Lauryn Barbosa Findley

The Project

Lauryn works to create a systematic approach to mass exonerating people wrongly convicted based on the unreliable medico-legal diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), along with a paradigm shift in the medical and legal communities based on the lack of evidence for the diagnosis.

Science has revealed the lack of evidence for SBS and shown the diagnosis is unreliable. Medical advances have shown there are many other causes of the findings upon which the diagnosis is based, and courts across the country have begun to reverse SBS convictions. Despite this, thousands of indigent people remain in prison without access to the legal resources necessary to challenge their wrongful convictions. While wrongful convictions in general disproportionately impact people of color, convictions based upon false SBS diagnoses are further subject to explicit and implicit biases as race and poverty are considered risk factors for abuse.

Lauryn grew up in a family that was impacted by the criminal justice system and is committed to providing a voice for those incarcerated. When she learned that SBS might be the largest cause of wrongful conviction, she became passionate about assisting those who have suffered an unimaginable double-tragedy: they lost a child. They then were wrongfully blamed for that loss and sent to prison as a result.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of her fellowship, Lauryn has:

  • Identified 105 cases that are potential wrongful SBS convictions using a systemic and strategic approach
  • Connected with 60 people – 54 incarcerated, six no longer incarcerated – who would like their conviction reviewed with an emphasis on the presumption of innocence and in light of the changes in medical science. Lauryn has also obtained and reviewed trial transcripts for 26 of these people
  • Begun the process of preparing thirteen cases for negotiations and litigation in collaboration with her colleagues. Lauryn has written full habeas petitions for three of these clients and is currently negotiating with experts and DA offices to solicit buy-in on seeking reversal and innocence
  • Crafted a model template for challenging SBS science in post-conviction litigation for shortfall cases
  • Taught a forensic science class at Santa Clara School of Law alongside her supervising attorney

Next Steps

In the next six months, Lauryn plans to:

  • Continue to draft petitions to the court in cases where the sole evidence of guilt was medical testimony that has now been proven false
  • Continue to consult with medical experts, meet with DA offices, and file petitions in court when necessary
  • Continue to craft templates and sample motions for various arguments against the unreliable medical science that may be used pre-or post-conviction

Media

Lauryn Bruton-Barbosa JD ’20 awarded a prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship to work with the Northern California Innocence Project

Three New Fellows Join Santa Clara Law

The Project

Bernadette E. Valdellon was an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at National Veterans Legal Services Program (NVLSP), where she assisted veterans in obtaining disability benefits related to their military service through NVLSP’s Lawyers Serving Warriors program.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Bernadette:

  • Analyzed military and personnel records of veterans requesting assistance with discharge upgrades, wrongful personality disorder discharges, and disability benefits for diseases related to Agent Orange exposure.
  • Drafted legal memoranda and supervised pro bono attorneys assisting with the discharge review process.

What’s Next?

After her Fellowship, Bernadette became a staff attorney at NVLSP for two years. In this position, she managed a national pro bono program providing representation to almost 100 veterans seeking disability benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs for mental conditions related to sexual trauma experienced in service. Now, she is an associate at Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.

The Project

The Legal Services of Northern California’s Tommy Clinkenbeard Legal Clinic is a clinic aimed at helping homeless people ticketed for illegal camping and other offenses related to their homelessness. The clinic provides civil legal services and facilitates the Loaves & Fishes Calendar, a court date whereby homeless guests are able to resolve their minor criminal offenses by obtaining a sentence of community service or treatment in lieu of incarceration and fines.

The Project

Patients often defer medical care when they cannot afford to pay their bills, making medical debt a barrier to health care access. California's Hospital Fair Pricing Policies provides safeguards for low-income patients by mandating that hospitals offer charity care, discounts and limits on collection practices. Using this new consumer protection law, I will provide legal advocacy to patients with medical debt and pursue legislative improvements in order to combat the devastating effect of medical debt on San Mateo County's most vulnerable patients.

The Inspiration

Fellowship Highlights

Alaric provided support and legal assistance to advocates on Section 3, which advances economic independence of low income individuals.

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Alaric began working for the City & County of San Francisco. He has since held a number of positions there for the Human Rights Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, and, currently, the Office of Contract Administration. He is now the City Purchaser and Director.

Media

SF Public Works acting director acknowledges 'turmoil,' vows to be 'open and transparent'

The Project

This project will put a stop to this injustice and stand as a model for future workers' workplace protection. The Watsonville Law Center will protect low-wage workers' earnings by enforcing existing workplace laws. Situated in the heart of the agricultural Pajaro Valley and serving both Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, we will provide direct legal services, education and outreach to the predominately Spanish-speaking, low-wage workers.

The Inspiration

The Project

Devin provided legal assistance, to veterans with a focus on National Guard and Reserve Veterans via a legal clinic partnership with the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

More than half of all Global War on Terrorism veterans served in the National Guard (NG) or the Reserves. This citizen soldier population, which includes more than 500,000 men and women, is returning home with significant physical and mental health problems. Unlike their active duty counterparts, NG and Reserve members quickly return to their respective civilian employment and are not tied to large military bases. This quick disconnect, from military service causes these veterans, to have more difficulty accessing needed physical and mental health care, from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other providers. This project seeks to provide current and former NG and Reserve members much needed assistance in accessing VA benefits and healthcare.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Devin has:

  • Provided advice on VA benefits and discharge upgrades, to over 200 veterans at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
  • Successfully obtained VA benefits for over 30 veterans.
  • Assisted several veterans with less than honorable discharge gain access, to previously denied VA care and benefits.
  • Helped several homeless veterans obtain VA benefits, which enabled them afford housing within the community.
  • Restored dignity to veterans, by helping them obtain Honorable discharges, after they were provided less than honorable discharges due to their sexuality.
  • Worked with VA health providers, to ensure continued treatment for a veteran’s terminal illness, after the VA sought to revoke eligibility.

Next Steps

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Devin plans to:

  • Continue hosting the legal clinic at the San Francisco VA Medical Center for Swords to Plowshares.
  • Continue operating the legal clinic at the VA for many years to come. Although we have been able to assist hundreds of veterans with their claims for benefits, the fight to ensure that veterans receive proper care and benefits is still in its infancy.

The Project

The goal of the project is to provide collaborative, holistic, and multi-modal legal assistance to Alameda County residents who have had contact with the criminal justice system, and who are trying to obtain or improve job opportunities. EOLC AmeriCorps Fellows will help clients obtain all available criminal records remedies.

I am committed to providing reentry legal services because increasing employment opportunities for justice-involved individuals strengthens communities and can reduce recidivism and related costs.

Sadie R. Wathen /
Equal Justice Works 2014 Fellow