Stanford Law School Criminal Defense Fellowship

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 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 criminal defense fellowship. 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.

Stanford Law School is pleased to offer this Criminal Defense Fellowship to support a JD alum working full-time for a year in a law-related endeavor designed to further the cause of criminal defense. The recipient must be sponsored by a 501(c)(3) organization or governmental entity (including a Public Defender or similar office) that provides legal services relating to criminal defense in the United States. Eligible organizations may engage in direct legal services, impact litigation, or policy advocacy.

Please review the FAQ on our Fellowship Program and direct any questions regarding the fellowship to Levin Center staff.


Stanford Law School Criminal Defense Fellowship 5

“The Criminal Defense Fellowship funded my dream job providing legal services to prisoners. Frighteningly few fellowships fund this type of work. Without Stanford’s Criminal Defense Fellowship, I doubt I would be where I am today — working as a full time staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services and doing the precise work I went to law school to pursue.”

-Maggie Filler, JD ’12, staff attorney at Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts


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The Stanford Law School Criminal Defense Fellowship will enable the recipient to work full-time for a year in a law-related endeavor designed to further the cause of criminal defense. All members of the current graduating SLS JD class and the prior three years’ classes who have not previously been awarded a postgraduate fellowship or government honors/new attorney program position are eligible to apply. Current students must be in good standing to be eligible.

One fellow will be selected by the end of March each year.

The recipient must be sponsored by a nonprofit organization or governmental entity (including a Public Defender or similar office) that provides legal services relating to criminal defense in the United States. Stanford University entities (e.g., clinics, programs, and centers) are ineligible to host an SLS Criminal Defense Fellow.

Application Process

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.

2024-2025 Application

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. 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 Stanford Law School Public Interest Fellowships for this academic year.

The fellowship will last for one year, starting after September 1 with some room for flexibility for later start dates.

Current and Previous Fellows

In 2023, Leanna Lupin, JD ’23, will work as a fellow within the Juvenile Division of the LA County Public Defender’s Office to collaborate with both trial and resource attorneys to provide holistic, wrap-around support for youth involved in the delinquency courts.

In 2022, Rico Altman-Merino, JD ’22, worked at Appellate Advocates in New York representing low-income individuals with criminal convictions facing the coercive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on court systems and plea bargaining.

In 2021, Benjy Mercer-Golden, JD ’21, represented indigent clients charged with misdemeanor offenses, serve as a second chair attorney on complex, high-stakes felony cases, and advocate for the resentencing and release of individuals serving prison sentences as part of the San Francisco Public Defender‘s office.

In 2020, Dennis Martin, JD/MS ’20, represented indigent adults and children who are appealing trial losses or other adverse determinations in the District of Columbia. He also worked with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia‘s trial and appellate attorneys on cases and initiatives involving digital surveillance by District law enforcement.

In 2019, Cynthia Amezcua, JD ’19, represented indigent clients, which included case investigation, filing motions, and plea deal negotiations, and advised noncitizen clients at the Orleans Public Defender. She also identified and implemented best practices for selecting juries.

In 2018, Sophia Whiting, JD ’18, defended indigent clients against federal criminal charges at the Federal Public Defender, Northern District of California. She assisted with various strategies to advocate for her clients, including fighting charges at trial and presenting mitigating evidence to avoid harsh federal sentencing laws.

In 2017, Annick-Marie Jordan, JD ’17, joined the Orleans Public Defender in New Orleans, Louisiana, to provide comprehensive legal advocacy to indigent sex offender registrants through representation, registration compliance, mitigation of collateral consequences and strategic litigation.

In 2016, Cassidy Rice, JD ’15, worked at the Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland, Oregon, where she advocated for criminal defendants who have mental health concerns and help the office develop lasting pathways to social services for clients with mental illness.

In 2015, Jessica Spencer, JD ’12, joined the New Jersey State Office of the Public Defender, where she represented clients with felony cases.

In 2014, Maggie Filler, JD ’12, joined Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, where she advocated for fair and decent treatment of prisoners through direct representation and impact litigation, with a special focus on prisoners with disabilities, and physical disabilities in particular.

In 2013, Daniel Brown, JD ’13, worked with Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project.  He represented individuals imprisoned under California’s Three Strikes sentencing law and worked, on behalf of its clients in collaboration with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Inc., to reform the harshest aspects of the Three Strikes law, including the recent enactment of the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012 (Proposition 36).

In 2012, Jaime Dorenbaum, JD ’12 worked at the Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender. He focused on assisting the office implement an Immigration Services Plan to serve clients’ immigration needs. Jaime also assisted the Public Defender’s expungement program as well as the county’s efforts to re-sentence non-violent third strike offenders serving life sentences.

In 2011, Rachel Marshall, JD ’10 worked at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, where she represented clients charged with misdemeanor offenses, worked to rebuild the Office’s relationship with the Community Justice Court, and created innovative ways to provide services to clients to prevent recidivism.

In 2010, the first year’s recipient, Emily Galvin, JD ’10, worked at the Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender as a Deputy Public Defender on the misdemeanor team, handling misdemeanor trials and pretrial proceedings. In addition to her misdemeanor cases, she is handled the Office’s expungement cases in the Fresh Start Record Clearance Program, appearing on all motions for record clearance and developing resource materials for both attorneys and clients in Santa Clara County.