Moriah Mendicino

The Project

Moriah’s project aims to move individuals from despair to hope to action by creating “Pardon Projects” for criminal record clearing in Philadelphia’s low-income/high-crime neighborhoods like Tioga-Nicetown and Strawberry Mansion.

Over 100,000 low-income Philadelphians have turned their lives around since they were justice-involved and now merit the second chance that only an expungement or a pardon can give. Unfortunately, many qualifying individuals are unaware of or do not have access to the clemency services best suited for them.

Short-term, pardons and expungements allow formerly justice-involved folks who have paid their debts to society to get out from under the oppressive burden of a criminal record and become eligible for the jobs, loans, and housing they are otherwise forced to live without. Long-term, criminal record clearing can pull people, families, and communities out of poverty and reduce criminal activity, especially violent crime.

Moriah is an urban educator turned public-interest lawyer who has dedicated her professional life thus far to serving and seeking justice for, and alongside, members of Philadelphia’s indigent communities.

Fellowship Plans

By serving as the liaison between Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) and trusted organizations in Philadelphia’s most high-crime, low-income neighborhoods, Moriah will aid in the development of community-based Pardon Projects where potential clients can receive assistance applying for exonerations and pardons throughout the city. As a result, by the end of 2023, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons should be receiving 4,000 well-drafted pardon applications from low-income Philadelphians alone, up from just 50 in 2020. Moriah will also recruit, coordinate, and assign volunteer Pardon Coaches to assist in each pardon applicant’s hearing preparation.

Criminal records are shackles keeping people and communities imprisoned long after their sentences have been completed. Cutting those chains has immediate effects on the individual’s self-definition and the hope and energy they have about the future.

Moria Mendicino /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Amelia provided direct legal representation to children in immigration proceedings and coordinated outreach targeting their specialized healthcare and social service needs.

Less than 15% of unaccompanied children in federal removal proceedings in New Jersey have legal representation. Children who appear alone in immigration court are five times more likely to be ordered removed. Many of these children have experienced trauma, often the cause of their flight to the U.S., and present unique health needs. However, these children face barriers to obtaining healthcare and providers may lack the training in issues they face, leading to disengagement by the child and caregiver. Amelia’s project enabled healthcare providers to address a child’s barriers to healthcare while ensuring that the child received legal representation.

Amelia grew up hearing the stories of her great-grandfather, who immigrated unaccompanied to the U.S. as a 12-year-old child from Greece. Today children fleeing trauma face a much more complex and adversarial system than prior generations did. Amelia wants to stand by these children and ensure that their voices are heard.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Amelia:

  • Provided full representation to 35 children in their immigration proceedings, including applications for asylum, SIJS, U-Visas, permanent residency, and employment authorization, as well as immigration court;
  • Presented 15 workshops for close to 400 medical and social service providers on a variety of topics including notario fraud, immigrant eligibility for public benefits, educational rights of immigrant students, immigration legal relief for children, among others;
  • Collaborated with 57 community providers to improve access to services for immigrant children while strengthening referral partnerships;
  • Provided referrals to 75 clients for social services and legal services;
  • Advocated against the wrongful Medicaid denials of children with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in New Jersey.

Next Steps

After completing her EJW Fellowship with KIND, Amelia will join South Jersey Legal Services as a Staff Attorney in their public benefits unit.

The Project

Ashley provided direct legal services, deepened collaboration among providers, and advocated for systems change for people who have complex medical, legal, and social needs while living in poverty in Southern NJ.

With roughly 40 percent of Camden’s residents living in poverty, the city has significant rates of asthma, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other life-threatening diseases. Legal issues in all functional domains represent significant barriers to improving health and overall quality of life. This project aimed to strengthen collaboration between the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers and Rutgers Law School, to offer innovative, targeted multi-disciplinary approaches to empower individuals with complex needs.

After working in social services for several years before attending law school, Ashley began to recognize a dire need for lawyers who were sensitive to the experiences of individuals with severe mental and physical health conditions. She pursued a career in law to address this need, intending to offer holistic, practical, individualized, and accessible legal services.

Fellowship Highlights

Through her fellowship, Ashley provided direct legal support to over a hundred individuals with complex health and social needs. She utilized her clients’ expressed priorities and trends from her on-the-ground work to engage in effective client-centered policy advocacy. Ashley shared findings from this practice-to-policy approach with the medical and legal communities. Demonstrating the need for housing-related legal support during the pandemic, Ashley’s efforts culminated in the MLP receiving a $300,000 grant to expand eviction prevention work to a broader patient population through an innovative referral model.

Next Steps

Ashley will remain at the Medical-Legal Partnership through the end of 2021, taking on the role of Staff Attorney. She will continue prioritizing housing-related legal needs, as the end of the eviction moratorium makes eviction prevention more critical than ever.

Media

Rutgers Law School’s Medical-Legal Partnership Helps Resolve Complex Care Issues for South Jersey Residents

Ashley Maddison RLAW '19 Helps Clients Through the Camden Medical-Legal Partnership

Patients-to-Policy Learning Collaborative Part II: Applying the MLP approach to Housing for Patients with Complex Needs

I am passionate about uniting communities to tackle systemic barriers to improved health and life outcomes.

Ashley Maddison /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Maria ensured that Spanish-speaking children in Camden, NJ receive appropriate educational services. Additionally, Maria focused primarily on assisting children who are classified with a learning disability or are at risk of classification. This project was achieved through a combination of extensive outreach, parent education, self-advocacy, direct representation, and the recruitment and training of pro bono attorneys and clinical law students.