Justin Small

The Project

Justin (he/him/his) advocates on behalf of unhoused and justice-involved individuals in the Antelope Valley in tickets cases for “quality of life” offenses that criminalize homelessness.

The Antelope Valley is a remote desert community at the northeastern border of Los Angeles County and has seen explosive growth in its unhoused population since the onset of the pandemic. Aside from the dangerous weather conditions, the unhoused are subjected to discriminatory policing practices. By citing unhoused individuals for life-sustaining activities such as eating, sleeping, or merely sitting on the sidewalk, law enforcement agencies are effectively criminalizing being unhoused. Because there is no right to counsel in these cases, 9/10 ticket cases in California are litigated without representation. The fines and fees associated with these tickets can pose severe hardship to this population, and the use of fines and fees to police the unhoused distorts justice.

Justin’s work in the Antelope Valley before attending law school motivates his commitment to serving this community and advancing economic justice.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Justin will represent Antelope Valley residents in ticket and citation cases and host ticket clinics to educate and assist with court-debt clearing strategies. He will also provide criminal record clearing relief services for eligible clients to assist clients in mitigating barriers to housing and employment.

Coming from a rural state like Vermont, I have seen firsthand the impact of legal-aid deserts. I’m passionate about serving the Antelope Valley and assisting the community to mitigate the hardships of court debt.

Justin Small /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Stacy will advocate for Los Angeles County’s secure track youth with disabilities to ensure their right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) through direct representation, education, and policy reform.

With the closure of the state-run Division of Juvenile Justice in California, over 800 secure track youth now depend on individual counties to house them, educate them, and provide them adequate programming. Secure track youth will be detained in county detention facilities for long periods of time, and advocates are still brainstorming how to ensure robust programming for these youth.

Secure track youth with disabilities will now depend on counties, such as Los Angeles County, to meet their needs. However, despite having a legal right to an appropriate education, detained students with disabilities in Los Angeles County rarely receive an appropriate education and related services.

Stacy’s passion for education equity motivates their commitment to ensuring every student’s right to an appropriate education that meets their needs.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, Stacy will represent secure track youth to address their individual FAPE violation claims. They will collaborate with other advocates, such as community-based organizations and formerly detained persons, to inform the development and implementation of Los Angeles County’s reimagined youth justice system. Additionally, they will develop a policy report discussing the issues impacting access to appropriate services for detained youth with disabilities.

Media

Greenberg Traurig Names its 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellows

An appropriate education has given me so many opportunities to lead a fulfilling life, and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to lead a fulfilling life too.

Stacy Nuñez /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Steve assisted low-wage immigrant workers with wage claims by expanding KIWAs Worker Empowerment Clinic.

Fellowship Highlights

Steve assisted workers at Koreatown supermarkets and raised concerns of unlawful and inequitable workplace conditions to the larger Los Angles community. His work resulted in a seven-figure settlement and changes in workplace conditions across various supermarkets in Koreatown.

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Steve worked at a prominent private public interest law firm where he continued representing low-wage immigrant workers in wage and hour class actions. Steve also served as a supervising attorney in the housing unit of the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, where Steve supervised a housing rights clinic and engaged in unlawful eviction defense and slum litigation. Since 2012, Steve has served California workers at the California Labor Commissioner’s Office where he continues to represent low-wage immigrant workers with wage and hour claims.

The Project

Nancy (she/her/hers) will provide systematic and community-based advocacy and legal support to address access barriers to improve mental health care for low-income children and youth in California. 

In California, 1 in 13 children has a mental health condition and nearly 1 in 6 adults lives with a mental illness every day. Mental health conditions impact everyone, especially minority and low-income children who face tremendous barriers in getting mental health care because of reasons, such as shortage of service providers, language barriers, lack of transportation, and lack of parental availability. Although tele mental health has been used to expand services and address many of these barriers during the Covid-19 global pandemic, effective tele mental care requires privacy, consistency, and technical resources. Without stable housing, adequate space, and reliable telecommunication access, even if tele mental health services are offered, children still cannot effectively utilize them. Since children depend heavily on adults to receive service linkages, additional resources, including legal education and community support are crucial to ensure that parents, caretakers, and service providers know their rights and can help children access the services they desperately need.

Nancy’s upbringing as a first-generation Asian American immigrant and daughter of domestic violence survivor motivated her to become a social worker and later attend law school as an evening student. She is committed to using her clinical and legal skills to help ensure underserved children and families have equal access to quality mental health care.

Fellowship Plans

Nancy will use a trauma-informed collaborative strategy to advocate for at-risk children and youth’s access to community-based mental health services. She will collaborate with service providers to assess their needs and the feasibility of utilizing community spaces and resources to supplement or replace existing service models. She will advocate systematically and create training materials. She will build a network of support to raise mental health awareness and give caretakers and service providers the tools, resources, and best practices of tele-mental health care for children.

This project is personal to me, not only because of my personal experience but also because my work as a social worker confirmed that mental health care is a basic human need.

Nancy Lam /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project                               

Heidi (she/her/hers) is hosted by the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic (“LIJC”) and advocates for the advancement of the rights of the immigrant population through direct legal services, education, and community empowerment while teaching law students effective immigrants’ rights lawyering skills in a real-world setting.

Heidi tailored her Fellowship project to assist immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children and who are often unaccompanied. Heidi extends her work to both children who are recent arrivals and young adults, often categorized as Dreamers. Through this project, Heidi acknowledges that Dreamers, and many undocumented young adults, form part of the unaccompanied child narrative given that (1) a high number entered as unaccompanied children and (2) could have qualified for SIJS, a pathway which opens an avenue to residency, had they been properly identified earlier by properly trained service providers. However, many have aged out and can no longer apply for SIJS, thus they are now only left with the hope of temporary DACA protection.

Heidi seeks to remedy this issue by assisting Dreamers with advance parole, which if approved allows them to have a lawful entry into the United States and thus a potential ability to adjust status in the future. There is currently no outreach to this population of immigrants because they are often overlooked, but Heidi aims to provide adequate assistance to ensure they have a comprehensive immigration consultation and competent representation.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Heidi has:

  • Provided brief service, intakes, and referrals to 35 individuals
  • Began full representation of 16 individuals ranging from initial stages of preparing filings in state court, monitoring priority dates for applicants waiting to become eligible to adjust status and responding to Requests for Evidence for clients whose green card application is in process with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Facilitated completion of 12 Advance Parole applications for Loyola Law School alumni and current Loyola Marymount University students.
  • Co-created an educational program for DACA recipients in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico focused on immigration law and servicing unaccompanied children in transit.
  • Co-taught seminars for LIJC regarding: client interviewing through a trauma-informed lens, cross cultural humility, intersectionality in immigration law, and declaration writing.

Next Steps

In the next year, Heidi plans to:

  • Continue advancing her case load
  • Create a teaching guide about the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status process in state court
  • Create bilingual educational materials for migrants in transit
  • Conduct a general immigration training for pro bono attorneys at Reed Smith LLP
  • Host Immigration Law Panel to promote immigration law practice amongst students. Participants in the panel will include immigration attorneys in the non-profit, private, and corporate sector.

Representing unaccompanied children is my passion because, while I can’t undo the trauma they’ve suffered, I can redress the harms by dedicating my career to advocating for their rights. Further, as a first-generation student, one of my forefront goals is to increase opportunities for students who come after me. This project allows me to see both of my goals come to fruition.

Heidi Gonzalez /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Leigh developed the bankruptcy practice at the Public Law Center. The aim was to aid low-income clients, including filing for bankruptcy, developing foreclosure prevention, and encouraging local law students and attorneys to become involved.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

My fellowship project addresses the need for affordable housing in the greater Los Angeles area using California Housing Element law. This includes commenting on local housing element drafts, monitoring jurisdiction compliance and advocating to promote policies to more effectively preserve and produce affordable housing. The current lack of affordable housing, coupled with condo conversions and the scarcity of available land to develop new housing, puts low-income residents of Los Angeles at risk of homelessness.

The Inspiration

The Project

Foster youth disproportionately experience poor outcomes compared to their peers. By 3rd Grade, 83% repeat a grade. Fewer than half graduate high school; around 10% go on to college. 1 in 100 foster children earns a college degree. Within two years of “aging out” of the system at 18, 50% will be unemployed, 25% will be incarcerated, and 20% will be homeless. Patrick improved those outcomes in three ways: (1) it will place foster youth in supportive, high-performing schools; (2) it will defend foster youth in disciplinary hearings to ensure placement stability; (3) and community volunteers will be recruited to hold and exercise educational rights on behalf of foster youth.