Maya Bradley 2022 Marutani Fellowship Essay

This summer, I had the opportunity to work as a legal intern for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA), an organization to which I was drawn because of my strong interest in policy reform and my general frustration with rampant, systemic disadvantage.  Becoming a part of ACLU-PA’s team allowed me to forge relationships with lawyers and advocates passionate about, and experienced with, defending against the deprivation of Pennsylvanians’ civil rights and pushing for positive policy change.  This experience gave me the chance to learn more about the process of building a successful impact claim and how to litigate it from the ground up.

Over the past few months, I worked on a broad range of civil rights issues affecting Pennsylvanians, including LGBTQ+ rights, police-involved constitutional violations, and Sunshine Act violations.  Most of my work took place in the pre-litigation stage, and I was able to be involved in discussions regarding litigation strategy and how we, as an organization, could build a winning case moving forward.  This experience gave me great insight into how plaintiff-lawyers can craft their arguments to have the best results for their clients and for the broader issues of concern implicated in these cases.  In particular, because I was at an organization concerned with statewide impact litigation as well as its individual clients, I was able to learn how that litigation strategy includes reducing damage and avoiding paths likely to create harmful precedent.  I was grateful to have this experience balancing passion and an appreciation for the long-term best interest of our clients with such a great team of advocates, whose collective litigation experience was an invaluable resource.

As a part of my work for ACLU-PA, I was able to work creatively on novel and reformative legal claims to be used in the organization’s future cases, providing legal research and memoranda on still-grey areas of the law.  Because much of my summer was spent on future claims in the pre-litigation stage, I participated in interviews with potential clients to determine the merits of and possible strategy for a case, reviewed available evidence for summarization and data collection, and provided impact analyses from such data collection.  I was excited to be a part of this initial “fact-finding” — something with which I had no prior experience.  Because I was involved in this early stage, I could learn directly from clients about the day-to-day negative consequences of certain policies and government action and build an even greater bond with the case.  Being a part of a case from the onset, and hearing clients give their first-hand accounts of their experiences, allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for the real-life impact of the issues about which I am most passionate as well as the often high-stakes of the cases on which I worked.  Participating at all points of different cases – potential client interviews through brief writing - gave me a well-rounded understanding of all stages of impact litigation, from start to finish, and was an opportunity that would have been more difficult to so intimately experience at other types of organizations. 

The ACLU was an organization whose work drew me to study law, so I was immensely grateful to be able to intern there prior to my last year of law school and want to thank APABA-PA for allowing me to do so through their generosity.  I have always wanted to pursue public interest work and look forward to building on what I learned during this summer moving forward.