The following is a list of resources for Juneteenth. Equal Justice Works is not a direct affiliate of any of these resources, unless otherwise noted.
Learn more about the history of Juneteenth.
- Juneteenth, A Celebration of Resilience, from the National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.
- “What Is Juneteenth?” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from PBS.org.
Racial Justice Resources & Organizations
- The Law Firm Antiracism Alliance: a coalition of nearly 300 law firms formed to “facilitate opportunities for action in pursuit of racial justice in the law and racial equity in our country,” created in June 2020.
- An Interview with Brenna DeVaney on the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance: a discussion on the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance with Brenna DeVaney, director of pro bono programs at Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom LLP.
- Lawyers for Good Government, on Racial Justice: ‘Lawyers for Racial Justice’ is an initiative to “mobilize critical pro bono legal services in the fight for racial justice” by promoting long-term reform and the creation of remote pro bono clinics.
- Law for Black Lives: a “national community of radical lawyers and legal workers committed to transforming the law and building the power of organizing to defend, protect, and advance Black Liberation across the globe.”
- Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project: the Association of American Law Schools created a collective space for Law School Deans to share resources on antiracism and engage their institutions with “teaching, scholarship, service, ativism, programming, and initiatives on strategies to eradicate racism”.
- White Supremacy Culture: a resource from Dismantling Racism Works that lists characteristics of white supremacy culture with the aim to “point out how organizations which unconsciously use these characteristics as their norms and standards make it difficult, if not impossible, to open the door to other cultural norms and standards”.
Equal Justice Works Community
Hear from Equal Justice Works Fellows, our Board, and other community members.
- Fighting for My Clients’ Right to Life: by Bailey Russell, February 3, 2022: 2020 Fellow Bailey Russell shares her experience defending people charged with capital crimes in Louisiana and fighting the state’s capital punishment system.
- Michelle Mapp Believes in Public Service: read about 2021 Fellow Michelle Mapp’s journey to become a public interest lawyer in Charleston, helping low-income and Black residents avoid eviction and displacement.
- ‘Sexist,’ ‘Racist,’ ‘Classist’: Georgia 8th Grader Challenges School Dress Code: 2020 Fellow Sabrina Bernadel discusses how dress codes disproportionately restrict women and girls for violations, and especially punish Black students, in this article about how young activists in Cobb County, Georgia responded to the codes.
- Why schools need to abandon facial recognition, not double down on it By Clarence Okoh and John S. Cusick, August 3, 2021: 2020 Fellow Clarence Okoh and 2017 Fellow John S. Cusick write about the drawbacks of facial recognition, with a focus on the detrimental harm it causes to students of color.
- Black Farmworkers Say They Lost Jobs to Foreigners Who Were Paid More: read about how 2020 Fellow Ty Pinkins aided Black farmworkers in the Mississippi delta in filing a lawsuit against their former employers, who asked them to train white guest workers from South Africa before firing them.
- “Embody Black Lives Matter in Every Facet of Your Legal Career,” by Walter Jean-Jacques, July 2020: a member of the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors, Walter shares reflections on 2020 events as a young Black man entering the legal field.
- “To Fellow Young Black Lawyers Seeking Justice,” by Clarence Okoh, June 2020: 2020 Fellow Clarence Okoh addresses fellow young Black lawyers and shares a comprehensive racial justice syllabus.
- “A Plea to Build Something Better,” by Tracie Johnson, July 2020: 2018 Fellow Tracie Johnson writes about the need to disrupt the cycles of generational poverty and violence that stem from over-policing.
- “Making Your Voice Heard at the Ballot Box,” by Mitchell D. Brown, June 2020: 2019 Fellow Mitchell D. Brown reflects on racial justice and voting rights.
- Equal Justice Works Fellows Challenge Racial Injustice Fellows Emma Shakeshaft, Molly Griffard, and Mitchell D. Brown discuss their efforts to challenge racial injustice by addressing debtors’ prisons, police brutality, and voter suppression.
- Racial Justice Beyond Litigation: Working Outside the Legal System to Affect Change: a panel discussion from our 2020 Conference and Career Fair, featuring Jason Bailey of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.; Eliana Green, a 2019 Fellow; and A’Niya Robinson of the ACLU of Louisiana.
To learn more about how Equal Justice Works Fellows are addressing racial justice through their work, visit here.
Juneteenth & Pride
Juneteenth takes place during Pride Month, the annual celebration commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a tipping point in the Gay Liberation Movement with deep ties to the fight for racial justice.
- LGBTQIA+ Resources—#AllBlackLivesMatter: a comprehensive list of intersectional resources for education, information, entertainment, and empowerment, from the Community Renewal Society in Chicago.
- Black LGBTQ+ Prides: a directory of official Black Pride Celebrations throughout the country.
- 2015 Fellow Tsion Gurmu: featured at our 2015 Annual Dinner, Fellow Tsion Gurmu describes her work with the African Services Committee to secure asylum for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers fleeing persecution for their sexuality.
June 15 marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which highlights the widespread issue of harm and exploitation perpetrated against older adults. Anyone can be a crime victim, but specific demographic groups may be targeted and have unique legal needs. To address these needs, Equal Justice Works formed the Elder Justice Program in 2020. Taylor Amstutz and Archie Roundtree Jr. are Fellows in the Elder Justice Program at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles and, in honor of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, they shared how they collaborate to promote access to justice for older adults in their communities.
Elder abuse is a prevalent and multifaceted issue that demands a holistic, collaborative approach to create meaningful change. One of our goals as Equal Justice Works Fellows is to build a cohesive network of service providers in Antelope Valley, one of Los Angeles County’s most rural locations. With this goal in mind, we began our Fellowships by asset mapping, a “systematic process of cataloging key services, benefits, and resources” within a specified community.
Elder abuse is a prevalent and multifaceted issue that demands a holistic, collaborative approach to create meaningful change.
We reached at least 2,000 community members and partners through asset mapping and developed a network of resources and strategic partnerships with legal organizations, government offices, service providers, community leaders, nonprofits, and religious institutions with the capacity to serve older crime victims. Our Fellowships address different aspects of elder abuse: mitigating abuse through restraining orders and addressing financial exploitation through the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program. Building an elder resource network has provided a vital intersection where we meet to ensure our clients’ holistic needs are met.
Taylor Amstutz: Elder Abuse Restraining Orders
During my Fellowship, which focuses on elder abuse intervention, I’ve had the privilege to assist and represent many older adults in successfully obtaining protection from abuse through Elder Abuse Restraining Orders (EAROs). These Orders are inherently designed to address the heightened vulnerability of older adults and individuals with disabilities to abuse. Commonly, elder abuse occurs when an older adult allows their grown child to move into their home with the understanding that they’ll help with caregiving or managing the house, but then things go terribly wrong, resulting in an abusive arrangement. Isolation, manipulation, and other forms of abuse are all used to control victims, making even leaving their room a fearful, anxiety-inducing experience. An EARO can protect elders from further danger by keeping abusers from approaching or contacting them and, in some cases, can intervene quickly to have the abuser removed from the home.
Thankfully, not even a global pandemic could stop Bet Tzedek Legal Services from bringing justice to older survivors of abuse. At the beginning of the pandemic, our EARO Clinic pivoted to an entirely remote format. As a result, we are now able to assist individuals throughout the county without unduly burdening them with travel to a single location. Whether my day involves outreach to community partners, raising awareness, going to court, or running our remote clinic, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be part of the journey of so many on the path to justice.
I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be part of the journey of so many on the path to justice.
Archie Roundtree Jr.: Homeownership Preservation
Through my Fellowship, I provide coordinated, comprehensive legal services to elder homeowners who are victims of fraud and abuse to preserve their homeownership and home equity. One of my areas of focus is the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, which is intended as a method for qualifying homeowners to finance energy-efficient retrofits or water conservation improvements. In its simplest terms, PACE collects payments for home improvements through property taxes to eliminate the up-front costs of energy-efficient retrofits. The program was designed to give access to energy-efficient improvements but has often been used by unscrupulous actors to exploit vulnerable families.
Generally, financing is sold door-to-door by contractors who target older adults, underserved communities, and minorities. These contractors promise home improvements with no upfront costs. Exploitation occurs when a homeowner agrees to costly construction projects and the contractor receives payment directly from the PACE administrator, sometimes without delivering any home improvements. It is only when the next property tax bill arrives that the homeowner learns they’ve been scammed—for example a simple $8,000 work project can cost upward of $79,000 over a 20-year period due to charging exorbitant interest rates. Communities are ravaged by these unfortunate loans because homeowners can suddenly owe far more in property taxes than they can afford to repay. Remedies can be hard to come by because PACE is arguably a tax, and administrators claim that consumer protection law does not apply. Nevertheless, we have been able to help homeowners using a combination of strategies ranging from regulatory complaints to individual and class litigation.
Elder Justice Program Impact
Not only do we provide legal services to older victims of crime, but we also conduct outreach to identify potential victims and spread the word about abuse, exploitation, and victims’ right. Using intergenerational communication, legal services, and education outreach, we’re able to equip the older adult community with tools they need to advocate for themselves and ultimately help remove barriers to achieving justice for those who have been exploited and abused.
Visit here to learn more about the Fellows in the Elder Justice Program who are addressing the gap in civil legal services for victims of elder abuse and exploitation.
The Elder Justice Program is supported by an award from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), Award Number 2019-V3-GX-K033. This federal funding is supplemented by funds from private donors. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Each year, Equal Justice Works partners with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) for the Rural Summer Legal Corps (RSLC), a program that addresses the pressing legal issues facing rural communities. Program participants, called Student Fellows, spend eight to ten weeks during the summer serving at LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations where they help to provide direct legal services, engage in community outreach and education, and build capacity at host organizations.
This year, 40 Student Fellows from 36 law schools were selected from 333 applications to work remotely at 37 LSC-funded civil legal aid organizations across the United States and its territories, providing critical legal assistance to people in rural areas.
Meet our 2022 RSLC Student Fellows and learn about how they will be helping to address some of the biggest challenges facing rural communities:
Hannah Atkinson (she/her/hers), Pace University School of Law
At Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Hannah will help launch a much-needed project to identify with tenants of mobile parks that are at risk of homelessness, have been living in illegal and inhabitable conditions, and have been subjected to other illegal practices.
John (J.D.) Barnes (he/him/his), University of Oklahoma College of Law
J.D. will develop litigation strategies and a community education program for Legal Aid of Nebraska’s Native American Program, which provides legal services to Native Americans experiencing legal issues in or involved with courts in Nebraska. He will also provide direct legal services to Native Americans residing in communities on or near reservations or in tribal service areas who have legal issues related to housing.
Elise Baroni (she/her/hers), University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Leflar Law Center
Hosted at Legal Aid of Arkansas, Inc, Elise will join Beyond Opioids—Breaking Legal Barriers for Families in Recovery—the first collaborative project among legal aid programs focused on people impacted by the opioid crisis and other substance use disorders. There, Elise will help provide direct legal services to low-income Arkansans with Opioid Use Disorder experiencing barriers to treatment and conduct outreach and education in partnership with methadone providers in the underserved Delta Region.
Samantha Beauchamp (she/her/hers), Suffolk University Law School
At Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc (LawNY), Samantha will assist low-income clients in reducing barriers to employment and accessing unemployment insurance benefits. Additionally, Samantha will help LawNY expand its employment-related legal services provided to rural clients, especially to those who are under-or-unemployed due to having a criminal record.
Tara Blackwell (she/her/hers), Washington and Lee University School of Law
Tara will work with a special initiative at Center for Arkansas Legal Services to reduce generational poverty through home ownership and estate planning. Her work will concentrate on the poorest communities of the Arkansas Delta. As part of this work, Tara will help protect family land through “Wills on Wheels” clinics to prevent title issues before they occur, participate in community outreach, and provide litigation support to staff attorneys at her host organization.
Emily Borbon (she/her/hers), Belmont University College of Law
Emily will work with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas to provide direct legal services, outreach, and community education to underserved populations in Wichita Falls, Texas. She will focus on housing stability and assist in three priority areas: eviction defense/rental assistance cases, debt collection cases, and expunctions and driver’s license restoration cases.
William (Billy) Bradley (he/him/his), University of California, Berkeley School of Law
At Legal Services Alabama, Billy will support his host organization’s Rural Economic Improvement Project (REIP), an initiative created to improve access to civil justice and build legal empowerment in rural Alabama communities. As a Student Fellow, Billy will help represent clients, conduct community outreach, and organize hybrid responses targeted to the needs of clients and communities.
Patrick Brogan (he/him/his), Villanova University School of Law
Hosted at Ohio State Legal Services, Patrick will assist with defending tenants facing eviction and gathering critical information from multiple counties, including court data and documented stories of individuals with disparate eviction outcomes because of their county location. Additionally, Patrick will attend hearings in these courts, take notes and track the outcomes of cases to help determine where future Tenant Advocacy Project clinics or other eviction diversion tools would be beneficial.
Dayleen Chery (she/her/hers), Southern University Law Center
Dayleen will work with her host organization, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc, on employment law matters affecting migrant and seasonal agricultural workers. She will assist with negotiations and litigation on current cases, along with intakes and case development for various complaints that the team receives during the summer.
Gabe Cripe (he/him/his), University of Cincinnati College of Law
At Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, Gabe will support his host organization’s Kinship Care Team, which assists grandparents and others who are caring for children whose parents cannot raise them due to a variety of issues, including substance use, untreated mental illness, or incarceration. He will assist with outreach, maintenance of referral relationships with partner agencies, brief-service legal clinics and legal advocacy to help clients access public benefits like Medicaid, Food Stamps, and cash payments to support the children they are raising.
Monte Cole (he/him/his), University of Montana School of Law
Hosted by Nevada Legal Services, Monte will work directly with a farmworker rights attorney and an outreach coordinator to provide legal education, access to justice, and investigation and defenses against rights violations of farmworkers. Monte will also help represent clients when necessary and conduct legal research on labor rights issues.
Hannah Davis (she/her/hers), Tulane University Law School
Hannah will assist Alaska Legal Services Corporation (ASLC) in efforts to empower communities by increasing knowledge of the legal system and local resources. She will also assist ALSC staff with the Pro Bono Training Academy, which is an online resource that trains non-attorney community advocates to assist clients, and BeneFactor, an app that guides caseworkers through the steps needed to assemble a successful disability application.
Jacob Engelhardt (he/him/his), Boston College Law School
Jacob will work with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid to provide outreach, community education, and legal assistance to a growing population of domestic violence survivors who face isolation and economic instability due to the remoteness of rural Illinois which lacks public transportation, childcare, and sometimes even cellphone service. Jacob will also be trained on how to assist and represent these at-risk clients holistically, particularly as these clients often have more than one legal issue at a time.
Rodrigo Fernandez-Ortega (he/him/his), Willamette University College of Law
Rodrigo will conduct outreach to low-income housing communities, mobile home parks, and resource centers with his host organization, Legal Aid Services of Oregon. He will also educate tenants about their rights, work with staff attorneys to provide legal representation in eviction cases, collect data about eviction proceedings; and examine the compliance of courts with various rules and statutes meant to protect tenants.
Maiya Fudge (she/her/hers), University of Florida Levin College of Law
At Legal Service of Greater Miami, Maiya will assist with the Mobile Home Park Advocacy Project which serves mobile home park residents in rural Miami. Through this project, she will help provide access to justice for mobile home park homeowners’ associations, composed of low-income mobile home park owners, in park closure cases and will legally challenge adverse rules, regulation changes, and rent increases.
Cassie Goodnight (she/her/hers), Washington University School of Law
At Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, Cassie will provide legal services through the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) Parent Representation Project. She will provide a variety of legal services to parents and families to help enforce the ICWA, which prevents the arbitrary removal of Indian children from their homes.
Andrew Green (he/him/his), Villanova University School of Law
Andrew will work on the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands’ Rural Reentry Outreach & Legal Clinics Project, which provides access to justice for the formerly incarcerated. He will support legal work to assist low-income, rural individuals facing societal barriers due to prior criminal records, providing services such as criminal record expungement, driver’s license reinstatement, and certificates of employability for private employers and state licensing.
Matthew Gulick (he/him/his), Lewis & Clark Law School
Hosted by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Matthew will work with the Community Development and Environmental Justice team to ensure that rural communities are not overburdened by air and water pollution, have access to safe drinking water, and are able to fight predatory foreclosure practices by an irrigation district.
Kelsey Gunvalson (she/her/hers), University of Wisconsin Law School
At Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota Corporation, Kelsey will work on Reach Justice Minnesota, a statewide network of community-based civil justice kiosks and mobile civil legal aid clinics. She will expand the use of the legal kiosk network across northern Minnesota and establish regularly scheduled mobile legal clinics in a variety of court, agency, nonprofit, and other community locations.
Jada Haynes, (she/her/hers) Southern University Law Center
Jada will work with host organization Georgia Legal Services Program to assist rural communities of color in securing homeownership and preserving wealth in communities that are most affected by natural disasters. Jada will conduct needs assessments, draft educational materials for high-risk communities, and create training materials for volunteer lawyers to assist with FEMA recovery.
Anna Henson (she/her/hers), Michigan State University College of Law
At Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Inc, Anna will work within the Basic Unit and the Family Law and Victims’ Rights Unit to provide legal services to low-income clients throughout Aroostook County, Maine. She will combine substantive legal work, research projects, community outreach, and a needs assessment to resolve complex legal issues on behalf of more low-income clients.
Millie Hobaish (she/her/hers), University of California, Irvine School of Law
Hosted by DNA-Peoples Legal Services, Millie will work with the supervision of Navajo licensed attorneys to provide outreach, community legal education, and a full spectrum of legal assistance to residents in the Navajo communities.
Hannah Holmberg (she/her/hers), University of St. Thomas School of Law
At Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota Corporation, Hannah will work on Reach Justice Minnesota, a statewide network of community-based civil justice kiosks and mobile civil legal aid clinics. She will expand the use of the legal kiosk network across northern Minnesota and establish regularly scheduled mobile legal clinics in a variety of court, agency, nonprofit, and other community locations.
Christopher Irsfeld (he/him/his), New York University School of Law
Christopher will address legal issues affecting rural transgender and gender-non-conforming Californians while working at his host organization, California Rural Legal Assistance. He will work with the LGBTQ+ Program to investigate potential harassment and discrimination claims and provide direct legal services in areas such as identity-document updates, immigration, employment, housing, healthcare access, and education.
Paige Kendrick, (she/her/hers), Washington University School of Law
Hosted by North Penn Legal Services, Paige will provide outreach, community education, and representation in rural counties which have significant needs in housing, debt, and consumer matters. Paige will also conduct outreach, create networking opportunities, and use legal information to educate communities.
Haley Kilma, (she/her/hers), University of Mississippi School of Law
At North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, Haley will provide free tax representation for increased numbers of low-income taxpayers who cannot afford to pay private attorneys to address their tax problems. Haley will also expand efforts to reach taxpayers through education and outreach in various Mississippi communities and raise awareness of available resources and clinics.
Robert Lass (he/him/his), University of Missouri School of Law
Robert will help Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Inc. expand outreach efforts in rural counties and increase their capacity, mainly in serving domestic violence victims living in rural northeastern Missouri. Robert will work with mentors to conduct intake screenings, interview clients, draft pleadings, manage dockets, appear in court, and assist with case closeout, primarily for domestic violence cases.
Maya Madden (she/her/hers), Texas A&M University School of Law
Hosted by Lone Star Legal Aid, Maya will implement the Homestead and Disability Property Tax Exemption project for low-income residents of rural Texas. She will conduct community outreach and education, provide legal counsel, and help represent clients who need guidance securing tax exemptions or are fighting for the return of their homes after unjust tax foreclosure lawsuits led to home loss.
Olivia Marks (she/her/hers), Tulane University Law School
At Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation, Olivia will focus largely on ensuring that communities impacted by Hurricane Ida throughout rural parishes have access to justice and are not left behind in the recovery process. She will provide legal services to help these individuals recover after disasters and will provide significant outreach.
Robert Necciai (he/him/his), University of Pittsburgh School of Law
As a Student Fellow at Neighborhood Legal Services Association, Robert will work closely with experienced attorneys and partners to connect more clients to custody legal services. His work will include establishing regular outreach information sessions to provide information on custody rights and responsibilities and helping with custody cases.
Hana Muslic (she/her/hers), DePaul University College of Law
Hosted by Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc, Hana will focus on meeting the challenge of the increased number of housing and eviction matters that will come forth due to the end of the Minnesota Eviction Moratorium Phaseout. With only two housing attorneys available to meet this increasing demand for legal services at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Hana will help to directly serve clients in landlord-tenant and other housing matters.
Regan Richards (she/her/hers), George Washington University Law School
At Montana Legal Services Association, Regan will conduct intake interviews, provide supervised legal advice to tenants facing eviction, participate in landlord-tenant mediations, and help route clients for full representation, mediation, and other wrap-around services.
Lauren Rowell (she/her/hers), University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Lauren will work directly with attorneys at Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York on landlord-tenant and family law proceedings involving domestic violence to address problems faced by rural clients in accessing legal assistance and representation.
Gabriella Sayger (she/her/hers), Appalachian School of Law
Hosted by Legal Aid of West Virginia, Gabriella will help provide direct civil legal services focusing on stabilizing clients’ access to housing and economic stability for rural renters at risk of eviction. Gabriella will also provide targeted outreach and legal education for community partners and the public on legal issues.
Aaron Schaffer-Neitz (he/him/his), Stanford Law School
At Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Inc, Aaron will gain experience with all types of cases from agricultural workers across New York, including trafficking, wage theft, workplace health and safety, discrimination, and civil rights. His work will have a special emphasis on housing issues experienced by New York farmworkers living in employer-provided housing such as brown drinking water, mold, sewage backup, cracked windows, exposed wiring, overcrowded conditions, and a lack of heat during cold months.
Maryn Sommerfeldt (she/her/hers), University of Oregon School of Law
Hosted by Utah Legal Services, Maryn will work closely with experienced attorneys to conduct outreach and serve clients in rural and frontier areas of Utah. She will help provide targeted outreach to underserved populations, organize a community education and outreach plan to assist with debt collection cases, and provide direct services to clients in debt collection cases.
Gabe Spellberg (he/him/his), Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology
At Colorado Legal Services, Gabe will work with the Migrant Farm Worker Division to meet the legal needs of farmworkers in the Western Slope region of Colorado. His work will focus on working conditions, wage issues, civil rights, sexual harassment, human trafficking, and immigration.
Autumn Westhoff (she/her/hers), University of Missouri School of Law
Autumn will help Legal Services of Eastern Missouri expand their outreach efforts and increase capacity by serving domestic violence victims living in rural northeastern Missouri. She will work with mentors to conduct intake screenings, interview clients, draft pleadings, manage dockets, appear in court, and assist with case closeout, primarily for domestic violence cases.
Ashley (Ash) Wilkie (she/her/hers), Michigan State University College of Law
Hosted by Michigan Indian Legal Services, Ash will assist staff with community outreach and planning on-site and virtual clinics. She will also attend three clinics in rural areas and draft estate planning documents, such as wills, powers of attorney, and patient advocate forms.
Visit here for more information about the Rural Summer Legal Corps.
Equal Justice Works is proud to introduce the 2022 class of Disaster Resilience Program Student Fellows. These eight law students will spend their summer working alongside Disaster Resilience Program Fellows in California, Louisiana, and New Mexico as they help communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters.
“Disasters can have a devastating impact on individuals and communities, and the legal needs that emerge following a disaster are complex and difficult to navigate alone,” said Linda Anderson Stanley, senior program manager at Equal Justice Works and director of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division Disaster Legal Services Program. “We are proud to support these Student Fellows in their work to expand critical legal resources for families affected by disasters and their efforts to build more resilient communities.”
Through the Disaster Resilience Program, Student Fellows will gain exposure to disaster preparedness, response, and recovery legal work. They will help to provide civil legal services, engage in community education and advocacy efforts, and build capacity at their host organization.
Meet our Disaster Resilience Program Student Fellows and learn more about how they will be supporting a wide range of disaster-related legal issues, including housing, employment, immigration, accessibility, and health care needs.
Megan Brua (she/her/hers), University of Wisconsin Law School
At Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Megan will work alongside 2021 Fellow Chris Kerrigan to help achieve justice for low-income individuals facing eviction or housing instability. This includes providing legal assistance, advocacy, community education, and resources to those who have experienced housing issues due to disasters or landlord neglect.
Emily Bruell, Stanford Law School
At New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Emily will work with 2022 Fellows Taylor Noya, Sophia Genovese, and Anna Trillo on the Asylum and Detention team to provide legal aid to noncitizens in immigration detention and non-detained asylum seekers. Emily will also assist Fellows with asylum cases and conduct outreach at New Mexico’s detention centers.
Nora Hendricks (she/her/hers), Seattle University School of Law
Hosted by Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, Nora will work with 2022 Fellow Patrick Doell to provide on-site direct legal services at the Baton Rouge City Court via an eviction help desk. A city court eviction help desk will act as insulation for individuals against future increases in evictions due to disasters or other causes. They will also aid defendants who need legal representation in eviction cases. Together, Nora and Patrick will aid those who are experiencing issues with housing security due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abigail Meibaum (she/her/hers), Washington University in Saint Louis School of Law
Abigail will focus on disaster-related advocacy and litigation with 2022 Fellow Skyler Williams at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. There, Abigail will help provide access to sustainable housing and prevent evictions in Louisiana, which is currently facing an eviction crisis due to COVID-19. The region’s vulnerability to hurricanes requires a focus on overarching housing issues and providing know your rights training for community members, which Abigail will help provide.
Alondra Granados-Diaz, University of New Mexico School of Law
Hosted by New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Alondra will work alongside 2022 Fellow Sophia Genovese on the Asylum and Detention team to provide legal assistance to noncitizens in immigration detention and non-detained asylum seekers. Together, they hope to aid those affected by COVID-19’s effects on the immigration system, such as medical issues raised by the pandemic in immigration detention centers.
Desiree Robedeaux (she/her/hers), University of California, Hastings College of Law
At Disability Rights California, Desiree will work alongside 2021 Fellow Jordan Davis to address the legal needs of Californians with disabilities affected by wildfire disasters. Together, they will work to address Public Safety Power Shutoff events, housing displacement and accessibility issues, emergency transportation, and the negative health impacts of poor air quality, which all disproportionately affect people with access and functional needs.
Jonathan Thomas (he/him/his), Washington and Lee University School of Law
Hosted by Disability Rights Louisiana, Jonathan will work with 2021 Fellow Kate Thorstad to serve Louisianans with disabilities who were impacted by disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida. Together, they will work to mitigate barriers to critical programs, services, and housing.
Ernesto Villaseñor, University of Baltimore School of Law
Ernesto will work with 2021 Fellow Jacob Zarefsky at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles to provide legal aid and assistance to wildfire survivors throughout California. Together, they will work to conduct client outreach to disaster survivors, represent wildfire survivors, and engage with their peers in learning exercises.
Visit here for more information about Disaster Resilience Program.
The Disaster Resilience Program is funded by Equal Justice Works and supplemented by funds from private donors including the Bigglesworth Family Foundation, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and Carnegie Corporation of New York.
We are proud to support these Student Fellows in their work to expand critical legal resources for families affected by disasters and their efforts to build more resilient communities.
Linda Anderson Stanley /
Equal Justice Works Senior Program Manager
By Annie Lee, director of policy at Chinese for Affirmative Action and chair of the Alumni Advisory Council.
Over the past six months, the Equal Justice Works Alumni Advisory Council (AAC) has been collaborating closely with Lynbea Toombs, director of alumni relations to establish goals and corresponding activities that level up to the organization’s strategic plan and vision for its Alumni Engagement Program.
To date, we’ve identified the following goals:
- Create a charter and establish internal processes for a strong foundation for the AAC
- Plan and execute quarterly alumni programming
- Assist in the development of an alumni award
- Utilize social media to promote Equal Justice Works and AAC events and initiatives
- Advise on plans for alumni involvement in Fellowships program recruitment campaign such as the Design-Your-Own Fellowship Program Announcement Day
We’ve established three committees to help us accomplish this work:
- The Governance Committee, which is responsible for developing the AAC’s guiding documents.
- The Outreach Committee, which assists the director of alumni relations in identifying alumni volunteers and raising awareness about the Alumni Engagement Program and getting our network of past, present, and potential Equal Justice Works Fellows active in the alumni community.
- The Programming Committee, which empowers and unites Equal Justice Works Alumni through substantive programming and networking events.
At the 2021-22 AAC’s last quarterly meeting, we voted to accept a charter that will govern the AAC moving forward. Additionally, we celebrated 2021-22 successes, including the impact of AAC consultation on a variety of alumni engagement opportunities, such as the Design-Your-Own Fellowship Program Announcement Day and alumni giving, as well as hosting two events for alumni. In February, we held a government attorneys and academia insights panel, where Equal Justice Works Alumni spoke about their diverse experiences working as government attorneys and shared tips on how public interest lawyers in the nonprofit sector can make the transition into government or academic roles. At the session, participants had the opportunity to network with the panelists and each-other in small groups.
As 2022’s fiscal year winds down, the AAC plans to advise on an alumni programming survey and will hold one final alumni event on mental health. Additionally, we will continue to develop regional alumni events to encourage networking and outreach.
In the 2023 fiscal year, the AAC plans to welcome five new members who represent the diversity of the Equal Justice Works Alumni community. Some of the targeted goals for the new fiscal year will include continued programming for alumni and advising on issues such as effective alumni engagement at Leadership Development Training, as well as the launch of an Alumni Speakers’ Bureau.
We are grateful to our current Council members for their hard work and dedication to the Alumni Advisory Council! The inaugural AAC has laid a strong foundation and set a high bar for what we can accomplish when we work together on behalf of Equal Justice Works Alumni. We’re proud of what we have accomplished over the last year and look forward to what’s to come!
Applications for the five open positions on the 2022-2025 Alumni Advisory Council are being accepted through July 11, click here to apply. For more information about the Alumni Advisory Council, please visit here.
Equal Justice Works recently held an informational session about the Housing Justice Program and what applicants need to know before applying. At the session, staff members Brooke Meckler, director of law school engagement and advocacy, and Hana Hausnerova, director of public programs, also chatted with 2019 Fellow Palmer Heenan about the successes of the Housing Justice Program and how his participation in the program has shaped his career.
The Housing Justice Program is the only Equal Justice Works Fellowship program that employs both lawyers and community organizers, who collaborate as Fellows to empower communities and address housing instability.
“It really is an incredible opportunity to do some amazing good and get some amazing trial experience, litigation experience, client experience, deposition experience,” said Palmer.
At the session, Palmer also shared helpful advice on the application process, as well as some of the benefits of being in the Housing Justice Program.
“I hope all of you give this some serious consideration. It’s an amazing, practical, hands-on legal experience,” said Palmer. “I personally think more lawyers should have that kind of experience. But it’s also a way to uniquely affect people’s lives.”
Currently, Equal Justice Works is expanding the Housing Justice Program from Virginia to South Carolina and Maryland creating more than 20 Fellowship opportunities starting in August 2022. Applications are available now for Fellowships in South Carolina and Virginia .
It really is an incredible opportunity to do some amazing good and get some amazing trial experience, litigation experience, client experience, deposition experience
Palmer Heenan /
2019 Equal Justice Works Fellow
Housing Justice Program
By 2020 Fellow Victoria Jeon, who is supported by the Paul Rapoport Foundation and hosted at UnLocal, inc.
In legal matters, the needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community are often overlooked; LGBTQ+ API individuals are overlooked even further, alienated from both Asian and LGBTQ+ communities. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to serve these clients through my Equal Justice Works Fellowship at UnLocal. There, I work with the Queer Immigrant Justice Project, which primarily aids LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in their asylum cases, assists with obtaining Green Cards, and provides various other forms of legal assistance. During my Fellowship, I’ve met and assisted many clients from all over the world, all of whom inspire me with their own strength and resilience.
I’ve met and assisted many clients from all over the world, all of whom inspire me with their own strength and resilience.
Through my work, I also help with connecting UnLocal to local API organizations for partnerships with UnLocal’s education and legal programs. This focus is even more important given the rise in anti-Asian racism in light of COVID-19. The pandemic has emphasized the need to support API and LGBTQ+ API communities and raised new challenges in my line of work. COVID-19 has been devastating for many organizations, especially smaller nonprofits. Although I’ve been able to assist asylum seekers from all over Asia and the Caribbean, where there is a prominent diaspora of Chinese and Indian people and their descendants, the pandemic has compromised the capacity of many API organizations I had hoped to collaborate with. Despite this, I’ve still had the chance to be a liaison, connecting UnLocal to local organizations, like the Caribbean Equality Project, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and more.
Although UnLocal’s specialty is in immigration law, I had little experience with this specific area before joining the organization as a Fellow. Nonetheless, my supervisors at UnLocal gave me the opportunity to learn, and they effectively guided me so that I could handle some trials on my own. As a result, I was able to contribute significantly to a Ghanaian man’s asylum victory and lead a case that resulted in winning asylum for a Haitian LGBTQ+ ally and political activist and his family. These victories at court and my personal progress are what I’m proudest of during this Fellowship.
After completing my Fellowship, I plan to stay on at UnLocal and help with its Queer Immigrant Justice Project. This work continues to be relevant and crucial, especially given the global political tension, and I am thankful to UnLocal for putting the faith in me as they have until this point.
We’re proud of the work that Victoria is doing to advocate on behalf of LGBTQ+ Asian and Pacific Islanders. To learn more about her Fellowship, visit here.
Each fall, Equal Justice Works hosts its annual Conference and Career Fair, the largest national public interest legal career fair that brings together hundreds of law students, recent graduates, public interest employers, law school faculty and staff, and public interest practitioners from across the United States and its territories for prescheduled interviews, informal “table talk” discussions, networking opportunities, and panel sessions on contemporary public interest topics.
This year, we are excited to announce a new format for the 2022 Conference and Career Fair that will ensure greater accessibility and inclusivity for our attendees. For the first time ever, Equal Justice Works will split up the event, with the conference and career fair portions taking place over two separate dates.
The conference will take place on September 21 – 23, and the career fair will follow one month later on October 20 – 22. Both parts of the event will be held virtually once again.
The decision to host the Conference and Career Fair over separate dates will give law students the opportunity to maximize their experience and participate in all aspects of the event, as panel sessions will no longer overlap with prescheduled interviews and meet and greets with employers. Additionally, the new format will give space within the conference for law school professionals to network with their colleagues and attend exclusive sessions on the benefits of Equal Justice Works membership and how to best advise students on the Equal Justice Works Fellowship process, among other things.
The Conference and Career Fair will still require a single registration, with early bird employer registration opening on June 13 and law student and law school professional registration opening on August 11. Equal Justice Works will offer informational webinars and other trainings over the summer to help attendees prepare for the event.
By Henderson Huihui, a 2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow hosted by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation.
Native Hawaiians, similar to other indigenous peoples in the United States, have endured a history of colonization and the dispossession of ancestral lands. In the 1920s, it was clear that the loss of land had a significant negative impact on all indicators of health and wellbeing for native Hawaiians. This loss of land pushed Native Hawaiians into crowded tenements, disrupted their ability to practice subsistence living traditionally necessary for survival, and triggered a diaspora of Hawaiian out of Hawai’i. These conditions contributed to a staggering decline in the Hawaiian population, as well as the number of Hawaiians living in Hawai’i. Western population estimates of Native Hawaiians prior to Western contact in 1778 range from hundreds of thousands up to 1 million. By 1920, the number of Native Hawaiians dropped to 23,700—literally, more than a nine-fold decimation.
In 1921, the federal government enacted the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) in response to the alarming decline in the native Hawaiian population. The HHCA set aside certain areas of land, held in trust by the federal government, to rehabilitate the native Hawaiian people by returning them to the land. The HHCA provides for long-term residential, agricultural, and pastoral homestead leases to eligible native Hawaiians. As a condition of statehood, the administration of the homestead program was transferred to the State of Hawaii. The loss of ancestral lands still impacts native Hawaiians today. Recent census estimates show that the Native Hawaiian population is on a steady rebound, with more than 600,000 Americans identifying as Hawaiian or part Hawaiian, however, only about half of those people live in Hawai’i. The flow of Hawaiians out of Hawaiian ancestral lands continues to be a concern, threatening the strength of Hawaiian cultural practice and identity for many who cannot afford housing here.
The loss of ancestral lands still impacts native Hawaiians today.
The inspiration for my Equal Justice Works Fellowship comes from my experience growing up in the Waimānalo Hawaiian homestead. As a Native Hawaiian, my family faced many of the same challenges that others in the broader Native Hawaiian community face, some of which are rooted in Hawai’i’s troubled past of colonization. A Hawaiian homestead can provide an ‘ohana (family) with stability for generations. Having benefitted from the homestead program, I feel that it is now my kuleana (responsibility) to help families retain their homestead leases.
Having benefitted from the homestead program, I feel that it is now my kuleana (responsibility) to help families retain their homestead leases.
The focus of my Fellowship is to provide comprehensive outreach and advocacy for beneficiaries of the HHCA. Issues facing homestead families range from successorship of a homestead lease, a lack of internet access, environmental impacts and access to water, and lease cancelation. These issues may affect the generational stability provided by a homestead and put families at risk of houselessness or being forced to live outside of Hawaii to avoid the high cost of living. Through the Fellowship, I work to empower Native Hawaiian beneficiaries to retain and proactively manage their family homesteads by providing educational materials, direct legal services, and advocacy.
Through this Fellowship, I’ve been given the opportunity to take a deep dive into a rather niche and nuanced area of law. While it’s been challenging to navigate complex legal theories and approaches, as some homestead issues go beyond traditional landlord-tenant questions and into the fiduciary duties of the State of Hawaii and administrative rule making processes, working for my community has been very rewarding.
Every opportunity to serve a member of my community, in cases big and small, whether through brief services or through full representation, has been the highest honor.
Every opportunity to serve a member of my community, in cases big and small, whether through brief services or through full representation, has been the highest honor. Those served through this Fellowship face a frustrating and confusing system. When they have someone advocating for them, their voice is finally being heard. Being that voice has been the proudest moments of the Fellowship. My hope is to continue working in this area of law to help advance the rights and protections of Hawaiian homestead families as the Fellowship has highlighted systematic and administrative shortfalls of the Hawaiian Home Lands trust program and the common need for homesteader education.
We’re proud of the work Henderson is doing to advocate on behalf of Hawaiian homestead families. To learn more information about his Fellowship, visit here.
Nafisa Ahmed, a 2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Cooley LLP and Uber Technologies Inc., recently spoke with us about working with AMEMSA (Arab Middle Eastern Muslim South Asian) domestic violence survivors in the greater Los Angeles area.
What inspired you to pursue a career focused on advocating for AMEMSA (Arab Middle Eastern Muslim South Asian) survivors of domestic violence?
I am AMEMSA and wanted to be able to use my education to uplift my community. I witnessed the struggles that AMEMSA domestic violence survivors face getting out of relationships and wanted to workshop solutions to help them. It’s also an area of law that plays to my strengths and excites me. It’s never boring!
I witnessed the struggles that AMEMSA domestic violence survivors face getting out of relationships and wanted to workshop solutions to help them.
The COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the legal landscape, increasing the demand for civil legal aid across the country. How did the pandemic affect your work and the clients you serve?
Essentially, since the start of the pandemic, funding and availability for legal aid family law services has decreased in Los Angeles County while the demand has increased. For a period of time, one of the main resources for self-represented litigants in Los Angeles, the Self-Help Centers at the Courthouses were not operating in the same capacity that they were pre-pandemic.
Many legal aid organizations across Los Angeles that provide family law services are currently understaffed. My host organization has become one of the few where domestic violence survivors can get family law legal aid without having to wait three months. That meant that I took on a larger case load and a larger array of clients to meet the need.
My organization has become one of the few where domestic violence survivors can get family law legal aid without having to wait three months.
Survivors of domestic violence often have a multitude of legal problems associated with their abusive experience. What are some of the legal needs expressed by your clients and what areas of the law are you providing legal assistance?
Survivors often need assistance in housing rights, immigration, family law, and victim advocacy to name a few. My organization assists with immigration and family law services. I primarily work on family law issues which includes restraining orders, divorces, child custody, and support.
During your Equal Justice Works Fellowship, you’ve been working closely with your sponsors on creating Know-Your-Rights materials as well as legal research and clinic opportunities. Can you tell us more about these partnerships and share some of the benefits of having your sponsors involved in your project?
My Fellowship sponsors Cooley LLP and Uber Technologies Inc. have assisted me with translating Know Your Rights materials to AMEMSA languages. These materials have been distributed to various organizations that work with AMEMSA survivors, ensuring that survivors are able to access resources they can understand and know that remedies are available to them. My sponsors have also assisted me in conducting legal research and writing for a Trial Advocacy Guide for Self-Represented Litigants in Restraining Order proceedings. My department gets more referrals and requests for services than we can assist, so it’s useful to have a comprehensive guide for individuals we are unable to work more closely with.
I hope that survivors are at least able to access resources that they can understand and know that remedies are available to them.
What are some of the ways you are sharing these materials with survivors of domestic violence?
During the first six months of my Equal Justice Works Fellowship, I did the groundwork of connecting with other organizations to establish a stronger referral base. We are in the process of regularly exchanging resources and referrals. However, most of my project is now dedicated to direct legal services and representation of survivors.
Lastly, what has been the most exciting part of being an Equal Justice Works Fellow?
The most exciting part of being an Equal Justice Works Fellow has been connecting with other Fellows across the country. Although our projects vary, it has been a positive collegial experience sharing the growths and challenges of being new public interest attorneys. Legal aid work can be very difficult, so it has been a pleasure connecting with other individual who share similar experiences.
It has been a positive collegial experience sharing the growths and challenges of being new public interest attorneys.
To learn more about Nafisa’s Fellowship, visit her profile here.