Create Change – Spring 2021

Executive Director's message

Be the change you wish to see in the world . . . – Gandhi

Anna Wang - Photo by Christine Baker-Parrish

Spring is here and it’s been a year since we had to adjust to shelter-in-place restrictions. The University is starting to gradually open up, welcoming undergraduate juniors and seniors back to campus for the quarter. I know many of our law students have already been living on campus, or nearby, but now comes the hope that we might resume some in-person programming. While we await guidance on what new privileges may be granted soon, I want to recognize the many staff who have continued to work on campus to support those of us studying and working remotely. We are so grateful that we have been able to pivot to virtual work thanks to the countless hours colleagues like those on our Facilities, IT, and Law Library teams have invested to help us with that transition.

Since our last issue in January, our nation has also seen a surge in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). See the report by the national coalition, Stop AAPI Hate, here. Personally, I have struggled with reconciling these hateful attacks on vulnerable elders and low-income workers with the less harmful racist (and often sexist) microaggressions I have experienced in my own life. Reflecting on my privilege, while also acknowledging the pain I’ve experienced after such offensive conduct, has led to some rewarding conversations with others. I am reminded that generations of civil rights leaders have fought for justice in the U.S. and that future leaders will continue to build on those hard-fought gains. I am so thrilled that many of the incredible SLS students I have worked with over the past 17 years are on the front lines, fighting for justice for all.

Speaking of which, I am delighted to profile Jake Klonoski, JD ’13, an alumnus who spent the past five years investigating misconduct within the U.S. Department of Justice as part of its Office of the Inspector General. Jake arrived at SLS after serving in the Navy for eight years. I still remember him sitting in my office as a 1L, telling me about how he learned the importance of getting along well with everyone after living on a submarine for months at a time! It was great to reconnect with him and share his story with our greater SLS community. I found it inspiring and entertaining, and hope you do, too.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if you have content ideas for our newsletter or are interested in connecting with our public interest students. Stay safe and take care of yourselves.


A Veteran's Reflection on Public Service

After graduating from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in 2002, Jake Klonoski, JD ’13, served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for eight years, including a tour on the submarine USS GEORGIA, before arriving at Stanford Law School in the Fall of 2010. While his less direct path to law school is not typical, his reasons for pursuing a career as a public interest lawyer would resonate with many lawyers.

Klonoski explains, “From a young age, my mom inspired me to see the law as a tool in the complicated social dynamic of dispute resolution. She was a family law attorney, where assigning labels of right and wrong or winner and loser often gets in the way of the long term good. I absorbed those lessons as a kid while playing or reading on late nights at her office. She took that perspective on the law to the bench where, as the Oregon federal district court’s first female chief judge, [Judge Ann Aiken (D. OR)] has tirelessly worked to apply the law fairly, and reach just outcomes that benefit all parties over time.”

He adds, “More immediately, I decided to go to law school after witnessing the backlash against Muslim-Americans in DC while I was in college, where we witnessed the Pentagon burning in September 2001. That day, and in the months that followed, I helped with the campus response to the attack and the backlash, and to educate myself I researched the treatment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s. I discovered not only the terrible history of government lies and mistreatment of 120,000 people interned during WWII, but I also found out that Eugene, Oregon, my hometown, had set up a registration center to enable the collection of Japanese-Americans in 1942. Today, that same location hosts a performing arts center where many high schools stage their graduation ceremonies, including my own. Nothing existed to commemorate internment or inform the next generation of the mistake. So over several years, while carrying out my Navy service, I got involved with building a memorial at the location.

“During that effort I met Kennie Namba, a decorated WWII veteran, who in 1947 had successfully challenged Oregon’s racist land ownership laws and won – California followed Oregon’s precedent a few years later. Despite the abuse and violence in his early life, he explained to me that the justice he found in court always kept him smiling. He told me that after I finished my Navy service, if I wanted to keep fighting for what was right, I had best understand the law. ‘Go to law school,’ he told me with twinkling eyes, ‘but don’t forget that justice should be for everyone. I am not sure if they teach that in school, but that is what lawyers are for.’ I took his words as my charge for law school and have tried to use my JD in ways that would make him proud.”

After graduating from SLS in 2013, the Navy mobilized Klonoski for a one-year assignment to Afghanistan. Upon his return, he served in a clerkship with the late Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. After clerking, Klonoski joined the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) via DOJ’s Honors Program in October of 2015. The OIG is an independent entity charged with investigating alleged violations of criminal and civil laws by DOJ employees and auditing and inspecting DOJ programs.

Klonoski notes, “My judge was a well-known skeptic of unchecked prosecutorial power and when I told him I was pursuing a job with the DOJ, he was a bit troubled until I explained to him what the OIG did in investigating governmental misconduct. ‘Good,’ he told me, ‘I should have sent loads of clerks in there through the years with lists of all the problems I have seen.’”

Klonoski recently left the OIG, but investigated numerous high-profile matters during his tenure. For example, in January 2021, the OIG released its review of the DOJ’s Zero Tolerance policy addressing illegal entry immigration offenses, which was planned and implemented in 2017 and 2018 under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Klonoski observes, “During the two-plus years of the review, our five-member team read through hundreds of thousands of emails, conducted dozens of interviews, traveled to the southwest border, and attempted to decipher handwritten notes from those who carried out a policy that led to the separation of thousands of children from asylum-seeking parents. Our review took place against the backdrop of government officials repeating untruths, stating falsely that no policy of separating families existed. I was reminded repeatedly of the lies told to justify the Japanese-American internments.

“I recall one moment, late in the review, when a fourth-pass reexamination and integration of several of our sources enabled us to recognize notes from a call that several United States Attorneys had held with Attorney General Jeff Sessions one week after the government began separating families. On the May 11, 2018 call, held to address concerns that families were being separated without a plan to reunite parents with children, the Attorney General flatly told the participants, ‘We need to take away children,’ and explaining the involvement of the President in originating the policy, according to the media. There are few moments that so clearly demonstrate government officials’ willingness to say one thing behind closed doors, and another to the American people. The effects of having an internal watchdog detect such misrepresentations and call them out for elected officials was the best I have done in living up to Namba’s charge of ensuring justice for everyone.”

Klonoski’s transition from his judicial clerkship to investigations at the OIG was challenging. He explains, “[When] clerking, especially at the appellate level, the field is restricted to the four corners of the record and to the arguments made by the parties. With the investigative role, you start out with an empty notepad and a suspicion or allegation that something has gone wrong. And as an OIG investigator in particular, with legal access to all government documents relevant to your work – the problem quickly becomes one of wrapping your arms around the world. Hopefully, you can see how easy it might be to end up with a two-year long review and a 400-page report.

“Stanford served me well for the investigative role in three ways. First, through clinical education in which we interact with real people and legal complexity to truly understand that law is more than words on the page. Depositions, interview practice, and familiarization with the horror of e-Discovery were key. Legal briefs carry a duty of candor that should not be expected in face-to-face discussion or in emails.

“Second, I had the benefit of taking legal ethics from Professor Deborah Rhode who offered students the chance to explore the challenging moral landscapes of legal practice. While the class could not force people to wrestle with its moral questions, I found that having been exposed to so many difficult problems lawyers got themselves into kept me from being as surprised by many of the revelations uncovered during OIG investigations. It is vital one does not go into investigative work with rose-colored glasses.

“Finally, I found former Dean Larry Kramer‘s Con Law teaching, with his refusal to make things simple or doctrinaire, instead insisting on exploring personalities, relationships, and circumstances, served me well, as did his recognition that the most profound rule of law issues may be resolved at the ballot box or in the streets, with government and the courts catching up later.”

When asked about his time at SLS, Klonoski immediately had three specific memories to share. He says, “First, during my 1L year Professor Michael McConnell decided to invite John Yoo, a disgraced Berkeley professor who authored the faulty legal justification for torture while working at the Department of Justice, to speak on campus as part of a rehabilitation tour. Inexplicably, they scheduled Yoo’s remarks for Good Friday, a day where many remember the torture of Jesus. Despite this effort to normalize our generation’s worst lawyering, many students rallied to confront Yoo, answering speech with more speech until the SLS administration ordered an end to posting fliers on the SLS building, police were stationed outside the room, and McConnell barred live questions from the event. Though the law has failed to hold Yoo accountable for his malpractice and its resulting harms, Stanford students understood that law is where justice begins, not where it ends.

“Second, during 3L year, while the Supreme Court clinic worked on the US v. Windsor case, I had the tremendous privilege of being invited by Professor Pam Karlan to assist in gathering signatories for an amicus brief by military and national security leaders explaining how marriage discrimination against LGBT service members damaged military readiness. One of my brothers had been discharged from the Navy under the ill-conceived Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and the wound that the mistreatment caused him proved unrecoverable. The argument struck me on a deeply personal level. Along with other student-veterans, Jesse Birbach (SLS ’13) and Sam Jacobson (SLS ’14), we used every network to which we had access and gathered over 100 flag officers’ signatures for the brief. When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, having contributed in minor part to the national effort to rollback the viciousness of legal discrimination brought me to tears – I just wish my brother had lived to see it.

SLS students posed for a photo welcoming Jake Klonoski, JD ’13, home after a year-long deployment to Afghanistan.

“Third, immediately after my SLS graduation, the Navy put me back in uniform and sent me on a second deployment to Herat, Afghanistan. Though I did get to avoid bar studies for a year, it was quite a jarring change, especially leaving behind my wife and young daughter. A few months after I arrived, I began getting periodic care packages with books, videos, notes and keepsakes, contributed by SLS friends prior to graduation and organized by my classmates, Catherine Baylin, Camille Fletcher and Jennifer Gonzalez. Moreover, the day I landed back in the US after my tour, friends still at SLS sent a ‘Welcome Home’ photo I still keep by my computer. I discovered early that one of the best parts of Stanford Law is how the relationships you build there can carry you through the tough times in your future. And those times will come, so keep in touch – it matters.”

He also had some advice to share with future public interest lawyers. Klonoski states, “My advice is to find a way to create accountability for yourself in what you hope to do with your legal expertise. Some parts of law school and legal culture, and especially the pressures of being a new lawyer, have a way of distorting values over time, but it often happens gradually. The pressure of debt, other financial considerations, and the desire for professional approval are like glaciers, slowly tearing down mountains. It is critical that you find or create a mechanism or way to remind yourself why you wanted to become a lawyer in the first place, to avoid being ground down. Examples I have seen be helpful to remind you of your values include: a written letter recording the hopes and worries for your future self for re-reading when times get challenging; an insightful significant other who can share reflections at the end of a day and offer course correction; maintaining strong connections with non-law school friends who can flag when the BS gets too thick; and building relationships with legal mentors in whose values you trust to talk through your concerns. But having something that alerts you to how you are changing, and especially when you are in morally troubled water, is key.

“Plus, always maintain an escape route in case your alert goes off. Also, don’t sweat things too much at SLS. Admission into Stanford Law is a winning lottery ticket, as long as you don’t freak yourself out. No one really understands SLS grades anyway.”

Editor’s note: Jake Klonoski is currently serving as an SLS Public Interest Alumni Mentor-in-Residence, where he is remotely mentoring a small group of 1Ls, 2Ls, and 3Ls with an interest in civil government.

SLS Awards Record 14 Postgraduate Public Interest Law Fellowships

SLS awarded SLS Postgraduate Public Interest Law Fellowships to a record 14 SLS graduates for 2021-2022. SLS provides a grant to cover the salary and the standard benefits that employees of the Fellow’s host organization receive for one year (up to $60,000 total per Fellow). Since the program first started in early 2008, SLS has funded 74 graduates to launch their careers in public service. Adding the 14 selected for the upcoming year, SLS will have supported 88 graduates.

Due to donor preferences, two positions are dedicated to international public service, one for indigent criminal defense, and one for criminal justice. The remaining 10 Fellows will work in a wide range of substantive areas including environmental justice, disability rights, children’s rights, consumer protection, and civil rights.

The full list of Fellows is not yet final, since some graduates are awaiting other potential offers. Katelyn Masket, JD ’21, and Christie Wan, JD ’21, have accepted offers to serve as this year’s SLS International Postgraduate Public Interest Fellows. Masket will work with Accountability Counsel. Wan will join the Center for Justice and Accountability. Benjy Mercer-Golden, JD ’21, will serve as this year’s SLS Criminal Defense Fellow. He will join the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. Mallorie Urban, JD ’21, has accepted the Civitas Fellowship and will work with the San Francisco Public Defender’s office as well.

The confirmed SLS Fellowship recipients include Connor Hayes, JD ’21, who will work for the ACLU of Pennsylvania; Liz Lagerfeld, JD ’20, who will join Center for Appellate Litigation; Diana Li, JD ’21, will work for the Public Defender Service of DC; Aly Martin, JD ’21, who will work for Council for Children’s Rights; and Phil Wilkinson, JD ’21, who will join San Francisco City Attorney’s Complex & Affirmative Litigation Team.

The final list will be shared on our website by the end of May 2021.

Save the date! SPILF Auction is May 7

The Stanford Public Interest Law Foundation (SPILF) is holding its 29th Annual SPILF Bid for Justice Auction virtually again this year! SPILF leaders are excited to have students and alumni join the fun from all over the world. Auction proceeds enable SPILF to fund initiatives that enable SLS students to provide direct services to communities in need and award Bar grants to graduating public interest students. Please mark your calendars for the evening of Friday, May 7th from 6-7 pm PST.

SPILF is a student organization that was formed in 1978 to support students pursuing public interest work. Led entirely by students, SPILF raises money to provide financial support to members of the Stanford Law community working to further the public interest. See more details in their 2020 Impact Statement. SPILF’s goals are to:

  • Bring legal services to those groups that would otherwise lack access to adequate legal representation;
  • Strengthen the network of students and alumni involved with public interest;
  • Provide training and support to students interested in pursuing public interest work at Stanford Law School and after graduation; and,
  • Increase participation in and the visibility of public interest initiatives at Stanford.

The success of the Auction relies on the support of our SLS public interest community. There are a number of ways you can engage:

  • Bid on our amazing slate of items, services, and activities. Online bidding will open on May 3rd. Please fill out this Google form to receive the link once the website is live.
  • “Attend” the Zoom live Auction on Friday, May 7th from 6-7 pm PST. Please fill out this Google form to be contacted once ticket sales begin.
  • Donate items or services to be auctioned off. If you or someone you know is interested in providing an item, please contact Sydney Speizman.

Happy Bidding!

About Create Change

2020 Levin Center Staff Photo
(L-to-R): Mike Winn, Anna Wang, Diane T. Chin, Titi Liu, Chelsea Jones, and Shafaq Khan. Photo by Joe Neto

Create Change is designed and produced quarterly by the staff of the John and Terry Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law. Unless specifically noted, all articles are written by staff:

Associate Dean for Public Service and Public Interest Law: Diane T. Chin
Executive Director: Anna Wang
Director, International Public Interest Initiatives: Titi Liu
Director, Pro Bono and Externship Programs: Mike Winn
Public Interest Counselor: Shafaq Khan
Program Manager: Chelsea Jones

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