Stanford Law School’s Levin Center for Public Service and Public Interest Law offers postgraduate Public Interest Fellowships which enable our graduates to work full-time for a year in a law-related endeavor designed to further the public interest. These include both international general postgraduate Stanford Law School fellowships on any public interest issue and those targeting specific substantive areas (e.g., international, criminal defense, criminal justice, and environmental law, education law, or youth law). The subject of this page is the Civitas Public Interest fellowship focused on criminal justice. There are slightly different eligibility requirements for each program, but there will be one joint application process for these fellowships. Finalists will be invited to an interview with the selection committee.
A generous alumnus created the Civitas Postgraduate Public Interest Fellowship in 2015. This position is intended to support one alum to represent clients and advance issues that address the negative effects of the criminal justice system on under-served and indigent communities at a public defender office or non-profit organization. Note that Stanford University entities (e.g., clinics, programs, and centers) are ineligible to host a Civitas Fellow.
All members of the current graduating class of SLS JD students and the prior three classes who have not previously been awarded a postgraduate legal fellowship or government honors/new attorney program position are eligible to apply for this fellowship. Current students must be in good standing to be eligible.
This fellowship program is intended to support alumni to represent clients and advance issues that address the negative effects of the criminal justice system on under-served and indigent communities at a public defender office or non-profit organization in the United States. Stanford University entities (e.g., clinics, programs, and centers) are ineligible to host an SLS Civitas Fellow.
The 2024-2025 application is due Monday, February 5, 2024 and interviews will be held in early March. Interview slots will be available on Saturday, March 2 as well as some weekday afternoons (between 4-6 pm PST) the week of March 4. The Fellows will be selected by the end of March 2024.
Please address all questions regarding the fellowship to Shannon Al-Wakeel.
Each applicant should also request that their host organization submit a commitment letter. We provide one sample here:
Domestic fellowship host organization’s commitment letter
After the Fellows are selected and before payment can be disbursed, each host agency is also expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding outlining each party’s responsibilities. International or governmental hosts who cannot accept the funds from Stanford would sign this Memorandum of Understanding, which grants the funds directly to the Fellow.
The Selection Committee will include members of the faculty and alumni who previously served as an SLS Fellow. Selection will occur by the end of March each year.
In reviewing each application, the committee will consider several factors, including:
- the applicant’s commitment to a career in public interest law,
- the applicant’s capacity to maximize the fellowship opportunity,
- the applicant’s contributions to the public interest community at SLS,
- the potential impact of the applicant’s work, and
- the capacity of the sponsoring organization to provide meaningful supervision to the fellow.
In evaluating these factors, the committee will look to the application and accompanying essays, law school record, recommendations, and organizational letter of support. All letters of recommendation and support should be specific to your candidacy for this fellowship. All information provided will be used only for the purpose of considering your candidacy for the Fellowship.
The fellowship will last for one year, starting after September 1 with some flexibility for later start dates.
The 2023-2024 Civitas Fellow is Hannah Subega, JD ’23. She will join the Spero Justice Center, where she will advocate on behalf of incarcerated persons in Colorado who were convicted of their crimes as emerging adults (18-25 years old) and are now serving excessive prison sentences.
There were two 2022-2023 Civitas Fellows. Bailey Colfax, JD ’22, joined the California Appellate Project, where she assisted appointed counsel in state appellate and state habeas corpus proceedings; maintained and developed case-specific documents, training materials, and other resources to enhance the representation of appointed counsel in capital post-conviction cases; and assisted unrepresented condemned prisoners while they awaited appointment of habeas corpus counsel. Courtney Colwell, JD ’22, joined the New York Civil Liberties Union to expand the rights of New Yorkers impacted by the carceral state and challenged the conditions of confinement in state jails and prisons through policy reform and litigation.
The 2021-2022 Civitas Fellow was Mallorie Urban, JD ’21, who joined the San Francisco Public Defender. She represented indigent clients accused of crimes in San Francisco, first by acting as second chair for felony jury trials, then by taking on a caseload of roughly thirty clients, whose cases will be her sole responsibility from start to finish.
There were two 2020-2021 Civitas Fellows. Anjuli Branz, JD ’19, worked as a public defender at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, collaborating with attorneys across the criminal and civil practices to provide holistic representation to low-income residents of Upper Manhattan. Zach Waterman, JD ’20, worked in two separate capacities–as a misdemeanor attorney and second chair felony attorney–at the San Francisco Public Defender to give teeth to indigent San Franciscans’ rights to a reasonable expectation of privacy, effective assistance of counsel, a jury trial, and due process.
The 2019-2020 Fellow, Christen Philips, JD ’18, was unexpectedly hired by her host agency, Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Thus, we reserved the fellowship funds to support an additional Fellow in 2020-2021.
There were two 2018-2019 Civitas Fellows. Aaron Forbath, JD ’18, joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and represented San Francisco Bay Area clients navigating the civil law consequences of the criminal justice system. He also supported litigation and policy projects on traffic court and bail reform, civil forfeiture, and discriminatory police practices. Kelsey Townsend, JD ’18, worked with the San Francisco Public Defender to advocate for low-income clients facing misdemeanor and felony charges and to support the organization’s programs on immigration representation, bail reform, mental health services, and reentry.
The 2017-2018 Civitas Fellow was Laura Douglas, JD ’17. At Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland, Oregon, Douglas provided holistic representation for clients with addiction. She also worked on the unmet needs of this community, both within the office and in the wider community, and tried to reframe addiction as a mental illness.
The 2016-2017 Civitas Fellow was Rebecca Vogel, JD ’15. She joined the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where she represented clients on parole and supervised release who were facing revocation by the U.S. Parole Commission for alleged violations. Vogel advocated to keep her clients out of prison and allow them to remain with their families and communities.