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April 13, 2009

Graduating law students receive University Co-op Public Interest Awards

Photo of Public Interest Awards recipients

Graduating Law School students Kelly Davis, Brett Kaufman, Lisa Snead, Meghan Shapiro, Whitney Hill, Aron Israelite (left to right) have been awarded University Co-op Public Interest Awards.

Six students at the University of Texas School of Law have been awarded University Co-op Public Interest Awards in honor of their extraordinary commitment to public service.

This annual award honors graduating law students for work in non-profit, government, or legislative sectors and for pro bono and community service activities. Each student will receive a $4,250 award made possible by a grant from the University Co-op and administered by the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law at the Law School.

The students will also be recognized at the University Co-op Awards for Excellence in Graduate Education banquet on Tuesday, May 12.

“We are delighted to honor these outstanding students. They are dedicated to the highest callings of our profession: serving the public and increasing access to justice,” said Professor Eden Harrington, director of the Justice Center. “We commend them for their leadership and are pleased to recognize their many contributions to the Law School and the community.”

The following students have received University Co-op Public Interest Awards for 2009:

Kelly Davis has participated in the Environmental Law Clinic and the Housing Clinic; was president of the Environmental Law Society and recent developments editor of the Texas Environmental Law Journal; and has been active in the Public Interest Law Association, the American Constitution Society, and Concerned Students for LRAP. During the summers she worked for Save Our Springs Alliance in Austin and Earthjustice in Washington, D.C. She also helped lead a Law School trip to provide pro bono legal assistance to hurricane victims in Mississippi. A graduate of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, Davis plans to provide direct services in the field of environmental litigation.

Whitney Hill has participated in the Environmental Law Clinic, the Children’s Rights Clinic, and the Juvenile Justice Clinic. During the summers she worked for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Austin and the Juvenile Rights Project, Inc., in Portland, Oregon. During the school year she worked for Advocacy, Inc., helping to represent children with disabilities suffering from abuse and neglect. Hill, a magna cum laude graduate of Claremont McKenna College, was also awarded the first George M. Fleming Fellowship in Health Law from the Law School’s Justice Corps, which she will use to work for two years with Juvenile Rights Project, Inc. enforcing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act on behalf of low-income children.

Aron Israelite has participated in the National Security Clinic, the Capital Punishment Clinic, and the Criminal Defense Clinic; was notes editor of the Texas Law Review and cochair of Concerned Students for LRAP; and has been active in Texas Law Fellowships and the American Constitution Society. During the summers he worked for the Texas Civil Rights Project in Austin and the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. Israelite, a summa cum laude graduate of the University of Massachusetts, will clerk for U.S. District Judge Mary Murguia in Phoenix. His long-term career goal is to run a non-profit that combines legal advocacy with community organizing.

Brett Kaufman has participated in the National Security Clinic and the Supreme Court Clinic, and has been book review editor of the Texas Law Review and a board member of the American Constitution Society. During the summers he worked for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica. Kaufman, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, will clerk for the Israeli Supreme Court and then work for the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement in Tel Aviv. After his time in Israel, he will clerk for Judge Robert D. Sack of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then work in domestic civil rights and international human rights law.

Meghan Shapiro has participated in the Capital Punishment Clinic and the Supreme Court Clinic. During the summers she worked on capital cases for the Federal Community Defender of Philadelphia Capital Habeas Unit; the Federal Capital Resource Counsel in the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Richmond, Virginia; the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama; and the Texas Defender Service. She has also worked as research assistant to Professor Jordan Steiker, codirector of the Law School’s Capital Punishment Center, during the school year. Shapiro, a cum laude with highest honors graduate of the College of William and Mary, will clerk for U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria, Virginia. She plans to continue working to defend those facing the death penalty after her clerkship.

Lisa Snead has participated in the Domestic Violence Clinic; has been president of the Domestic Violence Survivor Support Network and symposium editor and staff editor of the Review of Litigation; and helped organize two Law School trips to provide pro bono legal assistance to hurricane victims in Mississippi. During the summers she worked for the Newport News Court Appointed Special Advocates, serving as a special advocate for eight children, and for the Texas Advocacy Project in Austin, assisting victims of domestic violence. During the school year she worked for Advocacy, Inc., a nonprofit organization that protects the rights of people with disabilities in Texas. Snead, a cum laude graduate of the College of William and Mary, has been awarded a prestigious two-year Skadden Fellowship to work for Advocacy, Inc., representing people with disabilities who are survivors of domestic violence.

About the University Co-op:

The University Co-op is a not-for-profit corporation owned by the students, faculty and staff of the University of Texas at Austin. Since 2000, the Co-op has given over twenty-five million dollars to UT in the form of gifts, grants, and rebates.

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Contacts: Mary Crouter, assistant director of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, University of Texas School of Law, 512-232-7855, mcrouter@law.utexas.edu