Jessica used Maryland’s law that allows sex trafficking survivors to have their prostitution convictions vacated, helping them to ensure they will no longer be prevented from moving forward with their lives because of convictions stemming from acts they were forced to commit.
Many victims of commercialized sex trafficking must endure both the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction and the stigma of involvement in prostitution. They remain extremely vulnerable to further exploitation and often continue to be involved in prostitution even after having escaped a trafficker. Jessica’s project addressed this injustice by providing direct representation to survivors in the Baltimore area seeking to vacate their prostitution convictions. She also trained attorneys to represent survivors in other parts of the state.
During her Fellowship, Jessica:
- Worked directly with over 40 clients experiencing legal hardships stemming from a history of human trafficking or involvement in the commercial sex industry
- Collaborated with human trafficking advocates throughout the country to encourage other states to adopt legislative measures designed to reduce the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for survivors of trafficking
- Trained on vacating convictions at the national level
- Created and implemented a pro bono training program to recruit and train Maryland attorneys to represent survivors of trafficking in vacatur cases
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Jessica has joined the University of Baltimore School of Law’s Clinical Law program as a clinical teaching fellow, where she will begin a new project within the Civil Advocacy Clinic focused on reducing the collateral consequences of criminal convictions for survivors of human trafficking and those involved in the commercial sex industry.
Tawny provided legal resources and training to cultivate a national network of Education Advocates (parents and community members) to address the needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
More than 90 percent of the estimated 250,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing children in this country are in mainstream school settings. They are often the only deaf students in their schools because they have low-incidence disabilities. This leaves parents interacting with school districts and teachers who may have limited experience with deaf children and are not fully aware of deaf students’ needs and abilities. Without knowledge of their legal rights, parents often find themselves unable to advocate fully for their deaf children. Parents need to be educated and empowered to help their deaf children succeed.
During her Fellowship, Tawny has:
- Provided presentations to 2,493 students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other professionals
- Trained deaf and hard of hearing students on self-advocacy at 22 schools and programs across the country
- Attended and presented at 26 education-related conferences on advocacy-related topics (state, national and international)
- Seen the number of intakes from parents and teachers quadruple, now totaling 463
- Grown the Education Advocates program from 27 to 44 states, 12 parents, and 4 national diverse organizations
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Tawny has become the Education Policy Counsel for the National Association of the Deaf.
Michael assisted homeless and at-risk veterans in rural Maryland by providing civil legal aid and advocacy on Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits and other issues through the innovative use of technology linking pro bono attorneys to rural veterans.
Rural homeless or at-risk veterans continue to face incredible hurdles in obtaining the VA benefits and relief to which they are entitled. Accordingly, veterans comprise a greater proportion of the homeless population in rural Maryland than in urban Maryland, yet no pro bono services existed that were targeted at serving rural homeless veterans in the state. The absence of services coupled with the lack of mass transit meant that rural homeless and at-risk veterans were cut off from access to civil legal aid. The project, the Rural Veterans Legal Assistance Project, brought pro bono legal assistance to them. Michael used lay volunteers and Skype to connect urban, central Maryland pro bono attorneys to homeless or at-risk veterans in rural intake centers. The project not only helped rural homeless veterans receive the benefits they are entitled to, but will also brought visibility to an otherwise forgotten rural population.
In the past two years, Michael has:
- Assisted 94 homeless or at-risk veterans with Veteran benefits issues and criminal record expungement—most would not have had access to civil legal aid without the project
- Opened two permanent legal clinics in rural Maryland, covering the high-need geographic regions of Cecil Co., Harford Co., and Southern Maryland
- Trained 104 attorneys in VA benefits law and furthered the Maryland Bar’s involvement pro bono involvement in assisting homeless or at-risk veterans.
Christian eliminated legal barriers to stability and promote integration for justice-involved veterans through direct civil legal representation, outreach, education, and advocacy.
The justice system incarcerates veterans at a significantly higher rate than non-veterans, and the difficulties leading to their criminal conduct often relate to their service. The Justice Involved Veterans Project (JIVP) provides civil legal services to veterans. Today, veterans treatment courts provide treatment for some veterans in lieu of incarceration, but true reintegration requires more than avoiding jail. This project provides civil legal services that eliminate barriers to employment so that veterans leaving treatment programs can return to the community with dignity and honor.
During the Fellowship period, Christian has:
- Provided direct representation to 35 veterans seeking assistance with veteran’s benefits claims, discharge upgrades, license restoration, and appealing denials of service in the Veteran’s Health Administration
- Became the first program to provide civil legal services to the participants in any veteran’s treatment court in Maryland, where more veterans used this project’s services than any other non-VA benefit
- Advocated for alternatives to incarceration and reemployment programs for justice-involved veterans by engaging judges, bar associations, and community partners through discussions and presentations highlighting the unique positioning of treatment courts to help veterans overcome the difficulties many face when returning from their service
- Collaborated with The Veterans Consortium to host a discharge upgrade clinic at MCVET, where attorneys from Northrop Grumman and Covington met with veterans about discharge upgrades
Christian will continue to work to improve outcomes for veterans as an Attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Additionally, Christian will remain involved at MCVET as a member of the Board where Christian hopes to continue providing brief advice to residents.