Fellowships awarded for human rights projects

Two recent Emory Law graduates have been awarded national public interest fellowships based on proposals for two-year projects they designed to address as yet unmet legal needs.

One focuses on criminal justice reform and human rights violations in New York City jails and the second will provide legal and social services for displaced Afghan immigrants in Georgia.

Aubree A. Aguinaga 22L and Zuhra Aziz 16Ox 18C 21L received two of the 84 Equal Justice Works Fellowships awarded this year, chosen from 385 applications submitted by law school graduates from around the country. 

Equal Justice Works annually selects public interest lawyers who design unique projects in partnership with legal services organizations. The 2022 class includes graduates from 45 law schools — they will work at 76 legal services organizations across 20 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. Projects are funded by law firms, corporations, private foundations, and individual supporters. This year’s 81 sponsors include 31 law firms from the Am Law 200, and 25 Fortune 500 corporations.

Aguinaga represents New York City pretrial detainees during disciplinary hearings and provides advocacy and education to meet the needs of low-income individuals who experience human rights issues at Rikers Island. She will partner with the Bronx Defenders to create educational training programs for lawyers on disciplinary hearing rights, provide legal representation for clients in disciplinary hearings, and provide oversight by suing Rikers and the Department of Corrections to challenge human rights violations. She is sponsored by Paul Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

“My Equal Justice Works Fellowship has afforded me the opportunity to serve members of the Bronx, the poorest congressional district and the borough with the largest Latinx population. I want to directly support Latinx communities by elevating the voices of the Bronx through advocacy in the plight of mass incarceration,” Aguinaga said.

In August 2021, nearly 80,000 Afghan nationals were evacuated to the United States after the rapid Taliban takeover. Aziz will work with the Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network to provide wraparound legal and social services to displaced Afghans in Georgia who do not qualify for support through the traditional resettlement process, with a special focus on women and girls. She is sponsored by State Farm.

“My heart aches for the people of Afghanistan, who have endured unimaginable turmoil for decades. As an Afghan American woman, I am honored to serve this community by assisting them in obtaining stability in the United States,” Aziz said.

In the past three decades, Equal Justice Works has awarded more than 2,300 postgraduate fellowships; on average, 85 percent of those fellows remain in public service positions.

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