The Black Public Defender Association Announces 2022 Summer Fellows

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Release Date: 
Friday, June 3, 2022

The Black Public Defender Association Announces 2022 Summer Fellows

For media inquiries:
Rabiah Burks, 202-452-0620
[email protected]

WASHINGTONThe Black Public Defender Association (BPDA), a section of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), has selected six Black law students as the recipients of the 2022 Summer Fellowship. The BPDA Summer Fellowship is designed to create a pipeline of skilled Black defenders that identify with and are committed to the populations most disproportionately impacted by the criminal legal system.

“It is critically important to create a diversity pipeline to train future Black public defenders because Black communities are disproportionately impacted by the criminal legal system.  It is important for those who fight alongside people involved in the system to understand the client’s lived experiences,” said April Frazier Camara, NLADA President & CEO. “We know that unpaid internships are a barrier for most Black law students who are oftentimes first-generation students who cannot afford to work for free, so we are doing what we can to even the playing field.”

The fellowship program is funded annually by BPDA membership and supporters. The law firm of Shipman & Goodwin LLP funded an additional fellow this year to support a Black law student in the state of Connecticut.

“Every year it brings me joy to review the nearly 50 applications of Black law students who are interested in public defense. I wish we could accept them all,” said Heather Pinckney, BPDA Executive Director. “These six demonstrated an unwavering commitment to public defense and their community, and I am truly excited to support them this summer. I want to thank the Law School Engagement Committee for all of their hard work in interviewing and selecting these six students and Sylvia Smith, who will serve as their Trial Practice Group Leader for the summer.”

Summer internships in public defender offices are often unpaid, and can present a financial hardship for law students who do not have the financial resources and support.

Without summer internship experience, it is very difficult for Black law students to compete for attorney positions at public defender offices after graduation. Creating a pipeline for Black attorneys to become public defenders is a core part of BPDA's mission, and the 2022 summer fellowship program helps achieve this goal.

The 2022 BPDA Summer Fellows and the offices in which they will work this summer:

Don Arrington
Temple University Beasley School of Law
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Appellate Division

Caleesha U. Body
Emory University School of Law
DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office, Juvenile Division

Corey Evans (Shipman Goodwin BPDA Summer Fellow)  
Southern Connecticut State University
Connecticut Division of Public Defender Services

Jessica Nelson
The University of Michigan Law School
Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit

Jace Peterkin
The University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Office of the Federal Public Defender, Western District of Pennsylvania

Nacirema Ulysse
Howard University School of Law
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, Juvenile Division

If you have any questions, please contact Rabiah Burks at [email protected]

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The Black Public Defender Association aims to improve the quality of defense provided to low-income communities across the United States by creating and maintaining a national network of skilled Black public defenders that identify with and are committed to the populations they serve.

National Legal Aid and Defender Association, founded in 1911, is America’s oldest and largest nonprofit association devoted to excellence in the delivery of legal services to those who cannot afford counsel. NLADA has pioneered access to justice at the national, state and local levels, playing a leadership role in the creation of public defender systems and other important institutions from The Sentencing Project to the Legal Services Corporation. A leader in the development of national standards for civil legal aid and public defense, NLADA also provides advocacy, training and technical assistance for equal justice advocates across the country.