Every summer, new attorneys join Americans United’s Legal Department as legal fellows. These lawyers bring enthusiasm and experience to our common goal of protecting church-state separation.
This year, we’re fortunate to welcome three new attorneys into the fold: Madison Fellows Sarah Goetz and Patrick Grubel will be with AU for two years, while Legal Fellow Jon Dugan is with AU for a few months before he begins working at a law firm.
We asked all three to introduce themselves so we can get to know them better – and judge who would host the best dinner party!
Hometown: Chantilly, Va.
Background: I earned my J.D. with honors from the University of North Carolina earlier this year. During law school, I worked on the North Carolina Law Review, was a research assistant for a professor focusing on First Amendment and federalism issues, and represented clients dealing with student debt issues in the Consumer Financial Transactions Clinic. Before law school, I worked in the purchasing department of a Washington, D.C., electrical contractor after earning my B.A. in history and political science from James Madison University.
Tidbits we won’t find on your resume: I’m a ride or (mostly) die fan of all the Washington, D.C., sports teams and, perhaps more prudently, the UNC basketball team.
Why did you want to work at Americans United: I have been interested in First Amendment issues dating back to my work as a research assistant in law school. I wanted to work on classic church-state issues while getting to track new developments in this rapidly changing area of the law firsthand. I also valued the opportunity to gain litigation and appellate advocacy skills at an expert organization before beginning my legal career at Sidley Austin.
What church-state separation issues particularly interest you: I am particularly interested in the interaction and resolution of competing claims involving religious liberty, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Establishment Clause and third-party rights.
What guests would you invite to your dream dinner party and why: Hunter S. Thompson (favorite author), The Weeknd (favorite artist), Leonardo DiCaprio (favorite actor), Draymond Green (favorite athlete) and Michael Jordan (UNC legend).
Hometown: Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Background: I received a B.A. in English from Vassar College and graduated summa cum laude from American University Washington College of Law, where I was a Public Interest/Public Service Scholar. During law school, I interned at Americans United, the ACLU National Prison Project and the New York Civil Liberties Union. I also participated in my law school’s criminal defense clinic and was a member of law review. Following law school, I clerked for two years in the U.S. District Court in New Mexico.
Why did you want to work at Americans United: I went to law school with the specific goal of pursuing civil rights and civil liberties work upon graduating (and not, contrary to popular belief, because that’s just what one does when one graduates with an English degree from a liberal arts school). I was lucky enough to intern with Americans United during the summer following my first year of law school. That summer impressed on me the importance of the issues and the caliber of the work here. I am happy to be back now, when – more than ever – vital civil rights and civil liberties fights are happening on the church-state battlefield.
What church-state separation issues particularly interest you: While I am excited to work on a variety of church-state issues, I am especially interested in Americans United’s work combating discrimination in the name of religion.
What guests would you invite to your dream dinner party and why: Joan Didion, Georgia O’Keeffe and Nora Ephron. I expect the conversation would be excellent. I would also invite my sister, Emily, who is a top-notch dinner companion and without whom no dinner party would be complete.
Hometown: East Hanover, N.J.
Background: Harvard Law School class of 2017 by way of Rutgers University, where I earned a B.A. in economics and psychology. In law school, I proudly represented indigent criminal defendants as a member of the Criminal Justice Institute and worked on technology-related civil liberties issues as a member of the Cyberlaw Clinic. Previously a law clerk for Justice Debra Lehrmann of the Supreme Court of Texas.
Tidbits we won’t find on your resume: My month-long stay in France after college sparked what I expect to be a lifelong interest in eating and baking French pastries. I’ve watched the entire Seinfeld series all the way through twice in the past six months.
Why did you want to work at Americans United: I applied at a time when it seemed like the political salience of religious identity, and, relatedly, the push to bring religion into statehouses and schoolhouses across the country was ramping up. This troubled me as a believer that firm separation of church and state is crucial to ensuring true religious freedom for all, especially for religious minorities. Americans United fights for those (and other) bedrock principles of our democracy, and I wanted to be a part of it. And I knew, here, I would build valuable litigation and advocacy experience while serving the public interest.
What church-state separation issues particularly interest you: I really like the core First Amendment issues, like public school-sponsored prayer and religious displays on government property. Those kinds of cases are not only legally complex – often involving the convergence of the religion and speech clauses – but also socially and politically important.
What guests would you invite to your dream dinner party and why: Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Murray, John Cleese and Mel Brooks. If we’re having a party, let’s make it a fun one.
If you’re an attorney or will soon earn your law degree and are interested in working alongside Sarah and Patrick next fall, Americans United is accepting applications for 2019 fellowships. You can learn more here: https://www.au.org/about/employment.
(Photo: From left, AU Legal Fellows Sarah Goetz, Jon Dugan and Patrick Grubel.)