Gupta Wessler Fellowship in Appellate and Constitutional Litigation
Gupta Wessler PLLC specializes in Supreme Court, appellate, and complex litigation on behalf of plaintiffs and public interest clients. Our cases span a wide range of issues, including consumers’ and workers’ rights, class actions, civil rights, the First Amendment, gun control, and public health.
Each year, our firm seeks out a new attorney with exceptional writing ability, the capacity to think creatively about the law, strong advocacy instincts, and a genuine passion for public interest work. Judicial clerkship experience and experience in both public interest and appellate litigation are preferred.
The fellowship is ideally suited for a current or recent judicial law clerk interested in embarking on a career as a public interest litigator. Fellows are fully integrated into all aspects of the firm’s work and receive significant responsibility for cutting-edge appellate, constitutional, and complex litigation. They are expected to hit the ground running by researching and drafting briefs under close supervision and mentorship by the firm’s attorneys. Fellows will also play a critical role in monitoring developments in the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts, and in analyzing potential new cases for the firm.
How to apply: The application process for the 2018-2019 fellowship is closed. We will begin considering candidates for the 2019-2020 fellowship in the late summer of 2018. This position is based in Washington, D.C. We encourage applicants from all schools and backgrounds, and we actively seek applications from women and underrepresented groups.
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Our 2018-2019 fellow is Alexandria Twinem. She will join the firm following her clerkships with Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Alison Nathan of the Southern District of New York. During law school, Alex was the Managing Editor of the Stanford Law Review, a student in the Stanford Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and a law clerk at the Southern Center for Human Rights, Goldstein & Russell, and the public-interest firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin.
Our 2017-2018 fellow is Daniel Wilf-Townsend, who joined the firm following his clerkships with Judge Marsha Berzon of the Ninth Circuit and Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the U.S. District Court of the District of Connecticut. Danny was a summer associate at Gupta Wessler and previously worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and the D.C. Public Defender Service. His writing has been published by the Stanford Law Review, Slate, and the American Prospect.
Our 2016-2017 fellow was Matthew Spurlock, who joined the firm following a legal fellowship at the national ACLU and judicial clerkships on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the Connecticut Supreme Court. Following his fellowship, Matt joined the Massachusetts Public Defender Division, where he briefs and argues appeals as part of the statewide Appeals Unit.
Our 2015-2016 fellow was Neil K. Sawhney, who completed the fellowship between his clerkships with Judge Marsha Berzon of the Ninth Circuit and Justice Goodwin Liu of the Supreme Court of California. In the fall of 2017, Neil joined the New Orleans office of the Southern Poverty Law Center, where he works on impact and appellate litigation in the Center’s Economic Justice Project.
Summer Associates/Law Students
Each year, the firm selects two or more highly qualified law students to work on Supreme Court, appellate, and constitutional litigation over the summer. We seek top students with exceptional writing ability, the capacity to think creatively about the law, and a real passion for advocacy in the public interest. We generally hire 2Ls or 3Ls seeking a position between law school graduation and the start of a judicial clerkship.
Summer associates at Gupta Wessler are given an unparalleled opportunity to take responsibility for challenging legal research and writing projects that directly contribute to public-interest advocacy at the highest levels. They work on briefs filed in the U.S. Supreme Court and other appellate courts on issues of first impression, analyze cutting-edge law and policy issues, and work with lawyers on a range of substantive matters. We vow never to occupy our students with the busywork assignments typical of large firms. We strive to ensure that each student leaves the firm with high-quality writing samples for use in applications for judicial clerkships, public interest fellowships, and other competitive positions. To the extent possible, we try to expose students to a range of activities, such as moot courts, strategy sessions, client meetings, and oral arguments.
How to apply: The application process for the summer of 2018 is closed. We will begin considering candidates for the summer of 2019 in August 2018. We are committed to considering applicants from all schools and backgrounds, and actively seek applications from women and underrepresented groups.
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Our upcoming 2018 summer associates are Emily Villano, Bill Powell, and Michael Morse. Emily has worked with the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, is a student in the Workers & Immigrants Rights Clinic, and is scheduled to clerk after graduation for Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit. Bill worked for several years as a journalist, interned with the Capital Assistance Project, and was scheduled to clerk after graduation for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit. Michael’s experience includes the Southern Center for Human Rights and The New Yorker magazine, where he was a research assistant to Ryan Lizza and Jane Mayer; he is also pursuing a Ph.D. in political science and writes about voting rights litigation.
Our 2017 summer associates were Nicola (Nika) Cohen and Matteo Godi. Nika has worked at the Southern Center for Human Rights, the Center for Appellate Litigation, the Legal Aid Society, and on death row cases as a student, and will clerk for Judge John Owens on the Ninth Circuit. Matteo worked at NAACP LDF, Equal Justice Under Law, and the D.C. Public Defender Service, and is scheduled to clerk for Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Matteo grew up in a small town in northern Italy and is the first in his family to attend college; he is co-authoring the first casebook on Italian constitutional law.
Our 2016 summer associates were Michael Zuckerman and Brian Highsmith. Mike was the President of the Harvard Law Review, worked on criminal appeals at the Ohio Justice & Policy Center, has published his journalism on the legal system and other topics, was a research assistant to David Gergen, and is clerking now for Judge Karen Nelson Moore of the Sixth Circuit. (Read about Mike in the Washington Post here.) Brian is now a Skadden Fellow at the National Consumer Law Center, where he is launching a new project focused on the collection of criminal-justice debt. He previously worked on economic policy as a fellow in Senator Cory Booker’s office, on consumer litigation at New York Legal Assistance and, before law school, as a staffer in the National Economic Council of the Obama White House.
Our 2015 summer associates were Lina Khan and Jaclyn Harris. Lina is Director of Legal Policy at the Open Markets Institute, where she researches and writes about market competition and antitrust. She was scheduled to clerk for Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit. (Read a Washington Post profile about Lina here.) After graduation, Jax pursued a YLS Public Interest Fellowship at the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, where she worked on housing-related issues in the city’s new Neighborhood Law Corps, and where she is now a staff attorney.
Our 2014 summer associates were Daniel Wilf-Townsend and Rachel F. Homer. Danny clerked for Judge Marsha Berzon on the Ninth Circuit and Judge Jeffrey Meyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and rejoined the firm as our 2017-2018 Fellow in Appellate & Constitutional Litigation. Rachel clerked for Judge Diane Wood on the Seventh Circuit and Judge John Bates on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is now on the civil appellate staff of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The firm’s first two summer students were Tara Stearns and Randall Smith. Tara clerked for Judge Roger Gregory on the Fourth Circuit and is now an appellate litigator focused on workers’ rights in the Office of the Solicitor, U.S. Department of Labor. Randall clerked for Judge Christopher Droney of the Second Circuit and for Justice Barbara Lenk of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and currently practices with the Supreme Court and appellate litigation group at Orrick.
The firm also occasionally hires top law students during the academic year. Our first such student was Bradley Girard, who was recently a litigation fellow at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, is currently clerking for Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and will join Brian Wolfman’s Georgetown appellate clinic as a fellow after his clerkship.
We also worked during the school year with Shelby Leighton, who completed the Supreme Court Assistance Project fellowship at Public Citizen Litigation Group, served as a fellow at Cohen Milstein, and is now clerking for Judge Kermit Lipez on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in her home state of Maine.
Past Summer Associate Experiences
I would highly recommend spending a summer working with the lawyers at Gupta Wessler. Their promise not to give their summer associates busywork is a real one—I had two main assignments over the course of the summer, both of which were challenging and engaging. During the first half of the summer, I helped draft sections of a brief in the Second Circuit for a fascinating, long-running international environmental dispute. After that, I drafted a brief in opposition to cert in the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving the Fair Credit Reporting Act and Article III standing. Along the way, I also got to weigh in on briefs in the firm’s other matters as they were being written and filed. Throughout these assignments, the lawyers at Gupta Wessler were dedicated to helping me improve, not only in my understanding of the subject matter but also in my understanding of the craft of legal writing. They also integrated me into conversations about the firm’s work on new and ongoing cases, and discussions about the public interest litigation community more broadly. It was an excellent summer—the kind of work and environment that make you excited to one day be a lawyer. – Danny Wilf-Townsend
Over the course of the summer, I worked on a number of interesting projects—a Ninth Circuit brief on whether federal transportation law preempts California’s wage and hour protections; a Second Circuit brief on the scope of individual employer liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act; and a successful Supreme Court cert petition on novel constitutional issues raised by a restrictive state freedom of information law. I also helped advise a public health organization on the potential for federal preemption of local initiatives. Every project gave me the unique opportunity to work on difficult, cutting edge legal issues that could have a significant impact on worker’s rights, consumer protection, and individual liberties. I enjoyed working closely with the firm’s attorneys on every aspect of the cases, and learned a lot about how to analyze complex legal issues, how to structure a piece of writing, and how to approach the strategic decisions that go into every stage of public interest litigation. – Tara Stearns
I contributed to a case throughout its evolution, from preparing portions of an early memorandum conceptualizing First Amendment and vagueness challenges to the law, to participating in strategy sessions with trial counsel, to drafting a brief in support of a motion for a preliminary injunction against New York’s anti-surcharge law. I had never before had the opportunity to watch the development of a case from the initial brainstorming to oral arguments. The experience provided insights into the theoretical and practical questions involved in public interest litigation. I also gained experience with appellate litigation by drafting the opening brief in an appeal before the Fourth Circuit involving the interpretation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I enjoyed the challenge of drafting the brief for this case from scratch, and learned from seeing how my draft was edited and revised by experienced appellate advocates. The firm’s small size gave me a unique opportunity to learn from experienced lawyers and to cultivate my legal research and writing skills. Because of my experience with the firm, I felt better prepared as I began my clerkship, and know it will help me as I apply for post-clerkship employment. – Randall Smith