By: Alexis Stallard, Editor-In-Chief
Two recent Newman alumnae are creating names for themselves in the field of law through their several recent accomplishments and awards.
D.C. Hiegert, a 2018 Newman graduate who also attended the University of Kansas School of Law, has been working as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union since August 2022 after being awarded the Skadden Fellowship. The fellowship is given to 28 young lawyers across the nation and allows them to pursue careers that address the civil and legal needs of people living in poverty.
To apply for the scholarship, an applicant must first find a host company or organization that is willing to partner with them for the duration of the two-year fellowship. Then, the applicant must design a proposal and be selected for an interview.
Hiegert said they were wanting to take their career in the direction of being an LGBTQ+ advocate and began looking for a group that would align with those goals. Hiegert is being sponsored by the ACLU, an organization that advocates for marginalized or under-represented groups.
“The ACLU of Kansas and I partnered to create a project proposal focused on enforcing, strengthening and expanding LGBTQ+ Kansans’ legal protections and increasing awareness of those protections,” Hiegert said.
The fellowship is designed to cover the salary and benefits of the recipient, allowing them to work in areas of public interest without concern for money.
Since beginning their fellowship, Hiegert said, they have advocated for the rights of transgender high school students in Kansas, fought against censorship in public libraries, created resources and given presentations to educate those in the LGBTQ+ community about their rights, and fought anti-transgender legislation in the Kansas legislature.
“LGBTQ+ Kansans are everywhere, and we deserve to live full and authentic lives without facing discrimination or fear of attacks from our government or community,” Hiegert said.
Hiegert said that their time at Newman drove a lot of their decisions to become an LGBTQ+ advocate. While at Newman, they began Kaleidoscope, a club for the LGBTQ+ members of the Newman community.
“Even though I had to face some difficulties running Kaleidoscope, I also had the opportunity to learn what it meant to build community and really began to understand the power of people and moving with love,” Hiegert said.
Another Newman alumni, Courtney Klaus, is also beginning her rise in the world of law before her graduation from Notre Dame law school in May. Klaus, a 2020 Newman graduate, had the opportunity to give an oral argument in front of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett as well as in front of judges from the 7th and 11th circuit courts on Feb. 6.
Klaus’s oral argument was part of an event put on each year at Notre Dame where third-year law students on the Moot Court Board are selected to argue a specific angle of a case. This year, the case was regarding the firing of a teacher from a private Catholic school. Klaus was arguing on the side of the teacher, who was claiming the firing violated anti-discrimination laws.
The showcase happens in front of the whole school, and the students chosen are allowed to invite and fly in their families. Klaus is the daughter of J.T. Klaus, the chair of the Newman University Board of Trustees.
“It was exciting to be able to invite my dad to come watch me argue,” Klaus said. “I got a lot of positive feedback…It’s not every day that a Supreme Court Justice tells you that you have a good presence.”
Klaus has recently had more than one experience with a Supreme Court Justice this year. She also served as the moderator of a Q&A session when Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh visited Notre Dame law school on Jan. 23. Kavanaugh was there as a keynote speaker for the administrative law symposium that Klaus had organized.
Klaus was also recently published in the Notre Dame Law Review for her article on freedom of speech for high school students on social media.
“It can be difficult to get published,” Klaus said. “Between six and eight students in a class each year get asked to publish a piece.”
As for her future career, Klaus said, once she’s graduated and passed the bar exam, she will begin practicing law in Kansas City at Polsinelli Law Firm.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo, Courtney Klaus