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August 21, 2007

OLSPIF Stipend Recipients Provide Summer of Service Worldwide

University of Oregon School of Law Students who received OLSPIF (Oregon Law Students Public Interest Fund) stipends, funded by generous support from members of the Law School community, worked in public interest positions worldwide this summer.  In their own words, OLSPIF stipend recipients describe the important work that they have done:

“I’m … working for the Bureau de Avocates Internationaux in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  While here I’ve been working on filing a petition with the Inter American Commission on Human Rights with respect to a decision of Haiti’s Court de Cessation (Highest Court) overturning the conviction of defendants convicted of human rights abuses in a high profile case.  The petition involves what is known in Haiti as the Raboto massacre – where members of a small Haitian community were attacked, tortured and some murdered by members of the former military government.  I’ve also been assisting other law students who are working in the office, with their projects related to the rights of juveniles in detention and the human rights implications of the UN occupation in Haiti … My work in Haiti has been a rewarding and empowering experience.”  — Amber Munger, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

“I work for DNA – People’s Legal Services, Inc., a legal aid agency located on the Navajo Nation reservation … This past summer, we have been drafting a new probate code specifically tailored to the Navajo Nation, a code that takes specific Navajo legal practices and traditions into account.  We also fight to get sacred sites recognized by the federal government.  One such case I worked on, dealing with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has made it to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and en banc review is pending.  In two other large cases I have worked on, DNA is fighting against big polluters on the reservation such as oil and gas companies and uranium mining companies.  Much of our work consists of going out to places where these companies are polluting precious groundwater, meeting with Navajos, and recording their stories in preparation for an historic class action law suit we hope to bring in the upcoming months.”  — John-Michael Partesotti, Window Rock DNA Legal Services

“The Northwest Women’s Law Center changes someone’s life every single day, and I am so lucky to be a part of this incredible work.  A few of the projects that I have been working on this summer include:
Finding a Washington State law basis for protecting the rights of gay couples who are turned away from private adoption agencies on grounds of free exercise of religion; Examining the status of Montana’s family leave laws and protections for pregnant workers in order to find areas for improvement; Challenging the constitutionality of Washington’s unemployment compensation scheme that is shown to result in a disproportionate number of denials for women workers; Examining the standards of professional conduct for physicians in Washington State to see if there is a basis for disciplining a doctor who mistreated a patient because she received an abortion; Determining the circumstances under which a victim of sexual assault can present evidence of “prior consistent statements” under ER 801 in order to refute a suggestion that she fabricated her testimony; Assessing potential statutory and state constitutional claims against a private youth soccer association that pulled the female captain of a boys’ soccer team because “she was a petite girl and might get injured.” … Every minute that OLSPIF money has allowed me to give to this organization was spent using the law to attempt to improve someone’s life.”  — Lauren Trent, Northwest Women’s Law Center

“One of the reasons I decided to attend the UO was its support of public interest work … This summer I have been working in the Eugene office of the Western Environmental Law Center. Projects I have worked on over the summer include:  An amicus brief in support of litigation to limit user capacity levels along the Wild and Scenic portion of the Merced River in Yosemite …; A comment, on behalf of 18 organizations in Oregon and Washington, to urge the Environmental Protection Agency to grant California’s request to regulate vehicle greenhouse gas emissions. …; An attempt to ban field burning in Oregon … [and r]esearch preparing to challenge the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s proposed plans to amend the Northwest Forest Plan to eliminate protections for old-growth forests and the species that depend on them by eliminating reserves and removing the survey and manage standard ….”  — Stefanie Herrington, Western Environmental Law Center

“I have two primary responsibilities at Washington’s disability rights entity: 1) I work directly with clients to address their legal issues and 2) I investigate and research allegations of abuse and neglect. … I also travel to psychiatric hospitals throughout the state to monitor facilities and interview patients regarding potential violations of law or previous settlements.  We’re unable to represent everyone, so I also provide self advocacy information for individuals with more minor issues.”  — Kaci Callahan, Washington Protection and Advocacy System

“I have been working with the Oregon Clean Water Action Project.  Our attorney, Doug Quirk, recently filed a case in conjunction with the Oregon Natural Resources Council Fund and the Sierra Club in order to block the proposed expansion of the Mt. Ashland Ski Area until the Forest Service and the company running the resort have obtained the appropriate state and federal permits … Our lawsuit seeks to block the expansion at least until necessary certification has been acquired from the state as required by the Clean Water Act.”  — Jeff Richards, Oregon Clean Water Action Project

“I performed technical legal research for individual clients and on behalf of [Friends of the San Juans] in support of government action, and at the request of local government officials.  I also wrote professional documents, including court documents, memoranda, and policy guidance tools.  I  had the opportunity to collaborate with federal, state and local agencies, scientists, and enforcement officers on a variety of land use, water law, ocean, and coastal issues.  My major projects included a guidance document on eelgrass conservation, a local land and water use case involving development in a water scarce area, and alleged violations of Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act, and technical legal research concerning a proposed county ordinance involving the protection of an ESA listed species, and its interplay with 42 USC §1983, and international law.”  — Christina Davis, Friends of the San Juans

OLSPIF’s summer award program provides financial assistance to students working in public interest positions. All students enrolled at the UO Law who dedicate 10 volunteer hours to OLSPIF are eligible to receive summer awards for public interest work. The award application process takes place in the spring.  For more information, visit http://www.law.uoregon.edu/org/olspif/


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