Law School Names 2016 Thomas L. Shaffer Public Interest Fellows


Dean Nell Jessup Newton has named Neysa Nankervis and Ashlyn Anderson-Keelin the 2016 Thomas L. Shaffer Public Interest Fellows. The third-year law students each developed winning proposals for post-graduate public interest projects providing direct legal services to low-income people.

The Shaffer Fellowship, a highly competitive program funded entirely by annual donors, pays the fellows’ salaries, health and other benefits for two years. A committee of Notre Dame Law School faculty, which is headed by Associate Dean of Experiential Programs Robert Jones, selects the winners of the contest.

Anderson-Keelin, who earned her undergraduate degree from Georgetown College, will work with Catholic Charities Legal Network of the Archdiocese of Washington. Her project will facilitate the expansion of legal services into Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland, which are both underserved communities with nearly 10 percent of their populations living below the poverty line. Anderson-Keelin plans to boost the organization’s intake process, making it easier for clients to gain access to information and pro bono legal services.

“This work exemplifies the Notre Dame mission of educating lawyers dedicated to serving the good of the human family,” Anderson-Keelin wrote. “I’ve always been focused more on who I could help, rather than how much money I could make.”

Nankervis, a 2009 graduate of the University of California-Irvine, will work with the Public Counsel Law Center representing commercially sexually exploited children in the Los Angeles area. Her project will focus on serving the growing needs of child victims of sex trafficking.

“Notre Dame strives to produce leaders who are passionate and dedicated to serving those in need,” Nankervis wrote. “I consider myself to be one of those leaders and my fellowship will vindicate the mission of Notre Dame and purpose of the Shaffer fellowship by seeking the fundamental legal needs and human rights of a group of survivors who deserve our aid.”

The Thomas L. Shaffer Public Interest Fellowship is named after Professor Shaffer, the Robert and Marion Short Professor Emeritus of Law at NDLS. One of the nation’s most prolific legal authors, Shaffer has written nearly 300 scholarly works in his varied areas of expertise including estate planning, law and religion, legal ethics, and more recently, clinical teaching and legal counseling. Shaffer joined the NDLS faculty in 1963 and in his tenure was a supervising attorney in the Notre Dame Legal Aid Clinic (now called the Notre Dame Clinical Law Center), teaching clinical ethics and guiding the legal practice of the law students who serve the underprivileged of greater South Bend, Indiana.

“Getting this kind of early-career support can be extremely beneficial for young lawyers,” said Katelynn McBride, program director of Public Interest and Chicago Initiatives at Notre Dame Law School. “In a competitive academic environment, it can be difficult to stand out, even when your work is first rate. We’re very proud of this year’s Shaffer Fellows who represent the best-of-the-best among young lawyers.”

Previous Shaffer Fellows and their projects were:

  • Jessica A. Binzoni, ’15 J.D., works with the National Immigrant Justice Center in Chicago supporting the Asylum Project by representing clients applying for humanitarian parole, withholding of removal, asylum, deferred action and special immigrant juvenile visas.
  • Audra Passinault, ’15 J.D., works with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago educating and representing human trafficking victims seeking immigration visas as well as helping with domestic violence issues and access to healthcare.
  • Sarah Reimers, ’14 J.D., works with Colorado Legal Services in Denver to combat human trafficking and secure visas for immigrants who assist law enforcement.
  • Leigh Loman, ’14 J.D., works for the Education Law Center, defending youths who are suspended or expelled from public schools.
  • Enrique Romero, ’14 J.D., works with the New Mexico Legal Aid Land and Water Project to help citizens in the state’s rural counties defend their water rights.
  • Sara Gruen, ’13 J.D., served as a public defender on the Project Dawn Court, a diversion program in Philadelphia that aims to help women arrested for multiple prostitution offenses become disentangled from the criminal justice system.
  • Michael Hagerty, ’13 J.D., worked for the Public Counsel Law Center in Los Angeles representing at-risk, undocumented minors to avoid deportation.
  • Kelly Jentzen Thompson, ’12 J.D., worked for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., assisting pro bono programs and providing holistic services to low-income residents of the area.
  • Rachel Odio, ’12 J.D., worked with the Immigrant Rights Project at Public Counsel in Los Angeles providing legal orientation and representation to asylum seekers in Orange County, Calif.
  • Jessica Howton, ’11 J.D., represented clients at the Tahirih Justice Center, which helps immigrant women facing gender-based violence.
  • Brian Murray, ’11 J.D., served at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia addressing barriers to re-entry for ex-felons, including barriers to employment.