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JD-PhD Student Sarah Fishel Wins Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ‘Pursuit of Justice’ Legal Writing Competition

Sarah Fishel

January 21, 2021

In November, the Philadelphia Bar Association announced that Sarah Fishel, a student in Drexel University’s JD-PhD in Clinical Psychology program, won the 18th annual Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “Pursuit of Justice” Legal Writing Competition, which is open to all 2L and 3L students from the six Philadelphia-area law schools. Fishel is the first Kline Law student to win the competition.

Fishel’s winning paper, titled “When They Come Home: Federal Responsibility for Offender Reentry,” argues that the federal legal system should allocate resources in a more balanced way, rather than just at the “front end,” during investigations, trials and incarceration. Fishel outlines how the current system neglects what happens to individuals after incarceration and then describes the principles and applications of therapeutic jurisprudence, “the study of the role of the law as a therapeutic agent.” Fishel uses Philadelphia’s Supervision to Aid Reentry (STAR) program, a federal reentry court program, as an example. The STAR program offers participants “a rehabilitation program, clothing, benefits screening, tutoring, family reunification counseling, a financial literacy program, a furniture bank, and a fund for discretionary emergency expenses.” As part of the award, Fishel’s article was published in the winter issue of The Philadelphia Lawyer as well as on the Bar Association’s website

Fishel also had an essay published in Professor Lisa Tucker’s book “Hamilton & the Law,” where her writing was featured alongside that of law professors, a former solicitor general of the United States and the current president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, among other contributors.

Fishel says that the best writing advice she received came from Professor David DeMatteo, director of the JD-PhD in Clinical Psychology program. “When I first started writing, [Professor DeMatteo] told me to make sure it was something I was passionate about,” said Fishel, “because by the time I did a good and thorough job researching, writing, re-researching and re-writing, I’d have to still like it enough to do something with it. I think having passion for the topic goes a long way in a writing project, whether it’s a brief or a law review article. The reader can sense that through the page.”