When Stephanie Johnson graduates in 2019, she will mark the twenty-year anniversary of BC Law’s Public Service Scholars program. A scholarship initiative established to encourage entering students committed to serving others, the program has supported some sixty men and women—four of them profiled here—whose impact is felt everywhere where rights are thwarted and justice threatened. In September, the program becomes part of LEAPS, Leaders Entering and Advancing Public Service, a new undertaking that empowers all BC Law students to engage in studies and activities that further the public good.
GRETCHEN HUNT ’00
A victims’ rights advocate brings survivors’ voices to the fore in a pioneering Kentucky initiative.
Since 2016, Gretchen Hunt has served as Executive Director of the Office of Victims’ Advocacy in the Kentucky Attorney General’s office. Throughout her career, she has championed the rights of victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and human trafficking. Before law school, Hunt’s commitment to combat gender-based violence was sparked by volunteer work at a domestic violence outreach project at Boston Medical Center, and as a law student she spent two summers working on international women’s human rights, in Washington, DC, and Quito, Ecuador.
Through her work with domestic violence shelters in her native Kentucky, Hunt had her first exposure to human trafficking cases involving immigrants exploited for forced labor or sex servitude. At Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services from 2005–2010, she formed the state’s first human trafficking task force, and for the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs she co-wrote Kentucky’s 2013 Human Trafficking Victims Rights Act.
In March 2018 Hunt and the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) received an Innovation Award from the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs for their role in establishing a twenty-two member Survivors’ Council to advise and support victim-centered efforts in the OAG. “It’s challenging to change the way we think and to empower survivors, and I think it has the potential to be a good model nationally,” says Hunt.
She credits the Public Service Scholars program with shaping her professional focus: “It enabled me to leave law school financially able to go into a public interest career, and that launched my entire trajectory and my work in victims’ advocacy.”
Photograph by Tim Webb
PATIENCE “POLLY” CROZIER ’02
A passionate LGBTQ rights defender works to give all families equal access to legal protection.
Public service is in Polly Crozier’s blood. Before law school she did holocaust research, wrote grants for HIV education, and advocated for women fighting sex discrimination in higher education.
Now Senior Staff Attorney at Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), Crozier promotes equality on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and HIV status. The Public Service Scholars Program “had a pretty profound impact on cementing my commitment to do public interest work,” says Crozier, who served as LAMBDA president and interned with human rights and civil liberties organizations while at BC Law.
Following clerkships in the Maryland Court of Appeals and Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, Crozier co-founded a firm focused on LGBTQ family law.
She participated in precedent-setting cases involving assisted reproduction and issues of parentage. “As a non-biological, non-marital parent, in Massachusetts in particular, you have had very few rights,” notes Crozier. She has worked to change that, in cases including Partanen v. Gallagher (2016) that clarified that never-married same-sex couples had equal access to establish legal parentage through the paternity code, “a major step forward in ensuring security and equality for all children.”
At GLAD, Crozier fights for the rights of LGBTQ youth. She recently assisted Framingham with a policy—the state’s first—to ensure full inclusion of transgender and gender expansive students in public school athletics.
“There has been progress,” Crozier says of LGBTQ rights, “but there is an incredible need for continued vigilance. You have to remind people that it’s not just rights you’re fighting for, it’s actual people.”
Photograph by Matt Kalinowski
From the Jesuit Volunteer Corps to the US Department of Justice, a public service lawyer’s career evolves.
The son of devoutly Catholic Vietnamese refugee parents in the Bay Area, JT Do majored in religion and public policy at Brown University. After college, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in San Francisco and worked on eviction defense at the local bar association, where he first considered a legal career, and then at the city’s Coalition on Homelessness.
Attracted to BC Law by the Public Service Scholars program, Do took advantage of many public interest opportunities. As a Rappaport Law and Policy Fellow, for example, he worked at the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. At the time of the foreclosure crisis in 2010, he enlisted classmates in a student outreach program to advise vulnerable tenants of their rights.
Do’s vision of a career in direct legal service provision shifted as a law student to a broader view of advancing the public good through government service. Straight out of law school, financial support from the scholars program enabled him to take a post as an attorney in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the US Department of Justice.
Whether securing substantial civil penalties for pollution caused by mountaintop mining in Kentucky, or brokering a settlement between a uranium company and a Texas community fearing for the safety of its drinking water, Do relishes the range and autonomy of his work.
“I can argue before the Ninth Circuit on a Monday and then first chair a jury trial on a Wednesday,” he says. “In a private firm I could not have so much responsibility at this stage in my career.”
Photograph by Stephen Voss
STEPHANIE JOHNSON ’19
An affordable housing supporter seeks Innovative Solutions at the intersection of law and urban planning.
Stephanie Johnson came to BC Law with a mission: to help solve the nation’s chronic affordable housing shortage. “My father always stressed the importance of home ownership,” says the Brooklyn native, who saw the instability caused by housing insecurity during four years as a volunteer at the WATCH Housing Advocacy Clinic in Waltham while studying politics at Brandeis University.
“I knew I needed not only the technical skills from a law degree but also to delve deep into housing policy,” says Johnson, who is getting a master’s in urban planning and environmental policy at Tufts University as part of a JD dual degree.
Johnson’s legal and policy studies build on experience in the public sector, including a two-year stint between college and law school managing the Open Government Initiative for the mayor of Washington, DC.
At BC Law, she has been similarly engaged. As a 2016 BC Law Rappaport Fellow, Johnson worked on housing issues in the Boston Redevelopment Authority general counsel’s office. As co-president of the BC Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA), she organized, in April, BLSA’s first annual conference, “Project Liberation: Restoring and Protecting Our Communities.” For her various efforts, in March she became the first recipient of a $10,000 award from the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association’s Building the Legacy Scholarship Fund.
Johnson’s next move is an internship this summer at Klein Hornig LLP, a DC affordable housing law firm. “Ultimately,” she says, “I’d like to open my own firm and be a one-stop shop where community groups can come with ideas and I can help make them a reality.”
Photograph by Diana Levine