About the ACLU's Racial Justice Program

Document Date: January 16, 2015

The ACLU’s Racial Justice Program (RJP) is dedicated to upholding racial equality and combating racism in all forms through litigation, community organizing and training, legislative initiatives, and public education to address the broad spectrum of issues that disproportionately and negatively impact people of color. The program currently challenges discrimination in education, housing, fair lending, policing, and the criminal justice system, and combats racial profiling, abusive debt collection practices, and discrimination in emergency custody proceedings involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.

ReNika Moore (she/her) is the Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program (RJP). She leads a dedicated team that uses litigation, advocacy, grassroots mobilization, and public education to dismantle barriers to equality for people of color. RJP takes on issues in a range of areas including education, housing, the economy, and the criminal justice system. Prior to joining the ACLU, Ms. Moore served as Labor Bureau Chief of the New York Office of the Attorney General. During her tenure, the Labor Bureau was nationally recognized for aggressively enforcing labor standards on behalf of low-wage workers who were disproportionately people of color and immigrants. Ms. Moore led the bureau’s enforcement in emerging areas, such as the misuse of anticompetitive labor agreements and, after the 2016 presidential election, worked to lead multi-state efforts to fight federal rollbacks of critical labor protections. Ms. Moore also oversaw the bureau’s appellate representation of New York State’s Department of Labor and Workers Compensation Board.

Before joining the NYAG, Ms. Moore supervised and coordinated the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s economic justice litigation, public education, and public policy efforts. Ms. Moore litigated high-impact racial justice cases tackling a variety of civil rights issues, including criminal background checks in employment, discrimination in major federal housing programs, and environmental racism. She served as a faculty member in the Shriver Center’s inaugural Racial Justice Training Institute for legal aid and legal services attorneys from around the country. Ms. Moore also worked with the employment law firm Outten & Golden LLP representing workers who had been unlawfully discriminated against or had been unlawfully denied their earned wages. Ms. Moore began her career clerking for accomplished civil rights litigator, the late Honorable Robert L. Carter in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York. Ms. Moore received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and A.B. from Harvard College cum laude.

Alexis Agathocleous (he/him) is the Deputy Director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program (RJP). Prior to joining the ACLU in 2020, he worked with the Innocence Project’s Strategic Litigation Department, focusing on eyewitness identification evidence, false confessions, and racial bias in the criminal legal system. Before that, Mr. Agathocleous was Deputy Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), where he also litigated federal civil rights cases involving racial and religious profiling, the rights of incarcerated people, gender and LGBTQ justice, and the criminalization of dissent. He was counsel for plaintiffs in Aref v. Holder, challenging policies and conditions at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Communications Management Units, in Ashker v. Governor of California, a class action lawsuit challenging long-term solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay prison that resulted in the transfer of thousands of prisoners from SHU units across the state, and in Doe v. Jindal and Doe v. Caldwell, successful companion challenges to a Louisiana law that required individuals convicted of a “Crime Against Nature” to register as sex offenders. Previously, he was the Director of the Reinvestigation Project at the Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD) in New York City, where he also represented indigent defendants on appeal from felony convictions as a senior staff attorney. Mr. Agathocleous was a Karpatkin Fellow with RJP, and graduated from Brown University in 1997 and Yale Law School in 2003.

Olga Akselrod (she/her) is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Racial Justice Program. She joined the ACLU in December 2019. Olga came to the ACLU after 13 years at the Innocence Project, a national litigation and policy organization focused on exonerating defendants who have been wrongfully convicted and reforming the criminal legal system. As Senior Staff Attorney at the Innocence Project, Olga litigated and consulted on dozens of post-conviction cases nationwide, including several in which her clients were exonerated after many years in prison. Through this work, she developed in-depth expertise in post-conviction law and the complexities of DNA testing and other forensic evidence. For eight years, she oversaw the Innocence Project’s clinic at Cardozo Law School, developing course plans, managing logistics, teaching seminars, and supervising students. Starting in 2016, Olga took on the role of the Innocence Project’s Director of Intake and Evaluation, managing a department that screens correspondence from potential clients, conducts intensive research into the cases, and determines whether or not a viable path to exoneration exists. Prior to joining the Innocence Project, Olga was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she worked on criminal and education cases and did advocacy to address the school-to-prison pipeline. As a Fried Frank Associate, where she was the recipient of the Fried Frank NAACP LDF Fellowship, Olga worked on various aspects of commercial civil litigation while also litigating several pro bono matters. She graduated from NYU School of Law with honors in 2002, where she interned at the Legal Aid Society and participated in the Equal Justice Initiative Capital Defender Clinic. She holds an M.A. in Political Science from the Johns Hopkins University and received a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Legal Philosophy.

Sarah Hinger (she/her) is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program, where her work focuses on education and youth justice. Her recent work includes representing plaintiffs in Kenny v. Wilson, challenging a vague South Carolina law making it a crime to disturb a school. This law is applied far more frequently to Black students, and was invoked in the arrest of a student and plaintiff in the case, when she spoke out in protest while witnessing a classmate violently ripped from her desk by a school police officer. Prior to joining the ACLU, Sarah was a Trial Attorney with the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Educational Opportunities Section, where she received the Assistant Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award. At the Civil Rights Division, she litigated issues of desegregation, discriminatory school discipline, classroom equity, discrimination against English language learners and immigrant and refugee students, and Title IX. Sarah previously served as a Karpatkin Fellow with the ACLU Racial Justice Program and a fellow and staff attorney with the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. She completed her J.D. at Columbia Law School, her M.Phil. at the University of Cambridge, and her B.A. at the University of Virginia.

Alejandro Agustín Ortiz (he/him) is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program where he focuses on promoting economic justice for vulnerable communities, including in housing and labor/employment, and equal rights for inhabitants of U.S. territories like Puerto Rico. Previously, he was a Senior Field Attorney with the National Labor Relations Board in its Manhattan office, where he investigated and prosecuted companies and unions accused of violating workers’ free association rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Among other cases, Alejandro helped prosecute McDonald’s USA, LLC, and 29 of its franchises in a consolidated trial that was the longest in NLRB history. Despite the serious allegations, Ronald McDonald and the Hamburglar were spared from prosecution. Alejandro clerked for Judges Christine M. Arguello and William J. Martínez of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and Magistrate Judge Justo Arenas of the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico. He obtained his J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School, where he captained a successful co-ed flag football team called The Estoppels, and his B.A. from Virginia Tech University.

Leah Watson (she/her) is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where she focuses on classroom censorship efforts (education gag orders), bias in policing, the criminalization of poverty, and racial disparities during the Covid-19 pandemic. Previously, she was Senior Counsel in the Criminal Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where she led litigation challenging debtors’ prisons and excessive fines and fees practices in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Leah co-authored reports, delivered community trainings and developed policy recommendations for fines and fees reform at the state and local levels. She launched P.R.O.T.E.C.T.: A Guide for Law Enforcement Engagement with Students of Color. Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Leah was a Senior Associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and an Associate at Baker Hostetler LLP. She led cross-border investigations in one of the top ten largest Foreign Corrupt Practices Act settlements. She was a member of the trial team that secured a victory in the largest residential mortgage backed securities trial in history. Leah obtained Special Immigrant Juvenile status and custody orders for pro bono clients and successfully challenged a pro bono client’s criminal conviction. During a six-month externship at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, she represented clients in disability rights, police misconduct, fair housing, and wage theft cases. Leah earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School. Prior to law school, she taught high school in Atlanta, Georgia through Teach for America. Leah earned her B.A. magna cum laude in Communication Studies and Sociology from Vanderbilt University.

Ayomikun Idowu (she/her) currently serves as a Paralegal for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She graduated from The University of Chicago with a Bachelors of Arts degree in Geography and Public Policy where she wrote her honors thesis on Electronic Monitoring. Through internships and fellowships, Ayo has worked on criminal law reform and housing justice issues with organizations such as UnCommon Law, BPI-Chicago, and the Pozen Center for Human Rights. During college, Ayo also served as president of the African Caribbean Students Association, organized a black woman dinner series, and worked with UChicago administration to increase black studies programming on campus.

Amanda Meyer (she/her) is a Staff Attorney in the Racial Justice Program, where she focuses on fair housing and educational equity. She joined the ACLU in 2022 from the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, where she worked on federal and state civil litigation, investigations, and policy with respect to education, fair housing, employment, and voting. Amanda also worked on several litigation challenges to federal administrative action under the Trump administration, including the Refusal Rule litigation, New York et al. v. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the Public Charge litigation, New York et al. v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Amanda received the Lefkowitz Award for outstanding performance on behalf of the New York Attorney General for her work in successfully challenging a local board of election’s placement of early voting sites in People v. Schofield, et al. Prior to her work in the Civil Rights Bureau, Amanda served as a Director of Legal Strategy and Policy at the Center for Public Research & Leadership at Columbia Law School, where she worked with public education institutions and nonprofit organizations to further educational equity, including leading an effort on behalf of a state department of education to promote racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other forms of integration in K-12 public schools. Prior to that role, she was an associate at Davis Polk & Wardell LLP where her practice focused on civil litigation, regulatory enforcement matters, and pro bono cases involving education and family law. During her time at Davis Polk, she was recognized with the Sanctuary for Families Above and Beyond Pro Bono Award for work on a Manhattan Family Court trial, and spearheaded a middle school law program in the Bronx. Amanda began her legal career clerking for Judge Denny Chin on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and for Judge Kenneth Karas in the Southern District of New York. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School where she served as Executive Essays Editor on the Columbia Law Review and was awarded the Samuel I. Rosenman Prize for academic excellence in public law courses and outstanding citizenship and leadership. She has also served as a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School. Amanda began her career teaching middle school students in Brooklyn and the Bronx, and earned a M.S. in teaching from Pace University, and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin.

Crystal Pardue (she/her) is a Staff Attorney with the Racial Justice Program, focusing on Indigenous Justice. She comes to RJP from Ziontz Chestnut, a law firm in Seattle, where she represented tribal clients in federal and state litigation, federal lobbying efforts, business deals, and land-back negotiations. Her litigation has been focused on the defense of tribal sovereignty, protection of sacred national resources, and federal breach of trust. Prior to that position, Crystal was a 2-year Equal Justice Works fellow at the ACLU of Washington, where she developed and implemented a project to address the disproportionate discipline of Indigenous youth in Washington public schools. When the pandemic disrupted those plans, Crystal pivoted and focused on lack of broadband access that was being experienced by Indigenous students. She was also a member of the ACLU’s Indigenous Justice Working Group from its very inception. Crystal graduated from the University of Washington School of Law, where she served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy, Vice President of the Native American Law Students Association, and Co-President of the Women’s Law Caucus. Crystal is based in Seattle.

Michael Nunez (he/him) serves as a Paralegal for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. He recently graduated from Fordham University with a BA in Theology and Philosophy, and he interned with RJP during the 2018-2019 school year. In addition to Michael’s work with RJP, he has worked as a full-time housing specialist with Children’s Community Services, and was a Teaching Assistant at Fordham, where he collaborated with Bronx youth in science, technology, and professional enrichment and developed racial justice lesson plans for students focusing on community-engaged learning and collaboration with community organizations.

Jamila Jahangir (she/her) serves as a Paralegal for the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. Jamila recently graduated from Brooklyn College, where she earned a BA in American Studies and researched racial justice issues in US immigration policy. She worked as a tutor at the Kairos Learning Community, where she taught a variety of subjects to both K-12 and adult students, and interned both at the Student Youth Employment program at Kings County Supreme Court and at The Moth, focusing on a citywide oral history project on immigration.

Alexis Alvarez (she/her) is an Equal Justice Works (EJW) Fellow with the Racial Justice Program, focusing on issues of reentry, including barriers to employment and sex offender registration. Previously, she served as a law clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos in the Southern District of New York. In 2020-21, she was an NYU Fellow with the Racial Justice Program, working primarily on the criminalization of poverty and algorithmic bias dockets. She graduated with honors from NYU School of Law as a Robert McKay Scholar in 2020, where she served as an editor on the Review of Law and Social Change, as President of the Latinx Law Students Association, and was a student advocate with the Reproductive Justice clinic. A true ACLU alum, she also previously interned for the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, as well as LatinoJustice PRLDEF, working on a range of issues including asylum law, policing, and employment discrimination. Alexis earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Religious Studies from University of Miami with high honors.

Rachel Meeropol (she/her) is a Senior Staff Attorney with the Racial Justice Program, focusing on the Indigenous Justice docket as well as the general racial justice docket. Rachel came to RJP from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), where she was a Senior Staff Attorney and the Associate Director of Legal Training and Education. Rachel was lead counsel on Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a class action lawsuit against high-level federal officials for the post-9/11 detention and abuse of Muslim non-citizens, which she argued before the Supreme Court in 2017. Among her extensive body of litigation, Rachel also represented the Ramapough Lenape Nation in their struggle against discriminatory zoning, federal prisoners in restrictive Communication Management Units, California prisoners held for decades in solitary confinement, and environmental activists targeted as “terrorists” for non-violent protest activities. Rachel has co-edited and written three editions of the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook, a do-it-yourself litigation manual for prisoners distributed free by CCR and the National Lawyers Guild, and was the contributing editor of America’s Disappeared: Secret Imprisonment, Detainees, and the War on Terror, published in 2005 by Seven Stories Press. Rachel completed her undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and graduated from NYU School of Law in 2002.

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