Maxwell Passas

The Project

Maxwell (she/her/hers) will free wrongfully convicted people incarcerated in Massachusetts through a multistakeholder collaboration that maximizes the use of conviction integrity programs.

Recognizing the systemic issues leading to wrongful convictions and unjust sentencing, prosecution offices nationwide have begun forming newly developed conviction integrity programs (CIPs) to review and investigate cases of injustice. Fortunately, CIPs provide a novel avenue for relief, especially for unrepresented people. In contrast to traditional routes, CIPs can waive procedural bars and act to correct a broader category of unjust convictions. Additionally, CIPs allow access to undisclosed evidence, such as work product and police records.

Maxwell was inspired by the mission of innocence organizations while working to free a client pursuing post-conviction relief and drafting legal and policy memorandum for developments in the arena of eyewitness identification law with the Boston College Innocence Program during her last two years of law school.

Fellowship Plans

Innocence organizations, such as the Boston College Innocence Program, have a unique opportunity to shape the development of CIP structures and processes to best help individuals in need, especially those who are unrepresented by counsel. Maxwell’s project has six strategic components, which include developing a process for law students to help pro se applicants seeking CIP relief, screening previously closed cases from Massachusetts’ innocence organizations to determine which clients may have a new avenue for relief through CIP review, and training CIP stakeholders.

Media

Post-conviction Defender Receives Fellowship as Staff Attorney for BC Law Program

I believe the innocence movement is a vehicle for change and even abolition within the criminal legal system. Working to uncover a broader category of injustice through the conviction integrity review process only furthers this mission.

Maxwell Passas /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Alyssa (she/her/hers) will advocate on behalf of survivors of domestic violence by representing them in both the early stages of their child welfare cases—a form of preventative legal representation—and in their family law matters.

In Massachusetts, low-income survivors of domestic violence, many of whom are people of color, are not guaranteed representation in this early stage of a child welfare case, putting their rights to their children at risk. Alyssa’s project addresses this need by providing early, prophylactic representation to survivors of domestic violence embroiled in the child welfare system to protect their rights and to prevent further exacerbation of trauma and poverty.

Alyssa is inspired by the survivors that she has worked with and is driven by a firm belief in keeping families together to prevent further poverty and trauma.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Alyssa will provide individual representation to survivors of domestic violence in both the early stages of their child welfare cases and in their family law matters.  She will also develop and deliver “know your rights” trainings for survivors of domestic violence who are involved with the child welfare system.

As her representation continues, she will identify the outcomes of these domestic violence cases within the child welfare system to identify system-wide policies or policy implementations that are harmful to survivors of domestic violence.

Throughout the Fellowship, Alyssa will also create new relationships between domestic violence advocates and the child welfare system to foster collaboration on efforts toward systemic reform.

Media

Morrison & Foerster Partners With Equal Justice Works To Support Recent Law School Graduates With A Passion For Public Service

Alyssa Rao Wins Prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship

The survivors of domestic violence that I work with are incredibly devoted to their families and their children. I try to match that passion in protecting survivors’ rights and keeping their families together.

Alyssa Rao /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Inspiration

The Project

My project will focus on representing unaccompanied immigrant children who are faced with deportation in the Greater Boston area. It will also involve doing outreach to inform immigrant children and guardians that legal assistance is available, and recruiting and assisting more pro bono attorneys to take on these types of cases.

The Inspiration

The Project

My project will focus on dismantling Wake County’s school-to-prison pipeline. Grounded in a community lawyering philosophy, I will: 1) provide holistic legal advice and representation for students from low-income families in school discipline-related cases; 2) draft community education publications; 3) conduct presentations, workshops, and trainings for students, parents, advocates, services providers, educators, and policymakers; and 4) create a community-based diversion program as an alternative to suspensions and court referrals.

The Inspiration

The Project

The school-to-prison pipeline (STPP) is comprised of the policies and practices that push youth out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Youth of color are overrepresented at every stage of this pipeline, from school suspension and exclusion to pre-adjudication detention and commitment to the Department of Youth Services. My project aims to disrupt the STPP by reducing court involvement and advancing education of indigent minority youth through direct representation, impact litigation and community organizing.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration