Sara Simon Tompkins

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Celina obstructed the school-to-prison pipeline that channels youth from classrooms to alternative schools and later to juvenile and adult jails. While many dynamics place students at risk, school disciplinary referrals are the best indicator of future entry into the juvenile justice system, leading to higher school dropout rates. Celina sought to decrease alternative school referrals, establish a community-school partnership model, and expand access to legal resources for students and families.

The Project

The focus of this project is to advance the rights of adults with mental impairments in Harris County, TX by providing direct representation to people who have suffered housing or employment discrimination because of their mental disability; who are languishing on waiting lists; or who are denied access to health care services and supports. Through this project, education and training workshops are provided to private attorneys seeking pro bono opportunities and to adults with mental impairments and their families regarding their legal rights.

The Inspiration

The Project

Even when children are no longer detained and have been reunified with family members in Houston, they still have very limited access to a lawyer and will probably attend their scheduled immigration court hearings without any legal representation. Through a combination of direct legal representation and assistance from pro bono attorneys, I hope to provide legal representation to all unaccompanied immigrant children in the Houston area.

Media

The Inspiration

The Project

Sarah provided permanent legal solutions to domestic violence victims in Montgomery County, Texas, through direct representation, public education, and development of a robust pro bono program.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

The absence of permanent legal solutions traps many domestic violence victims in horrific situations. Domestic violence has increased by more than 50 percent in Montgomery County since 2007. The need for family legal services among domestic violence victims has increased with the county’s rising low-income population. The Montgomery County Women’s Center (MCWC) and Lone Star Legal Aid help secure protective orders for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Limited resources, however, prevent the agencies from prioritizing divorce and custody suits for these victims. Texas has a high standard for obtaining protective orders against abusers, which historically has resulted in the courts requiring a pattern of severe abuse over a span of many years for protective order approval. Achieving permanent legal solutions before abuse becomes perpetual protects victims and helps them escape their abuser.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Sarah:

  • Built MCWC’s first sustainable pro bono program to assist pro se litigants and provide direct representation in divorce and custody matters
  • Recruited and trained 21 lawyers, 24 law students, and one paralegal to provide pro bono services
  • Produced practice handbooks for volunteer advocates
  • Trained counseling staff to identify their clients’ domestic abuse legal issues
  • Provided brief advice, pro se help, or referrals to 140 clients
  • Represented 50 clients in divorce, custody, adoption, or other family law matters
  • Garnered a $90,000 grant to fund her attorney position at MCWC given her project’s success in narrowing the gap between the long-term needs of domestic violence victims and access to legal services

Access to the legal system should not be reserved for any one class of persons.

Sarah Patrice Loeffler