Maria Hernandez

The Project

Maria ensured that Spanish-speaking children in Camden, NJ receive appropriate educational services. Additionally, Maria focused primarily on assisting children who are classified with a learning disability or are at risk of classification. This project was achieved through a combination of extensive outreach, parent education, self-advocacy, direct representation, and the recruitment and training of pro bono attorneys and clinical law students.

The Project

Sandy aimed to keep immigrants in New Orleans out of jail, and to ensure basic justice for those arrested. In collaboration with Orleans Public Defenders—founded after Katrina and now an innovative office dedicated to client-centered representation—Sandy created community support structures for immigrant defendants and their families; advocated for adequate interpretation in New Orleans jails and courts; trained defense attorneys in relevant immigration law; and provided direct representation to immigrant defendants in criminal court.

The Project

Studies have shown that children in foster care are far more likely to experience school changes and enrollment delays, be suspended or expelled, and fail to complete high school.  Amanda’s project  protected the educational rights and needs of abused and neglected children in Allegheny County, thereby improving their educational and life outcomes. She also  provide direct educational legal services to KidsVoice clients and worked with KidsVoice to improve the ability of the organization and its staff attorneys to provide these services.

My own desire to improve the lives of children in need, combined with the intense need for legal educational advocacy services in Pittsburgh, inspired me to take on this project.

Amanda W. Shackelton /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Inspiration

Fellowship Highlights

Alaric provided support and legal assistance to advocates on Section 3, which advances economic independence of low income individuals.

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Alaric began working for the City & County of San Francisco. He has since held a number of positions there for the Human Rights Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, and, currently, the Office of Contract Administration. He is now the City Purchaser and Director.

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The Project

The long-term goals of my project are to establish a system of adequate court representation for all Washington’s foster youth by which an attorney, Guardian ad Litem and/or Court Appointed Special Advocate representation is provided; facilitate full participation of stakeholders in all geographic regions of the state in the foster care reform process; and work with service providers and youth to publish and disseminate a foster youth rights handbook.

REMARKS FROM THE 2008 AMERICAN LAWYER AWARDS DINNER

http://americanlawyerawards.com/?page_id=22

The Inspiration

The Project

Upon their release from prison, individuals with criminal convictions are saddled with significant civil disabilities. These disabilities limit employment and housing prospects, ultimately serving as instruments of social exclusion and encouraging recidivism. To address these barriers to re-entry, C. Daniel appealed denials of occupational licenses based on unrelated criminal histories, hosted forums on the rights of individuals with convictions, and advocated for greater community supports for reentry.

I believe that a person is more than the worst thing they've ever done. Individuals with criminal convictions and their communities are best served by true opportunities for community inclusion.

C. Daniel Bowes /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Jessica worked to break the foster care cycle for young parents who themselves lived in foster care. She represented young parents with mental health conditions in child protective proceedings, conducted outreach and education, and advocated for systemic change.

Young parents who have been in foster care often face legal challenges to their parental rights stemming from their poverty and high rates of mental health diagnoses. More than 50 percent of foster care youth have mental health diagnoses labeled moderate to severe. The Administration for Children Services (ACS) frequently seeks to introduce mental health diagnoses and treatment records as evidence of inadequate parenting ability. Without appropriate support, young parents who have mental illness may struggle to meet their children’s needs, but mental illness is not a per se barrier to successful parenting. Young parents in foster care or transitioning out often lack the positive social and familial relationships correlated with positive outcomes for them and their children. They need appropriate support services as they grapple with issues such as housing, education, employment, forming healthy relationships, and psychological trauma while raising their children.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Jessica:

  • Advocated for young parents in child protective proceedings to keep families together, helping to obtain appropriate support services when needed
  • Developed a resource guide of quality services for young parents and connected clients with mental health care providers and parenting education to meet their unique needs
  • Advanced legal arguments to combat the assumption that young parents with mental health issues cannot care for their children
  • Trained staff on special issues in representing young parents
  • Presented on parents’ rights, legal obligations, and the child welfare system to young mothers residing in emergency shelter and mother/child foster care placements

Next Steps

Jessica remains at the Center for Family Representation as a Staff Attorney, where she represents her Fellowship clients and advocates for their children’s safe return from foster care.

My commitment is to provide holistic representation to clients, sensitize the legal system to social complexities, and ultimately empower individuals, families, and communities.

Jessica Weidmann /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Erica provided educational outreach and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) training to small-scale, independent commercial fishermen on Cape Cod who are struggling with complex federal regulations favoring larger corporations. She also developed planning tools and a national vision to replicate fishing permit banks across the country.

New England commercial fisheries are in crisis. In 2012, the Secretary of Commerce declared a commercial fishery failure in the Northeast groundfish fishery because several key fish stocks were not replenishing. To turn things around, fish quotas have been cut by up to 70 percent. The quotas are a cap-and-trade system for fishermen. Critics of quota systems worry that larger fishing corporations will buy up the entire quota, causing the small-scale fisherman to become extinct. In response, the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust, a program of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, leases quota at affordable rates to small-scale, independent fishermen, who are essential to the survival of the local fishing community. As an intersection between the nonprofit sector and fiercely independent small businesses, the Trust focuses on improving the lives and experiences of Atlantic scallop fisherme

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Erica has:
• Developed a suite of training modules to guide fishing communities across the country through the process of setting up and running permit banks
• Organized a major national workshop attended by 64 representatives from 18 separate fishing communities to set a course for a national permit banking program, forming an ambitious replication agenda and vision
• Led a team of local fishermen to secure a major policy victory at the regional level that will help them address their conflicts with large boat fishermen, relying on her conflict resolution and community outreach skills to build a cohesive campaign

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Erica will join Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and continue to work in the permit banking arena, joining a leadership team to develop a 2-3 year approach to replication across the country, including fundraising for and building a new partnership entity.

The Project

Mark provided refugee resettlement legal services to Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) refugees and asylees who were survivors of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is rampant in MENA refugee communities. The violence persists, and even increases, when refugees resettle in the United States. Refugees who face domestic violence often feel helpless because they have poor English skills or do not know what resources will be available to them if they leave their spouse. As survivors of trauma, refugees and asylees often have complex legal, mental, and social issues that are exacerbated by domestic violence. Mark’s project provided much-needed legal representation to this vulnerable population. It will also work to end the cycle of violence by educating perpetrators of domestic violence about the legal and social consequences of their actions.

Fellowship Highlights

During his Fellowship, Mark:

  • Provided advice, brief legal services, or full direct representation to over 300 refugees fleeing persecution and violence
  • Identified gaps in the refugee resettlement system for survivors of domestic violence who have been denied based on their partner’s status as the principal applicant and successfully reopened their cases
  • Conducted trainings for numerous law schools, law firms, and corporations on refugee law and providing trauma-informed representation

Next Steps

Following his Fellowship, Mark continues to:

  • Provide refugee resettlement legal services to survivors of domestic violence in the MENA region at IRAP
  • Conduct trainings for lawyers and law students to create a bar of attorneys and future attorneys who are qualified to handle refugee resettlement cases for survivors of domestic violence
  • Advocate for systemic changes to the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program to ensure that the most vulnerable individuals refugees are quickly processed and vetted so they can be resettled to safety in the United States in a timely manner

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