As a second-year law student and an intern in Miami Law's Children and Youth Law Clinic, Catherine Kaiman has already begun to make her mark in the community service and public interest sectors.
"Catherine is just an absolute pleasure to collaborate with on client issues and sit alongside in the clinic," said Rayni Rabinowitz, a fellow intern and member of the Public Interest Leadership Board. "She exudes dedication and professionalism in her work. It's clear she is committed to public interest law and helping others."
Kaiman's devotion to making a difference started early. At Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, she co-founded a chapter of an organization called STAND – an acronym for Students Taking Action Now: Darfur – and traveled to Washington D.C. with her school peers to discuss with members of Congress the genocide in Darfur. At Florida International University, Kaiman spent her senior year working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. In the ACLU's intake department, she reviewed claims to determine whether the organization might take on the cases. That experience sparked Kaiman's desire to attend law school and help those in need of legal representation.
At Miami Law, Kaiman has continued her public service work. She is the president of the University of Miami Chapter of Law Students for Reproductive Justice, which she and two other students, Luis Ramos and Mary Delcamp, co-founded because, Kaiman said, "we saw that there was an absence of organizations that focused on reproductive rights." She explained that LSRJ combines reproductive health, reproductive rights and social justice to help bring awareness to the many issues covered under the term "reproductive justice."
This spring, the organization is assisting the University of Miami Sexual Assault Response Team with the Clothesline Project, an initiative that encourages people to express their feelings on topics such as sexual assault, dating violence, and domestic violence. The chapter also hosted a webinar last month with the Center for Reproductive Rights. As if that were not enough, Kaiman serves as a research assistant to Christina Zampas, a Practitioner-in-Residence and Supervising Attorney with Miami Law's Human Rights Clinic, and will be focusing her research on international human rights law.
In the summer after her 1L year, Kaiman took part in the Center for Ethics and Public Service Summer Public Interest Fellowship Program. She interned at Legal Services of Greater Miami, Inc., in the unemployment compensation and public benefits department, which she described as a highly rewarding experience. This summer, Kaiman will be working for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Miami, focusing on juvenile justice reform.
In addition to her law school course load, Kaiman recently began a joint-degree program to obtain a Masters in Public Health. Her decision to do so stems from her belief that social justice cannot be achieved through legal means alone, but also by ensuring that everyone has good health care.
"The further I advance in my law degree, I see how many of our laws are inadequate, outdated, or simply no longer reflect the society in which we live in," Kaiman said. "I continue to see how those marginalized in our society are the most at risk, and therefore need access to quality legal representation."
In addition, she went on, there is much to be done as far as changing laws and public policy in the arenas of reproductive justice and civil rights. "To be a part of that," Kaiman said, "is my greatest aspiration as a public interest lawyer."