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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 advocated 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. Jail staff and other people incarcerated in jail relentlessly punish gender nonconformity with threats, violence, and sexual assault. Many trans people understand these risks, and are often forced to accept unfavorable plea deals simply to minimize the risks of incarceration.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Lark has:

  • Successfully represented clients in 17 felony cases and 35 misdemeanor cases: no clients pled guilty to felonies or were incarcerated despite all felony clients facing 5-25 years in prison; those for whom she negotiated plea deals received non-conviction sentences (e.g. court supervision)
  • Freed all clients detained in jail pre-trial by filing motions to reduce or reinstate their bond and by collaborating with the Chicago Community Bond Fund to bail them out
  • Represented 53 clients in expunging their criminal records, all of whom then obtained jobs
  • Successfully advocated for 31 clients in Cook County Jail, including for placement and medical access
  • Assisted 63 clients in changing their legal names and gender markers on their IDs
  • Represented seven clients in divorce and parentage proceedings, all of whom retained parental rights
  • Represented four clients in public housing eviction proceedings, all of whom retained their housing
  • Provided brief service, referrals, and legal advice to 272 clients at weekly roving legal clinics
  • Facilitated 68 know-your-rights workshops for transgender people at partner agencies
  • Drafted and filed a federal lawsuit with her sponsor challenging the constitutionality of an Illinois law that restricts people with certain criminal convictions from changing their legal names

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Lark plans to continue her legal representation, community education, and policy advocacy as the Director of Legal Services at the Transformative Justice Law Project, a trans-led abolitionist organization that advocates for trans people in Illinois.

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