Katara J. Jordan

The Project

In Washington, a significant number of homeless children are not being identified by school districts despite district demographics suggesting far greater numbers. The federal law that protects these students, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act, is underused and often unknown in the community. Katara addressed how many homeless students are not being identified, the necessity of identifying these students, and will provide legal advocacy and outreach to homeless students and their families to ensure those students have full access to education in Washington State.

The Project

Alicia improved access to legal representation for youth in child welfare proceedings in Washington state through impact litigation, conducting court observation studies, and multi-forum advocacy.

When a child is removed from home due to abuse or neglect, decisions about where she will live, the services she will receive, and the family relationships she can maintain are determined by judges in a courtroom. In this situation, an attorney can advocate for the desires of a child, whether those desires are to remain with her parents, to maintain sibling contact, or to receive services for her educational and mental health needs. Attorneys protect a youth’s legal interests and give youth a voice in the decisions that are being made about their lives. However, at the time of this fellowship, in Washington State, children in foster care were not universally appointed legal counsel.

Fellowship Highlights

Through the provision of 26 community education presentations, drafting and sharing template motions, filing amicus briefs on behalf of children and initiating litigation that was eventually considered by the Washington State Supreme Court, this fellowship increased awareness of the legal needs for youth in foster care. Stories from youth in foster care and their attorneys were combined with data from statewide surveys and intensive court observation through a report through this fellowship titled Defending Our Children that was shared with the Washington State Legislature, resulting in a pilot program for representation of children in two counties. In 2021, Washington’s Governor signed legislation that will expand that pilot program state-wide.

Next Steps

After spending an additional year at the University of Washington School of Law as a Clinical Law Fellow, Alicia relocated to Michigan where she spent time Legal Services of South Central Michigan and the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office. Alicia now serves as Deputy Legal Counsel for Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

The Project

Andrea advocated for badly-needed bail reform throughout the United States, urging lawmakers to replace unnecessary dependence on pretrial detention with smart solutions to incarceration, and vindicating the rights of poor people accused of crimes. Her work has potentially impacted over 100,000 people abused by our country’s racially and economically biased pretrial justice systems.

The deprivation of constitutional rights in the pretrial context causes widespread individual and community harm. Among the most egregious harms is the unwarranted, often unlawful deprivation of liberty of poor people accused of crimes. Pretrial detention is a key driver in overincarceration: 70 percent of those jailed in the U.S., nearly half a million people, are awaiting trial. Controlling for other factors, pretrial detention is the greatest predictor of a conviction; upon conviction, those jailed pretrial tend to receive longer sentences than those released; and upon release, people who had been jailed pretrial are more likely to recidivate.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Andrea has:

  • Filed litigation in the Southern District of Georgia that has facilitated the speedy pretrial release of hundreds of people in a target jurisdiction;
  • Represented the ACLU’s clients in three additional federal class action lawsuits;
  • Authored national pretrial reform strategy for the ACLU, and in so doing hosted a 60-person convening of interdisciplinary experts to discuss race, algorithmic prediction, and fairness principles;
  • Consulted with criminal justice advocates in approximately 40 states, reviewing legislation, drafting legislative language, and providing legislative reform recommendations;
  • Authored seven amicus briefs advancing the constitutional rights of pretrial arrestees

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Andrea plans to:

  • Stay on as a staff attorney with the National ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project;
  • Continue to litigate four civil rights cases seeking preliminary injunctions or final judgements to vindicate the rights of arrestees and identify smarter solutions to money bail
  •  Through ongoing litigation and consultation, advance bail reform efforts as part of a broader mission to end mass incarceration and racial disparities.