Lark Mulligan

  • Hosted by Cabrini Green Legal Aid
  • Sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Service location Chicago, Illinois
  • Law school DePaul University College of Law
  • Issue area LGBTQ+ Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Lark advocates for criminalized transgender people through a holistic, collaborative model that includes legal representation, community education, and policy reform.

Transgender people are impoverished at nearly three times the rate of the general population. At least 22% of trans Illinoisans have been evicted solely due to their gender, and 13% are forced to live on the street. Due to chronic poverty, unemployment, housing instability, and police targeting, over 50% of Black trans people, 30% of Native trans people, and 25% of Latina trans people will be arrested at some point in their lives. Like most jails, Cook County Jail houses trans people according to their genitalia, meaning that most trans women are housed with men while they are awaiting trial. Correctional staff and other prisoners relentlessly punish gender nonconformity with threats, violence, and sexual assault. Many trans people understand these risks, and they are often forced to accept plea deals, even if they are factually innocent, simply to minimize the risks of incarceration.

Fellowship Highlights

In the first year, Lark has:

  • Represented 11 clients in felony cases and 20 clients in misdemeanor cases, with over 75% receiving positive outcomes.
  • Helped 16 clients to expunge or seal their criminal records.
  • Assisted 48 transgender people in changing their legal names and gender markers on their identity documents.
  • Facilitated over 20 Know Your Rights workshops for transgender people at five partner agencies.
  • Facilitated 12 trainings for service providers, including three CLEs for attorneys, with a total of 134 attendees.
  • Engaged in an impact litigation case to challenge an Illinois law that restricts transgender people with felony convictions from changing their legal names.
  • Collaborated with allies and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office to propose improvements to Chicago Police Department’s policy on interactions with transgender people.

What’s Next

In the next year, Lark plans to:

  • Continue representing trans people in misdemeanor, felony, criminal records, and name change matters.
  • Work to dismantle Illinois’ felony name change restrictions.
  • Continue facilitating regular trainings for target populations and service providers.
  • Gather and compile data related to the criminalization and incarceration of transgender people in Chicago.

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