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Miguel Pineda (JD/MBA ’19) selected for elite Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Published: February 08, 2019

Miguel Pineda (JD/MBA ’19) selected for elite Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Joint JD/MBA candidate Miguel Pineda, who will graduate in May 2019, has been selected for an elite Equal Justice Works Fellowship. Beginning in August, Mr. Pineda will be hosted by Human Rights First in Los Angeles, California. The global law firm Greenberg Traurig is sponsoring Mr. Pineda’s project, which he designed and successfully pitched.

Mr. Pineda’s work will be focused on direct representation of LGBT asylum seekers. He will also be responsible for policy advocacy and impact litigation with the host organization. “The project creates a sustainable model for pro bono representation of LGBT persons in their asylum process and tackles structural barriers to their access to justice through litigation and advocacy,” said Mr. Pineda. “The violence in Central America and subsequent increase in asylum seekers has greatly increased the case loads of those providing legal services to those fleeing persecution in their home countries. In light of this, the project seeks to address the overwhelming need for legal representation for one of the most vulnerable and demonized populations – LGBT asylum seekers,” he added.

The process of becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow is extensive and highly competitive. First, the candidate must identify an issue that resonates with their passions and corresponds with a need of the community the candidate wants to serve. Then, the candidate must find a legal services organization to host them for the two-year duration of the fellowship.  Once the host organizations have selected their fellowship candidates, each candidate works with their host organization to design a fellowship. The fellowship must compliment the candidate’s passions and align with the host organization’s mission and work. After the project design is complete, fellows submit their proposals to Equal Justice Works, where they are selected for interviews by potential sponsors interested in funding proposals. 

“I am so proud of Miguel Pineda. There is nothing that he cannot accomplish,” said Associate Dean and Professor Susan Bisom-Rapp. Miguel, who is enrolled in Thomas Jefferson’s joint JD/MBA program, which is run in partnership with San Diego State University, has made a significant impact on the law school. He was the student volunteer coordinator of the law school’s Employee Rights Self-Help Workshop, a monthly program providing one-time, free legal consultations to San Diego community members experiencing workplace problems. He held the post for two years. In that capacity, he coordinated with the attorney volunteer coordinator Sabrina Green, who donated her time to the workshop, and with students eager to assist with the in-take of legal services consumers. “His efforts on behalf of the workshop were outstanding. The monthly sessions, which he scheduled and organized, were run smoothly and effectively,” said Associate Dean Bisom-Rapp.

In terms of background, Mr. Pineda’s is especially rich and unique. Before law school, he served in the United States Army Reserve as a human intelligence collector.  In this capacity, he was deployed to Mosul, Iraq, and witnessed the persecution of individuals in a war torn country.  Additionally, Mr. Pineda served in the military when the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was in effect. The toll that policy took on LGBT personnel was a matter of serious concern to him. Mr. Pineda is a person who appreciates that discrimination can operate on multiple levels – race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation – but that this complex problem can be overcome through individual advocacy.