Through the generosity of Laurence T. Ginsberg ’79, the Ginsberg Family Post-Graduate Justice Fellowship was established in 2015 to support Hofstra Law graduates committed to serving as public defenders in indigent communities.
This year, Lisa Capellupo ’16 and David Kline ’16 will be working as public defenders in the Gideon’s Promise Law School Partnership Program. The mission of Gideon’s Promise is to transform the criminal justice system by building a movement of public defenders who provide equal justice for marginalized communities. The students have been placed, respectively, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Lafayette, Louisiana, where they will work in one of the organization’s partner public defender offices.
“David and Lisa are brave. They are going to places that are unfamiliar to them, and the offices have tremendous challenges.”
The fellowship funds the graduates’ salaries for their first year. The partner office guarantees that within the first year the graduates will be moved into full-time positions. Gideon’s Promise also provides three years of training through the Core 101 Program.
During their third year of law school, Lisa and David were partners in the Criminal Justice Clinic, which is headed by Professor Elizabeth Nevins. “David and Lisa are brave,” she says. “They are going to places that are unfamiliar to them, and the offices have tremendous challenges. They are both very committed to the movement of public defenders and are both fierce advocates.”
This is the second year that a Hofstra Law graduate has worked as a public defender through Gideon’s Promise thanks to the donation from Mr. Ginsberg. Last year, Leanna Duncan ’15 was placed in a partner office in Louisiana.
We sat down with Lisa and David to discuss their commitment to public service and their reasons for joining Gideon’s Promise.
Was there a moment or experience in law school that made you realize you wanted to do public interest work?
Lisa: I knew I wanted to pursue a career in public interest work since my entry into law school. Growing up, both my family and schooling emphasized community service, which became very important to me. A career in public interest just seemed like a natural fit.
David: One experience in particular was a series of conversations I had with my first client in the Criminal Justice Clinic. He was incarcerated, and when I visited him I never came with good news. His unwavering gratitude in the face of his bleak circumstance made me unnervingly aware of the dire condition that public defense is in. My experience with that client left me with a desire to be a part of the movement that improves public defense, a movement that, thanks to organizations like Gideon’s Promise, is in full swing.
Why did you decide to apply to Gideon’s Promise?
Lisa: During my first year I watched the Gideon’s Army documentary and listened to a presentation by Jonathan Rapping, who founded Gideon’s Promise. After sitting through both, it was something I was interested in possibly doing after graduation. After doing criminal defense work at the clinic, everything just clicked and I knew I wanted to be a part of the program.
David: I decided to apply to Gideon’s Promise because of the reputation they have and the amazing training they offer. The work that Gideon’s has done in training public defenders, new and old, and in pairing recent graduates with public defense offices across the country is, in my mind, the tip of the spear that is the public defense revolution. Also, the work [or “And the work] they have done in helping shape the client-centered ethos of modern public defense is truly inspiring. In short, applying to Gideon’s was a no-brainer.
How did working in the clinic prepare you for the program?
Lisa: The clinic gave me the foundation I needed to work in criminal defense. I learned the various laws and statutes pertinent to working in this field, as well as client interviewing, managing a small caseload, motion writing, and negotiating with a prosecutor. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to interview with Gideon’s Promise, let alone work in this area, without the work I have done in the clinic and everything Professor Nevins had taught me.
David: My time as a member of the clinic was invaluable. The standard of practice set by Professor Nevins is something I will strive to meet throughout my career. Of all the things she has taught me, the one I value most is her commitment to her clients. I truly believe that the bedrock on which public defense must be built is respect for the client, and thanks to Professor Nevins I will never forget the duty I owe to my clients.
What are you most looking forward to in your new job?
Lisa: I am most excited for the new types of cases I will get to handle in my office. I am also very excited to live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It is a beautiful city that has a lot to offer.
David: I am most excited about meeting my clients. My experience has afforded me the opportunity to see firsthand the effect the work can have on a client’s life. I was lucky enough to see Lafayette and work a bit down there over spring break, and I almost immediately fell in love with the city.