Inaugural Douglass Fellows Class Celebrated at Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC

By: KELLI L. ROSS

The Institute’s first class of Douglass Fellows completed their nine-month fellowship with a celebration dinner on April 18 at Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC. The seven Fellows, representing six law schools, were engaged in the Institute’s anti-trafficking work through three key components: (1) Research & Writing; (2) Advocacy; and (3) Mentorship.

Celebration dinner at Lincoln’s Cottage

“The Douglass Fellowship not only provides law students with an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of human trafficking, but also connects them with anti-trafficking experts who are at the forefront of combatting this issue,” said Kyleigh Feehs, the Institute’s Associate Legal Counsel and Douglass Fellowship Director. “Fellows are exposed to the Institute’s capacity-building efforts both in the United States and abroad and are given a unique chance to shape current issues in trafficking law through amicus briefs and data-based scholarship.”

The 2017-18 Douglass Fellows included: Katherine Carey (Stanford Law), Brittany Davis (Columbia Law), Cassondra (Cj) Murphy (University of Virginia Law), Meaghan Newkirk (Duke Law), Cory Sagduyu, (University of Virginia Law), Emily Sauer (Pepperdine Law), and Holly Thompson (Vanderbilt Law).

“This inaugural class was comprised of extremely bright law students with a demonstrated commitment to human rights issues,” Feehs said. “In addition to demanding law school schedules, these Fellows dedicated a significant amount of time each semester researching complex legal human trafficking issues to advance the Institute’s mission to stop traffickers. It was evident, even within the first few months of the fellowship, that these students will be active leaders in their communities who use their legal degrees to impact vulnerable and exploited individuals.”

During the year, the Fellows conducted the following research and writing:

“Over the course of the fellowship, each of the law students moved from a general understanding about human trafficking to a deeper comprehension of the complex legal issues that impact human trafficking cases,” Feehs said. “It was inspiring to engage with each of the fellows as they developed individual research interests about human trafficking, whether relating to policy, immigration, victim services, evidentiary issues, or prosecutorial strategies.”

Each Fellow also hosted an advocacy event at their law school. The purpose of these events was to raise awareness about human trafficking; provide accurate and compelling information to the community; and inspire others to work to decimate the prevalence of human trafficking.

Advocacy event at Stanford Law School

The events and guest presenters included:

U.S. Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report conversations with former TIP Ambassadors

  • Stanford Law: Ambassador Susan Coppedge
  • Pepperdine Law: Ambassador Luis C. deBaca

Panel Discussions on Human Trafficking

  • Columbia Law: “Violence against Women (including Human Trafficking)”
  • University of Virginia Law: “Human Trafficking and the Criminal Justice System: A Discussion of the Strengths and Challenges of Our System in Preventing and Prosecuting Human Trafficking” with guest panelists: Deanna “DeDe” Wallace, Victim Assistance Specialist with HIS; and Michael Frank, Special Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General and Former AUSA.
  • Duke Law: “Combating Human Trafficking: Current Trends & Challenges” with guest panelists: Lindsey Roberson, U.S. Department of Justice’s HTPU, Erin Blondel, AUSA in Eastern District of North Carolina; and Libby Coles, Executive Director of Justice Matters.
  • Vanderbilt Law: “Discussions on Criminal & Civil Approaches to Forced Labor, Peonage, and Involuntary Servitude” with guest panelists: Chelsea Rice, USAO Northern District of Ohio, and Stacie Jonas, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

“Having John Richmond and Ambassador Coppedge in the same room was an incredible opportunity to get both hands-on data about the scope of the challenges [with human trafficking] and a higher-level perspective about policy strategies to address them,” said Peter Gilchrist, a second-year law student at Stanford Law.

Each Fellow was also paired with a mentor, who is a leader in the field of anti-trafficking. This year’s mentors included:

  • Carl Benoit, Chief, Office of the General Counsel, Critical Incident Response Group Legal Unit, Federal Bureau of Investigations
  • Annick Febrey, Senior Associate, Anti-Trafficking Campaign Human Rights First
  • Benjamin J. Hawk, Deputy Director for Litigation, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Criminal Section, Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit
  • Eric Ha, Chief Risk Officer & General Counsel, International Justice Mission
  • Laura Rundlet, Acting Deputy Director, U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor & Combat Trafficking in Persons
  • Yiota G. Souras, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, National Center for Missing and Exploited
  • Martina E. Vandenberg, Founder & President, The Human Trafficking Pro Bono Legal Center
Carl Benoit, FBI, with mentee Emily Sauer, Pepperdine Law

“There is no cause of higher importance than that of combatting human trafficking,” said Benoit, mentor of Emily Sauer. “To be a small part of that mission, as a mentor to a future leader who will continue to take up this cause, was both rewarding and invigorating. I was so impressed with the quality of the Douglass Fellows and the Institute that I could not help but to be drawn into their mission. The time I spent as a mentor and the opportunity to share advice and lessons learned was memorable for not only what I shared but what I was able to learn in return.”

“The mentorship process is invaluable to provide the Douglass Fellows with insights into using legal advocacy as an anti-trafficking professional and how they can best work within the justice system to put an end to human trafficking,” Souras said, mentor of Holly Thompson. “As a mentor, it was an honor to work with law students who are just starting their legal careers and are deeply committed to the principles of ending human trafficking and upholding basic tenets of human dignity and freedom.”

The Douglass Fellowship was the result of Institute team members regularly connecting with bright and passionate law students and desiring to build a program in order to help develop those future leaders in the anti-trafficking movement. From those dreams, the Douglass Fellowship was launched in September 2017. It was named after Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, honoring his lifelong commitment to freedom, education, and advocacy.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from this program, but whatever I was expecting, you have surpassed it in every way possible,” Katherine Carey said. “I can’t tell you how grateful and honored I am to be a part of the inaugural class of Douglass Fellows and to be involved with the Institute.”

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Kelli Ross

Kelli Ross

Kelli’s background is in journalism, public relations and peacebuilding. Prior to joining the Institute, she was the Communications Officer / Special Assistant to the Executive Director at Lwala Community Alliance in Nashville, Tennessee. She has worked for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in Washington, D.C., directly supporting the Bureau’s Assistant Secretary; as director of communications for microfinance organization Five Talents in Vienna, Virginia; and as business reporter at The Jackson (TN) Sun. She has worked and studied in Kenya, South Sudan, Liberia, India, Peru, and Israel. Kelli holds a BA in communication arts from Union University and an MS in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.