Robin Runge

 The Project

During the Fellowship, Robin advocated for the employment rights of victims of domestic violence. 

Survivors of domestic and sexual violence make up a large percentage of the workforce and experience barriers to obtaining and maintaining employment. At the same time, economic security is a primary barrier to leaving abusive relationships. This project addressed this need by providing direct representation, education and awareness, and policy advocacy on the employment rights of survivors of domestic violence.  

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Robin:

  • Successfully built coalitions that drafted and advocated for passage of three California laws expanding employment protections for victims of domestic violence: (1) clarifying access to unemployment insurance; (2) requiring employers to provide unpaid job guaranteed leave from work to survivors to attend court proceedings related to seeking safety, heal from injuries and relocate; (3) expanding the purposes for taking this leave.
  • Brought landmark case that established that a psychological injury or illness caused by domestic violence may qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act requiring an accommodation and related protections from discrimination an retaliation.
  • Developed know your rights fact sheets on the employment rights of survivors and had them translated into 7 languages.
  • Conducted know your rights trainings for hundreds of survivors, service providers and allied service providers throughout California.
  • Received national federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women at the U.S. Department of Justice to provide support and technical assistance to advocates and lawyers nationally on the employment rights of survivors. 

Next Steps

Robin is now

The Project

Oscar (he/him/his) will focus on attaining safety for low-income immigrant survivors of violence in the Coastal Bend by conducting outreach and through direct legal representation centered on preventing international child abduction.

Recently the number of Spanish-speaking immigrants in the suburban and rural areas of the Coastal Bend in Texas has increased. Many of these immigrants are families who experienced violence in their home country, migrated to the US in search of safety, and now face criminal complaints filed by the abusive partner left behind. Others are victims or subject to threats of abduction of their children by abusive parents. Due to language barriers and the lack of information about legal remedies, many have limited access to justice, making them extremely vulnerable to these abuses that disproportionately harm immigrant communities and their children.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Oscar will provide legal services in English and Spanish to immigrants facing violence, focusing on obtaining protective orders, custody, divorce, and, ultimately, litigating international children abduction cases. He will also educate immigrant communities and partner agencies about remedies specifically available for immigrant violence survivors. Finally, Oscar will build community partnerships to develop and disseminate resources to immigrant survivors of abuse.

Oscar’s experience as a child, his family roots divided between Mexico and the US, and a double law degree in Mexico and the United States inspired him to seek justice for those whose lives and family ties transcend borders.

Having experienced as a kid the angst of abruptly moving to another country due to domestic disputes between my parents, and as a Mexican marked by both sides of the border, I am honored and eager to help bring relief to those families and children who embark on transnational odysseys in search of safety.

Oscar Emilio Alfaro Albarran /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Elissa (she/her/hers) will increase access to writ review for low-income domestic violence survivors facing harmful orders that lack adequate remedies through direct representation, resource development, and community partnerships.

Survivors of domestic violence use the civil court system to request legal orders (such as writ petitions) that can improve their safety and security. However, when reviewing these requests, judges can misunderstand the law, choose to misapply the law, or fall prey to biases. This leaves survivors to deal with the effects of dangerous legal decisions and a lack of protection. Survivors need appellate level intervention to challenge harmful orders—and they often need it immediately, as they are unable to wait years for a direct appeal. Therefore, the necessary remedy is a writ petition, but writ review for domestic violence survivors is an underdeveloped area of law and largely inaccessible.

Elissa’s personal and professional experience with survivor advocacy motivates her to ensure survivors have meaningful choices through the law.

Fellowship Plans

Elissa will advocate for the improved safety and well-being of domestic violence survivors by making writs an alternative and more feasible appellate remedy. Elissa will design a screening, assessment, and direct representation framework for writ cases, expanding on the Family Violence Appellate Project’s successful model for direct appeals. She will then use that framework and her case outcomes to develop and distribute external resources to advocates and survivors across California. At every stage, Elissa will collaborate with community partners to ensure the effectiveness and accessibility of her project.

Media

Greenberg Traurig Sponsors Record 201st Equal Justice Works Fellow

I grew up supporting survivors because they are my family, my friends, and my loved ones. This project allows me to continue that advocacy by developing tools and offering support for survivors to empower themselves in the legal system.

Elissa Gray /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Marissa (she/her/hers) will provide holistic custody law support to survivors of domestic violence to keep custody of their children through direct representation, pro se assistance, and community education.

Parents caught between the child welfare and custody court systems who are survivors of domestic violence are at an increased risk of losing custody of their children to an abuser who can weaponize prior child welfare involvement against them. Most often, the parents impacted are low-income Black or Brown parents. Survivors face an uphill battle in custody court. Without guaranteed representation, parents face many challenges, such as the impacts of trauma, the stress of facing their abusers in court, and, most importantly, the fear of losing their children.

The revictimization and penalization of survivors of domestic abuse in the family court system drive Marissa’s work for change. Throughout her years serving in the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, countless parents made clear the need for trauma-informed legal support.

Fellowship Plans

Marissa will work to bridge the gap in legal services for parents navigating the custody court system after involvement in the child welfare court system. Marissa will provide trauma and systems-informed legal representation to survivors in custody court and strengthen relationships with parent defense organizations to facilitate referrals for parents involved in child welfare court. She will also collaborate with community organizations to educate and empower parents to navigate custody court against their abusers.

Through empowering Philadelphia parents to address the impacts of domestic violence on their families in custody court, I hope to help survivors protect their children and break from cycles of abuse.

Marissa Schwartz /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Tara (she/her/hers) will work at the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence by representing clients in Washington D.C. in Civil Protection Order, Extreme Risk Protection Order, and family law matters.

In 2019, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted legislation that created a new form of protection order aimed at gun violence: the Extreme Risk Protection Order. Like most “red flag” laws, this measure permits law enforcement to seek a restraining order against an individual who would be a danger to themselves or others if they possess or purchase firearms. However, these orders have been extremely underutilized, and fewer than 30 have ever been filed. This is compounded by the fact that there is also a massive shortage of services available for survivors in both Civil Protection Order and family law cases in Washington D.C. in general.

Fellowship Plans

Tara’s project will focus on representing survivors who have suffered gun violence or were threatened by gun violence. Her representation will focus on Civil Protection Order and Extreme Risk Protection Order cases; however, she will also provide representation in a limited number of family law cases where a child custody order or divorce decree would provide continued stability and violence prevention. Additionally, Tara will provide know-your-rights presentations and work with the DC Volunteer Lawyer’s Project’s community partners to educate the community about the availability of Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

The Project

Corina’s (she/her/hers) project will provide post-conviction legal services and legislative advocacy on behalf of incarcerated survivors of domestic violence who are eligible for resentencing or a new trial in New York state.

In 2019, New York passed the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), which recognizes domestic violence as a mitigating factor in certain criminal cases and allows eligible incarcerated survivors of domestic violence to apply for resentencing. Unfortunately, prohibitively high evidentiary standards have prevented survivors from obtaining the relief intended by the law. The legislation must be amended, but in the interim an alternate avenue of relief has emerged: reinvestigation of cases frequently reveals wrongful conviction issues, such as ineffective assistance of counsel.

Corina’s commitment to challenging gender-based violence and mass incarceration motivates her to secure tangible relief for system-involved survivors of domestic violence through both direct representation and policy advocacy.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Corina will bring ineffective assistance of counsel claims on behalf of survivors of domestic violence. She will also advocate for amendments to the DVSJA to eliminate the needless procedural barriers that bar clients from obtaining the relief the legislature intended to provide. Additionally, Corina will develop a comprehensive body of post-conviction advocacy materials to educate attorneys and judges on the evolving legal and legislative landscape.

Survivors of domestic violence deserve legal advocates who will infuse their humanity into a criminal justice system that often attempts to dehumanize them and decontextualize their cases.

Corina Scott /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Mary (she/her/hers) will apply the medical-legal partnership model to effectively reach and provide legal services to domestic violence survivors in the greater Boston community during pregnancy and early motherhood.

Domestic violence is integral to the leading causes of maternal death, and women who suffer domestic violence are three times more likely to experience perinatal death. The relationship between maternal health and domestic violence calls for a multi-disciplinary response. Medical visits, especially for pregnant women and new mothers, serve as a critical access point as they may be the only opportunity survivors have to disclose trauma.

By deepening and strengthening connections with health clinics, Mary will more effectively address the public health crisis that domestic violence toward perinatal women presents. Mary will build a coalition of medical and legal professionals addressing domestic violence at a time when healthcare is the safest entry point for offering protective legal assistance.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Mary will focus on the provision of legal representation, coalition building, legal education, and narrative/data collection. She hopes to create a path to legal assistance as an advocate who understands the intersection of family law and domestic violence, empowers perinatal survivors to make informed decisions about the safety and security of their families, and seeks to prevent unnecessary entanglement in the Family Court system.

Media

Four Northeastern Law Students Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships

There are many survivors for whom domestic violence is just one piece of their struggle, survivors whose lives are complicated further by pregnancy and motherhood, and a lack of housing, food, healthcare, or financial security. It is my greatest privilege to meet these survivors where they are and advocate holistically for their needs.

Mary LeMay /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Lydia will help LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence in the Texas Rio Grande Valley through outreach, education, and direct representation.

Instances of violence, including family and intimate partner violence, have increased and become more severe since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has had exacerbating effects for LGBTQIA+ individuals, who experience violence at rates greater than or equal to their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts. These survivors face unique barriers to access survivor support resources that are not also experienced by their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts.

LGBTQIA+ survivors in the Rio Grande Valley face systemic barriers related to poverty and lack of access to resources. This project focuses on the legal needs of LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence and will contribute to existing community resources.

Fellowship Plans

During the Fellowship, Lydia will help LGBTQIA+ individuals in the Rio Grande Valley with protective orders, divorce and custody orders, and name changes. They will also engage with LGBTQIA+ communities through community partnerships and Know Your Rights sessions. Lydia will seek to connect existing resources within the Rio Grande Valley and create a network of care for LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence.

As a queer person who has seen firsthand how difficult it is to access culturally humble, affirming resources for LGBTQIA+ survivors of violence, I knew I wanted to become that kind of resource for other LGBTQIA+ survivors.

Lydia Harris /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Through the LGBT Anti-Violence and Safety Project (LASP), Joey (he/him/his) will provide identity-affirming legal services, outreach, and education for low-income LGBT survivors of domestic violence with a focus on youth.

While most Domestic Violence (DV) services are designed to serve cisgender women in heterosexual relationships, research suggests that the LGBT community experiences DV at a higher rate. Some studies indicate that certain identities within the LGBT community experience DV and stalking at more than double the rate of their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. The 2016 report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs outlines that 64% of LGBT survivors did not seek a protective order out of fear of further stigmatization by either legal service providers, courts, or law enforcement. The culturally responsive outreach, education, and services for LGBT survivors provided by this project will fill an unmet legal need and remove barriers to life-saving protections.

Fellowship Plans

Through LASP, Joey will help LGBT survivors of domestic violence seek Orders of Protection, Civil No Contact Orders, and Stalking No Contact Orders. Joey will also conduct outreach to and community building with LGBT youth and survivors living in poverty to spread awareness of culturally responsive resources provided by LASP. Lastly, Joey will provide advocacy and education on issues affecting LGBT survivors through training and collaboration with community partners and Legal Aid Chicago staff.

Media

Ensuring Culturally-Responsive Legal Representation for LGBTQ+ Survivors of Domestic Violence

2021 Greenberg Traurig Equal Justice Works Law Fellows to Tackle Racial, Economic, and Social Justice Issues

Chicago-Kent Public Interest Fellow to Tackle Domestic Violence Issues Within LGBT Community

The opportunity to combine my passion for LGBT rights, commitment to serving youth and low-income clients, and my practical experience in domestic violence litigation is honestly a dream come true for me!

Joey Carrillo /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

2021 Fellow Joey Carrillo Provides Legal Services for LGBTQ+ Survivors of Domestic Violence

2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow Joey Carrillo discusses his work providing identity-affirming legal services for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic violence. Joey is hosted by Legal Aid Chicago, and his work is made possible through the support of Discover Financial Services and Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

The Project

Blair (she/her/hers) will provide domestic violence survivors, particularly survivors of color, living in high poverty areas of North St. Louis City and County with a path out of abuse through family law representation.

Women living at or below the poverty line are nearly twice as likely as the general population to be abused by a partner. Combined with systemic racism’s impact on scarce resources, under-serviced neighborhoods, and poor relations with law enforcement, abuse grows even more severe. This issue is readily apparent in St. Louis, an area with high rates of poverty and segregation.

Research has shown that access to civil legal services can significantly reduce the risk that a survivor will be abused in the future. In 2017, the Legal Services Corporation reported that 86% of low-income domestic violence survivors across the country received inadequate or no help at all with their civil legal issues. This leaves a desperate gap in legal assistance for marginalized survivors in high poverty areas who would benefit most from representation.

Blair’s commitment to serving domestic abuse survivors inspired her decision to become an attorney. Her understanding that not all survivors have equal access to resources motivated her to design a project to help those most in need.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, survivors living in North St. Louis City and County. Additionally, her project will create family law pro se clinics to expand the reach of services and provide support to survivors who cannot be represented directly. Her project will strengthen and expand partnerships with community agencies to ensure the project is tailored to the needs of North City and County residents.

As a social worker, I was unable to help my clients fully resolve legal issues that kept them trapped in cycles of abuse and poverty. After repeatedly seeing my clients impeded by legal barriers, I made the decision to attend law school.

Blair Pankratz /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow