From Johor, the Home of the Southern Tigers to Chicago, the City of Cubs

From Johor; the Home of the Southern Tigers to Chicago; the City of Cubs

Reflections on my fellowship experience at the John Marshall Law School, Chicago.

In April 2017, I was selected by American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) to participate in the US Department of State’s – YSEALI Professional Fellowship Program, which is aimed at strengthening ties between the U.S. and Southeast Asia. There were only four professionals from Malaysia selected by ACYPL to travel to the US for this particular program.

City Council Chamber

Team Chicago touring the Chicago City Council Chambers. Author Muzammil Hairiri is seated in the center.

My placement for the prestigious program was at the John Marshall Law School, Chicago, Illinois. My primary objectives for the fellowship were simple & straightforward: to learn more about the issue of access to justice & how the legal clinics operate in the US?

Throughout the fellowship, I was fortunate to be able to shadow leaders at several legal clinics, including the Veterans Legal Support Center and Clinic, the Pro Bono Program and Clinic, the Restorative Justice Project and the Fair Housing Legal Support Center and Clinic.

Veterans Legal Clinic

The main highlight of my professional fellowship was the opportunity to meet and work with some wonderful people, including Brian Clauss who is the Executive Director of the Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic – a national pro bono program that provides free assistance in Veterans Affair benefit appeals.

City Clerk Anna Valencia

Team Chicago with City Clerk Anna Valencia

While at the Veterans Legal Clinic, Brian Clauss helped me to develop my business proposal for my individual follow-on project, which is to establish a legal clinic which provides free legal assistance for women in Johor, Malaysia.

I was able to glean some insights from Brian Clauss on working with clients from underserved demographics as well as business‑related aspects involved in setting up a legal clinic. Brian was also solely responsible for my usage of colloquial Midwestern slang during my time in Chicago.

I also received generous moral support from Erik Fagrelius, who is the Director of the Corporate & Foundation Relations. Akin to Brian, Erik helped to build up my individual project with his guidance & constructive comments with respect to the business feasibility of the proposal.

Restorative Justice Project

I spent my second week of fellowship at the John Marshall’s Restorative Justice Project. During my time at the Restorative Justice Project, I was incredibly privileged to be able to seek guidance from Judge Sheila Murphy (Ret.). We sat together for hours & had in-depth discussions with regard to the concept of restorative justice & how we could relate and apply it to our daily life.

North Chicago PD

Muzammil Hairiri gives some legal advice to locked-up colleague Ralph Emerson Degollacion while touring the City of North Chicago Police Department.

She shared a lot of inspiring stories throughout her illustrious career as a judge with me. I was really amazed by her passion & commitment in advocating restorative justice, especially in Chicago.

I also had the opportunity to observe the operation of restorative justice in practice when I attended the graduation ceremony of the Cook County Drug Court Rehabilitative Alternative Probation program; a rehabilitation program which offer drug addicts a chance to fight their addiction, to redeem themselves and to reconnect with their respective families.

Pro Bono Legal Clinic

The third week of my fellowship was at the Pro Bono Legal Clinic, under the supervision of Kelly Lindstrom. I was privileged to be given the opportunity to shadow her when she conducted cases at the Veterans Treatment Court at Markham & the Leighton Criminal Court Building on several occasions, including where Kelly supervised a JMLS’s student who successfully argued on behalf of a human trafficking survivor to vacate a prostitution conviction!

Fair Housing Legal Support Center and Clinic

I spent the last week of my fellowship at the Fair Housing Legal Support Center and Clinic, where I learned a lot about the history of the housing segregation in Chicago and how it affects the city in the present. Furthermore, I was given the opportunity to observe the case intakes, communication and coordination among the Fair Housing Legal Clinic team members, in particular Melissa Allman, Amrita Narasimhan and Leodis McCray.

Domestic Violence Clinic

I also received consultation from Debra Stark, who is the Director of the Family Law & Domestic Violence Clinic. Debra gave plenty of constructive insights & comments during my research presentations with regard to access to justice to women & domestic violence. I was really inspired by her pure passion in giving hope to the survivors of domestic violence and helping them to seek legal redress.

Conclusion

I could say with certainty that my fellowship at the John Marshall Law School was an-eye-opening experience. I was to be able to observe first hand both the elegance as well as flaws of the US legal system. I am immensely grateful to the US Department of State, ACYPL & the John Marshall Law School for their time & effort in providing such an exceptional and eye-opening fellowship experience for me in the Chicago.

By Muzammil Hairiri

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