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America celebrated Constitution Day this week with hoopla and fanfare and a possibly-unconstitutional requirement that educational institutions which receive federal funds must hold educational programs about the Constitution on Constitution Day. Whether or not the observance violates the First Amendment, the late Sen. Robert Byrd created Constitution Day to commemorate the signing of the Constitution and to help students learn about the history of the document.
And so a "holiday" was born.
Perhaps Constitution Day sparks a lifelong love of the law for some students; if you know of such students in the Boston area, then you should tell them about the Nelson and Lindsay Fellowships through the U.S. District Court in Boston.
The Nelson and Lindsay Fellowship programs honor Judge David S. Nelson, and Judge Reginald C. Lindsay. Nelson and Lindsay were, respectively, the first and second African-Americans appointed to the district's federal bench.
Each summer, the district court in Boston selects 8 to 10 Nelson Fellows from high school applicants for a 6-week program and 5 to 6 Lindsay Fellows from college applicants for a 9-week program.
All of the Nelson Fellows come from under-served school systems. This program is primarily for high school students in Boston, Springfield, Worcester and Brockton who have shown leadership potential and academic ability. Juniors are preferred, although the program has taken sophomores and seniors. The Nelson Fellowship accepts applications every spring.
Each Nelson Fellow is assigned to an individual judge. Nelson Fellows attend trial with their judges and assist in office operations and court management. They also meet attorneys and officers from the Probation and Pretrial Services Office, the Federal Defenders Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The culmination of the Nelson Fellowship program is a mock trial.
The Lindsay Fellowship is for college students who are interested in legal careers. Nelson Fellow program graduates receive first preference, but other students are also considered.
For the first month, Lindsay Fellows are assigned to a judge and learn about various aspects of the court system. They attend a First Circuit Court of Appeals appellant argument, learn about the cases argued before the court, and meet with attorneys in both private and public practice. They also participate in an intensive legal research and writing program, taught by an instructor from a local law school. During the second month of the program, each Lindsay Fellow is assigned to either the U.S. Attorney's Office or the Federal Defender Program.
Lindsay Fellowship applications are due February 1.
Students shouldn't have to wait for Constitution Day or Law Day to learn about the legal system. If you know a Boston-area student with an interest in the law, tell him about the Nelson and Lindsay Fellowships.