Tipping the scales of justice

by Tom Morlan,

  • caylee campbell

Caylee Campbell JD’19 has been an advocate for positive change at home and abroad.

Caylee Campbell JD’19 is still a few days away from receiving her law degree, but she’s already made her presence felt as an advocate for justice.

Campbell taught law classes to teenage mothers at an alternative high school in Salem. She created resources for sexual assault survivors in southern Oregon. And she supported legislation to protect children from online pornography as a legal researcher in London.

Now she’s wrapping up an externship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland and eyeing a career prosecuting violent crimes, with a particular interest in child exploitation cases. It’s been a remarkable journey for Campbell, who never thought about pursuing a law degree until a college advisor urged her to consider it four years ago.

“I didn’t know I would go to law school,” Campbell said. “I’d always been interested in social justice issues, but I wasn’t sure how it would turn into a career. I’m so grateful I took that leap of faith.”

When the Billings, Montana, native arrived at Willamette’s College of Law in 2016, she jumped into service and never looked back. She spent three years directing Street Law, an alternative high school program aimed primarily at teen parents and early-college high school students in the Salem area. Students learn the basics of the legal system and wrap up their studies by participating in a mock trial at Willamette.

“It was a diverse group of students with radically different backgrounds,” Campbell said. “It was rewarding when we discussed custody issues — some of the young high school moms could apply what they’d learned to their everyday reality. They were invested.”

The summer after her first year, she worked with attorneys on business-related matters as a law clerk for Saalfeld Griggs PC in Salem. She also volunteered for the Victim Rights Law Center, creating information packets for sexual assault survivors who live in Jackson County, Oregon. The packets help survivors navigate the process of changing their names and/or genders on legal documents.

Campbell entered an entirely different realm during her second year of law school, spending five months in London as an extern for Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT-UK). She conducted extensive research on legislation aimed at minimizing childhood exposure to online pornography. Her work culminated in a report that will be published in the International Journal of the Jurisprudence of the Family.

“The United Kingdom is on the forefront of trying to tackle this harmful exposure problem, and I met a lot of people who were instrumental in bringing about that legislation,” Campbell said. “I got their honest assessment on the effectiveness of the legislation, and their observations were encompassed in the report I wrote.”

Campbell found out about the opportunity while she was working with Warren Binford, professor and director of the clinical law program, at Willamette’s Human Rights and Immigration Clinic.

“I never would have envisioned living in London for five months and writing a law review article,” Campbell said. “Professor Binford is the person who encouraged me to pursue the work that motivated me: stopping the exploitation of children. She connected me with ECPAT and made the externship possible.”

When she came back to the States, Campbell secured a position as a law clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland. Working in concert with assistant U.S. attorneys, she conducted legal research, drafted various motions and documents, and appeared in federal court. The experience inspired Campbell to pursue a career in public service law, ideally with the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I would love to end up working in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the DOJ,” Campbell said. “My interest in sexual assault and sex trafficking issues was the impetus for me going to law school. I want to make a meaningful difference in that area.”

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