The Journey So Far

by Laura Zwicker

Imagine being able to walk out your front door and reach the gates of the White House within minutes. At every corner, there is another historic monument, another important center of international politics and commerce. An evening stroll down the block effortlessly leads you into the heart of our capital and all of its associated pageantry, bureaucracy, and humidity.

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I have only been in Washington DC for a mere month, but I have already seen, experienced, and been exposed to opportunities beyond what I could have imagined. It is nothing like I thought it would be, more than I could have hoped for, and will undoubtedly steer the course of my life for the foreseeable future.

tGEMc3-20170713_134635 The National Whistleblower Center HQ

I am interning at the National Whistleblower Center, the nation’s leading whistleblower advocacy group, and its associated law firm, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP, which specializes in employment law and the protection of whistleblowers. I have been inspired by the passion my colleagues have for advocating for this vulnerable group in our society. I now very much wish to start my own law firm and NGO dedicated to the causes I care most about.

The NWC is primarily concerned right now with ending wildlife trafficking and representing the brave individuals who have helped to take down wildlife trafficking rings often at great risk to their jobs and even their lives. My fellow interns and I have spent all summer helping the NWC to partner with local wildlife NGOs in Latin America to educate their communities about the protections and opportunities available to them if they assist law enforcement.

Another major project for the NWC this summer is National Whistleblower Day on Thursday July 27th. On that same date in 1778, our Founding Fathers unanimously passed America’s first Whistleblower Protection Law. Starting in 2015, Congress has passed unanimous resolutions to hold a congressional celebration to honor whistleblowers every year.

For this year’s celebration, guest speakers include Senator Chuck Grassley, Senior Senator from Iowa and Co-Chair of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Senator Ron Wyden, Senior Senator from Oregon and Co-Chair of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Congresswoman Kathleen Rice of New York, Co-Chair of the House Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Congressman Rod Blum of Iowa, Co-Chair of the House Whistleblower Protection Caucus, Enron Whistleblower Sherron Watkins, Swiss Banking Whistleblower Bradley C. Birkenfeld, FBI Whistleblowers Frederick Whitehurst and Jane Turner, and Special Counsel presidential nominee Henry Kerner. I have been charged with organizing all of the volunteers for the event as well as coordinating the special meet-and-greet with Mr. Kerner.

Another very exciting opportunity came in the form of a totally unexpected surprise for both myself as well as the NWC. The Supreme Court just announced that it will hear a very important case concerning whistleblower law this upcoming term. We are now all contributing to an amicus brief, and the interns all get to assist! I have already completed my first legal research assignment and am currently working on two more projects because Mr. Kohn was so pleased with my work! The case is Digital Realty Trust v. Somers, and it concerns whether “the anti-retaliation provision for ‘whistleblowers’ in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 extends to individuals who have not reported alleged misconduct to the Securities and Exchange Commission and thus fall outside the act’s definition of ‘whistleblower.’” (http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/digital-realty-trust-inc-v-somers/)

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Fourth of July Fireworks

Yet despite all of these amazing opportunities, the real joy of my time here has been growing closer to my fellow Dale Ride interns: Micca, Dane, Tamara, and Stephany. They have supported, encouraged, and inspired me every step of the way. Many of the other interns that I have met while here come to DC alone and without any support from their university. SMC is truly unique in the opportunities the Dale Ride program provides to its students, and I am so grateful to be taking part in this amazing journey.

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