Milo Vieland

The Project

Milo’s (he/him/his) project will provide holistic legal representation to low-income transgender clients in Chicago facing insurance coverage denials for transition-related medical care.

Transgender people face significant barriers to obtaining transition-related healthcare. Despite the overwhelming consensus of medical associations and clinicians that transition-related healthcare is effective, medically necessary, and often life-saving, transgender patients must navigate a complex and ever-changing array of health insurance policies to obtain coverage for surgery, while simultaneously attempting to update their names and gender markers on identification documents. Furthermore, the poverty rate for transgender people is 29%, twice that of the general population. Lack of economic security compounds issues of access to medical care for low-income transgender people, who also face barriers to public assistance access. Without comprehensive legal assistance across these issues, many transgender people are barred from essential medical care, economic security, and full civic participation.

Milo’s experiences fighting for his own and others’ healthcare have shown him the power of legal advocacy to create meaningful change in people’s lives.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Milo will utilize the medical-legal partnership between Legal Council for Health Justice and Howard Brown Health to provide holistic legal services to transgender clients. He will represent clients facing insurance denials for transition-related healthcare. He will offer legal assistance with the processes of name and gender marker changes on vital records. Additionally, he will advocate for clients’ economic security by providing comprehensive legal assistance with public benefits.

Media

Four Northeastern Law Students Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships

Trans people are in the practice of relying on each other for access to medical care and other resources. This project is an extension of that mutual support.

Milo Vieland /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Jesse (he/him/his) will improve housing conditions and support immigrant empowerment through a community lawyering model, including outreach, education, leadership development, and litigation.

Columbus is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., but people in poverty face a housing crisis. Among those most vulnerable are members of immigrant communities. Columbus has the largest Bhutanese-Nepali community and the second-largest Somali community of any city in the country. Just as the city is growing, so too are the number of immigrants and refugees.

Due to a shortage of affordable housing, many immigrants and refugees live in unsafe properties. Landlords fail to maintain safe and habitable conditions, subjecting tenants to massive water leaks, mold, pest infestations, failure to make regular repairs, and sometimes illegal rent hikes and unlawful evictions.

Jesse’s work with the Central Ohio Housing Action Network, a grassroots community law project he co-founded in May 2020, motivates his commitment to community partnerships for transformative change.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Jesse will educate and empower immigrant populations to better understand and protect their rights by holding office hours in immigrant neighborhoods and hosting community meetings on tenants’ rights and housing issues in partnership with immigrant leaders. He will represent tenants in rent escrow and nuisance abatement actions to improve housing conditions and hold landlords accountable. Finally, he will protect housing stability by representing tenants in eviction defense.

Achieving safe and affordable housing for all takes more than litigation wins– my work with organizers has taught me it takes relationships of trust with those most affected.

Jesse Vogel /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Alton (he/him/his) promotes fair redistricting maps by addressing partisan gerrymandering through research, litigation, and policy advocacy.

For communities of color to be adequately represented in state legislatures and Congress, electoral districts must be drawn in a manner that gives their inhabitants a safe-guarded right to vote for their candidates of choice. Yet, politicians in state legislatures are increasingly passing partisan redistricting maps that overwhelmingly benefit themselves and their political parties, thereby limiting the ability of voters to elect candidates that reflect their needs and desires. We need an equitable system that empowers voters to choose their politicians, instead of politicians choosing their voters. Although federal courts are largely foreclosed from considering partisan gerrymandering, opportunities exist to challenge partisan maps at the state level. Voters deserve a fair process only reachable by reforms to how district lines are drawn today.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Alton will support ongoing and future partisan gerrymandering litigation through the development of novel and deeply effective litigation strategies. Further, he will bolster efforts at the state level to implement independent redistricting commissions, which would move the power of redistricting from politicians’ hands into the hands of voters. Alton will also work to produce state-by-state legal research on how local laws may be used to litigate partisan gerrymandering claims moving forward.

The issues that I care deeply about in my community—from immigration reform to healthcare access—depend on having elected officials that actually represent the communities from which they are elected. Fighting for fair maps is at the foundation to ensure government works for the people.

Alton Wang /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

KB’s (she/they) project will focus on increasing access to occupational licenses for low-income New Yorkers with arrest and conviction records through direct representation, community outreach, and policy advocacy.

For decades, many of the 2.3 million New Yorkers living with a criminal record have been routinely denied licensure, discouraged from the application process, or had their licenses revoked. New York law provides some protection to people with criminal records facing denials, including the requirement that licensing agencies evaluate mitigating factors such as a person’s age at the time of their offense. In practice, however, the statutory process means that people undergo lengthy investigations to prove their “good moral character” through “evidence of rehabilitation,” personal interviews, and testimony in formal hearings– often without the aid of counsel.

KB will continue her near decade-long commitment to reentry work in partnership with impacted people and community stakeholders.

Fellowship Plans

During their Fellowship, KB will represent clients facing licensure denials and revocation and litigate discriminatory employer practices on behalf of license holders with criminal records. She will directly engage with New Yorkers who wish to enter one of New York’s 100+ licensed occupations to dispel myths and misinformation that discourage people with criminal records from pursuing licensed employment available to them. Additionally, KB will develop training materials to help pro bono legal and social service providers build expertise in this area and handle incoming cases. In doing so, KB seeks to lessen disparities for workers of color overrepresented in low-wage work, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and promote fair access to licensure so that all workers may find more stable and safer jobs.

Media

Two New Grads Named Equal Justice Works Fellows

This project aims to shine a light on the unnecessary conviction barriers embedded in New York’s occupational licensing laws and help promote the economic security of all New Yorkers living with a criminal record.

KB White /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Alexandra’s (she/her/hers) project will focus on reuniting refugee families from Muslim-majority countries, including recently displaced Afghans, by exposing and challenging anti-Muslim immigration policies.

Thousands of refugees from Muslim-majority countries in Southwest Asia and Africa– including places like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Somalia– are separated from their families abroad and anxiously waiting to reunite in the United States. President Biden nominally repealed the Muslim Ban, but discriminatory policies continue to keep the Ban alive in practice. While current policies do not overtly ban refugees from Muslim-majority countries, they are designed to keep out Muslims through bureaucratic requirements that are almost impossible for refugees from particular countries to meet. These policies are largely hidden from public scrutiny, so families do not know why they are separated.

Through her prior work with the International Refugee Assistance Project, including work with families impacted by the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Alexandra has seen how irrational and arbitrary bureaucratic requirements operate to keep families from Muslim-majority countries apart.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Alexandra will work to identify, expose, and challenge discriminatory policies that keep refugee families apart and prevent them from reuniting in safety in the United States. She will engage with Muslim refugee communities, including recently displaced Afghans, to identify policies and practices which discriminate against refugees from Muslim-majority countries in Southwest Asia and Africa. She will identify and represent individuals with acute family reunification needs. Furthermore, Alexandra will litigate challenges against discriminatory policies and engage in strategic advocacy.

As the granddaughter of Iraqi-Jewish immigrants, I am motivated to expose and reform the discriminatory policies that keep families from countries like Iraq apart.

Alexandra Zaretsky /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Tiffany (she/her/hers) will provide for the economic empowerment of women experiencing or at risk of homelessness in Wichita Falls, Texas and the surrounding rural communities through direct representation, on-site intake at service provider locations, and community outreach.

The Texas Homeless Network estimates that in 2019 more than 8,000 people experienced homelessness in 215 rural Texas counties; additionally, in a 2020 report, the Texas Tribune showed that rural homelessness in Texas was up 33%. COVID-19 continues to pose risks for those experiencing homelessness as social services have become more limited, and the economic effects of the pandemic have put more Americans at risk of homelessness. With this trend of increasing homelessness, it is important to note that women’s homelessness is highly associated with exacerbating factors such as domestic violence and sexual exploitation/harassment, violent victimization, human trafficking, and trauma—all of which deteriorate mental health. Rural, low-income Texans already have difficulty accessing basic legal services; furthermore, rural areas in Texas generally lack dedicated resources to find and aid those experiencing homelessness, leaving churches and faith-based organizations as some of the few community lifelines.

Fellowship Plans

During her Fellowship, Tiffany will focus on homelessness and homelessness prevention for women in the rural communities served by the Wichita Falls office of Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. She will create and maintain partnerships with local non-profit and faith-based organizations that serve women experiencing or at risk of homelessness through outreach and on-site community intake to make civil legal aid accessible to this population. Tiffany will remove barriers to employment and sustainable housing by handling expunctions and nondisclosures of criminal records and litigating civil protective orders. Additionally, she will conduct community surveys to collect data on the additional legal needs of these women.

I do not know what it is like to be a homeless woman living in rural Texas. I do know, however, that it is my calling to use my legal knowledge to transform society into one that uplifts the marginalized.

Tiffany Uke /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Matthew (Matt) Halverson advocates on behalf of individuals facing the criminal justice system in San Diego County to ensure that their health needs are addressed through direct representation, education, and systems-level advocacy.

In 2018, about 200,000 Californians were incarcerated and 400,000 were under community supervision, with an estimated 36,000 Californians released from custody annually. Moreover, over a million Californians are admitted to and released from jails per year. When incarcerated, these individuals are either suspended or terminated from their Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”) benefits and are not automatically reinstated into their healthcare benefits. Furthermore, these individuals face many health issues while incarcerated. Individuals released from prison face multiple challenges to maintain healthcare and experience prevalent issues, including the coordination of health and behavioral services in the community, transitions between programs and services (probation/parole, county behavioral health and health services agencies, and others), gaps in eligibility when transitioning between programs, and administrative barriers to entering and/or reinstating healthcare benefits (application processing, eligibility, timeline requirements, and other administrative burdens).

Fellowship Plans

To address these issues, Matt will provide direct representation for health access issues and collaborate with other organizations such as the Public Defender’s Office to set up referral processes, develop training and guidance, and create educational materials that address the specific healthcare access issues these individuals face. Matt will also educate the community by developing self-help materials and workshops.

Prior to law school, I worked in healthcare and social services witnessing the gross disparities in healthcare and social services and how that lack of access harmed members of my local community. Everyone deserves access to healthcare and mental health services.

Matt Halverson /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Mary Claire Kelly’s (she/her/hers) project at ACE will assist local grassroots movements in Massachusetts with legal advocacy for climate and environmental justice in communities of color and low-income communities that have a long history of subjection to environmental racism. This project adds capacity and momentum for environmental and climate justice advocates in Massachusetts as they build towards a sustainable and equitable future.

Fellowship Plans

Through this Fellowship, Mary Claire will help communities tackle current environmental justice issues and build legal and policy avenues to address the future issues that the climate crisis will bring. As a movement lawyer, she will assist grassroots coalition members and residents of communities affected by pollution with legal advice, action, and strategy. This work will include helping local and state efforts to implement climate justice policy and providing legal assistance to marginalized communities advocating for a livable environment.

Mary Claire entered law school for the purpose of becoming a public interest attorney. She developed this project out of a commitment to the ethics of movement lawyering, and out of frustration and anxiety about the economic and social factors that have led us to climate crisis.

It will take all of us to turn our collective future away from climate chaos and towards a path of healing and equity. I am honored to do my part through this Fellowship with the amazing people at ACE.

Mary Claire Kelly /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Brenda (she/her/hers) will launch an innovative CDFI-Legal Partnership (CDFI-LP) to provide immigration and small business legal services which address the nexus between immigration status and economic justice for immigrants in Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Latinx population is growing steadily while the state’s white population has begun to decline. However, the typical white family in Minnesota holds five times the wealth of the typical Latinx family. This disparity extends to Latinx-owned businesses. Most recently, immigrant entrepreneurs were significantly impacted by the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and racial injustice. Following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, protests were centered in the heart of the immigrant business districts of Minneapolis in St. Paul, having the unintended consequences of property damage and extended business closures.

Immigration status directly impacts the stability felt by immigrant business owners and their family members. Gaining pathways to legal status and citizenship would allow entrepreneurs to invest more confidently in their future.

Fellowship Plans

This project will create a partnership between three non-profit organizations to serve clients more holistically and efficiently. The fellow will directly engage with Latinx entrepreneurs and their family members by providing legal intake, direct legal services, and referrals to staff attorneys and pro bono volunteers. Additionally, she will create a case study of this unique partnership and provide trainings to organizations and trade associations interested in replicating this model elsewhere.

As the granddaughter of immigrants, I felt a strong desire to serve immigrants who choose to make Minnesota their home. My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has allowed me to use my CDFI background and firm belief in the power of community partnerships to serve the legal needs of Minnesota’s Latinx community.

Brenda Pfahnl /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Joe (he/him/his) works to expand access to legal education, direct representation, and policy advocacy for working parents who face wage theft and other unlawful conditions in the workplace.

Immigrant parents and caregivers who work in low-wage industries in Los Angeles experience the highest employment violation rates in the country. Working parents and caregivers can use legal education and representation to combat their exploitation and ensure economic security for their children. A lack of representation dramatically increases the risk that parents will be fired for objecting to illegal workplace conditions. Further, undocumented parents cannot access social safety net programs and face fear of immigration-related retaliation that can cause family separation. The resulting systemic wage-theft and employment instability increases the negative academic, behavioral, and social outcomes for children of working parents.

Fellowship Plans

During his Fellowship, Joe will establish a new partnership between Bet Tzedek Legal Services’ Employment Rights Project and Community Coalition (CoCo), a leading community organizing hub in South Central Los Angeles that offers youth and family enrichment programs. Joe will create a custom-tailored employment rights outreach, education, clinical, and direct representation program for parents and caregivers of children enrolled in CoCo’s youth programs. Joe will use the successes of the project to support community-driven policy advocacy efforts and develop a guide that other legal services providers and youth programs can use to broaden access to employment rights legal services for working parents.

Lawyering for community empowerment demands a practice without walls. As the great-grandchild of immigrants who sweated in garment factories to provide for their children, I am committed to meeting immigrant parents and caregivers wherever and whenever they need so we can work together toward economic security—now and for generations to come.

Joe Philipson /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow