Lauren Burke '09, Ryan Downer '08, Thomas Fritzsche '09 and Sarah Parady '07 have each won a coveted 2009 Skadden Fellowship. Established in 1988 by the firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, the prestigious two-year fellowships support graduating law students who wish to pursue public interest work, providing a salary, fringe benefits and tuition-debt assistance to awardees as they pursue personally conceived projects at their chosen public interest organizations.
"The Skadden Fellowship has now launched the careers of several generations of social justice advocates," said Eve Stotland, associate director of the Public Interest Law Center and a 1999 Skadden Fellow. "I am excited that Skadden has selected four Fellows from NYU to be part of the 2009 class. At NYU, we work hard to prepare our students for opportunities like the Skadden Fellowship and, more importantly, to use their law degrees to speak truth to power."
Lauren Burke plans to work at The Door, an organization that provides youth development services, helping young Chinese immigrants who have been or are at risk for being trafficked. Burke's project includes offering legal services to help children receive government benefits extended to trafficking victims, find safe homes and obtain free public education; she will also start a peer mentorship program matching Chinese youth who have secured legal and educational services with those newly arrived in the U.S., and fight human smuggling networks through collaboration with other agencies. Said Burke: "Knowing that I will be doing a job I love, that I believe is important, and that is fulfilling a need not yet being met by the legal community is a dream come true." At the Law School, Burke has been involved with the Juvenile Defender Clinic and Children's Rights Clinic, and served as cochair of Law Women. She has interned with Korekata AIDS Law Center, Lutheran Social Services of New York and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Ryan Downer, who was a Root-Tilden-Kern scholar, will work with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund to identify systemic source-of-income discrimination by landlords against low-income renters who receive housing subsidies and other forms of government assistance. Downer's project will build relationships with local advocates and community organizations, identify both discriminators and potential plaintiffs, educate the public and litigate against egregious offenders. "This project will fight to preserve and expand affordable housing options for low-income families," said Downer. "Affordable housing is always a pressing issue, but given the current economic situation, it's never been more so." Currently clerking for Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Downer has also worked with the Legal Aid Society of New York and the Center for Employment Opportunity through his involvement with the Juvenile Defender Clinic and the Offender Reentry Clinic.
Thomas Fritzsche, a Bickel & Brewer Latino Institute for Human Rights Scholar, will work with the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) Immigrant Justice Project, developing and litigating cases on behalf of low-wage immigrant workers exploited by their employers. Fritzsche recently received the annual Pro Bono Publico Award from the Public Service Law Network for his role in cofounding Just Harvest from Field to Fork, an organization that brings together the causes of farmworkers' rights and support of organic and locally grown foods. He previously interned for the SPLC and the Natonal Day Laborer Organizing Network, and led a Law Students for Human Rights team supporting Florida farmworkers' legal rights. "I am excited to support workers enforcing the minimum wage and other laws," said Fritzsche, "because their courage to take personal risks in order to change society inspires me as well."
Sarah Parady, who was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow, will work with Colorado Legal Services, serving a state with the eighth-highest foreclosure rate in the nation, to represent low-income homeowners saddled with deceptively marketed exotic mortgages and to work with housing counselors to reach homeowners earlier in the process. "My mom still owns the house I grew up in, and my childhood would have been very different without the support of our neighbors and the financial stability that came from that home," said Parady. "The foreclosure crisis means that many Colorado families have lost that support, sometimes due to lending practices that departed from traditional norms. I hope my Skadden project will allow me to assist borrowers who were treated unfairly." Parady currently clerks for Judge Carlos F. Lucero of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. As a Hays Fellow, Parady worked with South Brooklyn Legal Services and the ACLU Racial Justice Program. She also was a student in the Immigrant Defense Clinic, served as chair of the High School Law Institute and a committee cochair of Law Students for Human Rights, and has interned with Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Legal Resources Centre.