The Law School welcomed James RLAW ‘90 and Dr. Sharon Maida to the Newark campus in late November for a reception to celebrate the first five years of the Maida Public Interest Fellowships Program.
Students and alumni who have enjoyed the program’s support through summer and post-graduate fellowships, along with nonprofit employers and law school faculty, staff, and administrators, joined with the Maidas and two of their four children to share reflections on the program’s impact.
Established in 2015 to acknowledge, support and sustain public interest legal work by students and graduates of Rutgers Law School, the Maida Program funds approximately 40 summer public interest stipends each year, and one post-graduate public interest fellowship.
After greetings from Rutgers Law Co-Dean David Lopez, student Jennifer Monge ‘21 described her summer at ACLU-NJ and Saabah Abbassi ’21 talked about her summer experience at the Brennan Center. Both students were able to have those summer internships through the Maida program.
In addition, the Maidas spoke with Tyler Dougherty RLAW ‘18 about her yearlong fellowship at the Office of Public Defender, where Tyler represented people who had been convicted as children and are newly eligible to challenge their lengthy sentences. While at the public defender’s office, Tyler also developed a participatory defense practice.
Dougherty has taken her experience and skills and is the new Pratt Criminal and Youth Justice Transparency Fellow at the law school, associated with the Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic under the supervision of Professor Laura Cohen. The project is focused on collecting and disseminating information about New Jersey’s juvenile and adult legal systems. She also directly represents incarcerated young people in the state in post-dispositional legal matters.
Volunteer Lawyers for Justice Managing Attorney Jessica Kitson ‘02 thanked the Maida family on behalf of all the nonprofit legal employers who have benefitted from the program since its inception. She said she and other lawyers spend the year developing summer projects for interns, who are a treasure the nonprofits simply cannot afford to pay.
Associate Dean for Pro Bono and Public Interest Jill Friedman said the Maidas’ gift has been transformative. “We are helping the most vulnerable people in our society, while advancing an already outstanding program into the very top echelon of public law schools for support of public interest lawyering. Of the five recent Rutgers Law School graduates serving prestigious national post-graduate fellowships, all were summer ‘Maidas,’” said Friedman.
James Maida’s concluding remarks focused on the Program’s unique design: “Supporting the pro bono and public interest program at Rutgers Law School means our investment has a multiplier effect: it helps students, who in turn help underserved clients access good legal service. Sharon and I are pleased and proud to pay it forward in this way.”