Walter Jean-Jacques and Regan Perrodin, members of Notre Dame Law School’s Class of 2020, have been named Bank of America Foundation Fellows.
The public interest fellowship covers the cost of salary and benefits for two Notre Dame Law graduates to work for two years at a city agency or nonprofit organization of their choice. The fellows’ work must advance community sustainability and must provide legal services to low-income or other underrepresented populations.
Jean-Jacques will work for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Washington, D.C. During his first year of law school, he received a National Lawyers Guild Haywood Burns Fellowship for Social and Economic Justice and completed a fellowship at the NAACP LDF’s headquarters in New York City.
During his Bank of America fellowship, he will focus on political participation, such as fighting voter suppression; criminal justice reform, including bond/bail reform and civil rights abuse; and economic justice issues focused on discriminatory practices used to exclude people of color.
For Jean-Jacques, working for the NAACP has been a goal since he was a young elementary school student in Newark, N.J.
“It truly is a dream come true for me to have the opportunity to work at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. When I was 6 years old, I did a Black History Month report on Thurgood Marshall, and I knew then that I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer and work at LDF,” said Jean-Jacques. “I am extremely thankful to be a recipient of the Bank of America Foundation Fellowship, and to work on combating racial injustice through litigation in areas of education, economic justice, voting rights, and criminal justice.”
By continuing his work with the NAACP he hopes to be an inspiration for the many young men and women in his hometown of Newark who aspire to be advocates for social justice.
“I am thankful to Notre Dame Law School for nurturing me and giving me the tools to become a ‘different kind of lawyer,’” said Jean-Jacques.
While at Notre Dame, Jean-Jacques has served as president of the Black Law Students Association, vice president of the Exoneration Project, co-director of Galilee, and co-director of the Student Bar Association’s diversity and inclusion committee.
He was part of the inaugural class of the Law School’s Wrongful Conviction Externship and currently participates in the Economic Justice Clinic. Jean-Jacques serves on the board of directors and the national advisory committee for Equal Justice Works.
During the spring semester of his 2L year, he participated in the Law School’s Washington, D.C. externship and worked at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Last summer he interned at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala.
Jean-Jacques has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He is a graduate affiliate of the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights. After his Bank of America fellowship, Jean-Jacques will clerk for Judge Victor A. Bolden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.
Perrodin will work for Indiana Legal Services in Fort Wayne, Ind., representing low-income tenants in evictions and habitability housing cases. Fort Wayne has one of the highest per capita rates of eviction in the country. As part of her work, Perrodin will investigate landlords who have previously taken advantage of tenants and broken the law. She will submit her findings to the Indiana Attorney General's Office for follow up.
Her project is inspired by the work of Judith Fox, clinical professor of law and director of the Law School’s Economic Justice Clinic. Perrodin has spent considerable time working at the Economic Justice Clinic during law school, including her 1L summer, spring semester of her 2L year, and fall semester of her 3L year. She credits that work and learning from Fox as what led to her passion for advocating for tenants and working directly with clients.
“I am so thankful for this opportunity. It is really special to be able to create my dream job for my first two years out of school. This fellowship allows me to do exactly what I want and work in a field which I am extremely passionate about immediately after I graduate,” said Perrodin. “I think this is very important work because although the stakes are unbelievably high, tenants are rarely represented in these types of cases. I also find landlord-tenant law very interesting both substantively, and in the way it ends up playing out in the courtroom.”
“I have been so fortunate to get as much experience as I have working with clients both in the Economic Justice Clinic and now in the Tax Clinic. That time has uniquely prepared me for this upcoming work and I know that I will lean on what I have learned from both Professor Fox and Professor Thomas, as well as the rest of the clinic professors, during my time with Indiana Legal Services,” said Perrodin.
Perrodin is the treasurer of the Economic Justice Society and is the assistant symposium chair for the Notre Dame Journal of International & Comparative Law. She received her undergraduate degree from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.
The Bank of America Foundation Fellowship was launched at Notre Dame Law School in 2015. Past fellows have completed projects in Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Jean-Jacques and Perrodin are in the sixth class of Bank of America Foundation Fellows.