Michaela will advocate for survivors of human trafficking and power-based violence seeking safety in the court and immigration systems through targeted outreach and community coordination, direct legal services, and pro bono mentorship.
Undocumented immigrants are among those most vulnerable to human trafficking, Yet the legal community is failing to address their needs: while 5000 T-visas are available annually, only 1,500 have been issued in recent years, and many survivors report that they are unaware that they are entitled to this form of relief. Moreover, immigrant survivors of power-based violence face barriers to accessing protections in family court they are entitled to under the law. Indeed, judges report that 54% of their court cases involving immigrant victims have been interrupted in recent years due to fears of being deported. As systems become more inaccessible to immigrant communities, the need for advocates to assist victims in navigating avenues to safety is greater than ever.
While working as a rape crisis advocate prior to law school, Michaela witnessed a tragic phenomenon: a victim-offender binary narrative, in which people can only be the victims of crime or the perpetrators. Michaela’s project is the product of her desire to serve the survivors of trauma who society overlooks because of their identity at the intersection of victim and offender.
Michaela will provide full representation to immigrants survivors of power-based violence and human trafficking seeking T-Visas, U-Visas, VAWA relief, and Special Juvenile Immigrant Status, as well as assist survivors seeking safety from violence in obtaining civil protection orders and other family law remedies. Her project will build a holistic referral network to promote client outreach and facilitate mobile intake clinics by creating interdisciplinary partnerships with legal and non-legal organizations that regularly advocate for domestic violence, trafficking survivors, and immigrants. In partnership with her sponsor, Michaela will train pro bono attorneys to provide trauma-informed representation to expand her project’s capacity to vindicate the rights of her clients.
Criminalizing human trafficking survivors not only unjustly burdens victims with the collateral consequences of criminal records, but also prevents healing from trauma.
Michaela Lovejoy /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Ashley created a legal clinic for survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, and stalking who seek Civil Protection Orders in Washington, DC.
Over 5,500 Civil Protection Order cases are filed in Washington, DC each year. Unfortunately, the majority of individuals seeking protection cannot afford to hire an attorney. Pro se litigants may not know how to accomplish tasks that may be simple for an attorney, such as requesting a new hearing date, completing service of process, amending pleadings, or introducing evidence at trial. An attorney providing brief services and legal advice can help these survivors obtain much-needed protection from their abusers.
Through her Fellowship, Ashley established the Domestic Violence Protection Order Clinic in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Ashley provided more than 400 clients with brief services through the clinic. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the clinic transitioned into a virtual model, which succeeded in reaching and assisting hundreds of survivors as they attempted to escape violence during the pandemic. Ashley provided more than 50 clients with full representation in Civil Protection Order cases, and many other clients received full representation from DCVLP pro bono attorneys through referrals from the clinic. Through the course of the Fellowship, Ashley recruited and trained over 160 pro bono attorneys. Ashley expanded the reach and impact of her work through publishing three articles on domestic violence issues, appearing on a national television program discussing domestic violence during the pandemic, and presenting as a panelist at the District of Columbia Bench and Bar Conference on how the pandemic reshaped access to justice in the domestic violence context.
Ashley will remain at the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project as a supervising attorney, where she will supervise pro bono attorneys in domestic violence cases and will work to expand DCVLP’s policy and appellate advocacy. Ashley looks forward to maintaining the clinic through the recruitment of pro bono attorneys.
I am dedicated to creating safety and stability for low-income individuals who have been impacted by violence.
Ashley Carter /
Equal Justice Works Fellow
Samantha will provide pro bono representation to veterans seeking service-connected benefits who have successfully appealed an unfavorable decision by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) only to have their case remanded back to the agency by the appellate court.
Remands by the appellate court result in the veteran being given another opportunity to pursue the claim again by presenting new evidence. Volunteer attorneys will be able to use their training and expertise to identify what evidence is necessary to prevail at the agency. Navigating the appeals process is not just difficult for the veteran, it can even be daunting for experienced attorneys due to unique agency procedures and regulations. The solution is to train a corps of volunteer lawyers to represent veterans at the agency and enhance their chance of ultimately succeeding.
Her parents who are both veterans of the US Navy and Samantha’s substantial experience with veterans law has inspired this project.
Samantha will represent veterans whose cases have been remanded but the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). She also plans to pitch attorneys from The Veterans Consortium National Volunteer Corps who work on cases at the court level to volunteer to continue representing their clients when it returns to the VA. Samantha will create and deploy an online training entitled “Continuing Representation from CAVC back to the VA” and recruit medical professionals to offer pro bono medical services to veterans.
I am passionate about using my work to help veterans see results, not more delays.
Samantha Farish /
Equal Justice Works Fellows
Samantha’s Fellowship seeks to address the ongoing legal and health needs that many veterans have, often as a result of their time in service. Veterans, their family members, caregivers, and survivors are all impacted by these needs. By providing free legal representation and referrals, she will directly improve the lives of these individuals.
As a Fellow, Samantha screens cases pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims on behalf of her host site in order to place them with volunteer attorneys, and provides direct representation in some of those cases. She also meets with veterans via a pro bono legal clinic hosted at the DC VA Medical Center. Samantha refers those veterans to a number of different partner organizations that are able to provide direct representation when she personally cannot.
“As the daughter of two navy veterans, I have always had a great deal of respect for those who dedicate their time to the military. I knew that I wanted my law degree to give me the opportunity to serve litigants that are typically pro se and have limited access to justice. When I externed for my host site during law school, I realized that this is how I could do that. My favorite part of what I do is that everyone involved (the clients, the volunteer attorneys, the VA’s lawyers, the Court, etc.) have the goal of helping veterans. Even when they disagree on how to best help, they still want to help,” says Samantha.
Positioned at a distinctive crossroads between local and federal governance, the District of Columbia is one of the most unique and challenging areas to meet the legal needs of victims of crime. The District is home to approximately 672,228 people with diverse backgrounds who experienced 33,000 major crimes in the last year, including sexual assaults, fraud and identity theft, hate and bias related crimes, and crimes against immigrants. Further, one in four female college students will experience sexual assault during their college tenure; the District is home to eight universities. The District’s unique demographics, use of federal prosecutors, and intersecting local systems, create unprecedented challenges for survivors.
Heba provided comprehensive legal assistance to campus sexual assault survivors, fraud and identity theft victims, survivors of hate crimes, and immigrant victims. Such legal assistance included civil legal assistance, crime victims’ rights advocacy, and Title IX representation and advocacy.
Having clerked for two Associate Judges at the District of Columbia Superior Court, Heba has a nuanced understanding of the District’s unique jurisdictional challenges During law school, Heba pioneered the development the Cyber-Violence Project, a George Washington University Law School clinical program that provides legal assistance to survivors of cyber-stalking, cyber-harassment, and non-consensual pornography. During law school, Heba served immigrant clients fleeing gender-based violence.
Survivors have a voice, but sometimes they need someone to amplify that voice. That is where I think my role is.
Heba Estafanous /
Equal Justice Works Fellow
Through the partnership with other Northern Virginia organizations, human trafficking survivors’ needs can be holistically met: mental health, immigration, and civil matters. This Fellowship provided resources and protections to survivors and their families through civil law.
Alina partnered with other Northern Virginia organizations to support human trafficking victims’ rights, and she also represented human trafficking victims in their civil matters and provided trainings on how to recognize trafficking victims.
Alina initially decided she wanted to go to law school after reading a law review article describing the existing legal frameworks protecting and preventing human trafficking victims around the world. She has a commitment to working in public service, especially for the marginalized in society. She has a strong foundation of knowledge of the signs of trafficking and avenues through which survivors can pursue wholeness in the law.
Kaitlin advocated for D.C. public school students facing suspension or expulsion. The project provided holistic services with direct legal representation, community education, and systemic reforms. The primary goal of this project was to provide representation to students facing disciplinary action through a network of private attorneys and law students.