Scholar for Justice receives post-graduate fellowship

One of the law school's first Scholars for Justice is also the first student this year to win a post-graduate fellowship to complete a public interest project.

Persis Yu '09 received the two-year Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellowship, awarded to a talented, committed law school graduate at the beginning of her or his career in the area of poverty law. She will begin working at the Empire Justice Center in Rochester, N.Y., in September.

The goal of the fellowship is to increase legal advocacy for Greater Rochester's poor people in high priority areas that are currently underserved. Yu, who has been interested in credit reporting and authored a note as a staffer for the Seattle Journal for Social Justice on the issue, proposed a project to pursue litigation and advocacy work to address inaccuracies, misuse and bias in the credit reporting system. She will work on consumer protection cases, develop a clinic to address fair credit reporting issues and pursue impact litigation and legislation.

Yu is thrilled that she received a fellowship doing exactly the type of work she wanted to do. She says credit reporting is biased against those with low incomes and hurts people who are applying for jobs or seeking insurance as more and more companies use credit reports in making decisions. Having a mortgage boosts your score, for instance, while paying your rent on time doesn't get reported. Student loans are considered "good debt" while other loans can lower a score. Many times, those with the most problems on their reports have limited help in getting inaccuracies corrected.

"The original idea was to determine if people qualify for mortgages and credit cards, but it's gone so far beyond that," Yu said. "It wasn't supposed to be used to determine whether someone is going to get sick or get in an accident."

Yu came to law school after being a social worker and earning a master's in social work. She worked to create legislation on children's issues including child care, foster care and Children and Family Services. She has done direct service work for Child Care Resources, working with families to find child care, specifically homeless families and those who were trying to get off public assistance.

It's so valuable to have the people here who have connections to what I want to do. SU was recommended to me for its social justice programs, and I see the commitment to justice. The law school has events through the year that feed your soul and help me see the ways I can contribute as a lawyer.

Persis Yu
Class of 2009