Meghan Kempf

The Project

Meghan provided legal advocacy to domestic violence victims in Bexar County, Texas, to deter and reduce the growing number of violations of civil family law court orders through direct representation services and the development of a comprehensive community education program.

Meghan provided litigation services to seek enforcement and modification of g court orders for domestic violence survivors, to ensure that survivors received promised safety and resources. Additionally, she developed and conducted comprehensive training for local law enforcement, social services providers, legal professionals, and survivors to enable those parties to effectively identify and prevent violations of court orders. The goal was to not only deter violations of court orders regarding domestic violence, but, more importantly, to enable survivors and their families to achieve protection and stability through increased community support.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Meghan:

  • Provided full representation to 41 clients, the majority of whom sought protective orders, and enforcement and/or modification of existing civil court orders regarding conservatorship, child support, and property division
  • Provided more than 50 general advice and counsel letters to educate her clients about Texas family and domestic violence law, as well as other issues
  • Established systematic referral relationships with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc. and the Crisis Response Team of the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD)
  • Developed and presented domestic violence law workshops to various community stakeholders, including SAPD’s Special Victims Unit and Crisis Response team
  • Co-presented “How to Effectively Represent Victims of Domestic Violence” at the 2014 Texas Poverty Law Conference
  • Developed and conducted the weekly know-your-rights class to the residents of the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter of Bexar County

Next Steps

After the completion of her fellowship in 2014, Meghan joined the Policy Department within the Office of Chief Counsel for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, focusing primarily on policy and legislative matters regarding women’s health, family violence services, and Medicaid service delivery for children in state conservatorship. In 2020, Meghan became Associate Director for the legal team providing support for state-operated mental health facilities and community programs for mental health, behavioral health, and intellectual and developmental disabilities services. In this role, she oversees a team of attorneys that collaborate with statewide mental health and IDD services stakeholder groups, legislative and advocacy organizations, and local courts, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to work towards ensuring and bettering access and quality of care to individuals and their families.

In 2019 Meghan was recognized as the Distinguished Young Alum by the St. Mary’s School of Law Alumni Association and in 2018 as the Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Austin Young Lawyers Association.

Media

Where Are They Now: Equal Justice Works Alumni Reflections Panel

The Project

Hannah provided representation to help low-wage, immigrant janitorial workers challenge and prevent workplace sexual assault, theft-of-wages, employer fraud schemes, and similar severe employment abuses.

Low-wage, immigrant janitorial workers face some of the worst and most pervasive employment abuses afflicting the working poor. Like many other immigrant workers, janitorial workers are often victims of wage theft and other employment abuses that can have a severe impact on their financial health. This project also addresses two abuses particular to the janitorial industry: workplace sexual assault and employer fraud schemes. Janitorial workers are especially vulnerable to workplace sexual assault because they so often are women working alone at night in dimly lit, isolated places. Janitorial workers also frequently become victims of employer fraud schemes in which employers cheat them out of tens of thousands of dollars by pretending to sell “business franchises” to these workers. An attorney is needed to combat these predatory practices and provide aid to workers facing abuse.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Hannah:

  • Represented approximately 40 clients in wage theft and discrimination cases in civil litigation
  • Provided advice, brief service, and referrals to over 500 individuals
  • Conducted attorney training on janitorial justice issues
  • Continued legal outreach and coalition building with community groups
  • Conducted presentations on the employment rights of survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Hannah plans to:

  • Continue her work at the Equal Justice Center
  • Increase participation in Equal Justice Center’s Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault program by creating a pilot program with a local women’s shelter
  • Supervise new Equal Justice Center attorneys

The Project

This project directly responded to the needs of immigrants on the Texas border by addressing civil rights violations, including dangerous conditions at detention centers, due process violations during the detention and/or removal process, and arbitrary policies regarding the certification of U visas for immigrants who are the victims of crimes. The project also provided much-needed know-your-rights training for immigrant communities and their families, empowering individuals to exercise their rights and identify abusive unconstitutional behavior in the immigration system.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Brooke has:

  • Represented noncitizens in removal proceedings
  • Investigated dangerous detention center conditions
  • Advocated for humane U visa processes for victims of crime
  • Provided know-your-rights workshops and trainings throughout the El Paso border region

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Brooke plans to continue her work in immigration law by working in deportation defense.

The Project

Ted provided legal advocacy and community outreach to people with disabilities isolated in work shelters earning pennies an hour in poor work conditions, and worked to shut down the school-to-work shelter pipeline.

Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities are paid pennies an hour, trapped in sheltered workshops and isolated from the broader community. Such workshops receive certificates from the Department of Labor to pay below the federal minimum wage. Isolating individuals in workshops limits their earning capacity and cuts off significant community interaction. Some workshops in Texas have relationships with local schools, leading parents to believe that students with disabilities have no other options. To draw attention to employer violations and misconduct, workers must bring claims to the Department of Labor. Workers are unlikely to secure legal counsel due to lack of knowledge of their rights, low expectations fostered by the workshops, and limited availability of counsel. Ted’s project will help people access options outside of workshops and earn a fair living wage.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Ted has:

  • Filed three complaints that led the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (DOL-WHD) to award approximately $85,000 in back wages
  • Conducted monitoring visits of 12 work-shelters
  • Conducted presentations on section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act at a number of organizations
  • Helped workers with discrimination claims secure settlement awards of approximately $125,000

The Project

Across Texas, people with mental illness are routinely institutionalized, isolated, and denied basic care. Staggering numbers of Texans in the criminal justice system suffer from mental illness. In 2013, more than 30% of people in state prisons and county jails suffered from some form of mental disability compared with less than 20% of the non-detained population. State officials habitually ignore the needs of mentally ill persons, disproportionately landing them in the criminal justice system—or, worse, the morgue. The Texas criminal justice system is the largest provider of mental health care services in the state, and the Harris County Jail tops the list. The criminal justice system, however, is currently unequipped to properly care for people with mental illness. Texans with mental illness are more likely to be victims of abuse, sexual assault, discrimination, or even death. Their injuries and deaths are preventable through reasonable mental healthcare accommodations.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Hannah has:

  • Interviewed prisoners in solitary confinement in Texas prisons
  • Taken two depositions, defended one deposition, and second chaired 15 additional depositions
  • Reviewed, organized, and indexed over 9,000 pages of discovery
  • Collaborated in drafting over half a dozen motions, and responses and replies to motions
  • Participated in two oral arguments in federal court
  • Counseled client and family

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Hannah plans to:

  • Continue to help people struggling with the legal system
  • Focus on the provision of direct services to clients
  • Explore the creation of a Medical-Legal Partnership

The Project

Beatrice provided legal advocacy to crime victims, addressed the cyclical nature of crime by acknowledging and managing trauma, and worked to diminish juvenile crime and recidivism by incorporating Restorative Justice practices into local schools and probation facilities.

Harris County averages 10,000 inmates and 30,000 parolees at any given time. Those who are incarcerated or paroled, as well as their children and dependents, are often not considered to be victims and are marginalized due to their connection with the criminal justice system. This population is saddled by the collateral consequences of crime, and often faces the same legal issues as primary victims, in addition to the stress, stigma and financial constraints of having a criminal record or supporting an inmate or parolee. Beatrice’s project expanded the definition of victim to incorporate anyone who has been connected to or touched by the criminal justice system.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Beatrice has:

  • Developed Restorative Justice programs for local probation facilities and for three Houston area schools.
  • Facilitated almost 100 Restorative Justice Circles for over 250 participants.
  • Partnered with local probation officers, schools and agencies to ensure that her Restorative Justice programs will be
  • sustained.
  • Trained probation officers, teachers, and community advocates on
  • Implementation of restorative practices and strategies.
  • Provided direct legal services to 65 clients and developed experience with approximately 80 legal issues.
  • Given 11 presentations about her project and Restorative Justice, including 2 CLEs.

Next Steps

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Beatrice plans to:

  • Work as a managing attorney for the Oregon Health Justice Center (OHJC) in Portland, OR. OHJC is a law firm that works with the Medical Legal Partnerships in Portland. Her work will be centered on the notion that inadequate access to legal services is a major cause of physical, psychological and emotional harm.
  • Provide direct legal representation and conduct research on the efficacy of improving patient/client health through legal interventions
  • Develop a holistic reentry program, for juveniles and adults, that emphasizes successful reentry after incarceration as a public health necessity. She will use her training and passion for Restorative Justice as a means of facilitating successful reentry.