2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Allison “Ali” Rubinfeld

The Project

Ali (she/her) works with communities directly impacted by law enforcement violence to advance systems of accountability, challenge unlawful police practices, and address systemic neglect.

For over five decades, disenfranchised communities of color throughout Los Angeles have been targeted by violent and racist policing practices. Families who have lost loved ones to law enforcement violence organize together to leverage their power and work towards meaningful change on the local level. However, these grassroots advocates continuously encounter legal and systemic barriers to accountability and safety for their communities.

Directly impacted community members seek a holistic approach that harnesses community-led litigation, local organizing and advocacy, and public education to address this crisis and build systems of transparency and accountability. Ali is inspired by the directly impacted families and friends she’s worked with who channel their grief into action, the advocates who put their safety and peace on the line, and her own experiences watching those who need mental health assistance and care be forced into our criminal legal system.

Fellowship Plans

During her fellowship, Ali will pursue community-led litigation strategies to yield meaningful reforms. She will create mobile clinics to educate community members on the valuable role of public complaints in decertifying problem law enforcement officers and assist individuals throughout the complaint process. Additionally, Ali will continue to support the advocacy of directly impacted community members through research and by coordinating coalition efforts. She will also build infrastructure for a long-term partnership between the Loyola Anti-Racism Center and community stakeholders to continue law enforcement accountability work for years to come.

This project allows me to support a community that, despite directly experiencing harm by our justice system, still tirelessly fights for its improvement and to create a better world for all. It is an honor to have a small part in helping them build that world.

Allison "Ali" Rubinfeld /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Leah’s (she/her) fellowship will help establish the first administrative appellate practice in New York to challenge abuses of agency discretion that deny youth their rights provided within the New York City child welfare system.

Currently in NYC, there are over 6,000 children in foster care. Article 78 hearings allow these youth to challenge Administration of Children’s Services (ACS )and/or the foster care agency’s discretion. ACS has immense discretionary power to dictate the core of a child’s quality of life – from where they live to whom they live with to the services they receive. Article 78s are the only legal recourse on agency action and take place in NYC Supreme Court, outside Family Court’s jurisdiction. While all children in child-welfare-related Family Court proceedings are entitled to counsel, no one is expressly funded to represent children in Article 78 proceedings.

Foster youth are often said to be “lost in the system,” but Leah has seen through personal and professional experiences that it is not as innocuous and passive as this. The voices of children and families are drowned out by the deference given ACS’s discretion, and she believes a robust Article 78 practice in New York City would help disrupt this.

Fellowship Plans

Leah will challenge the ACS’s abuses of discretion and overreaches of government power. She will provide direct representation to foster youth and youth in juvenile detention whose rights are diminished because of the deference given to ACS decision making. Leah will conduct trainings throughout the five boroughs for other attorneys for children, parent defenders, and community advocates to ensure administrative appeals are an accessible tool for all fighting to keep families together and children safe.

The Project

Talia will work with Brooklyn Defender Services to represent Brooklyn residents whose phones and other technological devices have been seized by the NYPD, advocate for the reform of the property seizure process, and use impact litigation to advance the data privacy rights of New Yorkers while their phones remain in NYPD custody.

In 2021, 40% of phones seized by the NYPD were not returned to their owners. The process to reobtain property following an arrest or police investigation is incredibly burdensome on New Yorkers. For low-income New Yorkers who can’t replace their phones, the indefinite retention of cell phones leaves them unable to access technology required to maintain employment, recertify income-stabilizing and nutritional benefits, and other essentials of life.

Additionally, due to the ever-expanding technological capacities of the NYPD, phones that remain in custody represent a serious threat to people’s data privacy. Data taken from phones is used to populate some of the NYPD’s most notoriously discriminatory policing tools, such as the NYPD gang database and predictive policing technology. New Yorkers need more comprehensive regulation of the property seizure and return process and rules to limit police access to phone data in their custody.

Fellowship Plans

During Talia’s Fellowship, Talia will represent low-income Brooklyn residents who have had their phones seized by the police to ensure people quickly regain access to their essential technology. Talia will engage with community organizations to develop trainings so community members can assist each other in getting their property back. Finally Talia will develop a policy proposal to better regulate the property seizure process and use impact litigation to limit the NYPD’s access to civilian data from devices in custody.

After years of community organizing around issues of policing and surveillance in New York communities of color, I pursued law to dedicate my career to fighting alongside movements for police accountability. I am honored to begin my movement law work through my Equal Justice Works Fellowship.

Talia Kamran /
2023 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Meena’s (she/her/hers) project documented and challenged the discriminatory effects of precision policing tactics on Long Island, New York.

“Precision policing” presumes that police can predict and prevent crimes before they happen by concentrating investigations and surveillance on so-called “hot spot” neighborhoods or particular social networks. Although touted as a solution to biased policing, these forms of data and surveillance driven proactive policing tend to exacerbate racial disparities in policing and subject impacted communities to increased police presence and surveillance.

Meena’s motivation for challenging discriminatory policing tactics and the consequences of disparate police harassment was driven by her personal experience growing up in an intentionally segregated midwestern city to a first-generation, Latina mother, paired with her extended family’s own experience with deportation. 

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Meena:

  • Compiled a diverse range of data on Long Island precision policing tactics
  • Challenged Long Island law enforcement agencies’ lack of transparency by appealing their adverse Freedom of Information Law determinations via Article 78 petitions in New York Supreme Court
  • Met regularly with coalitions of community partners and service providers to advocate for much needed criminal legal systems reforms
  • Participated in litigation to challenge racial profiling by police in Suffolk County
  • Engaged in community education about precision policing and identified shared reform goals
  • Held law enforcement agencies accountable for violating New York open records laws
  • Published investigative reports about the privacy, equity, and civil liberties implications of Long Island and statewide precision policing programs
  • Worked with community groups to monitor and report on the Suffolk County Police Department’s efforts to reduce racial profiling