked an interest in me to pursue a career in prosecution. Without your support, I would not have been able to pursue this internship, and would not have considered a career in prosecution, which strongly appeals to me now.

While in the Consumer Fraud division, not only did I have real responsibility in investigating and managing cases, but I also had an opportunity to witness what exactly transpires in the courtroom. Since the Consumer Fraud division operates differently from most of the rest of the District Attorney’s Office, the cases we investigate and eventually prosecute tend to last a long time. While I was there, however, I was able to help resolve two cases (one we closed, and another we pressed charges), and made significant strides in consolidating and acquiring evidence in the other two. My duties included reviewing thousands of pages of bank records to find evidence of fraud and self-dealing, subpoenaing documents, and interviewing witnesses.

My duties also included a significant learning component outside of our division’s office; I accompanied my supervising attorney to court to observe negotiations with defense counsel and conferences with the judge. I also had the opportunity to observe several trials all the way from voir dire to sentencing for both misdemeanor and felony cases. I also witnessed juvenile proceedings and justice of the peace proceedings.

At the end of my time at the District Attorney’s Office, I had an opportunity to apply for a position after I graduate—an opportunity I enthusiastically took. The prospect of working as a prosecutor excites me. But had I not had the promise of financial support for my work this summer, I probably would not have been able to work at the District Attorney’s Office. So thank you again for enabling me to have a meaningful summer experience and potentially a meaningful career in prosecution. Your continued support allows individuals like myself to pursue opportunities that give back to the community—opportunities that we may not have otherwise been able to pursue but for your generosity.

Sage Stone

Fellow Profile: Jessica Johnson

Dear TLF Donors:

With the utmost and deepest gratitude, I thank you for your generous donation to Texas Law Fellowships. Your generosity has allowed me the ability to clerk for Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), an organization dedicated to protecting civil rights for a variety of underserved classes such as minorities and people with disabilities.

As a clerk, I worked with the organization to provide direct legal assistance to spark impact litigation in order to effect systemic change. In other words, by helping one, TCRP aims to help many who have or will be similarly wronged. I had the privilege of drafting pleadings, writing memos, drafting discovery documents, preparing for a hearing, conducting fact investigations, and doing intakes. I had the privilege of interacting with clients and potential clients, and listening to their stories about alleged civil rights violations was incredibly eye opening. Additionally, I delved into such subjects as disability rights, free speech, and discrimination. I learned so much about subjects I had never previously encountered, and I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of TCRP for the summer. Receiving a Texas Law Fellowship provided me with the financial support I needed in order to pursue a host of incredibly worthy causes with a noble organization for which I have much respect, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

Through the work of its attorneys and staff, Texas Civil Rights Project demonstrates a truly inspiring fortitude and courage by speaking out for those whose cries typically go unheard. In the relatively short amount of time in which I’ve served as a clerk, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself, about this work, and about the courageous individuals who refuse to sit back and let their civil rights be violated. I truly believe the skills and knowledge I gained this summer will be pivotal in my future public interest career. Moreover, I look forward to putting these skills to future use by continuing to assist underserved communities. Thank you for the part that you’ve played in the development of my legal skills and to the beginning of what I hope will be a long and fruitful career in public service. Finally, thank you for being a truly unforgettable example of the importance of giving back to UT Law and to public interest in general. I plan to one day be in the position to perpetuate this act of generosity and pass it on to future generations of lawyers.

With Deepest Gratitude,

Jessica Johnson

Fellow Profile: Sara Schaefer

Dear TLF Donors,

My name is Sara Schaefer and I received a Hagans Fellowship from Texas Law Fellowships this summer. I am writing to thank you for making my summer at The Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office possible. I enjoyed my experience at the office immensely and learned so much. I know I would not have been able to spend my summer there without your generous support.

I worked as an Extern with the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office, which is in Knoxville, TN. I chose the office because of its unique approach to public defense. The office is committed to marrying quality legal defense with a myriad of social services that address root causes of criminality. This includes linkages to community mental health services, counseling, children’s programs, drug and alcohol treatment, and help with housing. This means, when I met with clients, I was able to address any underlying issues that they thought was contributing to their entry into the criminal justice system. For example, I was able to assign a social worker to a case to visit a client in jail twice weekly so he could receive in depth counseling. I was able to refer a homeless client to our summer kids camp, so his children could have a healthy activity to attend. There are many examples of how the strong social services department enhanced the legal representation I was able to provide and helped me establish trust with my clients.

My favorite social program that our office organizes is the Summer at the CLO. This is a twice-­‐weekly camp for kids from low-­‐income Knox County families. I was able to volunteer at the camp multiple times this summer during the art days and the yoga days. I was also able to work with the HABIT dog, a dog that comes to the camp, sits in a quiet room, and allows kids to work on their reading skills in a non-­‐judgmental environment (as they are reading to the dog). The camp also provides the kids with a nutritious lunch, and a goody bag full of nutritious snacks to take home. The kids were a breath of fresh air and were exposed, through this program, to a wealth of new experiences that might be out of reach for them otherwise.

Additionally, I was certified to practice in court under the supervision of an attorney through Tennessee’s student practice law. Therefore, I got to advocate in open court and handle cases from first interview to resolution. I was working on the felony team, so I got to work exclusively with felonies. I got to visit the county jail and interview new clients. Then I would be able to identify a plan of action to go forward and do legal research on the best path. I got to negotiate with prosecutors to reach an amicable deal. I got to go out on investigations to interview witnesses or see the scene of the crime. I was able to reach deals on many cases and then announce the plea agreement in open court. Most excitingly, I completed all the research to form a foundation for a motion to suppress. I then got to write and file the motion to suppress and participate in the hearing on the motion to suppress by sitting second chair. Further, I improved my research and writing skills by completing many memoranda for attorneys in the office.

Being able to work in a holistic public defender’s office this summer allowed me to develop many skills that are vital to being a zealous public defender and trial attorney. The trust I was able to establish with my clients and the quality of legal representation I was able to provide was dramatically enhanced by the existence of a strong social services department. I left my summer job feeling more confident speaking in court and working through issues with clients. I feel even more convinced that public defense is the right career path for me. I want to thank you again for making this wonderful work experience possible. It was so extremely generous for you to sponsor my summer work, and through it, the Knox County Public Defender’s Community Law Office’s work.

Thank you!

Sara Schaefer

Fellow Profile: Joey Piorkowski

Dear TLF Donors,

Thank you so much for donating to Texas Law Fellowships. Because of your donation I had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines and work with an international human rights organization (International Justice Mission – IJM) to assist in the prosecution of perpetrators of sex-trafficking.

During my two month internship I provided legal assistance on five sting operations that resulted in thirty trafficking victims getting rescued and nine perpetrators prosecuted. Some of my responsibilities during the operations included assisting lawyers in interviewing victims by tracking their testimony with the elements of the trafficking law to ensure that we built the strongest case possible. I also assisted the attorneys in drafting victims’ affidavits which would be presented to the public prosecutor.

Apart from the actual operations, some of my other job responsibilities included conducting research and drafting memorandum on legal issues arising in the prosecution of sex-trafficking cases. The legal issues I researched included statutory interpretation questions, new avenues for trafficking in the form of cyber sex, and the appropriateness for damages in cases of trafficking. Additionally, I had the unique opportunity to give a training presentation to over fifty officers in the Philippine National Police about the recent changes in the Philippine trafficking law.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Philippines and the experience has greatly impacted my life. Thank you again for helping to make this possible.

Joey Piorkowski

Fellow Profile: Marsha Perez

Dear TLF Donors,

My summer internships in Illinois and Texas were profound. Aside from basking in the perfect weather of a Chicago summer, I led hearings before the bench, attended numerous mediations, completed rigorous child protection trainings, and represented the most worthy clients a lawyer could have: kids. Because of your assistance, I was also able to return to Texas to practice family law and experience what a non-profit organization career is like at Texas Advocacy Project.

To serve in Chicago, where the crime rates and buildings are sky high, was life changing. In 1899, the nation established its first juvenile court in Chicago, making the city an ideal frontier in which to delve into juvenile law and child protection. My clerkship with the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian surpassed every expectation I had.

I continued the endeavors I described to you in my last letter (analyzing evidence for trial, observing mediations, and preparing witnesses to testify), then obtained my Illinois Supreme Court Rule 711 Temporary License, which opened the door for my first litigation experiences. At the conclusion of 300 hours of service, I conducted seven permanency hearings representing clients adjudged wards of the state as their attorney and guardian ad litem. The unique dual role of attorney and guardian ad litem was a novel experience for me in client relations and professional responsibility. The seasoned attorney staff at the Public Guardian’s Office maintained an excellent system of evaluating the progress of law clerks and providing constructive feedback. The mentorship of the six lawyers on my assigned Calendar (or docket) helped mold my trial practice by providing honest critiques for improvement, and celebrating my achievements.

Moreover, I completed formal trainings on sensitive issues such as the effective prevention and intervention of bullying; bone fracture investigation and differentiating abusive injuries from accidental ones; emancipation planning; and a panel on restorative justice. Perhaps most rewarding, I independently conducted two interviews of our child clients in the comfort of their homes located in the widely avoided area of south side Chicago. The joy of meeting and advocating in the best interest of a child in need is far unmatched.

It is true that without your contribution, I never would have spent the summer affecting the lives of youth in the system and finding my forte in the legal field. I have applied and shared my experience at the Public Guardian’s Office every day since I began the fall semester of my last year of law school. It is my continued intention to apply this experience to advancing juvenile justice and child protection policy in Texas for the rest of my legal career.

The second portion of the summer I returned home to Texas and assisted Texas Advocacy Project in providing free legal services statewide to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. I completed 100 hours of pro bono work at Texas Advocacy Project and experienced the workings of a non-profit organization. My supervising attorneys assigned me projects bearing much responsibility, such as screening prospective clients to the organization’s legal hotline, and handling an assisted pro se protective order case from start to finish.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity for learning was in spearheading the updates to the organization’s protective order training material. Many new and amended protective order laws passed during the 83rd Legislative Session. I researched relevant bills and incorporated the updates into a formal presentation for use by Texas Advocacy Project’s development team. At the request of agencies such as local law enforcement and community service centers, Texas Advocacy Project’s development team conducts professional trainings in family law issues. I co-presented at one such training for a statewide agency in Williamson County that serves children and families. This knowledge will be practical in my future practice. My time with Texas Advocacy Project fulfilled my personal goal to work for an organization devoted to supporting families affected by domestic violence.

I am forever grateful for your substantial contribution to Texas Law Fellowships. I understand I am but one of several fortunate students who were able to serve the underserved this summer because of your exceptional support. Thank you for your generosity.

Deepest regards,
Marsha Lynn Perez

Fellow Profile: Nora Gay

Dear TLF Donors,

Thank you for granting me a Texas Law Fellowship for this recent summer. I had the opportunity to intern with the Washington Defender Association in Seattle, Washington, which I otherwise would not have had the financial resources for without the assistance of TLF. I so appreciate the work that TLF does to fundraise and afford law students the experience of clerking with public interest or government organizations.

Being able to work in Seattle was particularly meaningful for me, because while I am happily attending school in Texas, I am from the Pacific Northwest and may very well return there to work after law school. Because WDA is a statewide nonprofit and works closely with a variety of criminal and civil legal organizations or firms, I got to meet and work with a variety of those lawyers, judges, and non-legal professionals like social workers. Even if I don’t return to practice in the PNW, it was at least an invaluable experience to see how the various nonprofits, government agencies, and private law firms interact in the realm of public defense. It was also invaluable to learn that the most effective public defenders do not simply focus on criminal law, but rather take a “holistic” approach, taking into account the various other criminal, civil, and non-legal issues that often befall their clients.

The main project I focused on dealt with the reliability of eyewitness identification. Currently, Washington State has no pattern instruction on eyewitness identification, and it is still not clear if an instruction (and one with teeth) would actually be approved, but I drafted instructions for attorneys to use in cases where the identification of the perpetrator is at issue. Previous instructions that have been submitted in cases have either ignored or misstated the science, so I used models from other states that relied on eyewitness identification research. A couple eyewitness experts are currently researching the effectiveness of cross-racial eyewitness identification jury instructions in particular, so it will be exciting to see what the data shows – and exciting to know that I was working on something that is a current issue. I also drafted sample motions to admit jury instructions and eyewitness expert witnesses. Thus, if an eyewitness identification case comes up for a public defender or defense attorney in Washington, my materials will be available (assuming the lawyer is a member of WDA) for use or guidance. Aside from that work, I also helped update parts of a model search and seizure motion. I also was able to sit in at the federal district court, the mental health court, and the county court; attend CLE trainings on minority justice, juvenile justice, and holistic defense; attend task force and committee meetings regarding public defense in King County and Washington; and attend brown bag lunches hosted at a number of civil legal nonprofits in Seattle. These experiences were educational in themselves, and they also allowed me to further get to know the legal community in Seattle.

I had a full summer experience, and I owe that in great part to my fellowship from TLF. I am so appreciative of your support, and I hope to continue to contribute and share that support so future law students may have the same opportunity. Thank you!

Nora Gay

Fellow Profile: Christopher Larson

To the generous Texas Law Fellowship donors:

This past summer I worked for the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles.  In just three months, I had the opportunity to work on a diverse array of cases ranging from administrative law and constitutional tort suits to employment discrimination and Freedom of Information Act requests, all under the mentorship and guidance of the incredible Assistant U.S. Attorneys of the Central District of California.  In addition to providing legal research and drafting motions, I also participated in several off-site visits to the various federal agencies of the Central District.  I interviewed Customs and Border Patrol officers at Los Angeles International Airport for an employment discrimination suit, toured the Metropolitan Detention Center where federal criminal defendants are held awaiting trial, and received hands-on training in the FBI’s use of deadly force policy from the Swat Team’s captain.

My time at the USAO was the most rewarding and memorable experience of my 1L year – and you made it possible.  Thank you for your kind and thoughtful donations to the TLF Fund.  I am grateful for your generosity and honored to be a Texas Law Fellowship recipient.

Thank you,
Christopher Larson

Fellow Profile: Karen Baker

Dear TLF Donors,

Thank you very much for your support of Texas Law Fellowships. I recently completed my clerkship at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in Houston, Texas and will soon begin my third year of law school.

Over the course of my time at USCIS, I had the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities, work on a diverse set of projects, and be exposed to the inside operations of the immigration system. For instance, I observed interviews for visa, naturalization, and asylum applications; observed a naturalization ceremony, where over 2,000 new citizens took their oath of allegiance to the United States; discussed various aspects of immigration law with my supervisors; reviewed appeals from denials of family-based visa petitions; and conducted legal research and wrote memorandums on a variety of issues.

In addition, I met with attorneys from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), “sister agencies” to USCIS, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the immigration system and laws. During the summer, I even had a chance to visit immigration court and observe some of the ICE trial attorneys’ cases, both at the downtown court facility and the court at the detention center north of Houston. It was very interesting to see how all the pieces of and agencies within the system interact and are interrelated.

In sum, this experience has been incredibly enriching, and I look forward to continue to pursue my interest in immigration this fall by participating in the UT Law Immigration Clinic.

I greatly appreciate your support, and, without the fellowship, it would have been very difficult to accept and participate in this exciting clerkship. Thank you very much again for your aid.

Karen Baker

Fellow Profile: Kenneth Bier

Dear TLF Donors,

My name is Kenneth Bier – I am a 3rd year student at UT Law. I am writing this letter to express my gratitude for your donations to Texas Law Fellowships this year. Through your donations, I have been able to complete my internship at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Houston this summer without the stress of worrying about compensation or living expenses. I believe that it is important that individuals working for the government and nonprofit public interest organizations are rewarded for their selfless hard work, so I will be sure to do my part to donate in the future as you have been kind enough to do. This letter highlights some of my experiences this summer.

The internship at the DA’s Office was very interesting and rewarding, and I believe I gained invaluable work experience. I worked in the Organized Crime Division under the supervision of experienced Assistant District Attorney Ed McClees. I interacted with police investigators, judges, witnesses, defense attorneys, and other important players involved in the criminal justice system. I was assigned work that included legal research and writing, viewing and organizing evidence, attending trials, drafting subpoenas, contacting investigators and agents, and even transcribing a murder confession. More importantly, I feel that I gained firsthand insight into how the law operates in reality, rather than in theory. I saw how different lawyers approached problems differently, and how each one has their own style and strengths.

Further, I was able to participate in interesting trips outside of the DA’s Office. For example, I was taken on a tour of the Houston Police Department’s drug lab. On another occasion, I was asked to participate in field sobriety testing at the Houston Sheriff’s Academy. I also was able to witness interesting events, such as protests against the Trayvon Martin verdict that occurred outside the Criminal Justice Center in downtown Houston. Yet, the most interesting and memorable parts of my experience occurred inside the courtrooms, where I was able to witness a wide variety of cases, ranging from misdemeanor crimes to high profile murder cases. Many of these cases were even covered by the local news. Needless to say, there was no shortage of excitement this summer.

In sum, I had a great experience this summer, and I owe it all to Texas Law Fellowship donors. I greatly appreciate every donation, and I will be sure to donate to TLF in the future as you have been so generous to do.

Kenneth Bier


Fellow Profile: Stephanie Matherne

Dear TLF Donors,

Thank you for your incredibly generous donation to Texas Law Fellowships. I was fortunate to receive a summer fellowship from your donation, and this allowed me to pursue public interest work this summer that I would not have otherwise been able to pursue.

This summer, I worked for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office in the Family Criminal Law Division (FCLD). At the DA’s office I gained valuable experience working with criminal prosecutors on family violence cases, but I also had the unique opportunity to work with a special prosecutor who helps survivors of domestic violence seek protective orders in civil court. By the end of the summer I had sat second chair in felony jury trials and also performed direct examination in civil protective order hearings. The DA’s office showed me a crucially important side of public interest work, and working there increased my commitment to pursuing public interest work after graduation.

As I enter my third (and final!) year of law school, I am pursuing a variety of post-graduate public interest opportunities, and although I do not know exactly what I will be doing next year, I do know that I will continue to pursue public interest work. It is generosity like yours that allows UT Law students to see public interest work as a viable career option, and I am grateful that your donation has allowed me and many other UT students to pursue this incredibly important work.

Thank you again for your generous donation.

Stephanie Matherne