Equal Justice Works Blog

Gabriella Barbosa (’13) Advocates for English Learners in Los Angeles

August 29, 2014

This guest blog post is written by 2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Gabriella Barbosa, who is currently working at Public Counsel. Her Fellowship is sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation.

“There is a no greater challenge facing the Los Angeles Unified School District than to dramatically improve the academic performance and graduation rates of English Learners."–John Deasy, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).


Photo (Above): 2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow Gabriella Barbosa spoke at a LAUSD Board Meeting, advocating for more educational services on behalf of English Learners.

As a former public school teacher in Los Angeles, and first generation American, I have seen up close the hurdles that students with limited English proficiency face in public schools. Now I am using my legal training at Public Counsel to pursue my dream job: helping students and their families pursue their educations and helping erase the history of discrimination and lost opportunities that they have faced in schools.

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Corey Prachniak (’13) Advocates for Equal Access to Healthcare for the LGBT Community

August 20, 2014

2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow Corey Prachniak addresses healthcare barriers at the Whitman-Walker Health clinic in Washington, DC; his Fellowship is sponsored by Steptoe & Johnson LLP.  Below Corey shares about how his Fellowship project helps ensure that the LGBT community receives the healthcare services they deserve.

As a child, I remember my mother – who couldn’t afford health insurance – sobbing after a mere phone consultation with my pediatrician cost her a day’s work of pay.  My parents pushed me to be the first in our family to go to college in large part because they wanted me to get a good job, meaning one that included health benefits.

At that time, I imagined society’s healthcare problems could be solved overnight if everyone had access to insurance.  Similarly, as a closeted queer youth, I thought that same-sex marriage – if I ever lived to see it – would mark complete equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community.

Right: 2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow Corey Prachniak presented at the Salud LGBTT summit in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the need for policies that improve LGBT healthcare access for marginalized groups.

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AmeriCorps Celebrates 20th Anniversary: A Tribute to our AmeriCorps Legal Fellows Providing Disaster Relief

August 14, 2014

AmeriCorps—a long-term partner of Equal Justice Works—celebrates its 20th anniversary this year!  As part of this milestone, The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) is observing August 2014 as Disaster Services month. 

Since 2013, Equal Justice Works has deployed four AmeriCorps Legal Fellows to provide critical legal assistance to individuals impacted by natural disasters, including the tornado in Missouri, Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana, Hurricane Sandy in New York, and the BP Oil spill in the gulf.  The blog posts below highlight the disaster relief work of some of our AmeriCorps Legal Fellows.  Thank you to AmeriCorps and CNCS for your continued support of Equal Justice Works.

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AmeriCorps Legal Fellow Rebecca Miller (‘13) Serves Nation’s Low-Income Veterans and their Families

August 8, 2014

2013 AmeriCorps Legal Fellow
Rebecca Miller is currently serving low-income veterans at Levitt & Quinn Family Law Center in Los Angeles, California. Equal Justice Works recently interviewed Rebecca to learn about her efforts to support former military service members and their families. The conversation below highlights some of her achievements to help close the justice gap for veteran communities.

Right: AmeriCorps Legal Fellow Rebecca Miller (’13), at the Levitt & Quinn office, reviews paperwork with a client to sign and file with the court.

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Laura Huizar (’12) Protects Job Seekers From Employment Agency Abuse in New York City

August 1, 2014

Below is a guest blog post from 2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Laura Huizar. Her fellowship at LatinoJustice PRLDEF in New York is sponsored by Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. Read how Laura has battled employment agency abuse and protected job seekers in New York City.

I met Servando in the first year of my Equal Justice Works Fellowship.  He was referred by El Centro del Inmigrante, a worker rights organization in Staten Island where I have conducted presentations about job seekers’ rights when using employment agencies.  In 2012, Servando went to a Brooklyn-based employment agency that found him a job with a plumber.  He signed a contract with the agency and paid a $120 advance fee.  When he met the plumber, however, the plumber offered him a much lower salary than what the agency had promised. Servando did not accept the job and sought a refund from the agency, as permitted by law, but the agency refused.  


ABOVE:  2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow Laura Huizar discusses the importance of reforming New York’s employment agency laws at a press conference.

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Doug Smith (’13) Helps Low-Income Residents and Entrepreneurs Access Opportunities in a Changing Urban Landscape

July 25, 2014

Doug Smith is a 2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by The Ottinger Family Foundation.  Equal Justice Works recently caught up with Doug to learn more about his accomplishments at Public Counsel in Los Angeles, California.

With congested freeways and never-ending sprawl, Los Angeles was once described as “72 suburbs in search of a city.” Today, all of that is changing.  The region has largely embraced a new paradigm of urban growth driven by catalytic investments in public transportation and “smart growth” initiatives encouraging density and vibrant pedestrian-oriented streetscapes.  But much of this transformation is occurring squarely within the city’s low-income neighborhoods – often the very same communities that were marginalized and segregated by previous urban renewal initiatives.

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Jason Langberg (’10) Dismantles School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students from Low-Income Families

July 18, 2014

Jason Langberg is an alumnus of the 2010 Equal Justice Works Fellowship class. Equal Justice Works caught up with Jason to learn more about his accomplishments at the Advocates for Children’s Services in Wake County, North Carolina.

What inspired you to work in education and with children?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in public education and children’s rights. I didn’t experience one defining moment; instead, my passion has snowballed over the last 15 years of volunteering and working as a tutor, teacher, mentor, guardian ad litem, and advocate. In the process, I’ve been continuously inspired and sustained by young people who are full of life and resilience in the face of tremendous obstacles.

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Kathryn Kliff (’12) Protects Homeless Families’ Rights to Shelters

July 11, 2014

Below is a guest blog post from 2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Kathryn Kliff.  Her fellowship at The Legal Aid Society in New York is sponsored by KPMG and Sidley Austin LLP.  Read how Kathryn has secured immediate shelter and defended rights for many homeless families and individuals throughout New York City.

Shortly before Christmas of last year, I met the Johnson family while conducting outreach at the New York City intake facility for homeless families (known as the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing (PATH)).  The family included Ms. Johnson, her husband, and their three children (10-year-old Jessica, five-year-old Dwayne, and two-year-old James).  I discovered that for the previous 10 nights, the family had been riding the New York City subway trains after being denied shelter by PATH.  Tears streamed down Jessica’s face as her mother shared their story with me.

Right: 2012 Equal Justice Works Fellow Kathryn Kliff discusses access to shelter with a client at PATH, a New York City intake facility for homeless families.

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Lewis Bollard (’13) Fights to Keep Our Food Safe

June 27, 2014

Lewis Bollard, a 2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by host site The Humane Society of the United States and an anonymous sponsor, is advocating for the low-income victims of contaminated meat produced by factory farms and slaughterhouses. During his Equal Justice Works Fellowship, Lewis is working to reform our ailing food system through coalition building, negotiations, and legal action.

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Alumna Gina Clayton Reflects on Lessons Learned as Equal Justice Works Fellow

June 20, 2014

When I was a law student, and unsure what exactly to do after graduating, I came across an article in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism by Professor Regina Austin in which she describes the impact of the War on Drugs on low-income women of color. In it she examines United States Supreme Court decision HUD v. Rucker, which permitted public housing authorities to enforce “no-fault” eviction policies. The 2002 decision held that a tenant could be evicted for the drug-related activities of an occupant or guest, even if she had no knowledge of such activity. Austin writes:

Chief, among those adversely impacted by the [eviction] campaign, there have been poor single minority female heads of households, often senior citizens, who are living with their actual or adopted offspring…. The mothers and grandmothers (though sometimes it is a sister, aunt, cousin, wife, or girlfriend) are in general innocent, often even ignorant, of any criminal activity, but are nonetheless held responsible.

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