For the third year in a row, a Brooklyn Law School student has received the prestigious Ella Baker Fellowship. Caitlin Russell ’15, a member of the Brooklyn Journal of International Law and the Moot Court Honor Society, was named a 2014 winner. She will spend the summer working on the Guantanamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Previous recipients of this award include Eric Eingold ’15 and Nura Skaden ’13.
Created in the 1980s to honor the legacy of civil rights hero Ella Baker, the program is part of the Center for Constitutional Right’s Social Justice Institute (SJI), an innovative training institute for social justice law students and lawyers created in partnership with the Bertha Foundation. The internship is designed for the next generation of “people’s lawyers,” providing the opportunity for law students to gain hands-on experience working alongside social movements and community organizations to bring about social change.
Russell graduated cum laude from Bucknell University, where she was particularly moved by a human rights class in which she studied the detainee situation at Guantanamo Bay. She then began charting a course toward law school and social justice. Following graduation she joined the Center for Constitutional Rights as a communications intern. She wrote press releases and compiled daily news round-ups, but since the staffers knew of her interest in the law, they often sent her to hearings and had her sit in on case briefings.
Russell then spent two years at the Working Families Party, where she led membership building, fundraising, and letter writing campaigns around clean elections and corporate tax accountability in New York. Russell also field-directed a successful state assembly campaign in Queens and managed electoral campaigns for two state senators in the Bronx and Westchester, a mayoral campaign in Rochester, and a congressional campaign in Buffalo. “I loved the bigger impact and policy issues at CCR, but at Working Families, I had the chance to work on smaller bread and butter issues and that was also very meaningful,” she said.
Last summer, Russell worked at Legal Aid in the Benefits Division, providing legal services to public assistance recipients facing benefits sanctions, improper reductions or recoupments, and discontinuances. She will be interning in the Southern District this spring with Judge Harold Baer. Russell is thrilled to be returning to the CCR this summer. “It’s my dream job,” she said.