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Challenging Poverty and Racial Discrimination within the Legal System

Level: Advanced
Runtime: 94 minutes
Recorded Date: February 11, 2021
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  • Poverty and Race in America
  • Gender and Race in Wrongful Convictions
  • Race, Class and Victimhood: Case Study
  • Racial Diversity and the Impartial Jury
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Recorded: February 11, 2021


As part of the nationwide discussion about racial discrimination and economic inequality, this seminar will examine the current landscape and proposals to challenge the systemic injustices found in the legal system. Civil Rights attorneys will address important steps to alleviate the justice system's impact on minority and indigent defendants.

This program was recorded on February 11th, 2021.

Provided By

American Bar Association
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Radhika Singh

Chief, Civil Legal Services
National Legal Aid & Defender Association

Radhika is the chief of the civil legal services division at NLADA. She works with civil legal aid providers across the country, and represents the civil legal aid community in advocacy and education efforts with federal representatives and in national conversations focused both on civil legal aid's substantive work and increasing resources to support this work. Radhika also leads NLADA's Project to Advance Civil Legal Aid Collaborations, advocating for federal funding and policies to integrate civil legal aid into cross-sector collaborations that serve low-income and vulnerable populations and advance federal objectives. She previously worked in engagement and advocacy at Equal Justice Works and as a staff attorney at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, focusing on constitutional and civil rights litigation and advocacy. Radhika received her B.A. from American University and her J.D. from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

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Ryan C. Downer

Director of Litigation
Civil Rights Corp.

Ryan joined Civil Rights Corps after a decade of litigating civil rights cases at both Relman, Dane & Colfax, PLLC in Washington, D.C. and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. (LDF) in New York. At Relman, Ryan served as lead counsel on numerous fair housing, employment, and public accommodations matters, including two of the first cases to facially challenge blanket criminal records bans imposed by private housing providers (Fortune Society v. Sandcastle Towers; Equal Rights Center v. Mid-America Apartment Communities, Inc.). As lead counsel on his cases, Ryan managed every aspect of federal litigation, appearing in district courts across the country and arguing multiple appeals in the Fifth, Sixth, and Tenth Circuits.

Prior to Relman, Ryan served as a Skadden Fellow and later as Assistant Counsel at LDF. There, he worked on the litigation team for Lewis v. City of Chicago, a class action filed on behalf of Chicago firefighters that resulted in a unanimous Supreme Court decision expanding disparate impact protections under Title VII and more than $50 million back-pay relief. Ryan also helped litigate to settlement, Thompson v. HUD, a groundbreaking Fair Housing Act class action challenging the federal government’s discriminatory public housing practices in Baltimore.

Ryan is a frequent lecturer and presenter at legal conferences and universities, including the Airlie Civil Rights Training Conference, the National Fair Housing Alliance Annual Conference, Harvard Law School, and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He is also an executive officer on the board of the Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership, an organization that administers an opportunity-based voucher program for the Baltimore region.

Ryan received his J.D. cum laude from New York University, where he was a Root Tilden Kern Scholar, an articles editor on the NYU Law Review, and a student-attorney in the Juvenile Defender Clinic. After graduation, he clerked for The Hon. Martha Craig Daughtrey of the Sixth Circuit. Ryan received his undergraduate degree cum laude from Harvard College.

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Monica J. Milton

Public Defense Counsel
NACDL - National Assoc. of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Monica Milton serves as Public Defense Counsel and assists with all aspects of NACDL’s Public Defense Reform and Training portfolio with a focus on the Bureau of Justice Assistance grant titled “Justice For All: Supporting the Sixth Amendment.” This grant is aimed at assessing state and local jurisdictions’ ability to safeguard fundamental protections of the Sixth Amendment with an emphasis on speedy trial rights, impartial and representative juries, and access to witnesses and evidence.

Monica has over six years of experience in criminal and public defense work, with a heavy focus on appellate and post-conviction relief. Prior to joining NACDL, she served as a Criminal Justice Act attorney with the D.C. Court of Appeals representing indigent defendants in a wide range of cases including ineffective assistance of counsel claims, misdemeanors, drug offenses, assault, and murder.

Monica is a proud graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. While at Northeastern University, she participated in the Prisoner’s Rights Clinic which included representing an indigent client before a seven-member panel of the Massachusetts Parole Board. She also completed internships at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

After receiving her law degree, Monica clerked at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for Chief Justice Roderick Ireland (ret.). Following her clerkship, Monica continued to fight diligently for those who have been counted out. One of her proudest moments was securing clemency for a client who had been sentenced to life without the chance of parole for a non-violent drug offense as a part of the Clemency Project.

Monica also believes in giving back to her community and has served as a writing coach for disadvantaged students in the D.C. area.

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Andrea L. Hartung

Clinical Assistant Professor
Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Andrea Lewis Hartung joined the Center on Wrongful Convictions as a Clinical Fellow for the Women’s Project in 2013. In September 2015, Professor Lewis was appointed Clinical Assistant Professor of Law and became a permanent member of the Center's staff. Ms. Lewis’ research interests include the various factors contributing to women’s wrongful convictions, and she supports the Women’s Project’s mission to educate the public on these factors and on the issues that wrongfully convicted women face upon reentering society.

Prior to working at the Center, Ms. Lewis was an associate in the Labor and Employment group at Vedder Price P.C. in Chicago, where she represented clients in state and federal matters as well as working on pro bono projects. Ms. Lewis is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Law.

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Konstantina Vagenas

Director & Chief Counsel - Assess to Justice Initiatives
National Center for State Courts

Konstantina Vagenas is the Director and Chief Counsel of the Access to Justice Initiatives at the National center for State Courts.

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