Tara Branine

The Project

Tara (she/her/hers) will work at the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence by representing clients in Washington D.C. in Civil Protection Order, Extreme Risk Protection Order, and family law matters.

In 2019, the Council of the District of Columbia enacted legislation that created a new form of protection order aimed at gun violence: the Extreme Risk Protection Order. Like most “red flag” laws, this measure permits law enforcement to seek a restraining order against an individual who would be a danger to themselves or others if they possess or purchase firearms. However, these orders have been extremely underutilized, and fewer than 30 have ever been filed. This is compounded by the fact that there is also a massive shortage of services available for survivors in both Civil Protection Order and family law cases in Washington D.C. in general.

Fellowship Plans

Tara’s project will focus on representing survivors who have suffered gun violence or were threatened by gun violence. Her representation will focus on Civil Protection Order and Extreme Risk Protection Order cases; however, she will also provide representation in a limited number of family law cases where a child custody order or divorce decree would provide continued stability and violence prevention. Additionally, Tara will provide know-your-rights presentations and work with the DC Volunteer Lawyer’s Project’s community partners to educate the community about the availability of Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

The Project

Using litigation, advocacy, and coalition building to change systems that trap families in homelessness and poverty.

Needs Addressed by the Project

Sczerina created systems for parents who were at risk of becoming homeless or had become homeless to connect to a free legal advice and representation at the main DC intake center for homeless families. By being present at the moment of housing crisis, Sczerina could help parents fight evictions or illegal lock-outs, improve housing conditions, stop the condemnation of housing, connect parents to additional income sources, assert the rights of victims of domestic violence, stop wrongful terminations from housing programs or appeal illegal denials of shelter.

Fellowship Highlights

The project was vital in the relocation of families out of illegally operating communal shelters into apartment style units. Sczerina helped to restore millions of dollars to DC in the form of federal McKinney Vento funding. Sczerina was also vital in the creation of hundreds of local Section 8 vouchers for families, especially for children in the foster care system seeking to be reunited with their families. The project work continues today as an integral part of the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless legal services. Families that are homeless have access to representation, resources, and the supports that they need to be safe, remain strong and ultimately move their and their children’s lives to a better place.

Next Steps

Sczerina was an adjunct Professor and a Clinical Fellow at Georgetown University Law Center. Today she counsels seniors about their legal rights at the Legal Counsel for the Elderly Hotline.

Media

Housing is a human right: Sczerina Perot at TEDxASL

John Hopkins Approaches for Community and Political Organizing

The Project

Michaela will advocate for survivors of human trafficking and power-based violence seeking safety in the court and immigration systems through targeted outreach and community coordination, direct legal services, and pro bono mentorship.

Undocumented immigrants are among those most vulnerable to human trafficking, Yet the legal community is failing to address their needs: while 5000 T-visas are available annually, only 1,500 have been issued in recent years, and many survivors report that they are unaware that they are entitled to this form of relief. Moreover, immigrant survivors of power-based violence face barriers to accessing protections in family court they are entitled to under the law. Indeed, judges report that 54% of their court cases involving immigrant victims have been interrupted in recent years due to fears of being deported. As systems become more inaccessible to immigrant communities, the need for advocates to assist victims in navigating avenues to safety is greater than ever.

While working as a rape crisis advocate prior to law school, Michaela witnessed a tragic phenomenon: a victim-offender binary narrative, in which people can only be the victims of crime or the perpetrators. Michaela’s project is the product of her desire to serve the survivors of trauma who society overlooks because of their identity at the intersection of victim and offender.

Fellowship Plans

Michaela will provide full representation to immigrants survivors of power-based violence and human trafficking seeking T-Visas, U-Visas, VAWA relief, and Special Juvenile Immigrant Status, as well as assist survivors seeking safety from violence in obtaining civil protection orders and other family law remedies. Her project will build a holistic referral network to promote client outreach and facilitate mobile intake clinics by creating interdisciplinary partnerships with legal and non-legal organizations that regularly advocate for domestic violence, trafficking survivors, and immigrants. In partnership with her sponsor, Michaela will train pro bono attorneys to provide trauma-informed representation to expand her project’s capacity to vindicate the rights of her clients.

Media

Preventing Human Trafficking Through Systems Reformation

Criminalizing human trafficking survivors not only unjustly burdens victims with the collateral consequences of criminal records, but also prevents healing from trauma.

Michaela Lovejoy /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Inspiration

The Project

Kaitlin advocated for D.C. public school students facing suspension or expulsion. The project provided holistic services with direct legal representation, community education, and systemic reforms. The primary goal of this project was to provide representation to students facing disciplinary action through a network of private attorneys and law students.

The Project

Allison provided legal representation to teen parents in custody, child support, and civil protection cases. Additionally, Allison educated youth and service providers about options available under the recently adopted Intrafamily Offenses Act and pressed for further needed statutory revisions. Through these efforts, Allison empowered foster youth to become self-sufficient decision-makers, enabling them to create safe, stable homes for their own children and preventing their cyclical involvement with the foster care system.

The Inspiration

The Inspiration

The Project:

Antonia worked on the Affordable Housing Initiative at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless. As part of her work with the Initiative, Antonia advised, represented, or consulted on the representation of tenants or tenant associations at risk of displacement from over 3000 units of affordable housing.

Next Steps

In April 2021, Antonia Fasanelli became the executive director of the National Homelessness Law Center. Previously, she served as the executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project, Inc (HPRP). During her thirteen-year tenure at HPRP, she incubated innovative civil legal aid projects providing legal assistance to all persons experiencing homelessness, including youth and veterans—as well as systemic initiatives to decriminalize homelessness and advance policies to end homelessness, all by lifting the voices of persons most affected by homelessness.

Media

2021 Scales of Justice Highlights

The eviction moratorium limbo laid bare the system’s extreme dysfunction

The Project

Agatha provided direct legal services to domestic and other low-wage Asian immigrant workers in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area in matters of employment law and related immigration claims.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

Despite major growth in the Asian immigrant population in the D.C. area over the past decade, few local organizations are addressing their needs. The stereotype that all Asian immigrants are affluent because they own their own businesses or are highly-paid professionals is wrong. Many Asian immigrants earn low wages in the service industry and as domestic workers—nannies, cooks, maids, and home health aides. Domestic workers have historically been some of the most marginalized workers in our society, excluded from several critical labor standards and often earning sub-minimum wages. Increasingly, migrant domestic workers fall victim to human trafficking syndicates. This population needs education about their rights and culturally competent legal services to remedy their subjugation by unlawful employment practices and human trafficking.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Agatha:
• Provided advice and brief services to 95 clients
• Represented 35 clients in wage-and-hour matters and related immigration claims, which included preparing petitions for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, counseling human trafficking survivors, and securing immigration relief for domestic workers or their children
• Recouped more than $220,000 in back wages for domestic workers
• Created and translated know-your-rights materials and conducted workshops for low-income immigrant workers and community organizations, educating more than 1,000 individuals on employment law, labor trafficking, and immigration law
• Conducted eight know-your-rights presentations to low-wage, immigrant workers and community organizations on topics of employment law, labor trafficking, and immigration law

Where are they now?

Agatha is combating labor trafficking in the U.S. and internationally as a senior adviser at the Polaris Project, the nation’s leading anti-human trafficking organization.