Student Highlight: Halinka Zolcik Lands Elite Fellowship Position

Third-year law student Halinka Zolcik has been awarded a fellowship position with the DSC_2680_Immigration Justice Corps, one of the most prestigious legal fellowship positions in the country.

The Immigration Justice Corps is a fellowship program that was created by Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation. The two-year fellowship matches the country’s most talented law school graduates with top host organizations in New York City and surrounding areas to serve as legal advocates in immigration.

The Fellowship is awarded to a mere twenty-five individuals out of hundreds of applications. Those coveted positions are reserved for the best of the best embarking on a career in immigration law, and are usually filled with graduates from Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown. Zolcik is the first student from the University of Wyoming to be considered for the program.

Born in Prague, Czech Republic, Zolcik and her family immigrated to the United States as a small child. She grew up in Gillette, Wyoming. As a first-generation immigrant, she was drawn to the field through her own experience. She chose to attend the University of Wyoming College of Law for it’s robust clinical programs and the opportunity to gain practical skills, a decision that has proven to be instrumental to her success.

She currently serves as the Student Director in the International Human Rights Clinic at the College of Law. In this capacity, she carries a caseload of clients seeking help through the U.S. immigration system under the supervision of the Faculty Director, Professor Suzan Pritchett.

With Pritchett at the helm, the Clinic has expanded from asylum cases into other forms of humanitarian relief efforts including special immigrant juvenile status, U visas, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) advisement issues, green card process adjustment, and family based petitions.

Working in the clinic, Zolcik has gained valuable experience on a variety of immigration issues. She has already appeared in the Denver Immigration Court five times this semester, and has performed every aspect of representing a client from start to finish.  The Clinic is also how she learned of the Fellowship opportunity.

“Halinka is an exceptional student,” says Pritchett. “I encouraged her to apply for the Fellowship because I was confident that she would be a strong contender for one of the positions. Her hands-on experience in the IHR Clinic has guaranteed that she is ready to hit the ground running in a fast-paced advocacy environment, and I think that was a major factor in her selection for the fellowship position.”

The application process for the Fellowship was long and rigorous. Zolcik had to submit numerous essays, letters of recommendation, and go through multiple rounds of interviews. With a carefully crafted portfolio of all her work in the Clinic, she blew the interview panel away.

“The interviewers on the panel didn’t know anything about Wyoming. They were surprised that we do immigration work here, and also by the breadth and depth of the work that we do in the Clinic,” she comments. “In Wyoming you can get this experience that rivals other clinical programs on an international level. The panel said they had never seen a current law student with that much experience.”

Among her many talents, Zolcik is also an accomplished linguist, fluent in five languages – English, Czech, Polish, French and Spanish. Utilizing her skills often in the Clinic, it was also an ability that proved useful in the application process.

“During the interview, members of the panel would randomly switch to Spanish just to test that I actually spoke multiple languages,” she says. “It really throws you off to immediately switch languages, so it was a very intimidating experience.”

Professor Pritchett stresses how impressive this achievement really is.

“Not only was Halinka up against students from some of the most competitive law schools in the country, she was also up against recent graduates that have already served as immigration court clerks and federal law clerks for the past two-years,” says Pritchett. “The fact that her abilities and experience at Wyoming can rival those other people is not something that should be taken lightly.”

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Suzan Pritchett joined the College of Law faculty as an Assistant Professor and the Director of the International Human Rights Clinic in the fall of 2014. Prior to joining the permanent faculty, she was a Visiting Professor and the Robert J. Golten Fellow at the College of Law, where she co-directed the Center for International Law and Advocacy. Professor Pritchett has also worked in private practice representing clients in federal immigration matters. In addition to her clinical and scholastic endeavors, Pritchett is the foremost expert on immigration law in the state of Wyoming and has been a dedicated leader in internationalization efforts within the University of Wyoming.  

Zolcik credits her success to Professor Pritchett, the International Human Rights Clinic, and her education at the College of Law.

“I am so grateful for the clinic experience,” she says. “Here we are able to take on numerous clients and have the incredible supervision of Professor Pritchett. Additionally, the small class sizes allowed me to do multiple things like the Clinic, while still being able to excel academically.”

Zolcik also acknowledges the Trial Practice Program as a contributing factor to her advocacy abilities. Through the course, she was able to polish her trial skills and feel confident in a courtroom.

“Halinka is a really good lawyer in a difficult multi-cultural lawyering environment,” notes Pritchett. “Navigating the different needs of each client, overcoming language barriers, and interpreting the legal system and communicating that to the clients so they feel well represented is a challenge. Halinka is very skilled. She advocates for her clients with compassion, but also shows real strength both in her written advocacy and in the courtroom.”

Zolcik has been paired with Prisoners Legal Services of New York as her host organization. She’ll begin the Fellowship in September after sitting for the Bar Exam.

Though Zolcik is the first ever Wyoming student to be accepted into the Immigration Justice Corps, the College of Law hopes that she is the first of many, and is exceedingly proud to produce such capable and skilled graduates.

UW College of Law International Law Moot Court Team Takes Top Honors at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition

The University of Wyoming College of Law team competed in the regional round the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition February 16-19, 2017. The Rocky Mountain Regional was hosted by the University of Denver Sturm School of Law, and was one of the six regional rounds hosted in the United States.

The team comprised entirely of Wyoming students, swept the competition placing first as well as taking home additional honors.

Students Ian Smith (Jackson, Wyo.), Allison Connell (Sheridan, Wyo.), Kristina Mireles (Newcastle, Wyo.), Brandon Rosty (Casper, Wyo.) and David Demic (Sheridan, Wyo.), used their knowledge of water law, natural resources, and international law to dominate the competition with a perfect 7-0 record.

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Pictured from Left to Right: Brandon Rosty, Ian Smith, Professor Noah Novogrodsky, Allison Connell, David Demic and Kristina Mireles.

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from over 550 law schools in more than 87 countries. The Competition is a simulation of a fictional dispute between countries before the International Court of Justice, the judicial organ of the United Nations. Each team prepares both oral and written pleadings (memorials).

The team is scored as a unit, with recognition and scoring for individual written and oral efforts as well.

This year’s issue was framed around two problems: 1) in a time of drought, may one state tap into a shared underground aquifer even if it deprives another state of water, and 2) must cultural artifacts taken from state A to state B by an oppressed minority of state A be returned?

Individual accolades included Allison Connell placing 7th, Brandon Rosty placing 3rd, and Kristina Mireles placing 2nd in the oral portion of the competition. Third-year law student David Demic won top individual oralist with two perfect scores.

Demic has competed in the Jessup Competition all three years of his law school career, winning 9th best oralist as a 1L, and 6th best oralist last year.

“One of the reasons that I came to UW was because of the strong international program,” he says. “The tutelage I have received from Professors Suzie Pritchett, Jason Robison and Noah Novogrodsky has provided me with the skills that I have now and I would not have been able to succeed without their guidance.”

Demic was able to take the experience from the last two years and improve to help lead his team to victory.

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Third-year Law Student David Demic

“It felt really good to practice and apply everything we have learned at the College of Law and come back with vengeance in the competition,” says Demic.

In the written portion, the team Memorials Brief placed 1st helping the group claim an unprecedented clean-sweep.  The College of Law has previously taken home the honor of Best Memorial in 2014.

The team went up against some big schools in the nation, including NYU School of Law, The University of Kansas School of Law, and the SJ Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.

According to the International Law Student Association organizers, it is the first time in living memory that the top three oralists came from a single school.  It is also the first time ever that the University of Wyoming College of law has won first place at this prestigious international law competition.

The team will now advance to the White & Case International Rounds in Washington D.C. where they will go head to head with the other top teams from around the world. The weeklong event, will take place April 9-15, 2017, and will culminate with the Jessup Cup World Championship Round.

“We are extremely proud of this team of students from Wyoming,” says the team’s Faculty Advisor Professor Noah Novogrodsky. “They were more prepared than any other team there and it showed.”

Faculty Highlight: Suzie Pritchett

DSC_7773Professor Suzie Pritchett will be one of the featured speakers at the University of Wyoming Saturday U program. Each Saturday U term features lectures from three outstanding University of Wyoming professors. Following the lectures, all three professors will participate in a final roundtable discussion. Saturday U is sponsored by the University of Wyoming Outreach School, the Wyoming Humanities Council and the University of Wyoming Foundation, joined by local supporters.

Professor Pritchett will give a talk called, “The Cowboy State in a World on the Move: Exploring Contemporary Immigration Issues in Wyoming.”

“Global migration is on the rise, and national immigration reform appears elusive. Many assume that Wyoming, as the nation’s least populous state, is insulated from the larger immigration debate,” Pritchett says. “However, immigrants continue to make Wyoming their home, and national and international immigration policies have an effect on local Wyoming communities.”

Pritchett will give context to contemporary immigration issues in Wyoming and provide an opportunity to discuss the future of immigration in the Cowboy State.

The Saturday U presentations will take place Thursday, Nov. 12, from 6-9 p.m. at the Campbell County Public Library. Other speakers will include  Jeff Beck, UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, and Matthew Craig, Gillette College Department of Science biology faculty member.

For more information, please visit the Saturday U webpage.