2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Elizabeth Gallaspy

The Project

Beth (she/her/hers) will work with Lone Star Legal Aid to provide family law representation for domestic violence survivors and educational programs on domestic violence and family law for survivors and young people in rural areas of six Southeast Texas counties.

Domestic violence thrives when abusers isolate victims from options, opportunities, and information. In rural areas of Southeast Texas, isolation is common, and resources to help survivors are too few to meet the need. Low-income domestic violence survivors need access to information about their legal options and legal advocates to represent them. Obtaining a protective order, divorce, and/or child custody orders can be critical in helping survivors break ties to abusers and move forward with their lives.

Beth moved to Beaumont to work as a journalist nearly 30 years ago and developed strong connections to her Southeast Texas community. By advocating for underserved people, she hopes to live out her belief that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Beth will represent domestic violence survivors in protective orders, divorces, and child custody cases in six Southeast Texas counties (Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Newton, Orange, and Tyler). Through a Know Your Rights program, she will educate young people and survivors on domestic violence and family law. Additionally, she will develop a toolkit of pro se resources that partner organizations can use to help survivors represent themselves.

A desire to expand access to justice in Southeast Texas is the reason I went to law school. I am grateful for this opportunity to represent domestic violence survivors and help them change their lives for the better.

Elizabeth Gallaspy /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Caitlin (she/her/hers) advocates on behalf of Muslim domestic violence survivors through direct representation, community education, and cultural competency training in Southeastern Wisconsin with Legal Action of Wisconsin, Inc.

In Wisconsin, 36.3% of women suffer from domestic violence. The issue of domestic violence is even more prevalent within religious communities, including the Muslim community, wherein women often do not feel comfortable seeking out resources marketed to the general population. Furthermore, these women are often unable to obtain legal assistance. There is a shortage of family law attorneys in the area willing to provide legal aid, and of those, none are Muslim.

Domestic violence is often swept under the rug in religious communities. As a Muslim woman, Caitlin understands the need for compassionate, culturally-competent legal assistance for Muslim survivors of domestic violence.

Fellowship Plans

Caitlin’s project focuses on representing these women and vindicating their legal rights to safety, custody of their children, an equitable division of marital property, and most critically, access to the legal system. In collaboration with community partners, this will be accomplished through:

  • Direct legal representation for survivors seeking restraining orders, divorce, and child custody.
  • Know-Your-Rights education on family law matters for the Muslim community.
  • Cultural competency training for family law practitioners to improve the proficiency of the legal system in aiding Muslim litigants.

Every Muslim woman should be safe and secure in her personhood, capable of asserting herself and her rights. I am honored that my legal education and Equal Justice Works Fellowship has empowered me to serve my sisters in this way.

Caitlin Aladham /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Michael advocates, represents, and mediates for veterans to address niche family law issues that stem from the unique circumstances that veterans and their families face.

More than 159,000 veterans and 80,000 active-duty military service members call San Antonio, Texas home. With one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the United States, San Antonio has earned the title of “Military City, USA.” With such a large population of veterans comes a great need for veterans to have affordable access to legal services. The stressors of military life, from deployments overseas to long hours at home, create stressful circumstances that the entire military family unit has to bear. Both the dependents of our veterans and their extended families face unique issues when that family unit is troubled. From child custody disputes crossing state lines and even overseas to the division of assets in divorces involving military disability compensation, pensions, and retirements, these matters require a high level of subject-matter expertise. Such expertise is paramount to ensuring that our servicemembers and their families get the highest quality of legal assistance they deserve. Veterans and their families need a comprehensive response to their family law needs. They need zealous, cost-effective, and efficient solutions in resolving their claims both inside and outside of the courtroom.

Michael’s family history, which includes several of his family members having served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces, motivates his commitment to expanding legal access in the military community.

Fellowship Plans

Michael plans to address these unique challenges during his Fellowship by running a bifurcated military family law clinic with his host organization. In this clinic, Michael will advocate for the use of alternative dispute resolution methods through family law mediation. If a veteran has already tried to use family law mediation or elects not to choose Michael (or a network of volunteer mediators) as a mediator, Michael will zealously represent the veteran in court or will refer the matter to an established network of volunteer attorneys. Michael also intends to educate the local San Antonio Bar Association and other legal providers on the nuances of military family law issues. This training of other lawyers in these unique legal issues will allow for the continuity of Michael’s mission so that veterans in San Antonio have access to legal providers with the necessary subject-matter expertise to assist in their legal matters long after his Fellowship ends.

As the son of a 100 percent disabled veteran, and as someone who grew up in the military community and who witnessed the hardships a military family endures, I felt a strong sense of personal responsibility in ensuring the best possible outcome for our veterans and their families.

Michael A. Argenal /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Olivia (she/her/hers), partnering with the Volunteers of Legal Service’s (VOLS) Incarcerated Mothers Law Project, will advocate for and represent incarcerated and formerly incarcerated mothers in New York state dealing with child visitation, custody, and parental rights issues.

Women are the fastest-growing segment of the incarcerated population, and over half the women in New York’s prisons and jails have minor children.  There is a severe lack of legal resources for this population in family law matters; it is exceedingly difficult to locate and secure effective legal assistance for issues such as custody and visitation. This project will address a long-overlooked justice gap by providing legal support to incarcerated mothers at Rikers Island Rose M. Singer Center, Taconic Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, and Albion Correctional Facility.

Olivia’s project is 4-pronged: 1) Generation of a pre-incarceration “toolbox” of legal information that will allow mothers to effectively plan for ongoing relationships and communications with their children; 2) Creation of regular, in-person legal clinics at correctional institutions; 3) Development of an inventory of meaningful and responsive post-release referrals; and 4) Evaluation of long-term opportunities for legislative advocacy. Olivia will also directly represent individuals in ongoing family court cases.

Family law is often overlooked within public interest law, though it touches the most precious parts of our lives - parents, children, partners, and extended kin. I have witnessed women be severely judged and blamed by a family court system purporting to help them. This work is deeply personal to me.

Olivia Pickard /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Gabriella’s (she/her/hers) project will provide legal help to support people in recovery from opioid use disorder in rural West Virginia. Through direct advocacy and outreach will Gabriella will create referral partnerships with local clinics as well as Family Treatment and Adult Drug Court programs.
There is an overwhelming need for legal services for people in recovery in north-central West Virginia, where no targeted legal assistance exists. Thus, Gabriella’s project targets the six rural counties served by Legal Aid of West Virginia’s Elkins Office.

Fellowship Plans

Gabriella’s project will partner with a regional community health center to serve patients in recovery and with the state court system to help participants in Randolph County’s Family Treatment and Adult Drug Courts. These courts offer families an alternative to loss of parental rights, and individuals an alternative to incarceration, if they engage in treatment and supportive services promoting recovery. By taking referrals from these “recovery courts,” the project will add to the court’s array of supportive services and meet a critical need by responding to the opioid crisis with both a proven model and a new partnership that will give rural West Virginians in recovery access to legal supports for stable housing, employment, and income.

Gabriella’s West Virginian heritage and family motivate her commitment to developing a sustainable project that supports people impacted by the opioid use epidemic in West Virginia.

My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to give back to my forever home, West Virginia. As a first-generation college and law student, I’m honored to use my education to make a difference in my community.

Gabriella Sayger /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Hannah’s work will focus on providing preventative legal services that support families in the early stages of the child protection process to promote family preservation and prevent trauma.

Many families involved with the child protection system experience unnecessary disruption and system-imposed trauma which has harmful long-term effects on children, their families, and communities. Minnesota consistently removes children from their homes at a higher rate than the national average primarily because of issues of neglect stemming from poverty. Although both federal and state laws require child protection agencies to make reasonable efforts to prevent removal, services and supports are commonly reactive and provided to families after a child has been removed from their home. This problem disproportionately impacts Native American, Black, and multi-racial children who are more likely than white children to be removed from their families.

Fellowship Plans

Pre-petition legal representation prevents unnecessary child protection involvement and removal of children from their families by providing high-quality, interdisciplinary legal representation at the earliest stages of the child protection process. During her Fellowship, Hannah will work to develop and implement preventative legal services for families utilizing an interdisciplinary approach. The project will focus on removing barriers to meaningful social supports and addressing legal obstacles and barriers that commonly lead to child protection involvement. Additionally, Hannah will partner with individuals and families impacted by the child protection system to inform policy reform efforts and improve training resources and processes of current and future lawyers.

In my experience working directly with families involved with child protection, I learned that the vast majority of resources and support are targeted toward reactive interventions that often fall short and lead to unnecessary trauma and family separation. I’m honored to have the opportunity to work alongside families and communities to help identify proactive solutions focused on keeping families healthy and together.

Hannah Burton /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Isabel (she/her/hers) will focus on supporting and empowering Native American families in Denver through direct representation in family law matters, education and outreach, and advocacy and coalition-building.

For centuries, Native communities and families have been marginalized and destabilized by federal and state policies designed to eliminate tribal cultural practices and networks. The resulting trauma and destructive effects are deeply felt and starkly seen in disparate outcomes experienced by Native communities including poverty rates, rates of intimate partner violence, and disproportionately high numbers of Native children involved in the child welfare system. Further, Native families are often unable to secure needed legal services, especially in family law, due to barriers such as a lack of culturally responsive and connected services and attorneys.

Isabel is honored to pursue a project to serve the Native American community in Denver that will allow her to combine her passion for client-centered legal aid with her personal background as a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She intends to use her position to become a strong voice advocating for the needs of her clients and the Native community at large, and to create positive and lasting change.

Fellowship Plans

Isabel will provide accessible and culturally responsive direct representation to Native American individuals and families who need assistance with divorces, custody, adoptions, guardianships, protection orders, wills, and other family law matters. She will also develop strong community partnerships with and among non-legal organizations that already serve the Denver Native American community. Isabel will form a coalition to more effectively meet and respond to the needs of Native families in the area. Additionally, Isabel will develop trainings and a report of best practices and considerations in representing Native families, as well as identify areas that may be ripe for macro-level policy reform and advocacy.

Media

CNO Tribal Member Working to Aid Denver Native American Community Through Equal Justice Works Fellowship

Greenberg Traurig Sponsors Record 201st Equal Justice Works Fellow

As a tribal citizen, I know how important it is that Native families have access to legal services and providers with whom they share a connection, especially in family law where the issues are deeply personal and complex.

Isabel Dufford /
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

Zoè (she/her/hers) will represent indigent parents accused of prenatal/postpartum drug use in the Bronx and create resources for community and policy advocacy to disrupt the womb-to-foster care pipeline.

The child welfare system—more accurately termed the family regulation system (FRS)—routinely undermines the welfare of children by surveilling and separating them and their families. Overrepresented in the system are low-income people of color. In New York City, Black children account for 23% of children under 18, but a staggering 53% of the children in the foster system. In contrast, 26% of the children in New York City are white, but white children comprise less than 6% of the foster population.

One entry point into the FRS for Black families is during prenatal and birth care. Despite similar or higher rates of drug use among white women, Black women are ten times more likely to be reported to the FRS for a positive drug test at the time of birth. Separating children from their families causes severe emotional trauma, and science shows that removing newborns impacted by prenatal drug use can risk inflicting physical harm.

Parents facing removal of their newborns and allegations of neglect based on prenatal or postpartum substance use need comprehensive support, including direct representation, policy reform, and community organizing.

If all families had access to housing, safety, and resources, it would drastically reduce family trauma. Instead, the FRS removes children from all they know and love, creates barriers to reunification, and propagates far more intractable trauma for children. It is Zoè’s desire to support the efforts of communities already using their voices for resistance by creating legal and policy advocacy aimed at an egregious and discriminatory system grossly propagated in the name of children’s welfare.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Zoè will represent parents in Family Court who face the removal of their newborns to the FRS based on allegations of substance use. She will develop tools for litigating substance use neglect cases. These tools will include writing model motions, compiling a resource bank of current medical and scientific research on substance use and misuse, and identifying medical and harm reduction experts who can serve as expert witnesses and consultants. Additionally, she will work with community members to mobilize support for legislative reforms that seek to disrupt the womb-to-foster-care pipeline.

Media

Greenberg Traurig Names its 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellows

As a child of Black parents, raised in a low-income community, I feel an unyielding determination to support sustainable change for system-involved, low-income Black and Brown families."

Zoè Russell /
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.