UW Law Student Awarded 2016 Equal Justice Works Fellowship

posted Jun 28, 2016

Each year, Equal Justice Works seeks exceptional lawyers to design projects to serve communities in desperate need of legal assistance. Recent University of Washington School of Law graduate Mariah Hanley received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship.

Projects developed by fellows address a wide range of legal issues including immigration, civil rights, juvenile justice, employment rights, health care, and domestic violence. Equal Justice Works matches fellows with sponsors to support their projects, which are completed at the host organization. Hanley, sponsored by Perkins Coie and Microsoft, will establish the Medical-Legal Partnership for Vets (MLPV) with the Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Healthcare System as an attorney with Northwest Justice Project’s Veterans Project.

Beginning in September 2016, Hanley will work with two healthcare teams at the Seattle VA Medical Center, the Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team and the Women Veterans Program, to promote the health of homeless and women veterans through direct legal aid, healthcare provider training and systemic advocacy.

“The homeless and women veterans I will be advocating for are some of the most vulnerable populations the Department of Veterans Affairs serves,” said Hanlely. “However, no legal services organizations in Seattle provided dedicated legal representation to either population at the location where they are already seen for healthcare and social services. The Medical-Legal Partnership for Vets fills this gap in legal services delivery in the Puget Sound area.”

According to the annual CHALENG survey conducted by the Department of Veteran Affairs, five of the top ten unmet needs of homeless veterans in 2015 were legal in nature. Additionally, forty percent of women who are seen by the Women Veterans Program at the Seattle VA have experienced military sexual trauma, and thirty percent of women veterans nationally have experienced intimate partner violence. The Medical-Legal Partnership for Vets will provide legal assistance designed to increase the safety and stability of women veterans as well as eviction prevention and child support modification.

“The veterans I will be serving have legal needs that can affect every facet of their lives," said Hanley. "Civil legal aid is an important factor in improved health outcomes, and I look forward to working with the two incredible teams I’m partnering with at the Seattle VA to make this a reality for my clients.”

During her time at UW School of Law, Hanley volunteered with the Northwest Justice Project, serving in roles including Student Law Clerk at the Veterans Project to assist veterans with their civil legal issues and as a Rule 9 clerk at the Medical-Legal Partnership, as well as in externships with Solid Ground and the RISE Project, assisting incarcerated and recently-released mothers with family law issues. Hanley also served as the co-president of the Student Health Law Organization, director of Auction Logistics for the Public Interest Law Association, and president and then vice president of the Disability Law Alliance.

“As attorneys, we have an immense amount of privilege, granted to us by virtue of our education, our knowledge, and our position in society," said Hanley. "Public service, to me, means using that knowledge, that power, for good. It means asking, 'How can I make the lives of those around me better using the tools and the knowledge I have?'"

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