Stacy Nuñez

The Project

Stacy will advocate for Los Angeles County’s secure track youth with disabilities to ensure their right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) through direct representation, education, and policy reform.

With the closure of the state-run Division of Juvenile Justice in California, over 800 secure track youth now depend on individual counties to house them, educate them, and provide them adequate programming. Secure track youth will be detained in county detention facilities for long periods of time, and advocates are still brainstorming how to ensure robust programming for these youth.

Secure track youth with disabilities will now depend on counties, such as Los Angeles County, to meet their needs. However, despite having a legal right to an appropriate education, detained students with disabilities in Los Angeles County rarely receive an appropriate education and related services.

Stacy’s passion for education equity motivates their commitment to ensuring every student’s right to an appropriate education that meets their needs.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, Stacy will represent secure track youth to address their individual FAPE violation claims. They will collaborate with other advocates, such as community-based organizations and formerly detained persons, to inform the development and implementation of Los Angeles County’s reimagined youth justice system. Additionally, they will develop a policy report discussing the issues impacting access to appropriate services for detained youth with disabilities.

Media

Greenberg Traurig Names its 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellows

An appropriate education has given me so many opportunities to lead a fulfilling life, and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life too.

Stacy Nuñez /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Zach (he/him/his) will create a national pro bono network to provide legal assistance for traumatically-injured military service members who are denied recovery benefits. He will engage in community lawyering and systemic advocacy to increase access to financial assistance for these service members.

Military service members recovering from traumatic injuries often incur significant financial expenses, requiring medical services, rehabilitation, and caregiving as they recover. Many turn to the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance Traumatic Injury Program (TSGLI) for aid, which was established by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide rapid, short-term financial assistance to these service members. However, applicants for TSGLI are frequently denied access to this benefit. Subsequently, traumatically injured service members are often left to pay for their recovery out of pocket, placing them at risk of incurring financial debt or falling into poverty.

Fellowship Plans

Through the National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP)’s Lawyers Serving Warriors® (LSW) program, Zach will create the first-of-its-kind national pro bono network for legal assistance with TSGLI claims and appeals. He will train pro bono attorneys on TSGLI claim representation, place claimants seeking assistance with these volunteers, and mentor pro bono advocates as they assist TSGLI claimants. Zach will also employ a community lawyering model to reach traumatically injured service members by conducting Know-Your-Rights presentations, developing educational resources on TSGLI applications, and hosting legal clinics for TSGLI claim assistance. He will also increase access to TSGLI benefits by using administrative and legislative avenues to engage in systemic advocacy.

As a survivor of trauma and a family member to six Army veterans, I know firsthand the difficulties of healing from trauma and how acute those difficulties can be for our nation’s veterans. That lived experience has motivated me to fight disabled poverty in traumatically injured servicemembers and empower them as they heal.

Zach Outzen /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Elizabeth (Lizzie) will provide education advocacy to children with disabilities in Austin, Texas. Here, she hopes to prevent and correct misplacement in segregated special education programs, disciplinary alternative education programs, and juvenile justice facilities.

Widespread systemic issues impacting the Austin Independent School District’s evaluation system resulted in delayed evaluations of thousands of students in violation of federal and state laws. This delay resulted in the misplacement of students with disabilities in segregated schools, disciplinary settings, and the juvenile justice system for unsupported disability-related behaviors. Children with disabilities are already overrepresented in these settings. What’s worse, the physical restraint of students, which is inherently traumatizing, is far more likely to happen in segregated behavior settings and to students who have disabilities. Moreover, under-resourced families are disproportionately represented in these systems, yet, are the least likely to reach out to protection and advocacy organizations for help.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Lizzie will provide direct representation and advocacy to students with disabilities at risk of and currently navigating the juvenile justice system and provide advocacy coaching to their families. She will use Disability Rights Texas’ protection and advocacy access authority to monitor segregated special education placements in the Austin area for compliance with federal disability laws and advocate for youth who have been misplaced in those settings to be returned to the regular school environment. Additionally, she will develop relationships with juvenile justice system actors and educators to locate children in need of legal services and promote a lasting reduction in misplacement of children with disabilities.

Lizzie is determined to better serve children with disabilities through a legal career in special education advocacy.

Media

Greenberg Traurig Names its 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellows

As a speech-language pathologist in the public school setting, I repeatedly encountered situations where children were not served appropriately due to areas of disability that were unidentified, and therefore, unsupported. I realized that my therapeutic training was ineffective if my students were barred from accessing it.

Elizabeth Allen /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Susan (she/her/hers) will advance economic justice for Minnesotans with disabilities by representing workers who receive subminimum wages and advocating for policies to implement the phase-out of the subminimum wage statewide.

Federal law authorizes certified employers to pay a subminimum wage to workers with disabilities. Most people receiving subminimum wages are employed in segregated settings and receive less than $4 an hour. Newly enacted legislation in Minnesota will phase out the subminimum wage for people with disabilities in the state by August 1, 2025. An estimated 10,000 Minnesotans with disabilities receive a subminimum wage; over the next three years, these workers will transition to integrated employment with fair wages.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Susan will represent workers with disabilities in cases concerning wage and hour violations and disability rights. Her work will focus on supporting workers in their transition to employment in integrated community settings with competitive wages. In addition to direct legal services, she will leverage the monitoring authority of the Protection and Advocacy System to ensure that employment providers are sufficiently working to transition workers with disabilities to employment opportunities with fair wages. Susan will also conduct community outreach and serve on a statewide task force to make recommendations to implement the phase-out of the subminimum wage in Minnesota.

My brother has intellectual disabilities and his experience with the disability services system catalyzed my commitment to advancing equity and integration in access to services and opportunities for all people with disabilities.

Susan Fleurant /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Maya strives to protect and advance the rights of incarcerated people with disabilities in Illinois who are denied access to transitional housing programs based on their disabilities.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) operates an ableist and classist parole system that keeps disabled people in prison past their release dates. Everyone sentenced to prison in the state is given a “mandatory supervised release” (MSR) date, at which point they are supposed to be placed in transitional housing to assist in their reentry. However, the IDOC largely contracts with housing programs that categorically deny entry to people with disabilities. Many programs refuse entry to people taking psychiatric medications, and the vast majority are not at all accessible to people who use mobility devices. Without such programs, disabled incarcerated people are left with an impossible choice: stop taking their medications or using mobility devices to increase their chances of getting into a housing program, or prioritize their health but risk spending extra time in prison because there is nowhere for them to go.

Fellowship Plans

Maya’s project will develop a class action lawsuit to ensure the Illinois Department of Corrections abides by the Americans with Disabilities Act when contracting with transitional housing providers. She will coordinate with local disability rights and reentry organizations, as well as system-impacted individuals, to establish an advisory committee that will guide all community organizing, litigation, and policy goals. Additionally, Maya will work closely with service providers to ensure disabled people returning home from prison receive support with housing, employment, and Social Security benefits.

As a Disabled person, I find power—and resilience—in advocating alongside members of my community to ensure disabled people never fall through the cracks. No one should have to hide their disability in order to get out of prison and into housing.

Maya Goldman /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Hetali (she/her/hers) will pilot a two-pronged approach to improving special education service delivery in North Carolina schools, combining direct representation of students and families with community-based lawyering strategies.

In North Carolina, close to 80% of students with disabilities are not performing at grade level in math or reading. The achievement gap for students of color with disabilities is twice that of their non-special education peers. These students also face the most significant barriers to accessing appropriate educational services during the pandemic and are at the greatest risk of continuing to fall –or be pushed– through the cracks. While a robust network of legal and advocacy organizations focused on K-12 students exists in North Carolina, most special education legal advocacy focuses on individual cases. Often, the remedies won send students right back into the schools and systems that failed them initially.

Fellowship Plans

Hetali will represent individual students and families in Wake, Durham, and Robeson Counties in matters related to special education testing, identification, and service delivery. She will also engage with community-based organizations in these three counties to support them in identifying, articulating, and executing goals related to serving special education students, using tools like listening sessions, community workshops, and collaborative problem-solving frameworks. By developing expertise regarding the special education landscape in just these counties, she will be able to better serve both individual and organizational clients in achieving their goals.

All children deserve schools where they feel safe, welcome, and able to develop and go after their dreams. I am honored to serve North Carolina students, families, and community organizations as we build power in pursuit of what our state constitution promises: a sound basic education for all.

Hetali Lodaya /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

As a Fellow with Disability Rights Louisiana, Sarah is focused on the specific needs of individuals with disabilities who have been affected by disasters. As part of her project, she will provide direct services to clients dealing with a wide variety of disaster-related issues. In addition to providing services to individual clients, Sarah will work with community members and other stakeholders to develop more equitable disaster resilience in New Orleans and Louisiana more broadly.

Many individuals with disabilities face unique challenges before, during, and after natural disasters, from navigating the logistics of evacuation to ensuring access to essential services and assistive technology. Those with disabilities often also face unique barriers in housing and employment as a result of COVID-19. By combining direct services work with community outreach and policy advocacy, Sarah’s project will allow her to address both the immediate needs of her clients and to contribute to work and advocacy attempting to deal with the broader systemic issues affecting her clients.

Fellowship Plans

Sarah’s work with queer community inspired her to go to law school and to pursue public interest work. She was in her first year of high school when Hurricane Katrina swept away most of her Mississippi town. In the aftermath, she witnessed her community struggle and work to rebuild itself. She hopes that her experience working with marginalized communities and her personal experience with natural disasters will help her to be a better advocate for her clients.

The Project

Kate will work to eliminate or mitigate barriers to critical programs, services, and housing for people with disabilities in Louisiana who have been adversely impacted by disasters.

In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, many Louisianans with disabilities are facing housing insecurity or eviction, being denied appropriate services or accommodations, or are facing discrimination based on their disabilities.

As a public defender, Kate witnessed her clients with disabilities get stuck in a revolving door of system-involvement as their basic needs remained ignored and their rights denied both inside and outside of the criminal legal system. This cycle was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly frequent and powerful storms that batter Louisiana, all of which multiplied the poverty and stress of my most vulnerable clients. The Disaster Resilience Program at Equal Justice Works gives Kate an opportunity to directly address the needs of Louisianans with disabilities in the wake of these disasters and to build resilience moving forward.

Fellowship Plans

While much of Kate’s work will be immediately serving those impacted by COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida, she will also focus on expanding stakeholder relationships and cultivating partnerships among the disaster legal community, service providers, and community social services providers. She will strategize, plan, and conduct training and outreach to communities and organizations to build disaster resilience moving forward. Kate will share information and resources for disaster survivors and attorneys supporting communities affected by disasters.

The Project

Sarah (she/her/hers) will evaluate North Carolina prisons to ascertain confinement conditions of people with mental illness and recommend a strategy to keep these individuals out of solitary confinement-like conditions.

North Carolina prisons have rates of serious mental illness nearly four times higher than the general population. Prison mental health treatment programs are insufficient to meet mental health needs, and even existing treatment options reportedly go under-utilized. Although solitary confinement harms mental health, people with mental illness are reportedly often placed into these units in violation of state policy. The exacerbation of mental illness in prison remains difficult to halt because advocates and legislators have limited information about what happens behind prison walls. Keeping people with mental illness out of harmful prison conditions requires a comprehensive knowledge of how prisons actually operate.

Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder as a teenager and recovered because she had privileged access to high-quality healthcare. After studying the systematic criminalization of mental illness, she became determined to expand quality care access to marginalized populations, particularly for people in prison who lack agency over care.

Fellowship Plans

Sarah will research and collect data firsthand on the mental health treatment and solitary confinement units in seven North Carolina prisons. She will then use empirical evidence to form recommendations for legal advocacy aimed at improving prison conditions for people with mental illness. Her project will culminate in a report and will give Disability Rights North Carolina a path forward in advocating for reform on these issues. Her findings will also be utilized by partner organizations and the state government.

Media

An Advocate for Mental Health

A person’s opportunity to recover from disease is a human right that should not be impeded by prison walls.

Sarah Hoffman /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Leveraging the expertise of Prison Law Office, A.D. (he/him/his and they/them/theirs) will advocate alongside incarcerated and detained trans people with disabilities in jails. His work will challenge harmful and discriminatory conditions of confinement.

Trans people (including transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary individuals) experience significant discrimination, mistreatment, and violence in California prisons, jails, immigration detention centers, and psychiatric facilities, including sexual and physical violence, solitary confinement, inadequate mental health and medical care, harassment, and denials of fundamental self-expression. These deplorable conditions make locked facilities uniquely disabling for trans people. They cause high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and other mental health conditions, and exacerbate trans individuals’ existing mental health conditions. By focusing on marginalized and underserved trans people, this project will challenge the structural barriers that trans people with disabilities face when seeking justice, fair treatment, and adequate care.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, A.D. has:

  • Provided brief service, referrals, and legal advice to hundreds of individuals, including 68 in person visits, 18 video visits, 88 phone calls and 145 letters, and distributed hundreds of resources.
  • Leveraged structured negotiations and litigation to secure strong protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in multiple County jails
  • Testified to the State Legislature about County Jail conditions
  • Developed and provided trainings and presentations on the intersections of disability justice, trans liberation, and abolition

Next Steps

In the next year, A.D. plans to:

  • Expand the project into other types of locked facilities
  • Develop Know Your Rights packets and other resources for incarcerated individuals
  • Work with sponsors and community organizations to increase the project’s pro bono capacity

Media

Celebrating the 2021 Fellows Upholding LGBTQ+ Rights

As a trans lawyer, I will fight for the most marginalized people in my community. They deserve fierce legal advocacy and caring community.

A.D. Lewis /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow