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Inaugural Summer Fellowship Class

Black Public Defender Association's Summer Fellowship Class

About the Program

The purpose of the BPDA Fellowship is to advance diversity in the criminal defense community by giving underrepresented populations an opportunity to gain experience in a criminal defense law practice. 

Each Fellow receives a summer stipend and is paired with an experienced public defender member of BPDA who will serve as their mentor.

This fellowship was made possible due to the financial contributions of our members and supporters. Through a steady stream of giving campaigns we raised enough funds to help these three students intern at public defender offices during the summer of 2020.

Meet the fellows

Claire Davis

Claire Davis is a third year law student at Howard University School of Law. She entered Howard Law with the goal of becoming a public defender and has been persistent in her quest by taking multiple internships during her time in law school. She has previously served as a law clerk for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, and a legal intern at both the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of PA and the Orleans Public Defenders Office. Last summer, Claire joined the office of the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

“I received devoted guidance and mentorship from numerous Black public defenders who truly wanted me to see me at my best. They taught me about navigating the legal field as a Black public defender and advised me on career opportunities, fellowships, mental health, life goals, and much more.”

Marquise Findley-Smith

Marquise Findley-Smith is a third year law student at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. He served his community as co-chair of the Black Law Students Association during the 2019-2020 academic year and is an active member of UCI’s Committee on Equity and Diversity. During his 1L summer, he interned with the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, in Baltimore City. Last summer, Marquise joined the Bronx Defenders as a summer intern in the Criminal Defense practice.

“As a BPDA Fellow, I was afforded opportunities to hone my trial skills and find my style of advocacy, all while being mentored by talented Black attorneys who were truly passionate about their work. The BPDA Fellowship gave me more than I could have imagined!”

Michael Mingo

Michael Mingo is a second year law student at Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, where he is a member of the Black Law Student Association. Prior to law school, Mingo started the nonprofit Together We Can where he helps people discover their passions, develop leadership skills, and use their passions to create community change. He previously interned at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office in Rochester, NY. Last summer, Michael served as a summer legal intern at the Neighborhood Defender Services office in Harlem, NYC.

“My experience as a BPDA Fellow was one I will never forget. My knowledge, skillset, and confidence has skyrocketed thanks to the incredible support system we have in the organization. Above all, I felt and still feel like everyone I connected with was family.”