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Melissa Padilla

Melissa Padilla

Legal Fellow

Prior to joining Student Defense, Melissa worked with the LGBTQ, Gender, & Reproductive Justice Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. In that role, she supported the team with appellate and class action litigation to combat gender-based discrimination in employment and in housing services for the unhoused. Melissa also served as a Senior Law Clerk at Equals Rights Advocates (ERA) where she provided direct services to pro bono clients regarding Title VII and Title IX enforcement.

Throughout law school, Melissa also gained invaluable impact litigation and advocacy skills while working with international human rights non-profit organizations, including Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Landesa, and EQUIS: Justicia para las Mujeres. In her various roles, Melissa advocated for the rights of indigenous human rights defenders in Guatemala, the rights of transgender activists in Honduras, and the rights of victims of femicide in Mexico through the Inter-American System of Human Rights. In 2021, Melissa also developed inclusive policy recommendations to advance women's land rights in Ethiopia through Landesa's Stand For Her Land Campaign. 

Melissa graduated Cum Laude from the University of San Diego School of Law with a concentration in International Law and with a high honor pro bono distinction. While at USD Law, Melissa also served as the Managing Articles Editor for the San Diego International Law Journal (SDILJ). Melissa graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of San Diego with a B.A. in Political Science.