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Public Interest Law Project

Kelsyn Bevins

October 10, 2011

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Metropolitan Public Defender

Metropolitan Public Defender, Portland, OR

I came to Law School because I believe access to legal resources and services is a significant problem in our society. I came to this realization in college, when I was working with a program that provided transitional housing and job training for women who had just finished terms of incarceration. A woman I met there, not more than a year or two older than myself at the time, had no idea where her 3 year old son was. Her son’s father was not an American citizen, and she thought her son’s paternal grandmother may have taken him out of the country. She had no documents from the court alerting her to his location or his current guardian.  I knew that if I only had the training and credentials, I had the desire and resources to help her navigate the system. Coupled with my work experience in education, homelessness, and youth services, I hope to become a juvenile attorney. I decided upon arriving at Lewis and Clark to work with PILP, and I volunteered with them. I also became a mentor to a low-income high school student with whom I spent every Saturday working with on college prep.

In Portland, Metropolitan Public Defender (Metro) provides criminal defense for indigent clients. They have juvenile, misdemeanor, minor felonies, major felonies and capital divisions. Metro attorneys represent clients at every stage during their criminal prosecution, and can represent either parents or children in juvenile dependency adjudications. I heard about Metro at the Public Interest Job fair held in the spring of my 1L year. Because they cannot afford to pay summer law clerks, but align with my interests and help so many people in our community, I approached them about partnering with me in applying for a PILP stipend.

This summer, I spent 10 weeks at Metro, where I was given comprehensive trial skills training that new attorneys in the office receive. I wrote Oregon Appellate and Supreme Court opinion summaries weekly, partnered with misdemeanor and juvenile attorneys on their cases, attended numerous trials, and wrote legal memos and motions. My biggest projects of the summer were an in-trial reference guide on prosecutorial misconduct; a legal memo on problems facing the awarding of fugitive time-served credit in Oregon county jails; and writing a motion to suppress evidence that went before a judge in Washington County and won. Most importantly, Metro helped me enhance my legal research and writing. I got an inside view of criminal defense work and got to see what non-profit legal organizations are like. The PILP stipend made it possible for me to take such a rewarding, hands-on and educational summer position I would not have been able to take otherwise. It is really great to be able to put the reasons I came to law school into practice, and PILP helped me do that.

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