ASU Law selects 18 students as inaugural Public Interest Fellows

Photo of Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Academy for Justice MLK Policing Event

ASU Law and its students, like the inaugural Public Interest Fellows, have long been involved in social justice reform work. Here, students speak with local leaders and nationally renowned scholars from a panel during the MLK Day “Justice for All, Here We Stand” event held in January 2020 pre-pandemic restrictions.


The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has selected 18 students as its first Public Interest Fellows, funding the students’ efforts to work in nonprofit organizations that advance social, cultural and structural changes including social justice reform.

The fellowship program, the first of its kind at the law school, was formed last year when ASU Law leadership and donors came together to create opportunities for students to participate in social justice programs. Thanks to an initial gift from longtime Valley philanthropists Alison Lewis and Craig Krumwiede, the program was launched to foster experiential opportunities for students to lead the charge and drive meaningful change in the community.

Several more donors have since contributed, resulting in the selection of the program’s inaugural cohort of students.

The inaugural group of students chose the following organizations to work with this summer:

  • Elyssa Creary-Scher, Arizona Capital Representation Project, Phoenix, Arizona.
  • Liliana Elliott, Native American Rights Fund, Washington, D.C.
  • Ben Enos, Arizona Justice Project, Phoenix.
  • Tiffany Farr, Arizona Center for Disability Law, Tucson, Arizona.
  • Ashleigh Fixico, Native American Rights Fund, Boulder, Colorado.
  • Kacie Fountain, Maricopa County Office of the Public Defender, Phoenix.
  • Freeman Halle, Judicial System Monitoring Program, Díli, Timor-Leste.
  • Maxine Hart, Red Cross IHL, Washington, D.C.
  • Katarina Hernandez, Institute for Justice, Arlington, Virginia.
  • Jillian Knox, Center for Biological Diversity, Portland, Oregon.
  • Yanneli Llamas, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Phoenix.
  • Caleb Morey, Marion County Public Defender Agency, Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Lena Neuner, Yurok Tribe, California.
  • Alexa Penalosa, Environmental Protection Agency Office of General Counsel, Washington, D.C.
  • Samantha Pfaff-Goldstein, Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Phoenix.
  • Abigail Smith, Maricopa County Office of the Legal Advocate, Phoenix.
  • Emily Tegley, Shared Hope International, Washington, D.C.
  • Priyal Thakkar, Judicial System Monitoring Program, Díli, Timor-Leste.
photo of Freeman Halle, student at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and inaugural ASU Law Public Interest Fellow

Freeman Halle will be working with the Judicial System Monitoring Program in Timor-Leste.

Freeman Halle, a first-year ASU Law JD student, said he is excited to learn more and apply his legal education to the Judicial System Monitoring Program, an nongovernmental organization that was established in 2001 to monitor the processes of the Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunal in Indonesia and the Special Panels for Serious Crimes in Timor-Leste. It now exists as a Timorese led not-for-profit organization working to improve the judicial and legislative systems in Timor-Leste.

As an intern, Halle will be responsible for researching domestic and international law to help the program promote the rule of law and government transparency in Timor-Leste, which gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.

“I am humbled and deeply grateful to have been selected as part of the inaugural cohort of ASU Law Public Interest Fellows,” Halle said.

“I came to law school hoping to find opportunities at the nexus of law and international development. This fellowship will allow me to fully dedicate my summer to achieving that goal as I learn from dedicated human rights practitioners in East Timor.”

photo of Priyal Thakkar, student at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and inaugural ASU Law Public Interest Fellow

Priyal Thakkar also will be working with the Judicial System Monitoring Program.

Priyal Thakkar, a second-year ASU Law JD student, also chose to work with the Judicial System Monitoring Program.

“Working at JSMP will prove to be an invaluable hands-on experience in the field of international rule of law and supplement my legal education by providing the opportunity to do meaningful work with and learn from local lawyers in Timor-Leste on how to center communities you advocate for,” said Thakkar, who also participated in an ASU Law International Rule of Law and Security summer internship program last year to advance human and civil rights, promote democracy and affect other global issues.

Emily Tegley, a first-year ASU Law JD student who will be working with Shared Hope, said she is excited to help the organization during a transformative time.

Established by U.S. Congresswoman Linda Smith to rescue and restore women and children enslaved in sex trafficking, Shared Hope developed the nation’s first legal framework to comprehensively analyze state laws addressing the crime of child sex trafficking 10 years ago. This year, the organization is changing how it grades state sex trafficking laws to better address gaps in the system. 

“Working with Shared Hope is an incredible opportunity and one I likely would not have been able to take advantage of if not for the Public Interest Fellowship,” Tegley said. “I am really looking forward to getting involved this summer.”

In addition to Lewis and Krumwiede, individuals and firms that supported full Public Interest Fellowships are Snell & Wilmer, which funded two full fellowships, Osborn Maledon, Gammage & Burnham, Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, the Arizona Community Foundation and Jody and Kerry Pokorski. Several other individuals also came together to allow ASU Law to offer additional fellowships including Keith Galbut, Michael Schon, Marc Blonstein, Lenni Benson and Patricia and Stuart Gerrich.

“We have so many ASU Law students who are passionate about giving back to the community and want to pursue opportunities in the public-interest sector and social justice reform,” ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester said. “Thanks to the generosity of ASU Law patrons, our students will now be able to follow their career dreams knowing they have the financial support they need to do so.”

Sylvester added, “We can’t wait to see the amazing work that our first Public Interest Fellows accomplish. We also look forward to the continued support of our ASU Law community in funding future fellows, and give our heartfelt thanks to our donors.”

To learn more about ASU Law’s Public Interest Fellowship program or make a donation, contact Samantha Williams.

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