Miles Malbrough

The Project

Miles’ (he/him/his) project focuses on minimizing the crippling effects of heirs’ property on intergenerational wealth building in Middle Tennessee’s Black communities through free estate planning services, representation in partition litigation, and community education.

Miles’s project uses estate planning to help narrow the Black-white wealth gap in Middle Tennessee. Homeownership is the primary method of wealth-building in the United States, but Black Americans own homes at lower rates than other racial groups, and their homes are disproportionately held in heirs’ property. Heirs’ property is a form of joint ownership created when property owners die without an estate plan, which minimizes the owners’ home equity and makes their property vulnerable to a forced sale. Miles’s project will help community members prevent heirs’ property, maximize equity, and advocate for procedural rights in actions to force sale.

Miles was raised in Sumner County, Tennessee where many of his neighbors and family members own heirs’ property. His firsthand familiarity with the vulnerabilities of heirs’ property ownership has motivated him to pursue community-based legal work to minimize its harmful effects on families’ capacity to build intergenerational wealth.

Fellowship Plans

To promote understanding of how heirs’ property ownership diminishes wealth, Miles will conduct community education clinics throughout Middle Tennessee’s Black communities. By providing free estate planning services to (non-heirs) property owners, Miles will also help prevent the promulgation of heirs’ property and help Black property owners begin a legacy of estate planning in their families. For families that own heirs’ property, Miles will facilitate succession plans and advocate for robust procedural rights during partition litigation.

Media

Miles Malbrough ’22 To Address Estate Planning in Nashville’s Black Community as Equal Justice Works Fellow

The racial wealth gap undergirds countless racial inequities in the United States. I am thrilled at the opportunity to help Black communities build wealth through better access to legal services.

Miles Malbrough /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Maya strives to protect and advance the rights of incarcerated people with disabilities in Illinois who are denied access to transitional housing programs based on their disabilities.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) operates an ableist and classist parole system that keeps disabled people in prison past their release dates. Everyone sentenced to prison in the state is given a “mandatory supervised release” (MSR) date, at which point they are supposed to be placed in transitional housing to assist in their reentry. However, the IDOC largely contracts with housing programs that categorically deny entry to people with disabilities. Many programs refuse entry to people taking psychiatric medications, and the vast majority are not at all accessible to people who use mobility devices. Without such programs, disabled incarcerated people are left with an impossible choice: stop taking their medications or using mobility devices to increase their chances of getting into a housing program, or prioritize their health but risk spending extra time in prison because there is nowhere for them to go.

Fellowship Plans

Maya’s project will develop a class action lawsuit to ensure the Illinois Department of Corrections abides by the Americans with Disabilities Act when contracting with transitional housing providers. She will coordinate with local disability rights and reentry organizations, as well as system-impacted individuals, to establish an advisory committee that will guide all community organizing, litigation, and policy goals. Additionally, Maya will work closely with service providers to ensure disabled people returning home from prison receive support with housing, employment, and Social Security benefits.

As a Disabled person, I find power—and resilience—in advocating alongside members of my community to ensure disabled people never fall through the cracks. No one should have to hide their disability in order to get out of prison and into housing.

Maya Goldman /
2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Cindy (she/her/hers) will provide a multidisciplinary approach to reduce both the school-to-prison pipeline and the prison-to-deportation pipeline through direct representation, advocacy, and education.

Noncitizen juveniles face many barriers in accessing their rights. Without access to bilingual staff, funding, and competent immigration legal representation, noncitizen youth are often excluded from rehabilitative programs and denied a chance to pursue immigration relief to which they are entitled. Without high-quality legal representation and advocacy, noncitizen juveniles are left to navigate the juvenile justice and immigration systems on their own, and often face continued detention and deportation.

Cindy has witnessed the many injustices her entire family experienced as undocumented immigrants. She grew tired of watching her community be harmed time and time again, which led to her dedicating her career to immigration law.

Fellowship Plans 

Cindy will provide high-quality legal counsel to immigrant juveniles in NJ juvenile detention centers and residential community homes to obtain better outcomes before Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains and deport youth. Cindy will advocate for expanded funding to provide all juveniles with representation and expand access to social services for them. Cindy will educate youth on their legal rights when confronting the juvenile justice system and will train attorneys to represent juveniles with records.

Witnessing my own family face never ending injustices propelled me into this work. I was tired of seeing my loved ones being degraded and taken advantage of and I knew I wanted to do something about it.

Cindy Guaman /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Noah aspires to reduce imprisonment in Illinois by ensuring that people on parole have full access to their constitutional rights—including effective procedural protections and state-funded representation—and by reducing the use of incarceration as the default response to perceived parole violations.

After finishing a prison sentence, most Illinoisan’s freedom is contingent on compliance with stringent conditions of release. Upon suspecting a violation, parole agents can lock someone up without judicial oversight. Every year, about seven thousand people on parole are sent back to prison for technical violations like losing touch with parole agents, moving without permission or failing to sign up for mental health services. The vast majority are unrepresented by counsel during their revocation proceedings.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first twelve months, Noah has:

  • Provided advice and brief services regarding the mandatory supervised release system to approximately 50 people.
  • Provided full representation to 12 clients and reunited 10 individuals with their families through direct representation during parole revocation proceedings and administrative appeals.
  • Provided information about peoples’ due process rights and procedural options while facing parole revocation to dozens of detained people facing revocation (or their loved ones).

Next Steps

In the next year, Noah plans to:

  • Develop systemic-reform litigation.
  • Support a coalition of advocates dedicated to transforming Illinois parole.
  • Conduct workshops, meet with legislators and develop public education materials for individuals facing revocation.

It is a tragedy that incarceration is often Illinois’s first response to people who need help—the Constitution promises a more generous world to all of us.

Noah Breslau /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Mary’s Fellowship defended and expanded the rights of Somali Minnesotans to liberty, due process, and family unity through strategic litigation in immigration and federal courts, and related public education and advocacy.

There is an urgent, unmet need for representation among Somali Minnesotans whom ICE plans to detain and deport. Many could qualify for relief from deportation because they face persecution in Somalia or because of family ties in Minnesota. Unfortunately, most are unable to effectively pursue defenses to deportation because authorities are once again subjecting them to coercive, arbitrary, and often unlawfully prolonged civil detention. But most detained Somali Minnesotans lack the resources and counsel necessary to challenge their deportation orders in immigration courts while also fighting for release in federal court.

Fellowship Highlights:

During the two-year Fellowship, Mary:

  • Provided representation that resulted in multiple Somali men and women remaining in the United States and obtaining release from ICE custody
  • Provided direct representation, consultations, and pro se support to individuals in ICE custody
  • With a team of students and other attorneys, as well as individually, filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus in federal court successfully challenged unconstitutional detention and bond procedures
  • Partnered with other organizations in the Twin Cities to improve legal and healthcare assistance to Somali people inICE custody and upon release from ICE custody

Next Steps

Mary plans to continue working with immigrants in removal proceedings in Minnesota with the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. She will provide individual representation and continue policy work and impact litigation to work toward systemic change.

Media

3L Paul Dimick, Mary Georgevich ’18 Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowships

The Project

Many employers use criminal background checks to screen job applicants. As a result, no matter how qualified they may be, many candidates are denied jobs merely because they possess criminal records. The same is often true for potential renters or homebuyers with criminal records. Options exist to mitigate a criminal record’s impact on employment and housing opportunities: for those who are eligible, petitions to expunge or seal criminal records, health care waivers, certificates of relief from disabilities, and executive clemency petitions may be the first steps toward gainful employment and safe, affordable housing. This is especially true for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. With access to criminal records services, the homeless population can significantly improve their ability to compete for jobs and housing.

Following a family tragedy, Cynthia left behind a successful career in the private sector to dedicate her life to serving others. At the age of 54, made the decision to attend law school. With the goal of immersing herself as quickly as possible in the nonprofit sector, Cynthia began her career as Cabrini Green Legal Aid’s (CGLA) Criminal Records Intern while still a 2L. In this capacity, Cynthia began facilitating connections between clients of a local homeless shelter—where she was also, simultaneously a volunteer—and CGLA, helping many homeless individuals to clear their records and secure housing.

Fellowship Highlights

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow at CGLA, Cynthia recruited 150 law students, five attorneys, and three additional volunteers to form CGLA’s Criminal Records Corps, a program that continued her mission to provide criminal records services to individuals in Chicago who are homeless or at the risk of homelessness. This innovative partnership model of service delivery, which has since been integrated into CGLA’s general intake process, resulted in the handling of criminal records services for 766 clients. Cynthia herself represented 65 clients in court and administrative proceedings during her Fellowship.

What’s Next

After her Fellowship, Cynthia became CGLA’s Director of Client and Community Services. She now serves as the organization’s Assistant Director of Legal Programs, where she continues to assist clients who are experiencing direct and collateral consequences of their involvement in the criminal justice system.

Media

StoryCorps Chicago: ‘Sometimes We Go Through Things So We Can Be a Help To Other People'

2015 Distinguished PILI Intern Alumni Award: Cynthia Cornelius 2015 Distinguished PILI Intern Alumni Award: Cynthia Cornelius

Cynthia Cornelius: July 2011 Pro Bono Volunteer of the Month

I had never really thought about becoming a lawyer… My son, he was getting in and out of trouble—marijuana related—that landed him in courtrooms. I would sit there and just watch line after line of black young men, brown young men, without an attorney. It was so apparent that our legal system is lopsided. So… at the age of 54, I decided to go to law school.

Cynthia Cornelius /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

In 2013, the Board of Education of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed 49 neighborhood elementary schools in low-income areas—the largest mass school closing in national history—disproportionately impacting minority students. School closings and other forms of district restructuring destabilize communities, increase student mobility, and raise the risk that services for students with special needs will be disrupted, delayed, or discontinued. Restructuring by CPS has consistently affected the city’s most academically vulnerable and economically disadvantaged: studies show that between 80 and 90 percent of Chicago students affected by school closings and restructuring are African American. Katherine’s project aimed to protect the educational rights of low-income students, allowing them to transition safely and productively into new learning environments.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Katherine provided legal assistance, including brief advice and direct representation, to nearly 70 students facing issues with special education, school discipline, enrollment, and school records issues. In conjunction with seven other Chicago-based legal service providers, Katherine helped to coordinate the joint submission of comments to CPS’ guidelines for school actions in 2014 and 2015. Additionally, Katherine compiled a searchable summary of 54 hearing officer reports from 2013 Chicago school closings; created factsheets and other resources regarding the school action process; and authored a white paper about the issue of school closings as well as strategies for representing impacted students, which she presented at a national education conference for parents, attorneys, and advocates.

What’s Next

Katherine is now a staff attorney at Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center in Denver, CO,  where she practices in the areas of education, caregiver advocacy, and domestic violence.

Media

Defending Public Schools

School Closing Victory—The Fight to Save National Teachers Academy

An Issue Too Big for One Practice Group

Kate Gladson Stands for…Education

Why is CPS closing a successful school?

We are trying to ensure that students make educational progress and eventually become self-sustaining adults. It is one of the best, most proactive ways to improve life outcomes for young people.

Katherine Gladson /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Rick reduced the harassment and discrimination that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth living in Alabama and Tennessee face in the education, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems, through education and advocacy.

Many LGBTQ young people face severe and pervasive bias, harassment, and violence in school, the child welfare system, and the juvenile justice system because of their gender or sexuality. These problems are more common in the rural South than in other regions of the United States, based on research conducted by GLSEN. Yet solutions to these problems are underfunded, with domestic LGBT philanthropy often directed to urban centers outside the South. This project helped to fill the significant gap in services for LGBTQ people living in the South while also focusing on youth, a particularly vulnerable segment of the LGBTQ community. 

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Rick has:

  • Developed and delivered know-your-rights trainings to hundreds of youth in the South.
  • Developed and delivered LGBTQ cultural competency trainings to hundreds of youth services providers, including public school superintendents, principals, and teachers as well as child welfare and juvenile justice staff in Tennessee and Alabama.
  • Assisted in nationally important cases about the LGBTQ community at all levels of the federal courts, including cases about transgender students’ access to restrooms.
  • Developed potential lawsuits challenging anti-LGBT curriculum laws and laws restricting individuals’ ability to amend gender markers on their identity documents.

 

The Project

Legal services and support for Native people, particularly those who have been alienated from their tribal communities due to relocation and incarceration, are sharply limited, and no specialized legal services exist for this population. This means that many Native people cannot access their special protections for custody of their children; tribal benefits; and religious and cultural services.

Melina represented Native American survivors of trauma in a variety of legal settings.  She created a legal and social services program in Chicago for Native people who have been sexually exploited and supported tribes in building legislation and policies to combat this exploitation.  Melina also challenged racially discriminatory practices in public schools and worked with incarcerated Native people to protect access to their tribal rights while in prison

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Melina has:

  • Represented over 200 incarcerated Native clients to get them enrolled in their tribes; restore their tribal benefits; get them access to religious and cultural services in prison; remedy medical and mental health services issues; obtain divorces; and take administrative action against prison officials for violating their rights.
  • Provided brief advice or services to 30 students and parents of students who were discriminated against in school or denied their special education benefits.
  • Designed a series of memos designed for incarcerated Native people to understand their rights.
  • Partnered with tribes to challenge racial discrimination by state agencies.
  • Trained dozens of tribal and other government leaders on legislative and policy strategies to prevent sex trafficking and other forms of exploitation on reservations.

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Melina plans to continue to represent incarcerated Native people in claims against prisons for violation of their religious rights.

Media

Education Dept. To Probe Mont. Tribal Students' Bias Claims

U.S. to Investigate Discrimination Against Native Students on Montana Reservation

Education Department investigating alleged discrimination of Native American students in Montana

The Project

Rachel provided direct representation to incarcerated gender-based violence survivors whose crimes were related to surviving abuse in post-conviction, commutation, and resentencing cases.

A 2010 study found that 98% of people in Illinois’s women’s prisons have been physically abused. For many of these survivors, victimization is linked to criminalization, including in cases of self-defense. However, survivors who do not fit into the narrow archetype of the “true victim” are frequently not believed and are convicted and harshly sentenced. In addition to self-defense cases, many incarcerated survivors were forced to participate in their abusers’ crimes and then convicted under Illinois accountability laws, which provide that an accessory to a crime receives the same sentence as the principal. However, access to legal assistance in post-conviction and commutation cases is almost nonexistent. This project worked to fill that gap.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Rachel:

  • Represented 24 incarcerated gender-based violence survivors in 26 post-conviction, resentencing, and commutation cases; provided advice or brief legal services to 88 survivors and other individuals
  • Provided numerous consultations to attorneys and organizers in Illinois and across the country  
  • Following the COVID-19 pandemic, advocated for the release of medically vulnerable people
  • Assisted in bringing a class-action lawsuit on behalf of incarcerated people at risk due to COVID-19 
  • Compiled data on 50+ resentencing cases to illustrate gaps in current laws providing avenues for relief   
  • Compiled data on 340+ murder cases to map gender-specific incarceration disparities 

Next Steps

Rachel’s project became a permanent program of Illinois Prison Project (IPP). IPP’s Women & Survivors Project will continue to provide direct representation to gender-based violence survivors in post-conviction, resentencing, and commutation cases, as well as to incarcerated women in cases involving issues that disproportionately impact women such as post-partum psychosis.

Media

Illinois Prison Project Website

New legal clinic concentrates on cases of women languishing in the system for crimes against alleged abusers

Paula Aiardo, convicted in connection with murder of disabled woman, hoping for leniency: ‘I cannot undo my many wrongs’