Kate Wood ’11 has been awarded the prestigious William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellowship to work at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for one year. In September, she will join the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, which handles a full docket of First Amendment cases.
This fellowship will mark her return to the organization, having worked there for three years after earning a B.S. degree at New York University. The highlight of those years, Wood recalls, was her participation as a paralegal in a four-week trial that successfully challenged the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), a federal law that would have criminalized certain speech on the Internet.
But it was not her first free speech campaign. “I was a huge First Amendment rights advocate in high school,” she said. “I started a group to help give voice to students who were often silenced,” and she has kept to that early passion for freedom of speech, children’s rights, and civil liberties.
Wood was drawn to Brooklyn Law School by its “many rich resources for public interest law students.” She won both the Edward R. Sparer Public Interest Fellowship and the Brooklyn Law Students for the Public Interest (BLSPI) Fellowship. As a Sparer fellow, she interned at Advocates for Children, working to obtain appropriate educational services for special education students. As a BLSPI fellow, she interned at Children’s Rights, participating in a class action lawsuit challenging aspects of the child welfare system.
“Sparer is a great community of like-minded people you can always return to, and BLSPI does a fantastic job of coordinating public interest activities in the community as well,” she said. It was also inspiring in many ways, Wood said, to work as a research assistant to Professor Cynthia Godsoe, an expert on children's rights, juvenile justice, and education issues.
In addition, she has interned at the National Coalition Against Censorship, focusing on issues of censorship of students and censorship in science, and participated in the Capital Defender and Federal Habeus Clinic, with Professor Ursula Bentele, assisting in the representation of death row inmates in Texas and Alabama.
Wood has written a note that weaves together several of her interests, titled, “Credit Card Act of 2009: Protecting Young Consumers or Impinging on Their Financial Freedom?” It addresses issues arising from the legislation, including its disproportionate impact on low-income students and failure to protect the privacy of college students. The note will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Brooklyn Journal of Corporate, Financial and Commercial Law.
Of all her law school activities, Wood is especially proud of her work as co-chair of the Suspension Representation Project, a fast-growing law student organization that represents New York City public school students facing long-term suspensions. It has garnered national recognition with an Exemplary Public Service Award for Student Groups from Equal Justice Works.
The William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellowship was created to give people beginning their careers an opportunity to receive training and experience in First Amendment advocacy, and to help the ACLU advance its First Amendment goals. The Brennan Fellow functions as an integral part of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project in New York City.