Marutani Fellowship Essay

Danielle Kwock Phillips Marutani Essay

This summer, I was fortunate to receive the Judge William M. Marutani Fellowship. I interned at the Montgomery County Office of the Public Defender. Due to COVID-19, we could not go into court as we would have done otherwise. Instead, we participated in a summer long mock trial training, which culminated in a mock trial based on a real criminal case. Throughout the summer we had bi-weekly training with the Montgomery County public defenders on all aspects of the criminal trial process: interviewing clients, gathering evidence, conducting preliminary hearings, and the various aspects of a trial (cross, direct, and opening/ closing arguments). It was extremely useful information, and added to my understanding about criminal law as it is practiced in the real world.

I also participated in the GIdeon’s Promise Summer 2L Law Clerk program. Gideon’s has a partnership with the Montgomery County Public Defender Office, I applied and was chosen to be a Gideon’s clerk at this office. Gideon’s Promise is a nonprofit public defender organization whose mission is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. The Summer 2L Law Clerk program is open to law students who have completed at least one year of law school and have a demonstrated interest in public defense as a career. Participating students are paired with a public defender in a Gideon’s Promise partner office for a summer, where they gain valuable exposure to all aspects of effective public defense.

I was paired with a Montco public defender who has completed the core Gideon’s program. As a Gideon Clerk, I attended bi-weekly events with the other Clerks who were interning in offices all around the country. Gideon’s brought in fabulous speakers who are well known in the criminal justice reform world, as well as new public defenders who provided us guidance and advice. It was great to meet public defenders and law students from all around the country, and to share our dreams and fears about a career in public defense. The Gideon’s speakers and Montgomery County public defenders didn't hold back about the difficulties of this job. I appreciated their honesty and zeal for what is often unforgiving and underpaid work.

Additionally, this summer, in response to the unrest around racial and social justice, I formed a grassroots advocacy group called PA Women Rise- PWR. I have been a criminal justice reform activist for the past several years. In June I connected with four Montgomery County women who share my passion for fighting for effective racial justice policies. Our mission is to empower, embolden, and equip everyday Pennsylvania citizens in the fight for racial justice. We have achieved a lot in a very short amount of time. Some of our successes include: introducing a PA Senate Resolution, hosting the PA Legislative Black Caucus, testifying in front of the State Ethics Commission, and making strong connections with local advocacy groups.

I am extremely grateful to APABA-PA for supporting me in my summer work. I could not have achieved so much without your financial support and without my wonderful mentor, Randall Hsia. I hope to have a long and fruitful relationship with this organization.