2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Alicia LeVezu

Alicia LeVezu

City, State: Seattle, Washington
Issue area: Children/Youth, Civil Rights/Civil Liberties
Sponsors: Intellectual Ventures; Perkins Coie LLP

The Project

Alicia improved access to legal representation to youth in the child welfare system in Washington State through filing Motions for Appointment of Counsel, monitoring court processes, and multi-forum advocacy.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
When a child is removed from home due to abuse or neglect, decisions about where she will live, the services she will receive, and the family relationships she can maintain are determined by judges in a courtroom. In this situation, an attorney can advocate for the desires of a child, whether those desires are to remain with her parents, to maintain sibling contact, or to receive services for her educational and mental health needs. Attorneys protect a youth’s legal interests and give youth a voice in the decisions that are being made about their lives. However, in Washington State, children in foster care are not universally appointed legal counsel.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Alicia has:
• Given 26 community education presentations on the legal rights of foster children and the role of a child’s attorney
• Consulted with over 45 foster parents, service providers, attorneys and children interested in requesting an attorney for the child in their cases.
• Drafted fourteen Motions for Appointment of Counsel for foster youth across Washington State, with four of appellate motions pending in the Washington State Court of Appeals.
• Co-drafted an amicus curaie brief for the Washington State Supreme Court regarding the rights of foster children and the need for foster children to be represented by counsel.
• Collected data on the unique policies for appointing attorneys for children in each of Washington’s counties, demonstrating that a child’s access to justice is often restricted by their age and by their geographic location in the state.
• Produced template Motions for Appointment of Counsel for use by attorneys across the state.
• Collected and shared stories of successful children’s representation in a final report titled, Defending Our Children: A Child’s Access to Justice in Washington State, which was featured in the Seattle Times alongside a feature by the entire editorial board calling for a legislative change to grant all Washington foster children attorneys.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Alicia plans to:
• Continue to fight for the rights of children and advocate for the needs of neglected and abused youth

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