2021 Marutani Essay - Livia Luan
I had an incredible summer working for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, where I supported litigation concerning the detention and policing of immigrants in Pennsylvania. In addition to developing great relationships with my immediate supervisor and fellow interns, I gained important litigation and lawyering skills and deepened my understanding of civil rights and civil liberties litigation. Although my internship was remote, I was immediately immersed in interesting and meaningful work. During the first few weeks, I investigated local immigration detention policies and practices by submitting public records requests and following up with local officials when we needed more information. In addition, I analyzed hundreds of pages’ worth of police reports in order to compile data into writeup that later informed settlement discussions with opposing counsel. I was thrilled to have played a role in that process, as well as pleased to have had a chance to strengthen my ability to present information in a persuasive manner. Throughout my internship, I worked on a number of fascinating and challenging legal research assignments. I contributed to a national survey of state search and seizure laws – a project that pushed me to not only develop creative research techniques, but also become more organized in order to identify cases containing all of the facts that were essential to answering the research question. Additionally, I wrote a memorandum on the mechanics of requesting attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act in the context of habeas corpus petitions challenging immigration detention. I received helpful feedback from my supervisor, while also exercising my independence in terms of determining the contours of my research and the 2 structure of the memorandum. This assignment was particularly meaningful to me, given that the cost of litigation too often represents a barrier to justice for low-income immigrant communities. Towards the end of my internship, I worked with several clients who were released from ICE custody last year due to the threat of contracting COVID-19. Specifically, I interviewed them in order to update their client declarations. While I had worked on immigration detention issues in research and advocacy capacities in the past, this was my first time engaging with impacted individuals. Although I was initially nervous when it came to my interviewing skills, I really enjoyed getting to know them and learning about how they were supporting their families and contributing to their communities. These interactions highlighted for me the importance of direct client work and will definitely inform how I approach the remainder of my law school experience. In addition to working on a diverse array of projects for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, I learned more about civil rights and civil liberties advocacy during legal department meetings, supervisor check-ins, “ask me anything” conversations with non-legal staff members, and panel discussions featuring public interest lawyers from across the state. These enriching opportunities rounded out my summer internship experience and gave me so much to think about in terms of what social justice looks like and how to pursue a career in civil rights litigation that is rooted in the needs and concerns of clients and their communities. Finally, I would like to thank the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Bar Foundation for their generous support this summer.