This summer, four WVU Law students are working in public defender’s offices throughout West Virginia. They are gaining the valuable work experience and providing an important public service as recipients of the Sprouse Fellowship.
Funded through the West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest, the Sprouse Fellowship awards 2L students a $5,500 stipend to work for 10 weeks in a West Virginia state or federal public defender’s office. It is named in honor of James Marshall Sprouse, a U.S. Fourth Circuit Judge and former justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
“The Sprouse Fellowship is a competitive opportunity, and it allows students to obtain their Rule 10 practice certifications and appear in court under the supervision of a licensed attorney,” said Jennifer Powell, director of the Center for Law and Public Service. “These fellowships provide important support and staffing to busy public defender offices and their clients while giving WVU Law students practical, hands-on learning experiences.”
The 2018 Spouse Fellows are Karissa Blackburn, Jade Hamilton, Jason Neal and Ellen Walburn.
Karissa Blackburn works in the state public defender’s office in Mercer County, West Virginia. At WVU Law, she is a member of the Class of 2019 Executive Board, treasurer of International Law Association, and vice president of Christian Legal Society. She also worked as an extern in the West Virginia University Office of the General Counsel and is a volunteer with the WVU Title IX Investigation Team. Last year, she was a semifinalist in WVU Law’s 1L Lugar Trial Competition.
Before law school, Blackburn was a journalist working in West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2013 from West Virginia University.
Jade Hamilton is working in the state public defender’s office in Fayette County, West Virginia. In law school, she is vice president of the Democratic Law Caucus, treasurer of Women’s Leadership Council, and a member of Public Interest Advocates. She previously worked as a Public Interest Advocates Summer Fellow for Childlaw Services in Princeton, West Virginia, and at Legal Aid of West Virginia in Beckley.
Prior to coming to WVU Law, Hamilton earned her bachelor’s degree in political science in 2015 from Marshall University.
Jason Neal works in the federal public defender’s office for the Northern District of West Virginia in Clarksburg. As a law student, he was an associate editor of Volume 120 of the West Virginia Law Review, a junior editor of Family Law Quarterly, and Chief Justice of the WVU Student Government Association. He also works as a Dean’s Fellow Teaching Assistant for professor John Taylor’s criminal law class, and he was a summer law clerk for Judge Irene Keely in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Clarksburg.
Before attending law school, Neal worked in the WVU Office of Admissions as an orientation leader and admissions ambassador. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2016 from West Virginia University.
Ellen Walburn is working in the state public defender’s office in Harrison County, West Virginia. At WVU Law, she is the social chair for the Student Bar Association and a member of moot court. She also holds certifications in Basic Family Mediation, Fair Housing Testing, and Alternative Dispute Resolution. During the summer of 2017, she worked as an intern for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia in Martinsburg.
Prior to attending WVU Law, Walburn worked for Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks and Recreation in Martinsburg, West Virginia. She obtained bachelor’s degrees in English and political science in 2015 from West Virginia University.
About the West Virginia Fund for Law in Public Interest
The West Virginia Fund for Law in the Public Interest is a non-profit organization that funds summer fellowships for WVU College of Law students at public-interest entities throughout the state. Since its inception in 1987, the Fund has sponsored hundreds of Fellows to 1) enhance the quality of legal services afforded low-income West Virginians, including children, the elderly, and victims of domestic violence; and 2) help students achieve a deeper appreciation for the importance of public-interest work.