Two third-year law students who have devoted their careers to public service have won $2,500 scholarships from the Lawyers' Club of San Francisco.
Morgan McGinnis and Pedro Hernandez each hope to go into public interest law. “Morgan and Pedro demonstrate the best of UC Hastings and our longstanding commitment to public interest law, “ said Professor Eumi Lee. “As an institution, we strive to support students such as Morgan and Pedro who are committed to serving the community throughout their careers.”
Morgan McGinnis hopes to become a public defender representing juveniles. In her first and second years in law school, she was involved with the Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation (HPILF), which raises money to support students in public interest summer fellowships. She served as co-president, and this year she is an advisor to the group. “Our community really provides great opportunities for service, and is very supportive of those pursuing public interest work. I hope this commitment to service only continues to grow, because it’s one of the reasons I came to UC Hastings.”
McGinnis won an HPILF grant to help support her work as a policy intern for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. She later served as a legal extern for Judge Harry Pregerson of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Last year she participated in the Community Economic Development Clinic, working on an ongoing project with community groups negotiating with California Pacific Medical Center over its plans for expansion to ensure substantial benefits for the communities directly surrounding the development.
“I hope to do the Individual Representation or the Criminal Practice Clinic in the spring,” she added. In the meantime, she teaches a class on criminal procedure to inmates at the San Francisco County jail in San Bruno. “I’m learning just as much from my students as they are from me. My partner and I provide a framework for discussing the theory; the students share their actual experience interacting with the criminal justice system,” she said.
She also serves as the Symposium Editor for the Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal. The journal will host its annual event in February 2014, marking the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”
After graduation, Pedro Hernandez hopes to eventually return to his Central Coast hometown of Watsonville to create “individual and systemic change” in his community. “My community has definitely struggled with racial tensions, and opportunities for mobility and advancement,” he said.
The town is predominantly Latino, and has an unemployment rate of 24%. “Most of the jobs are in agricultural work. There aren’t many jobs that require advanced degrees,” he said.
Hernandez has been a community activist since his early college days, and has a particular interest in constitutional rights and education. He flew to Washington, D.C. to march with other activists outside the U.S. Supreme Court when it held oral arguments in Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 landmark case that upheld the affirmative action policies at the University of Michigan Law School.
During his first year summer, he worked at the Equal Justice Society, and was privileged to write part of an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court affirmation action case, Fisher v. University of Texas. He also externed for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, and worked in the Watsonville office of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA). His CRLA work was funded in part by an HPILF grant.
Hernandez is Editor-in-Chief of the Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal, and has been active in the La Raza Law Students at UC Hastings. He was instrumental in organizing one of the group’s most important events, Day at Law School. This year, La Raza hosted more than 240 middle and high school students from traditionally underrepresented communities, encouraging them to pursue higher education and introducing the concept of going to law school.
The Lawyers' Club of San Francisco
Each year, the Lawyers’ Club’s Scholarship Fund Foundation awards two scholarships and complimentary membership to local law students. Criteria include demonstrated involvement and commitment to a community outreach program, academic and professional achievement, and financial need.