The Clifton Clerkship Program, named for Judge William C. Clifton, Sr., was established in January and is designed to attract talented, underrepresented law students to careers in public service and is advancing as scheduled despite COVID-19 challenges
PROVIDENCE, RI – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, together with Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson and retired Superior Court Judge Edward C. Clifton, recently held a virtual kickoff meeting to welcome the three law students who were selected for the first William C. Clifton, Sr. Clerkship Program at the Office of the Attorney General. Due to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis, the Office is conducting this new program, as well as the annual summer legal internship program, remotely.
"The Clifton Clerkship and our summer internship programs are important initiatives that provide real opportunities for law students who might not have considered working in the Attorney General's Office to get on-the-job experience in public service," said Attorney General Neronha. "We are investing in a pipeline to build our future workforce, and our Office benefits from a talented and diverse group of students who bring new viewpoints and approaches to this work. Just like Judge William C. Clifton, Sr., we fight for what is best for the people of Rhode Island. Our clerks and interns share that principle."
"My husband believed that the job of the Attorney General is to seek justice," said Judge Thompson, widow of Judge William C. Clifton, Sr. "I believe this program is a wonderful opportunity for these students to have input into the criminal and civil justice system and to see what they can do to really make it an instrument of justice."
Retired Judge Edward C. Clifton, William C. Clifton Sr.'s brother, agreed. "My brother was a fighter. What these students are all doing is so vital – they come to this place with a different perspective. They can put that perspective into their work here."
The three Clifton Clerks in the inaugural program are:
• Carla Aveledo – a first-year law student at Roger Williams University Law School from Venezuela who grew up in Jamestown. • Laura Caro Ruiz – a first-year law student at Boston College Law School from Providence. • Mario McClain, Jr. – second-year law student at Roger Williams University Law School from Providence.
During the virtual kickoff meeting, the Clifton Clerks shared their backgrounds, paths to law school, and reasons for seeking the Clerkship. "Growing up, I don't think I ever saw a lawyer who looked like me. I never thought becoming a lawyer was a real possibility," said McClain, Jr.
In addition to the three Clifton Clerks, 14 first- and second-year law students are participating in the office's Summer Legal Internship Program. The office was also recently awarded, for the first time, a summer legal fellow through the American Bar Association's Janet D. Steiger Fellowship Project, who will focus on consumer protection issues. Between the summer legal programs, nearly 140 law students from around 40 different law schools applied for the 17 summer positions.
About the Clifton Clerkship Program
Named for Judge William C. Clifton, Sr., the first African American Special Assistant Attorney General in the Attorney General's Office, the Clifton Clerkship Program provides first- and second-year law students from historically underrepresented populations with the opportunity to spend the summer working on substantive legal matters while building valuable career experience. The William C. Clifton, Sr. Clerkship Program is open to all qualified applicants but is designed to provide qualified members of diverse groups and persons with disabilities with summer opportunities in the Attorney General's Office.
Over the 10-week, full-time program, law students will split their time between the Office's Criminal and Civil Divisions and receive legal assignments in their areas of interest. The students will also have the unique opportunity to remain engaged with Judges Thompson and Clifton throughout the summer. Students in the program will also be assigned a mentor and attend educational and networking events to help them gain exposure to, and build relationships with, members of the legal community. While events may be virtual at first, the Office will continue to assess whether in-person opportunities can be made available later in the summer.
About Judge William C. Clifton, Sr.
During his life and career, the Honorable William C. Clifton, Sr. reached the highest and most esteemed echelons of the legal profession, while maintaining a steadfast commitment to public service, community, and family. He overcame poverty, segregation, and other barriers to forge a path of success for himself and others. In 1974, he became the Office of the Attorney General's first African American Special Assistant Attorney General. His diverse and remarkable legal career culminated in his appointment to the Rhode Island District Court in 2004.
Throughout, Judge Clifton always found time to give, serving on numerous public and non-profit boards and committees, mentoring and inspiring young people, and focusing on time with a loving family who shared his passion and commitment for service and community.