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About Melanie and the Fellowship that Honors Her Memory

The Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellowship was created in honor of Melanie Kushnir, who dedicated her life to inspiring pro bono attorneys, law students, bar leaders, the judiciary, the community, and co-workers to donate their time, knowledge, and experience to those in need. She believed that those who face domestic violence, child abuse, elder abuse, consumer fraud or other civil legal challenges can have their lives forever changed for the better with an attorney who will stand and fight for their rights -- and that they deserve nothing less.

Melanie’s career in law reflected her passionate commitment to access to justice for the poor, middle class and underserved. Her enthusiasm, intelligence, resourcefulness and warmth won over legions of new volunteer attorneys for the Pro Bono Project at Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada and increased participation by nearly 35 percent over her five years with us. From the start of her legal training, Melanie demonstrated a singular focus on pro bono work. Prior to graduating from Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, she served as a public service fellow, a research fellow with the Pro Bono Research Group, and President of the Public Interest Law Foundation.  Melanie won the CALI Award for Children and the Law.  After law school, she spent eleven years in public interest law representing abused children in Chicago; working to place students in public interest careers at Chicago-Kent College of Law; as Assistant Staff Counsel for the American Bar Association Center for Pro Bono; and finally as Directing Attorney of the Pro Bono Project at Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. She also published and lectured on pro bono and access to justice topics. In her time in Southern Nevada, she made an indelible imprint on the lives of so many and we wish to keep her memory and spirit alive in a way that she would have loved, through support of public interest law education.

 Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellowship Details

One law student from an ABA-accredited law school will be selected annually to receive the Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellowship. The Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellowship selection committee is comprised of members of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada staff, board, and Pro Bono Advisory Council; members of the community working on access to justice issues; and Melanie’s family.

The fellow is selected based on their demonstrated commitment to public interest law and the capacity to carry on Melanie’s work in assisting those unable to afford the civil legal help they need. 

The fellowship is full-time during the summer and begins in May or at the end of the law school academic year. The fellow will receive a $10,000 stipend for their summer work at Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. While the full-time employment of the fellow will come to a close at the end of summer, the fellowship officially concludes at the end of the year.

The fellow will work as part of the Pro Bono Project, assisting with access to justice projects. The fellow will additionally have the opportunity to participate in the following activities:

Learn about and shadow every department at Legal Aid Center:
Attend the State Bar of Nevada Annual Conference:
Receive judicial mentorship and/or observe court, organized by the Eighth Judicial District Court:
Attend Nevada Supreme Court Access to Justice meetings: and
Attend the Annual Pro Bono Award Luncheon in December.

Upon conclusion of the fellowship, the fellow will be asked to participate as an ambassador in publicizing the availability of the fellowship during the following year. The fellow may also be asked to serve as a mentor to the Fellow selected in the following year.  

Application details can be found here.

An interview with the 2019 Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellow, Brittni Tanenbaum, can be viewed here.

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Melanie Kushnir Access to Justice Fellows

AzraAzra Özdemir
2020  

BTanenbaum HeadshotBrittni Tanenbaum
2019  

Olga Torres HeadshotOlga Torres
2018  

Mathew Cook HeadshotMatthew Cook
2017