2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Mani Nezami

Mani Nezami

Name of Host Organization: Earl Carl Institute
City, State: Houston, Texas
Issue area: Children/Youth, Criminal Law
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig, LLP; Texas Access to Justice Foundation

The Project

Mani addressed the issue of disproportionate minority contact through a holistic approach by providing legal representation to children who are in the criminal justice system, the mental health system and the foster care system.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Mani’s project allowed an attorney to provide wrap-around legal services to children in foster care, rather than having several attorneys represent one child for various legal issues. This was a new approach to dealing with the significant overlap of involvement that individual foster care youths face in numerous legal systems, like the criminal justice, child welfare, health care, and educational systems. By allowing an attorney to become familiar with the child and their needs, they were able to successfully advocate for the child. Additionally, the project worked with various foster care organizations to provide trainings for foster care parents.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Mani has:
• Provided direct representation in school disciplinary, special education, and criminal proceedings for over 63 clients.
• Testified before the committees of both chambers of the Texas Legislature and worked to help pass a bill decriminalizing school truancy.
• Developed a collaboration with the Randall O. Sorrels Legal Clinic at South Texas College of Law, through which he provided legal assistance to transition-age youth who are in Child Protective Services’ (CPS) care and need assistance in criminal matters
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Mani plans to:
• Continue providing holistic representation to youth who are in multiple systems through his host organization, The Earl Carl Institute For Legal and Social Policy, Inc.

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