Justice Franklin D. Cleckley Fellowship

About The Fellowship

“There could be no more appropriate homage to Frank than to name an undertaking in a project that is devoted to and dedicated to pursuing justice and undoing injustice.” —Robert M. Bastress, John W. Fisher II Professor of Law at WVU College of Law

The Justice Franklin D. Cleckley Fellowship is a two-year position with the West Virginia Innocence Project. The fellowship is a partnership between the WVU College of Law and the University of Chicago Law School. Through the fellowship, a recent University of Chicago Law School graduate committed to serving the public interest has the opportunity to represent indigent prisoners wrongfully convicted of crimes. Under the supervision of the WVIP’s director, the Fellow litigates claims of actual innocence in state and federal courts. The Fellow also assists with the screening and selection of cases, the supervision of WVIP students, and outreach to the West Virginia legal community. In addition, the Fellow has the opportunity to produce legal scholarship and participate in the intellectual life of WVU College of Law.

Past Fellows

Kristen McKeon was the WVIP’s first Cleckley Fellow. She served as the Cleckley Fellow from 2012-2014. She was instrumental in getting the fellowship and the West Virginia Innocence Project off the ground.

Italia Patti served as the Franklin D. Cleckley Fellow from 2014-2016. Italia litigated on behalf of Orville Hutton to establish coram nobis as a remedy in criminal cases in West Virginia. She also obtained a post-conviction hearing for client Tasha Shelby. Finally, Italia led WVU Law’s Clemency Initiative, working with Clemency Project 2014 to submit petition on behalf of non-violent offenders serving life sentences for low-level drug offenses. In Spring 2016, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of three of her clients, granting them clemency.

The 2016–2018 Cleckley Fellow was Nathan Maxwell. Nathan received his B.S. in Human Health from Arizona State University in 2008, then worked in non-profit organizations for five years before obtaining his J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2016.

During law school, Nathan participated in the Mandel Legal Aid Clinic’s Exoneration Project, the International Human Rights Clinic, and the International Refugee Assistance Project. Nathan also interned with several public interest organizations—including the ACLU Capital Punishment Project, ACLU of Illinois, and the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center —and completed over 500 hours of pro bono work during his law school career. He also worked as a summer intern for Loevy & Loevy, a pre-eminent civil rights litigation firm in Chicago, where he worked on cases involving police misconduct, prisoners’ rights, prison health care administration, the False Claims Act, and employment discrimination. Nathan received the 2015 2L Public Service Award, the 2015 Norval Morris Public Interest Fellowship, and the 2016 James C. Hormel Public Service Award.

While attending law school, Nathan also completed a graduate certificate from the Graduate Program in Health Administration and Policy from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Through this program, Nathan worked as a research assistant in the Center for Interdisciplinary Inquiry and Innovation in Sexual and Reproductive Health (Ci3) at the University of Chicago, and he was named both the 2014–2015 Ray E. Brown Fellow, and the 2015–2016 Arthur Quern Fellow.

Nathan is currently a judicial law clerk in the Eastern District of Michigan (2018–2019), and he will be clerking again in the Northern District of Georgia (2019–2021).

2018-20 Fellow: Hope DeLap


The most recent Cleckley Fellow was Hope DeLap from San Diego, California. She received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 2018. In 2015, she graduated summa cum laude from The University of California, Irvine with her B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society.

During college, Hope interned for The Justice Policy Institute in Washington, DC, where she collected correctional data and crime statistics for inclusion in impending Justice Policy reports and wrote opinion pieces for the organization’s Just Policy Blog. She also completed mediation training and mediated small claims, civil harassment, and judgment debtor cases in the Orange County courts through an internship with Community Service Programs’ Dispute Resolution Services.

In law school, Hope was a judicial extern for the Honorable John Z. Lee of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Hope also worked as a summer intern for Loevy & Loevy, a civil rights litigation firm in Chicago, where she worked on cases involving police misconduct and prisoners’ rights and drafted two civil wrongful conviction complaints. Hope was a staff member on the Chicago Journal of International Law. Additionally, Hope served as a member of the Independent Review Committee for the University of Chicago Police Department.

During her time at the law school, Hope completed the Pro Bono Pledge. Many of those pro bono hours came from her work as a clinical student in the Exoneration Project. Hope appreciates the opportunity to continue to represent wrongfully convicted persons in West Virginia and is proud to pursue justice in a position named in honor of Justice Franklin D. Cleckley.