Law student receives Public Service Fellowship


Photo courtesy of Kerry Martin

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

During undergrad at the University of Vermont, Kerry Martin was involved with immigrants' and workers' rights movements both in the Green Mountain State and in his home state of Colorado. His experiences gave him an understanding of the importance of the law to people's lives.

One incident in particular piqued his interest in becoming a lawyer. While driving an undocumented worker from a dairy farm in northern Vermont to an event in Burlington, Martin was pulled over.
“Against my objections, the police officer questioned the worker about his immigration status and eventually called Border Patrol, who detained and interrogated him for four hours. They eventually released him because his record was clean, but he was shaken up and afraid,” he says.

“The worker later won a lawsuit against the police department for racial profiling, and his case was cited by the Vermont legislature to strengthen the state's anti-bias policing law. This all showed me the importance of good lawyering as a tool for advancing social justice.”

After undergrad, Martin spent a couple of years working at nonprofits and legal aid organizations in New York and Michigan, mostly related to immigrants' and workers' rights, before heading to the University of Michigan Law School, where he is now in his 2L year. He is a senior judge in the Legal Practice Program; associate editor on the Michigan Journal of Race & Law; managing director of the Michigan Immigration & Labor Law Association; and policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“I’m grateful for the genuine friendliness of the faculty and my fellow students—for me, MLaw has defied nearly every negative stereotype about law schools,” he says

“More than anything, I've enjoyed the clinical program, especially the Unemployment Insurance and Human Trafficking Clinics, through which I've received tremendous training while representing clients in high-stakes situations.”

He spent his 1L summer in public defense, at the Federal Defender Office in downtown Detroit.

“I had a phenomenal experience at FDO, working with talented attorneys on research and writing projects for federal trials, appeals, and even a Supreme Court cert petition,” he says. “I also got to appear on the record representing defendants who had been given tickets, and I won dismissals for three clients.”

Honored with a Dean's Public Service Fellowship, Martin will spend this summer with the Allegheny County Public Defender in Pittsburgh, working in the Pretrial Division.

“The internship should give me great practice speaking on the record, allowing me to examine witnesses and argue motions and bond hearings,” he says.

Now that the Great Lakes State has become home, Martin would love to work here after graduation, in public defense or nonprofit immigration law.

“Last summer, the Michigan Legislature approved $84 million in spending to reform our state's public defender services. I would love to find work here as a PD and help Michigan fulfill its renewed promise of strong representation to indigent defendants—including to noncitizen defendants, who often suffer drastic consequences for even minor criminal convictions,” he says.

Motivated by the concept of “movement lawyering”—the use of the law as one of several tools to advance the objectives of disadvantaged communities—Martin sees community involvement and volunteerism as central aspects of his work as a lawyer.

“I’m really grateful to the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, not only for its outstanding service to people in need, but also for giving me such moving and powerful opportunities for community involvement,” he says. “WICIR is an entirely volunteer-run organization that supports and empowers Washtenaw County's mixed-status community through urgent response, accompaniment, education, organizing, and political action. As a volunteer, I help lead the Urgent Response Committee, which manages our urgent response phone line and works to improve our team-based model for responding to immigration-related emergencies.”

A native of Greenwood Village, a suburb of Denver, Martin currently makes his home in Ann Arbor with his wife, Claire, a labor and delivery nurse. When not working, the two are usually out exploring nature with their two rescue dogs, Penny and Franklin.



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