Natalie (she/her/hers) will reduce youth entanglement in the criminal justice system by providing tools for self-advocacy, empowering system-involved youth, and ensuring pro bono access to reduce barriers.
The project fills gaps in the juvenile justice legal services and resource network in Oregon and creates ongoing supports to benefit youth. Identified by youth who have interacted with the criminal justice system and a recent National Juvenile Defender Center report, these gaps make youth, particularly BIPOC youth, especially vulnerable to more severe consequences resulting from juvenile convictions. The project will reach into Oregon’s 197 school districts, out to the 500 youth incarcerated in Oregon, and to hundreds of acutely impacted youth facing collateral consequences statewide to improve outcomes and provide much needed legal support.
During her Fellowship, Natalie will use a targeted approach to reach youth at different stages of entanglement with the system. She will develop a Know Your Rights app relevant to teen issues, create a pro bono network of attorneys to provide civil legal aid to youth who are incarcerated, and travel the state providing representation and support for tackling collateral consequences like expungement, barriers to housing and education, and fine reduction.
I have witnessed the school-to-prison pipeline from nearly every angle as a teenager myself, a public school educator, and now as a law student gaining clinical experience working with youth who are incarcerated. I am passionate about ensuring youth don’t interact with the system and, for those that do, making sure it does not impact the rest of their life.
Natalie Hollabaugh /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Kel expanded support for LGBTQ student survivors of gender-based violence and harassment by bridging the gap between Title IX and queer youth justice through direct representation, outreach, and education.
Queer and trans students sit at the dangerous intersection of higher risks of gender-based violence and lower levels of institutional empathy. While the federal Educational Amendment known as Title IX requires schools to respond to allegations of sexual violence, many institutions are failing to meet their obligations under the law. This project increased legal support for LGBTQ students in the Santa Clara Unified School District and California State University system, and created a model for Title IX legal advocacy that can be replicated at schools across the country.
Kel’s Title IX advocacy started in response to their undergraduate institution mishandling sexual violence investigations. As a queer nonbinary survivor of campus violence and a former crisis counselor, they believe that meaningful, trauma-informed school remedies can empower students who have experienced harm and create an effective alternative to the legal system.
During Kel’s two-year EJW Fellowship, they:
- Succeeded in getting Equal Rights Advocates to serve 400% more LGBTQ+ students over the course of their project than in the two years prior.
- Supported federal litigation challenging the 2020 Title IX regulations that successfully struck down provisions excluding essential evidence and forcing nonparties to submit to cross-examination, benefitting up to ~8 million undergraduate survivors.
- Created robust Title IX guides and LGBTQ+ education resources for student survivors and allies that will reach an estimated ~40,000 students online and ~150,000 students in schools over the next year.
- Worked with Sacramento Unified School District to develop a comprehensive Trans and Gender Non-Confirming Student policy that will benefit the district’s ~40,000 students and serve as a model for other districts, as well as accompanying informational materials to assist district staff in educating teachers and parents on the importance of inclusive policies.
Kel will be staying on at Equal Rights as a staff attorney focused on supporting LGBTQ+ students under Title IX and exploring the use of alternative justice models to respond to sexual misconduct. They will expand their work to include survivors of other forms of gender-based discrimination and harassment at work and school, starting with advocacy to oppose legislation across the country that prohibits K-12 students who are transgender from participating on athletic teams that align with their gender identities.
This Fellowship is a chance to be the advocate my friends and I never had.
Kel O'Hara /
Equal Justice Works Fellow
Virginia provided direct civil representation to probation-involved juveniles in the extended foster care system in Contra Costa County to protect their rights and advocated for policy changes to ensure respect for the civil rights of youth in the juvenile justice system.
Every year, more than 18,000 youth are locked away in detention facilities in California. Despite legal guarantees that youth in detention receive instruction parallel to that of youth in traditional schools, detention centers provide intermittent and insufficient instruction. Health care is often inadequate; mental health care is a particular problem. Attorneys working on juvenile justice cases frequently do not provide the post-disposition civil representation that is necessary to secure their clients civil and constitutional rights. The system is failing these youth and not providing adequate support to help them become independent, productive members of society. Seizing the opportunity presented by California’s realignment of juvenile detention from a state to a county-based system, this project will both create a new system for representing the interests of detained youth in Contra Costa County and leverage the experience garnered in that system to advocate for youth throughout California.
During her Fellowship, Virginia has:
- Helped approximately 45 clients access and maintain extended foster care benefits, including access to transitional housing, mental health care, and education
- Created materials to train attorneys to help young people seal their juvenile records and led two juvenile record sealing clinics
- Advocated to end harmful detention practices in California juvenile facilities, including the overuse of pepper spray
Where are they now?
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Virginia will continue to work at Youth Law Center as a Staff Attorney.
Evelina will provide legal advocacy and outreach to low-income tenants, including monolingual Spanish speakers, in California’s Silicon Valley to improve rental housing conditions and help combat slum housing.
Low-income tenants often struggle to resolve habitability problems such as mold and vermin infestations which impact their families’ health. Without legal assistance, many of them face unresponsive landlords and risk retaliatory evictions for requesting repairs. Moreover, many tenants lack adequate legal assistance because of their undocumented status. Undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable due to a host of factors, including limited English proficiency, insufficient income to move to safer housing, and fear of landlord retaliation leading to deportation. These problems are compounded by a current shortage in Santa Clara County of nearly 54,000 affordable housing units for its lowest-income residents. While the county is home to over 170,000 undocumented immigrants, rental prices in San Jose (the county’s biggest city) are among the highest in the nation. Recently, apartment rents in San Jose increased more than in any other U.S. city. Currently, almost 60 percent of very low-income households pay more than 50 percent of their income in rent in Santa Clara County. At the same time, there is no “just cause” eviction policy in San Jose, where over 40 percent of households are renters.
Micaela is working to prevent the escalating unlawful displacement of Oakland’s low-income tenants of color by providing direct legal services to tenants and bringing affirmative lawsuits against non-law-abiding landlords.
Rapidly rising rental rates are causing widespread displacement of low and middle-income tenants of color throughout the Bay Area. This trend is particularly acute in Oakland, where 60% of the city’s over 400,000 residents are tenants and rents rank among the highest in the nation. Poverty, cultural and linguistic barriers, and the fear of immigration consequences often make tenants unlikely to assert their rights and particularly vulnerable to displacement. Oakland’s Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance prohibits evictions of law-abiding tenants, but dishonest landlords are turning to unlawful measures to remove low-income tenants in favor of affluent professionals. Landlords falsely use the owner move-in and owner-occupancy exceptions to evict tenants, and increase rent far beyond what is legal, knowing that low-income tenants are unlikely to enforce local rent control laws. Other landlords have begun constructively evicting tenants by harassing them, illegally locking tenants out without warning, or letting housing conditions deteriorate until tenants are forced to leave.
During the Fellowship period, Micaela has:
- Run a twice-weekly walk-in legal clinic for Alameda County tenants, providing brief service to 250 clients;
- Provided full representation to 10 tenants in responding to unlawful evictions, illegal rent increases, landlord harassment, and uninhabitable living conditions;
- Managed existing affirmative litigation cases against non-law-abiding landlords;
- Identified two new cases and managed the process of preparing and filing cases with the assistance of co-counsel, including client intake, investigation, drafting of complaints, discovery, and preparation for mediation.