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Rylan Maksoud

  • Hosted by Texas Fair Defense Project
  • Sponsored by Lisa Foster and Alan Bersin
  • Service location Statewide, Texas
  • Law school The University of Texas School of Law
  • Issue area Criminal Justice Reform
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Rylan’s (he/him/his) project will demonstrate the transformational impact of providing representation to people charged with “fine-only” criminal offenses which routinely result in low-income Texans being arrested, incarcerated, and subjected to onerous conditions, all without a lawyer to advocate for them.

In Texas, the lowest-level infractions are misnomered “fine-only” offenses, ranging from traffic violations and leaving your trash can out too late, to certain counts of theft and assault. While technically not punishable by jail time, these offenses annually result in over a million arrest warrants, hundreds of thousands of jailings, and only tens of thousands of community-service fulfillments for Texans unable to pay fines and fees. These cases can have significant collateral consequences, affecting people’s ability to drive, work, find housing, and even remain in the country. Statutory protections, particularly for low-income Texans, often go unused since no one is entitled to court-appointed counsel for these offenses.

A forever Texan, Rylan has experienced both the criminal and civil sides of Texas justice and municipal courts. The mismatch between de jure and de facto practices inspired his undergraduate thesis, Fine-Only Offenses in Texas, and a passion for catalyzing change in this area.

Fellowship Plans

At the Texas Fair Defense Project, Rylan will be provide direct representation, engage in policy advocacy, and bring impact litigation. Rylan will offer zealous representation to everyone in three justice and municipal courts over the course of his Fellowship. By utilizing statutory protections and measuring outcomes before, during, and after representation, Rylan will develop three case studies on why defense counsel is necessary for even low-level misdemeanor offenses. Rylan’s project seeks to support local and statewide efforts to expand the right to counsel to include all misdemeanor offenses, as well as advocacy work related to fines, fees, and debt-based driver’s license suspensions.

Born and raised in Houston to two Lebanese emigrants, I’m a double Longhorn who expresses my love for the Lone Star State by exploring every nook and cranny of our 254 counties—and by refusing to be a bystander.

Rylan Maksoud /
2024 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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