2016 Jay A. Pritzker Fellows Announced

May 26, 2016

“I am delighted to announce that we have selected nine outstanding graduates to receive the 2016 Jay A. Pritzker Fellowships,” said Cindy Wilson (JD ’86), Clinical Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Externships. “They were chosen based on their outstanding public interest work during law school and their commitment to using their law degrees to serve the public. Each Pritzker Fellow will provide much-needed legal services to underrepresented clients across the country.”

The Jay Pritzker Foundation established the Jay A. Pritzker Fellowship Program in 2014 to help talented Northwestern Pritzker School of Law graduates launch public interest careers. Each Pritzker Fellow receives a grant in the amount of $50,000, plus medical insurance coverage, to support one year of full-time service as a lawyer at a nonprofit or government agency.

“During my fellowship at the ACLU of Illinois, I will work on issues relating to police practices, conditions of correctional facilities, and broader criminal justice reform,” said Rachel Murphy (JD ’16). “I entered law school with the goal of becoming an attorney fighting for social justice and the dream that one day I could work for an organization like the ACLU, and I could not be more excited for this opportunity.”

The 2016 Pritzker Fellows are:

Caitlin Barlow
Barlow will work at Cabrini Green Legal Aid in Chicago, where she will work as an attorney with both the Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers program and the Housing Law program. Her work will focus on helping incarcerated mothers and their children to stabilize their housing options upon release from jail or prison. Barlow interned with Bay Area Legal Aid and the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and completed an externship at the National Immigration Justice Center. She was also a student in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Supreme Court Clinic.

Laura Cola
Cola will work at the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project in Washington, DC, representing domestic violence victims and at-risk children. Cola interned at the John Howard Association, as well as the Exoneration Project, and was a student in two different centers in the Bluhm Legal Clinic. She also served as associate editor for the Journal of Law and Social Policy.

Melody Dernocoeur
Dernocoeur will work at the Shelby County Public Defender in Memphis, Tennessee through the Gideon’s Promise program. Dernocoeur was a National Moot Court Team member, and vice president of monitoring for the Northwestern University Human Rights Project. During law school, she spent summers working for the Kanawha County Public Defender in Charleston, West Virginia, the Kafantayeni Resentencing Project in Malawi, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugloslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, and at the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights.

Erica Haspel
Haspel will work at The Door in New York City, assisting youth with legal issues including housing, public benefits, and emancipation. She worked at Manhattan Legal Services in New York City and LAF in Chicago, and was a student in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Civil Litigation Center. She served as co-president of SFPIF, the events chair for OUTLaw, and associate editor for the Journal of Law and Social Policy.

Hannah Henkel
Henkel will work at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission? (EEOC) in Chicago, where she will assist in litigating employment anti-discrimination cases.  Hannah has a strong passion for labor and employment law, and has worked to fight white collar crime as an intern at the U.S. Attorney's office, as well as studied issues associated with worker's compensation claims as a Judicial extern with Judge Margaret Ann Brennan of the Circuit Court of Cook County. During law school, she served as Executive Editor of the Journal for Criminal Law and Criminology and is a certified mediator through the Center for Conflict Resolution.?

Amanda Koons
Koons will work at the 15th Judicial District Public Defender in Lafayette, Louisiana through the Gideon’s Promise program. She worked for the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights and the Children and Family Justice Center; the Cook County Office of the Public Defender; and the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. She served as vice president of the Northwestern University Human Rights Project, and was comment editor for the Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights.

Rachel Murphy
Murphy will work at the Roger Baldwin Foundation of the ACLU in Illinois. She was a student in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth. Murphy worked at San Francisco’s Youth Law Center, and was an intern at the Community Activism Alliance in Chicago, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, and the ACLU of Illinois. She also served as co-chair of the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships (SFPIF) auction donation committee.

Jacqueline Nicholas
Nicholas will work in the State Defender Office of the Legal Aid and Defender Association in Detroit, Michigan. Nicholas worked for LAF in Chicago and for the Office of the State Public Defender, Capital Defense Counsel Division, in Jackson, Mississippi. She served as chair for the SFPIF auction, and was a student in the Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for Criminal Defense. She also represented a client pro bono with the Sargent Shriver Center on Poverty Law, petitioning for the client’s Certificate of Good Conduct and Clemency.

Kimberly Seymour
Kimberly will work for the Federal Defender Program in Chicago. She completed the JD/International Human Rights 4-year program, and worked at the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, and at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. She externed with the Honorable Marvin Aspen of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, and was a student in two centers in the Bluhm Legal Clinic. Kimberly also interned with the Federal Defender Program in Chicago. She was Symposium Chair and Res Publica Editor of the Journal of Law and Social Policy, President of the Public Interest Law Group, and was awarded the Legal Profession Award at the 2015 Commencement Ceremony.

This year, the Law School is also partnering with Gideon’s Promise, an Atlanta-based nonprofit organization that trains, mentors, and supports young public defenders. Melody Dernocoeur and Amanda Koons will become Gideon’s Promise Fellows in the organization’s three-year Core 101 Program and will work as public defenders in Tennessee and Louisiana, respectively. These positions are funded through the Pritzker Fellowship program.

“One of the huge benefits of the Gideon’s Promise program is that it coordinates with some of the best client-centered offices, and clears some of the difficult hurdles of going where we’re most needed,” Koons said. 

Dernocoeur spent last summer in Gideon’s Promise’s Summer Law Clerk program, and experienced firsthand the strength of the organization.

“Every interaction that I have had with a member of the Gideon’s team has reinforced a common theme: we are all in this together,” Dernocoeur said. “That community, that sense of belonging is a refuge that I believe is a necessity to maintain the level of zealous advocacy that our justice system needs from its public defenders.”

The Jay A. Pritzker Fellowship Program increases access to justice in the community while at the same time offering more Northwestern Law students the opportunity to launch careers in public service. The 2016 Pritzker Fellows will start their new jobs in the fall.