PUBLISHED:June 07, 2023

CLEA Awards recognize two graduates for outstanding clinic and externship work


Amanda Joos ’23 and Marie Cepeda Mekosh ’23 received awards for their work as student-attorneys in Duke’s Civil Justice Clinic and United States Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, respectively.

Marie Cepeda Mekosh ’23
Marie Cepeda Mekosh ’23

Two Duke Law graduates have been selected by Duke Law School’s clinical faculty and Clinical Professor Anne Gordon, director of externships, to receive awards from the Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA). The national association of clinical law faculty presented Amanda Joos ’23 with the Outstanding Clinic Student Award and Marie Cepeda Mekosh ’23 with the Outstanding Externship Student Award.

While at Duke Law, Joos completed more than 1,000 hours of service, working extensively with the Civil Justice Clinic and coordinating its COVID-19 Eviction Advice Clinic to help Durham residents and tenants during the pandemic.

“Working with the Duke Civil Justice Clinic empowered me to do good in a way that was beyond my wildest dreams when I started volunteering with the clinic in December 2020,” Joos said. “There’s nothing more gratifying than walking into court and stopping someone from losing their home or fighting false allegations in our licensing cases, and the impact we make is so measurable.”

With the clinic, Joos appeared in three trials and argued three dispositive motions. She also participated in numerous pro bono projects, including the Fair Chance Project, Health Care Planning Project, Lawyer on the Line, and Veterans Assistance Project. Joos received the Duke University Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, Duke Bar Association's Richard Lin Service Above Self Award, Dean’s Award in Ethics, and Pro Bono All-Star Award.

“There is hard work, then there are machines, then there is Amanda Joos,” said Clinical Professor Jesse McCoy, supervising attorney for the Civil Justice Clinic. “She has completed two semesters and a winter session of the Civil Justice Clinic, subjecting herself to client calls and messages while balancing her schoolwork and has presented stellar quality work.”

Joos said, “I’ve had two incredible mentors in Professor [Charles] Holton and Professor McCoy, and they are both truly inspirational litigators.”

Cepeda Mekosh completed an externship at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh, earning high praise for her work on a brief and performance during oral arguments before the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. She argued on behalf of the government in Joseph Randolph Mays v. T.B. Smith as part of a spring externship in the appellate division.

“Arguing before a federal circuit court is something I dreamed of doing, but I never expected to be able to meet that goal while still in law school,” Cepeda Mekosh said. “I am so grateful to my colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the incredible opportunities I have had during my externship, as well as the invaluable feedback and guidance that will make me a more effective lawyer in the future.”

“Marie did a phenomenal job at the Fourth Circuit,” said Paige O’Hale, Deputy Chief of the Civil Division. “[She] worked incredibly hard for the USAO this year and we really appreciate her contributions to our office.”

Professor Charles Holton and Amanda Joos '23
Professor Charles Holton and Amanda Joos '23

At Duke Law, Cepeda Mekosh participated in the Children’s Law Clinic, Duke Immigrant and Refugee Project, and Innocence Project. She served as staff editor of the Duke Law Journal and president of the Human Rights Law Society, and in January 2021 won the Dean’s Award in Civil Procedure.

Clinical Professor Peggy Nicholson, supervising attorney for the Children’s Law Clinic, said, “Marie co-authored an amicus brief that provided critical information to the court on an important school discipline issue. Although Marie knew little about the issue prior to the semester’s start, she conducted comprehensive research and, within weeks, co-authored an excellent brief that garnered the approval of the many seasoned education advocates who signed on.”

Cepeda Mekosh, who received a Public Interest and Public Service Law Certificate at graduation, was also a legal intern at the ACLU of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in summer 2022 and in the Domestic Violence and Family Law Unit of Legal Aid of North Carolina in summer 2021.

Previous recipients of the CLEA Awards include Outstanding Clinic Student Award recipient Emma Wellbaum JD/MEM’21; Outstanding Externship Student Award recipients Zack Kaplan ’21 and Kailey Morgan ’22; and Outstanding Clinic Team Award recipients Andrew Barsom JD/LLM’22 and Jo Un Eom JD/LLM’22.

The CLEA Awards acknowledge excellence in the field work component of the clinical/externship course determined by the quality of the student’s or team’s performance in assisting or representing individual or organizational clients or in undertaking advocacy or policy reform projects. The awards note excellence in the seminar component of the clinic course or externship determined by the quality of the student’s or team’s thoughtfulness and self-reflection in exploring the legal, ethical, strategic, and other pertinent issues raised in the particular clinic or externship.