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Deborah A. Duggin

The Project

Deborah Duggin, working with Alaska Legal Services Corporation had two primary goals: to provide statewide legal services to older adults who had experienced abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation; and to educate senior services providers, tribal organizations, legal sub-communities, legal aid staff, and older adult individuals on topics related to elder abuse and the services available through this program.
Alaska is home to a rapidly growing older adult population and those living in rural and Native Alaskan communities have very limited access to legal and social services. Older adults experiencing elder abuse in Alaska face extreme access issues in locations that are off the road system and often live in such interdependent communities were reporting abuse and seeking justice prove difficult.

Fellowship Highlights

During the one-year fellowship, Deborah Duggin:
  • Was able to reestablish the connection with the Alaska Senior Activity Center and Alaska Legal Services Corporation, which had been interrupted by the Pandemic. As a result, several successful community outreach presentations were held with the Center and plans were put forward to once again have legal clinics held there.
  • Was able to establish a long-standing relationship with the Inter-Agency Fraud Education Taskforce which connects multi government and private entities together to educate and understand current and past fraud threats that are being faced in the U.S.
  • Helped several victims of elder abuse crimes by not only mitigating the financial damage done to them, but in a few cases, stop the financial abuse before significant financial damage was done.

Next Steps

Following this fellowship Deborah Duggin plans to continue working with Alaska Legal Services as a Staff Attorney located in Kenai, Alaska. While working with victims of elder abuse is still a passion for her, she is excited to expand her work to include all other members of her home community in her legal practice.

The Project

Darby (she/her/hers) will advocate for and empower elders in California prisons by challenging illegal parole denials and creating comprehensive resources for pro se litigants.

There are approximately 34,000 people in California serving life sentences with the possibility of parole – over one-third of the state prison population – many of whom are elders, and the vast majority of whom are Black and brown. Statistically, elder Lifers are exceedingly safe to be released from prison, with recidivism rates of less than one percent. However, the Board of Parole Hearings grants parole to only 18% of eligible elder Lifers each year. The Board frequently denies parole for illegal reasons, and the only way to challenge a parole denial is via habeas corpus petition. Most Lifers can’t afford to retain habeas counsel, and free legal aid is extremely rare. As a result, pro se litigants provide a primary check on the Board’s powers; however, systemic barriers and a lack of support make it virtually impossible for most Lifers to do so.

Fellowship Plans

Darby’s project will use a two-pronged approach to advocate for and empower elder Lifers who are ready to come home. Firstly, she will provide direct representation to elder Lifers who were illegally denied parole and who seek to challenge the denial. The second prong of the project will focus on empowering Lifers who seek to challenge an illegal parole denial but do not have access to counsel. Darby will perform a needs assessment to determine the resources necessary to support Lifers in challenging parole denials pro se. She will then create and distribute a resource guide for these pro se litigants; the guide will include answers to common questions about habeas petitions, as well as template arguments challenging the most common illegal bases for denial.

So long as the Board of Parole Hearings has the power to decide whether someone spends seven years or seven decades in a cage, I will fight alongside Lifers to hold the Board accountable for its actions.

Darby Aono /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Karen (she/her/hers) will focus on educating and protecting the elder community in the City of Rochester and surrounding rural areas. Karen will specifically work to stop elder abuse in all forms.

Society recognizes that the poor and the elderly are vulnerable groups. When an individual is both poor and elderly, a perfect storm is created for them to be taken advantage of and abused.

Fellowship Plans

Knowledge is power. Karen will host a seminar for elderly locals to explain the very complex health care system, including Medicare and Medicaid, assisted living, and skilled care. She will explain their rights in those facilities, including quality care, the right to be heard, the right to complain, and the right to be free from harm. She will also explain what to do if harm does occur and how to get help.

A second presentation will be held for law enforcement agencies with regard to powers of attorney. Many agencies take the position that if a person signs a power of attorney, and the agent uses that power to gift to themselves, then the agent cannot be prosecuted criminally. This is not the case. Karen will impress upon the agencies that these agents need to be criminally liable in order for this fraud to stop.

Finally, Karen will work with administrations and staff of assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes to impress upon them the need to work together to prevent abuse, to provide quality care, and most importantly respect to their residents.

The Project

Daniel’s project focused on preserving housing stability by providing legal services to older adults victimized by elder abuse that threatens their ability to stay in their homes.

In Los Angeles, where the cost of living is high, housing stability for people in low-income communities is crucial. Elder abuse and housing-related fraud can force older adults from homes they have lived in for decades. This Fellowship sought to protect older adults from those threats to keep them in their homes.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Daniel:
  • Provided assistance with Elder Abuse Restraining Order petitions to over 35 older adults and referred over 60 older adults to other sources of aid.
  • Gave 4 presentations to local community groups on elder abuse, reaching nearly 200 seniors and senior service professionals.
  • Conducted outreach to community organizations throughout Los Angeles County to share information about Bet Tzedek’s homeowner protection efforts and to ascertain the most pressing threats to low-income homeowners throughout the County.

The Project

Through his Fellowship, Jerry (he/him/his) supported socially and economically vulnerable seniors in the rural areas of Palm Beach and Hendry Counties in Florida by providing assistance through direct legal services, outreach, and education.

Prior to joining the Elder Justice Program, Jerry worked in the Children’s Healthcare Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. There he assisted parents, guardians, and other advocates in removing barriers to medical, dental, behavioral, and mental healthcare for children in Palm Beach County. Jerry is proud of the assistance and education he provided to his clients and the community to improve access to care for children in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Florida has a larger elder population than most other states, and elder exploitation is concerning due to both the individual acts of victimization and the potential number of victims being targeted. Seniors are being taken advantage of by strangers, neighbors, family, caretakers, and “friends.”

Fellowship Plans

Jerry’s project aimed to reduce older individuals’ susceptibility to crimes of financial fraud, exploitation, and abuse through trainings and outreach, and to remedy the harmful effects of these crimes when they occur. He worked towards his goal by advocating for victims’ rights and providing full-scope representation when needed. Jerry’s outreach activities focused on rural underserved communities throughout the two-county service area and included presentations and, when possible, the distribution of brochures and flyers at senior community centers.

The Project

Barbara’s Fellowship coordinated civil legal services to elderly crime victims in Montana, where the state’s rural characteristics and remote geography add to victims’ difficulties finding and receiving resources.

Fellowship Overview

Prior to joining the Elder Justice Program, Barbara worked on another Elder Justice grant helping clients to address exploitation, consumer issues, and civil rights protections.  For many years she was a prosecutor and worked in most counties in Montana, including in criminal cases involving elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Through this project, she continued to provide the screening and presentation of legal claims necessary to address the often long-standing and complicated legal concerns widespread in all communities, given the number of elderly people. The legal services provided by this project are not otherwise available in Montana, so Barbara was pleased to continue her work alongside crime victim attorneys and navigators at MLSA through this Fellowship.

Barbara has seen for many years the need for advocacy for elderly persons.  Her knowledge and experience in a myriad of cases support her commitment to provide meaningful work to assist and represent elder clients.

The Project

Adam’s project focused on organizing new and existing partners to fight the widespread, multi-faceted, and vastly underreported abuse and neglect of older adults while representing client victims of financial exploitation in consumer debt actions, bankruptcy, housing, and matters involving advanced directives and estate planning.
Adam grew up in Buffalo, where an early consciousness of inequality and his own privileges motivated a social vision of personal success and led to a law school tenure focused on service to the least powerful and most vulnerable members of society. Social work, the human rights paradigm, and non-profit legal services organizations contribute to the ongoing American movement toward more widespread institutional recognition of the dignity of all human beings. Adam aimed to bring all components to bear in his project.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Adam:

  • Provided updates on frequent legal problems facing older adults to the county’s long-term care council
  • Conducted trainings for adult protective services and community organizations
  • Delayed and prevented evictions of elderly, often disabled tenants during the pandemic
  • Reduced or eliminated enormously shocking medical debt, including defending against nursing home debt collection actions

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Adam will continue with Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. as a staff attorney. In this role, he will contribute to the organization’s ongoing anti-racism efforts and provide free services to the most vulnerable.


Six Ways Public Interest Attorneys Can Combat Elder Abuse in Any Practice Area

The Project

Andrew’s Fellowship served rural Kentucky, where he identified a desperate need for legal services for those who were impacted by a variety of different issues beyond their control.

Elder abuse is a problem due to how extremely under-represented and under-reported it is. This project presented an opportunity to reach out to vulnerable communities and help directly with legal assistance, as well as reaching out to community leaders, other legal service providers, and non-legal service providers to train, educate, and assist in serving rural Kentucky’s aging community in the best ways possible.

Andrew became an attorney with the intention to help those who cannot help themselves. Our elders are people who have been through so much but too often end up feeling like they are helpless and forgotten or, perhaps worse, unwanted. No person should have to go through such feelings, especially when there are means to help them and show them how much they still mean to the world. Andrew is glad to do what he can to provide aid dealing with legal issues and helping older adults feel safe.

Fellowship Plans

As part of this program, Andrew aimed to help the elderly population through direct legal representation, and to reach out to the community to aid in identifying elder abuse. By bringing more visibility to the topic by representation and community outreach, Andrew believes more victims will come forward and receive the help they need.


2015 alum focuses on outreach, advocacy for elderly, rural Kentuckians

The Project

Archie provided coordinated, comprehensive legal services to senior homeowners who are victims of fraud and elder abuse to preserve their homeownership and home equity.

His project helped stabilize local communities by helping lower-income seniors to preserve their assets and financial independence while also preventing homelessness among older adults.

Archie further expanded Bet Tzedek’s capacity to provide victim-centered direct legal services in historically underserved areas of Los Angeles County, including in rural areas such as Palmdale and Lancaster. In addition to providing direct legal services, he conducted presentations on elder abuse and fraud impacting homeowners, home equity protections, crime victims’ rights, civil legal options (e.g. administrative complaints, criminal charges, and affirmative litigation), and social service resources.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Archie:

  • Provided full representation and general advice to an underserved population who sought guidance with housing-related issues.
  • Provided outreach and training throughout Los Angeles County and Antelope Valley to effectuate change within the community through presentations. His outreach created opportunities to present on housing matters with community stakeholders, including the White House, the National Center on Law & Elder Rights / Justice in Aging, high schools, law schools, and many more. Archie impacted around 2,000 people in total during his two-year Fellowship in the middle of a pandemic.
  • Completed a co-project scan to asset map LA County, Antelope Valley, and the High Desert. The goal was to aggregate and depict growth sectors and define resources for resource allocation.
  • Helped launch and facilitate support to the Housing Clinic for expansion within Antelope Valley.

Next Steps

After the completion of his Fellowship in 2022, Archie joined Justice in Aging on the Equity Team. Justice in Aging is a national organization that uses the power of the law to fight senior poverty by securing access to affordable health care, economic security, and the courts for older adults with limited resources. Since 1972, Justice in Aging has focused its efforts primarily on those who have been marginalized and deprived of equal justice, such as women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people with limited English proficiency. Archie continues to support and mentor high school, college, and law school students. He is on the Seattle University School of Law Alumni Board, where he further supports students on campus through mentorship.


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Standing up for equality and justice means not allowing the systemic oppression for those who cannot speak for themselves. It is about empowering the community and having the humility to understand it is not about you.

Archie Roundtree, Jr. /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Avery’s project  provided direct civil legal services for older victims of crime in North Central Florida. Additionally, Avery conducted training and outreach on elder abuse and exploitation to the local legal and advocate community.

Avery’s motivation to pursue public interest work stemmed from a desire to help people whom the law often overlooks. Avery heard attorneys say that their motivation to seek public interest work stems from “wanting to give a voice to the voiceless,” but that phrase has always struck her as problematic—all clients have voices; the job of an attorney is simply to amplify them. Avery worked with immigrant children who survived abuse, neglect, gang violence, and state violence and with women who have survived domestic and dating violence. Avery’s Fellowship worked with a new group-the elder community to combat abuse and exploitation and to amplify their legal needs.

Fellowship Plans

Avery provided holistic civil legal services to stop abuse and ameliorate the effects of abuse and exploitation, including securing injunctions and discharging debt incurred due to exploitation. The project also obtained, preserved, and increased public benefits that allow elderly victims of crime to obtain or maintain community-based care.