Deborah A. Duggin

The Project

Deborah Duggin, working with Alaska Legal Services Corporation had two primary goals: to provide statewide legal services to older adults who had experienced abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation; and to educate senior services providers, tribal organizations, legal sub-communities, legal aid staff, and older adult individuals on topics related to elder abuse and the services available through this program.
Alaska is home to a rapidly growing older adult population and those living in rural and Native Alaskan communities have very limited access to legal and social services. Older adults experiencing elder abuse in Alaska face extreme access issues in locations that are off the road system and often live in such interdependent communities were reporting abuse and seeking justice prove difficult.

Fellowship Highlights

During the one-year fellowship, Deborah Duggin:
  • Was able to reestablish the connection with the Alaska Senior Activity Center and Alaska Legal Services Corporation, which had been interrupted by the Pandemic. As a result, several successful community outreach presentations were held with the Center and plans were put forward to once again have legal clinics held there.
  • Was able to establish a long-standing relationship with the Inter-Agency Fraud Education Taskforce which connects multi government and private entities together to educate and understand current and past fraud threats that are being faced in the U.S.
  • Helped several victims of elder abuse crimes by not only mitigating the financial damage done to them, but in a few cases, stop the financial abuse before significant financial damage was done.

Next Steps

Following this fellowship Deborah Duggin plans to continue working with Alaska Legal Services as a Staff Attorney located in Kenai, Alaska. While working with victims of elder abuse is still a passion for her, she is excited to expand her work to include all other members of her home community in her legal practice.

The Project

Kate will work to eliminate or mitigate barriers to critical programs, services, and housing for people with disabilities in Louisiana who have been adversely impacted by disasters.

In the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, many Louisianans with disabilities are facing housing insecurity or eviction, being denied appropriate services or accommodations, or are facing discrimination based on their disabilities.

As a public defender, Kate witnessed her clients with disabilities get stuck in a revolving door of system-involvement as their basic needs remained ignored and their rights denied both inside and outside of the criminal legal system. This cycle was amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasingly frequent and powerful storms that batter Louisiana, all of which multiplied the poverty and stress of my most vulnerable clients. The Disaster Resilience Program at Equal Justice Works gives Kate an opportunity to directly address the needs of Louisianans with disabilities in the wake of these disasters and to build resilience moving forward.

Fellowship Plans

While much of Kate’s work will be immediately serving those impacted by COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida, she will also focus on expanding stakeholder relationships and cultivating partnerships among the disaster legal community, service providers, and community social services providers. She will strategize, plan, and conduct training and outreach to communities and organizations to build disaster resilience moving forward. Kate will share information and resources for disaster survivors and attorneys supporting communities affected by disasters.

The Project

Chris will help achieve justice for low-income individuals and families, primarily on the Westbank of the greater New Orleans region. His work will prevent housing instability caused by evictions by defending the legal rights of clients through legal aid, advocacy, and community education. Additionally, Chris will address the housing needs of low-income individuals and families by assisting with legal assistance, advocacy, and community education with addressing habitability issues caused by natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida and/or landlord neglect.

Through the advocacy of legal rights and community education outreach, our project will improve housing stability within the New Orleans region. Housing stability will help our area better respond, react and cope with disasters and the stresses caused by them.

Fellowship Plans

Chris considers himself blessed to have the opportunity to work for the people in his community who need assistance the most. There are few positions in his field that would have allowed him to work directly with his clients and never worry about collecting a fee. Legal aid and public interest victories provide him with the most fantastic sense of purpose.

Media

Representing Tenants in the Aftermath of a Natural Disaster

The Project

Karen (she/her/hers) will focus on educating and protecting the elder community in the City of Rochester and surrounding rural areas. Karen will specifically work to stop elder abuse in all forms.

Society recognizes that the poor and the elderly are vulnerable groups. When an individual is both poor and elderly, a perfect storm is created for them to be taken advantage of and abused.

Fellowship Plans

Knowledge is power. Karen will host a seminar for elderly locals to explain the very complex health care system, including Medicare and Medicaid, assisted living, and skilled care. She will explain their rights in those facilities, including quality care, the right to be heard, the right to complain, and the right to be free from harm. She will also explain what to do if harm does occur and how to get help.

A second presentation will be held for law enforcement agencies with regard to powers of attorney. Many agencies take the position that if a person signs a power of attorney, and the agent uses that power to gift to themselves, then the agent cannot be prosecuted criminally. This is not the case. Karen will impress upon the agencies that these agents need to be criminally liable in order for this fraud to stop.

Finally, Karen will work with administrations and staff of assisted living facilities and skilled nursing homes to impress upon them the need to work together to prevent abuse, to provide quality care, and most importantly respect to their residents.

The Project

Daniel’s project focused on preserving housing stability by providing legal services to older adults victimized by elder abuse that threatens their ability to stay in their homes.

In Los Angeles, where the cost of living is high, housing stability for people in low-income communities is crucial. Elder abuse and housing-related fraud can force older adults from homes they have lived in for decades. This Fellowship sought to protect older adults from those threats to keep them in their homes.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship, Daniel:
  • Provided assistance with Elder Abuse Restraining Order petitions to over 35 older adults and referred over 60 older adults to other sources of aid.
  • Gave 4 presentations to local community groups on elder abuse, reaching nearly 200 seniors and senior service professionals.
  • Conducted outreach to community organizations throughout Los Angeles County to share information about Bet Tzedek’s homeowner protection efforts and to ascertain the most pressing threats to low-income homeowners throughout the County.

The Project

Jerry (he/him/his) will support socially and economically vulnerable seniors in the rural areas of Palm Beach and Hendry Counties in Florida, by providing assistance through direct legal services, outreach, and education.

Prior to joining the Elder Justice Program, Jerry worked in the Children’s Healthcare Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County. There he assisted parents, guardians, and other advocates in removing barriers to medical, dental, behavioral, and mental healthcare for children in Palm Beach County. Jerry is proud of the assistance and education he provided to his clients and the community to improve access to care for children in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Florida has a larger elder population than most other states, and elder exploitation is concerning due to both the individual acts of victimization and the potential number of victims being targeted. Seniors are being taken advantage of by strangers, neighbors, family, caretakers, and “friends.”

Fellowship Plans

Jerry’s project aims to reduce older individuals’ susceptibility to crimes of financial fraud, exploitation, and abuse through trainings and outreach, and to remedy the harmful effects of these crimes when they occur by advocating for victims’ rights and providing full-scope representation when needed. Jerry’s outreach activities will focus on rural underserved communities throughout the two-county service area and will include presentations and when possible distribution of brochures and flyers at senior community centers.

The Project

Jacob (he/him/his) will provide legal aid and assistance to wildfire survivors throughout California.

Wildfires destroy individuals’ homes and businesses, and frequently uproot families from their local communities. Many survivors of wildfires do not possess the necessary resources to resolve these immediate crises and require legal aid in areas of housing, employment, etc.

Fellowship Plans

Jacob will conduct client outreach to natural disaster survivors by distributing consumer flyers and attending community events. In addition, Jacob will represent wildfire survivors in administrative hearings and court cases throughout Los Angeles County. Further, Jacob will communicate with other Disaster Resilience Fellows across the country to engage in peer-to-peer learning exercises.

Jacob has worked at legal aid organizations that focus their advocacy on disability rights and criminal expungement. Jacob has lived in California for most of his life and was inspired to devote his efforts to disaster relief upon observing the devastating impact of recent wildfires throughout the state.

Media

Understanding the Impact of Extreme Heat Events

The Project

Jordan’s Equal Justice Works Fellowship seeks to address the legal needs of Californians with disabilities concerning wildfire disasters.

Jordan will work on Disability Rights California’s approach to wildfires and issues stemming from these disasters, such as Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events, housing displacement and a lack of accessible and affordable housing, emergency transportation, and the negative health impacts of poor air quality. All of these issues disproportionately affect people with access and functional needs. These vulnerable and underserved populations require thoughtful inclusion at all levels of disaster resilience planning. Jordan will be responding to the legal needs of the disability community throughout California before, during, and after wildfire disasters.

Jordan has lived experience with disability and disaster resilience. Having grown up in a disaster-prone region of the southeastern United States and witnessed the aftermath of natural disasters, Jordan will use this personal understanding to inform their work.

Fellowship Plans

Jordan will provide outreach on wildfire disaster resiliency by hosting accessible clinics, training, and direct legal aid to people with disabilities and others in the access and functional needs community. They will work with grassroots community groups throughout the state to strengthen existing disaster resource centers and coalitions.

Media

Californians With Disabilities Left in the Dark

I hope to bring awareness to some of the issues people with disabilities face and ensure that state and local governments prioritize the safety and welfare of ALL residents in disaster resilience planning.

Jordan Davis /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

The Project

Remi (she/her/hers) will advance advocacy for children in adult prisons serving life without parole sentences in Louisiana to: (1) improve prison conditions; (2) ensure education and rehabilitation; and (3) develop mitigation.

Despite legal and cultural change, Louisiana routinely condemns children to life without parole. Under recent changes to Louisiana law, some juveniles originally sentenced to life without parole could become eligible for parole hearings, providing an opportunity for release after serving twenty-five years in prison. A child’s success navigating the prison environment is critical to their parole hearing outcome. Remi’s project is designed to provide the necessary structural support to children navigating the adult prison environment and ensuring access to education, self-improvement, and rehabilitation programs.

Remi is inspired to do this work because this is home. “The work of juvenile justice is what I want. And the people of Louisiana are who I want to do it with.”

Fellowship Plans

The overarching goal of this Fellowship project is to ensure that juvenile life without parole (JLWOP) clients are treated humanely and in recognition of the fact that they are, or were, children while incarcerated. Remi will provide legal and informal advocacy for clients while incarcerated to ensure their humane treatment and increase their likelihood of success in their eventual parole hearings. The strategies for achieving this goal will include: (1) providing civil legal and administrative advocacy to incarcerated JLWOP clients, (2) creating a practitioner’s guide for incarceration-based lawyering, and (3) administering Know Your Rights seminars.

The Project

Brianna (she/her/hers) will provide legal assistance and support to children in the Allegheny County child welfare system with special education needs who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The goal of Brianna’s project is to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on dependency system-involved children who receive special education services. Since the pandemic crisis began in March 2020, these students have gone months without educational services or with insufficient supports and services resulting in long-term consequences. Without the stability of a secure family, these children are particularly susceptible to receiving an inadequate education, which has a lifelong impact as they transition to adulthood. 

Fellowship Plans

Brianna will advocate for recoupment and/or compensatory services based on the Pennsylvania Department of Education guidance to address the needs of special education students impacted by the extended school closure. She will research and advocate for best practices to be implemented in school districts for their benefit. Brianna will also provide consultations and technical assistance to attorneys and child advocacy specialists on individual special education cases, advocate for children at Individual Education Program (IEP) and other school meetings, and provide support to foster parents and other caregivers in their role as educational decision-maker. 

I am continually inspired by the resilience demonstrated by children facing difficult circumstances. It is a privilege to work toward creating transformative change for educational equity.

Brianna Bell /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow