Norrel Hemphill

The Project

Norrel (she/her/hers) will uplift the experiences of her community and provide direct legal representation and policy advocacy in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region to ensure low-income residents have access to safe and affordable drinking water.

Lack of access to safe and affordable drinking water is a rapidly growing environmental justice issue disproportionately impacting communities of color and lower-income communities. As defined by the Environmental Protection Agency, water affordability should be no more than 3% of a household’s monthly income. Yet, some Detroiters pay more than 20% of their monthly income toward their water bills. Detroit residents shoulder crippling debt from unaffordable water bills in a city plagued by failing infrastructure.

Detroit residents who cannot afford their water bills face displacement of their children and homelessness. Additionally, having no water or plumbing infrastructure has been linked to a rise in infectious diseases worldwide, even in the U.S. In 2016, Michigan experienced a Hepatitis B outbreak; a study found that water inaccessibility contributed to the spread of the illness. Detroit needs a permanent equity-based water affordability plan to address structural inequality and increase the quality of life for residents.

Born in Flint, raised in Detroit, and being personally affected by water issues compelled Norrel to join the fight for water affordability. Black and poor citizens are routinely and disproportionately negatively affected by human rights abuses.

Fellowship Plans

Building on the foundation that water warriors before her have laid, during her Fellowship, Norrel will provide direct legal representation and policy advocacy to ensure low-income residents have access to safe, clean, and affordable drinking water. The current legal framework provides little protection for Detroiters’ water rights. Norrel will work as an advocate for residents, helping them appeal to correct water bills, enroll in existing low-income payment programs, and eliminate the practice of shutting off water for non-payment.

Media

WMU-cooley Graduate Selected as an Equal Justice Works Fellow

Water is a human right! Every human being deserves access to clean, safe, affordable drinking water.

Norrel Hemphill /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Brittany will be working to solve any issues relating to abuse, neglect, and exploitation experienced by the elder population in Ithaca, New York, and the surrounding areas. Her work will include landlord-tenant issues, wills, and trust issues that may be of concern to her clients.

Brittany has always been interested in public interest law. Growing up, her family could not afford private attorneys when they needed legal advice, so her mother received a lot of legal assistance from their local legal aid society. Witnessing the diligent and supportive representation that her mother received inspired Brittany to become a lawyer and give back to her community, the same way the attorneys had for her mother.

Fellowship Plans

Brittany will start by working with local nursing homes and agencies to learn more about the legal needs of the senior population in Ithaca, New York.

The Project

The Asian Immigrant Youth Assistance Project aims to provide immigration legal assistance, advocacy and outreach to Asian immigrant youth and their families in the D.C. area through a T, U, and SIJS visa initiative. We intend to work with youth who are abused or abandoned; victims of human trafficking; or victims of crime and can assist in the prosecution of these crimes. The goal is to promote safety, permanency and well being for the community as a whole so that security can be heightened for at-risk populations such as Asian immigrant youth.

The Inspiration

The Project

Jennifer worked with Lone Star Legal Aid’s Conroe branch office and focused on family law matters for the benefit of rural and traditionally underserved communities by engaging in legal education, client representation and counseling, negotiation, and litigation. Since the Conroe branch covers such a large, mostly rural population, recruitment of volunteer attorneys will be essential in order to ensure that these populations have equal access to justice.

The Project

Polli focused on providing civil legal assistance to active duty military, National Guard, Reserves, veterans and military families. She also worked with the Indiana pro bono districts and local bar associations to increase the number of pro bono attorneys serving military members, veterans, and their families.

As a child growing up in less than perfect circumstances, people helped me and made a real difference in my life. I want to pass it on and I am thrilled that I am in a position to do so.

Polli Pollem /
Equal Justice Works Fellow