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Cantrell wins national pro bono award
Felicia Cantrell, a third-year student at the College of Law, has been named the winner of the 17th Annual PSLawNet
Pro Bono Publico
Award. She was chosen from law students across the country for her work helping victims of sex crimes and family violence throughout the world.
The award, given by PSLawNet, The Online Resource for Public Service Legal Careers, recognizes the extraordinary contributions that law students make to underserved populations, the public interest community, and legal education by performing pro bono or public service work.
Maggie Filler, Stanford Law School, a champion of prisoners’ rights, was runner up, and four students received honorable mention: Christina Fialho, Santa Clara University School of Law, who works on immigrants’ rights; Andrea Johnson, Columbia Law School, who takes a van to Wisconsin tribal reservations to host estates planning and wills clinics; John Rafferty, Villanova Law School, who works in the school’s Law Asylum & Refugee Clinic and in Ecuador with The International Organization for Migration, and Michele Scavongelli, Northeastern University School of Law, a child advocate who has worked in the school’s Domestic Violence Clinic as well as with the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate.
Cantrell will receive the award at a luncheon at the Public Service Mini-Conference put on by NALP, the National Association for Law Placement, on Oct. 20, at the Washington, D.C., office of Arnold & Porter, LLP.
Cantrell founded a student organization dedicated to fighting sex trafficking, 13 – Advocacy Against Sex Trafficking, named for the average age of child sex workers in Phoenix and the United States. She also recruited students to volunteer in a Medical-Legal Partnership Program that identifies victims and connects them with pro-bono attorneys; helped organize training for lawyers, judges, students, advocates and the public; worked with local high school students to provide preventive education about teen dating violence and sex trafficking; arranged national and local speakers and helped put on a national conference. She also assisted in representing victims in civil matters; worked in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office; and last summer worked in the Philippines helping prosecute sex crimes.
She intends to continue her advocacy against sex trafficking as a county prosecutor, specializing in sex crimes, or through fellowships in the field of sex trafficking.
“We are so proud of the work that Felicia has done during her time at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law,” said Interim Dean Douglas Sylvester. “Her dedication to, and passion for, fighting human trafficking is inspirational, and this national recognition of her work helps to bring needed attention to the issue. She is a testament to our commitment to helping students find ways to pursue their individual goals and professional dreams.”
Cantrell said she was thrilled and honored to receive the award, and never expected the immense response she has received to her efforts.
“I remember as a first-year student arranging the first meeting of ’13,’ ” Cantrell said. “I went in to set up the room, and there were students there. I said, ‘We’re going to have a meeting in here,’ and they said, ‘We’re here for the meeting.’ I was shocked. I expected five people, and there were 50. It’s one of my best memories.”
Since then, the College of Law has founded the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice, headed by Faculty Director Sarah Buel, a national figure in the fight against domestic violence. Through the Center, Cantrell has assisted in representing adult and child abuse victims in civil legal matters.
“Already, she is distinguishing herself as a mature and thoughtful advocate, ably articulating divergent opinions and helping classmates see both sides,” Buel said.
Buel called Cantrell “easily one of the top students with whom I have worked in 20 years of teaching and 34 years of working with adult and child abuse victims.”
“With her characteristically fearless optimism and keen intelligence, Felicia has proven time and again that even the most daunting aspects of domestic violence advocacy are well within her grasp,” Buel said. “She came to ASU already passionate about the notion of using the law to better protect abuse victims, and has only further honed her many skills and sharpened that resolve.”
Cantrell said that, just this week, students and volunteer attorneys were able to identify and help a rape victim who came to the Mountain Park Health Center.
“Felicia’s passion is contagious,” said Michelle Roddy, the College of Law’s Director of Pro Bono Programs. “She has established herself as a leader and a changemaker on the issue of child sex trafficking in our law school and in the Phoenix community.
“She recruited more than 100 students, and together they are a force and have provided hundreds of hours of pro bono service, including legal research for a local sex trafficking safe house, volunteering to help provide legal information at a medical clinic to the indigent, and providing strategic assistance to local organizations that are applying for large grants.”
Cantrell also wrote two research papers on the issue, and was a featured speaker at Freedom Initiative’s UNBOUND October 2011 Conference on human trafficking and slavery in Seattle. The first paper, “Binational, Multi-State Survey on Human Trafficking Legislation and Collaboration,” is being published by the North American Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University. It analyzed 30 different states’ legislation and the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. She is presenting it at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., this month. The second, written for the Arizona Foundation for Women, analyzes anti-trafficking legislation in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington.
She is a member of the Women Law Students’ Association, whose focus in the community is helping to end domestic violence. During the summer of 2010, she studied refugee and asylum law, as well as comparative juvenile justice at the University of Malta, through South Texas School of Law. This past summer, she worked in the Philippines with an organization called GWAVE, which represents victims of human trafficking, rape and domestic violence. She worked with the head counsel to litigate these cases.