Carly (she/her/hers) will provide systemic and individual legal advocacy to ensure that children and youth do not receive fines and fees as a result of school referrals to municipal and other local courts.
Nationally, schools refer students to municipal and other local courts for alleged violations of ordinances such as truancy, disorderly conduct, or disruption of school. These courts assess fines and fees that criminalize poverty and substantially harm students by burdening them with debt and collateral consequences; these burdens fall heaviest on Black and Brown families. In light of the devastating impact of the coronavirus epidemic, youth will be even more vulnerable to school-based charges, and families will have even less ability to pay. Little attention has been paid to these fines and fees for students; without public oversight and systemic reforms, courts will continue to issue these fines and fees.
During her Fellowship, Carly will investigate the use of municipal and other local court fines and fees against youth and publicize information about how they impact youth in multiple jurisdictions. She will also provide direct representation to students facing these fines and create advocacy guides to support attorneys wanting to help youth in these proceedings. Additionally, she will work with local partners and impacted students and families to increase community awareness, design campaigns to end the imposition of fines and fees for school-based behavior, and, when appropriate, develop impact litigation.
As a former teacher, I am inspired by the incredible potential of all youth. I decided to become a lawyer because I know too many youth are stifled by the legal and economic consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Carly Wasserman /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Among large U.S. cities, Richmond has the 2nd highest eviction rate in the country at 11.44%. A total of 30.9% of all Richmond renters receive a notice of eviction in any given year. Richmond’s history of segregation, discrimination and racism continues to reverberate today, and high eviction rates are disproportionately found in minority communities, with more than 60% of all majority African American tracts facing eviction rates greater than 10%. Low-income individuals facing eviction or poor housing conditions are at a point of severe vulnerability, and access to adequate legal representation is an essential component to ensuring that their rights are not ignored.
Louisa will represent tenants in court in eviction proceedings with an eye towards impact solutions. She will advocate for local policy change through public comment and legislative work groups. She will collaborate with community groups to provide legal advice and trainings that empower low-income tenants to advocate for their rights.
Before law school, Louisa volunteered at an emergency youth homeless shelter where she saw the effects of housing instability firsthand. She quickly became involved in legal aid work during law school and got experience representing clients on a broad range of topics: public benefits, education, juvenile justice, immigration, and housing. She saw how her clients’ problems were interrelated, with housing being a baseline need that had to be addressed before resolving other issues.
I think evictions are one of the biggest issues that low-income clients are facing where they need a lawyer and they're highly underrepresented.
Louisa Rich /
2019 Fellow in the Housing Justice Program
Patricia provided legal services to immigrants detained in North Texas. Many of these people have relief available to them, but most forgo even applying for relief due to the lack of representation currently available. Additionally, Patricia alleviated this problem by educating detained immigrants and families regarding their rights, providing legal representation for detained immigrants, and providing training and support to pro bono attorneys willing to represent detained immigrants.
The majority of the 300,000 children in New York City who are in the care of relatives live in poverty. My project will increase the free legal services available to these families in New York City and New York State by: (1) augmenting the services offered by MFY to include assistance on public benefits issues (while continuing to provide assistance on custody, guardianship and adoption matters); and (2) providing technical assistance to organizations outside of New York City interested in starting pro bono networks to assist kinship caregivers.
Jeffrey worked with homeowners in the Cincinnati area to help them preserve their homes. These families could either be on the edge of foreclosure, meaning that counseling and advice, combined with a referral to a housing counselor, is the proper approach, or already in foreclosure, meaning that legal defenses in court are the appropriate approach. Additionally, Jeffrey ensured that homeowners are connected with available resources to keep them in their homes.
Kristin aimed to protect the rights of abused and neglected children from Denver and ensure they access education and graduate high school. Kristin provided direct representation of Denver’s abused and neglected children who are at risk of dropping out, being suspended or expelled. And, Kristin advocated for reforms to remove barriers to education as well as bring school districts and state agencies into compliance with existing law.
Claire provided no-cost special education representation to older youth (18+) placed at the secure detention facility in D.C. Claire investigated the youths’ special education entitlements and developed applicable legal claims. Additionally, Claire followed the educational progress of youth from incarceration to reentry, focusing on obtaining appropriate educational placements and related services.
I felt drawn to the law as a way to advocate for those who are often silenced, whether by age, race, class or other circumstances.
Claire Nilsen Blumenson /
Equal Justice Works Fellow
Sabrina identified and represented non-citizen survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking who have criminal convictions in their immigration matters.
Non-citizen survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence (hereinafter “survivors”) are falling through the cracks of the criminal justice system. They are being deported despite the fact they have been afforded legal protection on a local and national level. This project provided a multifaceted solution through the implementation of a screening/referral tool and training program for the public defenders at the Legal Aid Society of NYC, which fostered early identification of survivors trapped in the criminal justice system. Sabrina provided direct legal representation and holistic services to survivors who are facing deportation so that they can live independently from their abusers and traffickers, and she created survivor-centric community education materials that were distributed through the community partners of Legal Aid Society’s Domestic Violence-Immigration Practice. Furthermore, Sabrina undertook outreach at Riker’s Island Correctional Facility to further identify survivors.
In the past two years, Sabrina:
- Provided legal advice or direct legal representation to over 52 non-citizen survivors
- Identified 29 non-citizen survivors in Riker’s Island Correctional Facility who would have otherwise remained invisible in the criminal justice system
- Gave practice specific survivor identification training to over 150 attorneys at The Legal Aid Society
- Implemented a survivor identification screening tool for all borough offices at The Legal Aid Society
- Created an emergency hotline for survivors and distributed survivor centric know your rights materials
- Devised a sustainable partnership with Riker’s Island Correctional Facility to have monthly presentations to inmates and staff about domestic violence, human trafficking, and the rights of non-citizen survivors
Following her Fellowship, Sabrina continues to representing non-citizen survivors at The Legal Aid Society.
Christine protected the rights of low-income mothers in the District of Columbia to be free from workplace discrimination related to pregnancy and family responsibilities through direct representation, outreach, and policy reform.
Need Addressed By Project
Working women provide crucial financial and emotional support to their families. Indeed, women are the sole or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, yet too often they are targeted for harassment and poor treatment at work due to their pregnancy or caregiving obligations. State and federal laws prohibit such discrimination, but enforcing these laws can be costly and time-consuming. Consequently, it is difficult for low-income women to challenge even the most egregious practices, yet these are the women who can least afford to lose their jobs.
In the past two years, Christine has:
• Provided legal advice or representation to 54 women and caregivers
• Worked on 5 high-impact cases that have, or are likely to, create positive legal precedents for pregnant women and caregivers
• Successfully tried a pregnancy discrimination case to a favorable jury verdict in federal court
• Given 10 “know your rights” presentations in the community, training nearly 150 DC workers about their rights related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and family and medical leave
• Testified before the D.C. Council three times to advocate for local legislation that benefits low-wage workers and caregivers
• Built and strengthened relationships with other organizations, both local and national, that advocate for the rights of women, caregivers, and low-wage workers
Where are they now?
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Christine plans to:
• Continue her work as a Staff Attorney at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs
• Advance innovative solutions, through both litigation and policy, to the issues that pregnant workers and caregivers continue to face in the workplace
Andrew helped homeless youth in West Los Angeles escape homelessness by working with Public Counsel to create a new legal clinic at Safe Place for Youth (SPY), a drop-in shelter and service provider, which provided access to critical legal services relating to civil penalties, housing, employment, education, and community outreach.
On a national level, youth homelessness is a quiet crisis that has been growing for decades. This crisis is particularly acute in Southern California, including the neighborhood of Venice on the west side of Los Angeles, which has been a haven for many years for homeless persons, including an increasing number of homeless youth. Homeless youth are often targeted for robbery, physical assault, and sexual assault. They are also targets for police, who issue tickets to them for offenses such as jaywalking, sleeping in public, public urination, and many others. Homeless youth often do not have the resources to get to court, let alone pay the fines. As a result, many youth accumulate failures to appear and bench warrants for their arrest. These tickets not only prevent youth from seeking the protection of law enforcement, but also make it extremely difficult for them to enroll in school, find employment, or gain housing. There is currently no legal provider in Venice to help homeless youth with these issues and other related issues.
During his Fellowship, Andrew:
- Worked with SPY to set up a comprehensive intake process for both drop-in visits and proactive street outreach
- Collaborated with the Los Angeles-based Coalition to end Youth Homelessness to create “Know Your Rights” educational programming for homeless youth
- Represented clients in court, arguing for the dismissal of their tickets and warrants