Misty-Ann Oka

The Project

Misty-Ann (she/her/hers) will prepare formerly incarcerated individuals in Southern California to reunite with family, gain stability, and successfully reintegrate through direct legal services and public education workshops.

Formerly incarcerated individuals face over 44,000 legal sanctions upon release that can complicate or even prevent reuniting with family, finding employment, and securing housing, among other challenges. These barriers to reentry limit meaningful opportunities for those with a criminal record to live full, productive lives and can directly and substantially disadvantage families for generations. This project will provide much-needed streamlined direct legal services that prepare formerly incarcerated parents to reunite with their families and navigate challenges to reentry—challenges that disproportionately impact people of color and have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Misty-Ann’s personal history, work experience with youth and adults involved in the criminal justice system, and her connection to the social justice community in Los Angeles, including Root & Rebound, inspired this project.

Fellowship Plans

During Misty-Ann’s Fellowship, she will strive to improve the well-being of system-impacted families through (1) streamlined direct legal services (e.g., representation in family, dependency, or probate court), legal workshops, and community education; (2) mitigation of the negative impact of a criminal record on family strength and stability; and (3) reduction of recidivism and multi-generational cycles of criminal justice involvement.

With the support of the Equal Justice Works Fellowship, I am returning to serve the community that inspired me to attend law school.

Misty-Ann Oka /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Casey used community education, research, policy advocacy, and litigation on behalf of Washington’s children/youth who are low-income, at risk, homeless, or in foster care.

What’s Next?

Casey is now the director for youth homelessness at the Raikes Foundation. In this role, he works on a national, state and local strategy to address, and ultimately prevent youth homelessness. Following his Equal Justice Works Fellowship, he continued working at Columbia Legal Services, ultimately serving as the directing attorney for the Children and Youth Project, advocating for at-risk, homeless and foster children and youth. Casey is a special advisor to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Homelessness and Poverty as well as a former co-chair of the ABA’s Children’s Rights Litigation Committee. He has authored and edited numerous books and articles on at-risk, homeless, and foster children and has been awarded the ABA’s Child Advocacy Award—Distinguished Lawyer (2011) as well as a number of other national and local awards.

Media

Meet 11 ABA members who inspired us in 2019

Seattle lawyer focuses on systemic changes to end youth homelessness

ABA Midyear 2018: How Lawyers Can Help Homeless Youths

Casey Trupin is New Director of Youth Homelessness at Raikes Foundation

We must work to end America's youth homelessness problem

My Impact: A Conversation with 1999 Fellow Casey Trupin

The Project

Emily’s Fellowship served to advance gender-based asylum law through direct representation and impact litigation.

Women and girls around the world are victims of various forms of gender-based violence in countries that offer impunity to the perpetrators. Survivors of gender-based persecution—be it female genital mutilation, honor killings, abduction and rape by gangs, or violence at the hands of intimate partners—seek refuge in the United States, but current law does not recognize that the gendered nature of their harm warrants asylum. Because the U.S. government seems bent on eliminating the grounds for gender-based asylum, there is an urgent need to expand representation for these women and girls in their asylum claims and to push asylum law to recognize gender-based persecution.

Emily made a commitment to dedicate her career fighting for the safety of the tens of thousands of women who are victims of domestic abuse in countries that offer them no hope of protection or justice. While working as the COO of Akola Project – a non-profit that empowers women to realize and walk in their own agency as change makers – Emily learned that the most marginalized women are typically migrants. Her passion for serving immigrant and refugee women was cemented as she worked to adapt Akola’s model to best impact this population.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship program, Emily:

  • Filled a gap in services through direct representation of gender-based asylum seekers at USCIS, immigration courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, as well as legal aid to pro se clients in Migrant Protection Protocol proceedings
  • Provided direct immigration representation to 24 clients, as well as brief services and advice to over 150 additional individuals
  • Contributed to impact litigation efforts through amicus campaigns and coordinated appeals efforts to advance gender-based asylum law
  • Partnered with advocates on the ground in Matamoros, Mexico to build new initiatives that brought valuable legal aid support to asylum seekers stuck outside the U.S. border
  • Drafted a stock amicus brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals arguing for gender-based asylum through the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies’ technical assistance program
  • Conducted 25 training sessions for pro bono attorneys and other partners
  • Collaborated with 11 groups and attended over 80 coalition meetings to expand the impact and reach of the project

Next Steps

Emily will stay on at Human Rights Initiative of North Texas to continue and expand pro bono representation of asylum seekers.

Media

Dallas Immigration Advocates Seek to Protect Women Fleeing Gender Violence

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project

Danica provided legal help to veterans wrongly given Other Than Honorable discharges due to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury to ensure that these veterans get the medical treatment and disability benefits they deserve.

Veterans, our nation’s defenders, deserve the benefits they were promised and the best legal services, at no charge, to meet their challenges and needs. Since 2001, more than 100,000 American service members have received Other Than Honorable discharges, and many were manifesting symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. Other Than Honorable discharges deprive veterans of VA and state benefits, limit job prospects, and damage reputations and self-esteem. The Discharge Upgrade Program assists veterans in upgrading their discharges by uniting veterans with pro bono attorneys, enabling them to receive the benefits they need.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Danica has:

  • Assisted over 2000 veterans with their discharge upgrade applications
  • Provided full representation in more than 100 cases
  • Held 15 community pro bono clinics for veterans seeking assistance with their discharge upgrades
  • Developed a comprehensive discharge upgrade training program and provided training to hundreds of pro bono attorneys

What’s Next

Danica will continue to serve as Director of The Discharge Upgrade Program. She will grow the program and train more pro bono attorneys, law students, and veteran service officers in the discharge upgrade process. She will also host more discharge upgrade clinics across the country and provide veterans with much needed legal assistance.

Media

Danica Gonzalves Talks About Protecting the Rights of Our Nation’s Defenders

Ensuring Veterans Get Their Benefits

Alumni Win Highest Discharge Upgrade For Veteran