Denise Wager | November 3, 2017
Erika Gustin, 2L, was nominated to receive the 2017 PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award for her work on Notre Dame Law School’s Exoneration Project. The award recognizes the significant contributions that law students make to underserved populations, the public interest community, and legal education by performing pro bono work.
PSJD is the public service jobs directory initiative of the National Association for Law Placement. There are over 180 member schools and each could nominate two students. Gustin was one of eight finalists.
Gustin has been instrumental in reactivating the Exoneration Project at NDLS, a student-run organization that assists with investigating and petitioning courts to reverse wrongful convictions. Previously called the Innocence Project Club, the organization was revitalized earlier this year by Gustin and four other NDLS students.
The main reason Gustin is pursuing the Exoneration Project is that she feels it just needs to be done. “I am in a position to do this and get the ball rolling at NDLS,” she said.
Her interest in wrongful convictions actually started many years ago before she ever thought of attending law school.
“I started looking into wrongful conviction research and the flaws that are built into our judicial system,” Gustin said. “I became aware of the disproportionate incarceration rates of minorities, our overreliance on things like the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, and the unacceptably high number of wrongful convictions and arrests.”