KB White

The Project

KB’s (she/they) project will focus on increasing access to occupational licenses for low-income New Yorkers with arrest and conviction records through direct representation, community outreach, and policy advocacy.

For decades, many of the 2.3 million New Yorkers living with a criminal record have been routinely denied licensure, discouraged from the application process, or had their licenses revoked. New York law provides some protection to people with criminal records facing denials, including the requirement that licensing agencies evaluate mitigating factors such as a person’s age at the time of their offense. In practice, however, the statutory process means that people undergo lengthy investigations to prove their “good moral character” through “evidence of rehabilitation,” personal interviews, and testimony in formal hearings– often without the aid of counsel.

KB will continue her near decade-long commitment to reentry work in partnership with impacted people and community stakeholders.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, KB will represent clients facing licensure denials and revocation and litigate discriminatory employer practices on behalf of license holders with criminal records. She will directly engage with New Yorkers who wish to enter one of New York’s 100+ licensed occupations to dispel myths and misinformation that discourage people with criminal records from pursuing licensed employment available to them. Additionally, KB will develop training materials to help pro bono legal and social service providers build expertise in this area and handle incoming cases. In doing so, KB seeks to lessen disparities for workers of color overrepresented in low-wage work, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and promote fair access to licensure so that all workers may find more stable and safer jobs.

Media

Two New Grads Named Equal Justice Works Fellows

This project aims to shine a light on the unnecessary conviction barriers embedded in New York’s occupational licensing laws and help promote the economic security of all New Yorkers living with a criminal record.

KB White /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Uruj (she/her/hers) will use model litigation and advocacy to challenge the coordinated assault on the right to vote by discriminatory voting laws in the Deep South.

In 2021, state legislatures met the historic turnout of Black voters and voters of color in 2020 with a backlash of voter suppression laws aimed at diminishing the political power of voters of color. Nineteen states enacted 33 restrictive voting laws in 2021 alone; forty-nine states cumulatively proposed over 425 bills to restrict voting access. From imposing harsher voter ID requirements on absentee ballots in Georgia to restricting mail-in voting in Florida or banning 24-hour voting in Texas, these sudden and extreme changes to voting laws have the intent and effect of making voting more burdensome for low-income voters of color. Characterized as Jim Crow 2.0, these laws deepen historical inequities in voting access, abridge or deny voters of color a meaningful opportunity to participate in the political process, and throw off the guardrails necessary to maintain our democracy.

Fellowship Plans

This project supports the leadership of impacted communities safeguarding against Jim Crow 2.0 policies and ensuring equal access to the vote. Building on the momentum of the 2022 midterm election, Uruj will apply a multi-part strategy to ensure that every eligible voter, especially Black voters, can freely exercise their fundamental right to vote by starting in two priority jurisdictions in the deep south. The strategy uses strategic, targeted litigation to enforce voting rights protections under federal and state constitutional and statutory protections; rapid response advocacy at polling stations by monitoring for suppression and identifying organizing and legal interventions; and advocating for expansive legislation and against restrictive voting bills in partnership with grassroots coalitions.

Media

Two New Grads Named Equal Justice Works Fellows

Communities of color are more likely to be denied access to the right to vote and that’s a precedent that goes against our notion of fairness and justice. We need to challenge these immediate threats to democracy while also building long-term sustainable solutions to ensure every person can vote regardless of our race.

Uruj Sheikh /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Gabo (he/him/his) will advance the rights of low-wage, Spanish-speaking workers in Yakima, Washington, experiencing wage theft, health and safety violations, discrimination, and retaliation.

In May 2020, warehouse workers across the Yakima Valley walked off the job demanding stronger protections as COVID-19 raged across their workplaces. Overwhelmingly Latino and often undocumented, these workers suffered the highest rate of infection on the West Coast, with no access to unemployment, workers’ compensation, or adequate health care. No other legal services provider in the state can help individual workers in employment matters regardless of immigration status. As a result, Yakima workers face a profound access-to-justice gap that makes it nearly impossible to recover stolen wages, enforce workplace safety protections, and fight discrimination in the workplace.

Fellowship Plans 

Gabo will represent individual workers with wage theft, health and safety, discrimination, and retaliation claims. He will also provide assistance to workers filing administrative complaints with state agencies. Alongside Fair Work Center’s Yakima-based educators, he will develop Spanish-language know your rights materials for Yakima workers. Finally, he will develop strategies to increase Washington labor agency enforcement of state wage and hour and health and safety standards.

Media

Meet Gabo Gutierrez

Three Class of 2021 grads have been awarded the Equal Justice Works Fellowship

As the child of a Latino immigrant, I went to law school to use my language skills to empower workers. Fair Work Center’s holistic model creates the opportunity for the type of collaborative, creative approaches I’ve seen transform the conditions and power dynamics of workplaces.

Gabo Gutierrez /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Adam’s project focused on organizing new and existing partners to fight the widespread, multi-faceted, and vastly underreported abuse and neglect of older adults while representing client victims of financial exploitation in consumer debt actions, bankruptcy, housing, and matters involving advanced directives and estate planning.
Adam grew up in Buffalo, where an early consciousness of inequality and his own privileges motivated a social vision of personal success and led to a law school tenure focused on service to the least powerful and most vulnerable members of society. Social work, the human rights paradigm, and non-profit legal services organizations contribute to the ongoing American movement toward more widespread institutional recognition of the dignity of all human beings. Adam aimed to bring all components to bear in his project.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Adam:

  • Provided updates on frequent legal problems facing older adults to the county’s long-term care council
  • Conducted trainings for adult protective services and community organizations
  • Delayed and prevented evictions of elderly, often disabled tenants during the pandemic
  • Reduced or eliminated enormously shocking medical debt, including defending against nursing home debt collection actions

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Adam will continue with Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc. as a staff attorney. In this role, he will contribute to the organization’s ongoing anti-racism efforts and provide free services to the most vulnerable.

Media

Six Ways Public Interest Attorneys Can Combat Elder Abuse in Any Practice Area

The Project

Shaina will empower foster-care involved youth to overcome dating violence through specialized legal services and education to youth-serving organizations.

During the transition to adulthood, foster care youth experience systemic barriers to success. One-quarter of foster care alumni become involved with the criminal legal system within two years of leaving care; fewer than 3% of foster care youth earn a college degree and over one fifth face homelessness as adults. Also, the pervasiveness of dating violence in the communities of young people exacerbates adverse outcomes associated with foster care. The combination of these issues impacts foster care youths’ entire life trajectories, resulting in disconnection from the child welfare system and dependence on unhealthy or dangerous partners. Further, there is a critical gap in services for child-welfare involved youth experiencing abusive relationships, which this project seeks to fill. Foster care youth in abusive relationships deserve tailored legal services from attorneys that understand how intimate partner violence (IPV) intersects with the child welfare system.

Fellowship Plans

This project will bring attention to the overlapping challenges of foster care and dating violence that largely remain in the dark. Shaina will represent and advocate for foster care youth in abusive relationships and empower them to end oft-repeated cycles of violence. Shaina will train youth-serving professionals and will provide legal information and options to assist their clients in safely navigating, ending an abusive relationship. Shaina’s goal is to unite service providers in the IPV and child welfare fields to provide a unified front for youth susceptible to violence and to equip staff with another tool to support these youth.

Young people in foster care deserve advocates that partner with them in achieving their healthy relationship goals.

Shaina Weisbrot /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Anna provides client-centered legal representation and systemic advocacy to reduce undue institutionalization and ensure adolescent youth in congregate care have connections to trusted adults.

In New York City in 2018, over half of the 649 youth who aged out of foster care without family had no permanent connection to a caring adult, against statutory requirements. Research shows that the single most common factor in youth who develop resilience is a stable relationship with a committed adult. Older youth in group settings are particularly isolated from opportunities to create and maintain long-term supportive relationships.

In her five years as a foster parent, Anna witnessed the child welfare system habitually devalue the lives of older foster youth. She knew these youth would attain justice only through a specialized legal strategy that honored their lived experience and engaged them as leaders on their own path.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Anna has:

  • Provided full representation to 18 youth in foster care, focusing on transition-aged youth with Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) goals
  • Consulted with attorneys and social workers on 16 additional cases where social support and discharge planning issues were identified
  • Implemented a novel Residential Treatment Center (RTC) Visiting Program to connect clients isolated in congregate care during the pandemic with trial court advocates; this scalable model bridges the gap between clients and attorneys and supports the Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit’s systemic advocacy
  • Assisting the Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP) prepare for the September 2021 implementation of the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) in New York by creating trainings and litigation tools to meet new judicial review requirements and advocate against undue institutionalization

Next Steps

In the next year, Anna plans to:

  • Support JRP’s response to FFPSA by reflecting on courtroom strategies and developing resources to assist attorneys to advocate for community placements for youth in foster care
  • Expand the RTC Visiting Program to translate the legal positions of JRP clients to their trial court teams and monitor congregate care conditions for further systemic responses
  • Explore creative litigation and negotiation strategies in expanding direct representation caseload while generating tools for JRP to mitigate clients’ disconnection from their communities

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration