About the ACLU's Racial Justice Program

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 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 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 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 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 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.

Stephen Pevar is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU's Racial Justice Program, and has been on the National Legal Staff for 40 years. Stephen specializes in Indian and tribal rights, prisoners' rights, free speech of public employees, and the separation of church and state. He has litigated some 200 federal cases involving constitutional rights, including cases in more than ten different Federal District Courts, three different U.S. Courts of Appeals, and one case in the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to joining the ACLU, Stephen served as a staff attorney with South Dakota Legal Services on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. In addition to his work with the ACLU, Stephen authored The Rights of Indians and Tribes (Oxford University Press 2012). He has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Denver School of Law, the University of Connecticut School of Law, New York University School of Law, and is now an adjunct professor at Yale Law School. He is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Virginia School of Law.

Leah Watson is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where she focuses on the criminalization of poverty.  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 in 2011. 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 in 2006.

Mark Carter is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma and a Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program where he focuses on indigenous justice. Previously, he served as Assistant General Counsel at the Gila River Indian Community where he advised and represented Community officials, departments, and committees. Before that, Mark was an Attorney-Advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Tribal Justice where he advised various DOJ components on Indian law matters and helped serve as the primary point of contact within the department for tribes.  He was also a Wilma Mankiller Legal Fellow at the National Congress of American Indians. Mark obtained his B.A. in Philosophy at Texas Tech University and is a proud alum of the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indians and Alaska Natives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which he attended before attending and graduating from Cornell Law School.

Amreeta Mathai is a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where she specializes in Debtors’ Prison and Indigent Defense work. Prior to joining the ACLU, Amreeta was a Team Leader and staff attorney at the Bronx Defenders where she co-managed an interdisciplinary, holistic team of 41 advocates in criminal, civil, family and immigration defense. As a civil attorney on an interdisciplinary defense team, she directly represented clients in a variety of civil proceedings stemming from interactions with the criminal justice system including eviction proceedings in civil court and administrative fora, employment hearings, and public benefits hearings. Amreeta also served as a Lecturer-in-Law in the clinical program at Columbia Law School where she lectured on holistic public defense. After graduating from law school, Amreeta clerked for the Honorable Ivan L.R. Lemelle in the Eastern District of Louisiana. While in law school, Amreeta participated in the Predatory Lending Prevention/Consumer Protection Clinic in Jamaica Plains, Boston, the Harvard Human Rights Clinic and interned with plaintiff side employment firm Vladeck, Raskin & Clark, P.C as well as the ACLU’s National Security Program. Amreeta received her J.D. from Harvard Law School, her M.Phil. in Development Studies from the University of Oxford and her B.A. in History from the University of Chicago.

Shyenne Medina is a Legal Fellow at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program (“RJP”), where she focuses on education and youth justice issues. Before becoming a Legal Fellow, Shyenne was a Paralegal with RJP, working primarily on Criminalization of Poverty cases aimed at eliminating punishment for those who lack the financial means to pay their court/traffic fines and fees. She is a recent graduate from City University of New York School of Law’s evening program. At CUNY School of Law, she served on the Law Review’s Editorial Board as Editor of the Public Interest Practitioner Section and worked in the Criminal Defenders Clinic on clemency and misdemeanor cases. Before joining the ACLU, Shyenne worked as a Senior Paralegal at The Children’s Law Center, a nonprofit organization aimed at giving children a strong voice in their Family Court proceedings. She also taught grammar classes at Legal Outreach, a nonprofit organization that prepares traditionally underserved youth for college using both legal and educational programs. Shyenne is a graduate of Trinity College with a B.A. in Public Policy and Law.

Ayomikun Idowu 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. 

Anthony Nunez 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 Anthony’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.

Belén Bonilla (she/her) is a Legal Assistant with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She previously served as a Program Associate at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, working alongside human rights lawyers and activists to promote social inclusion and the protection of civic space globally. Belén graduated from American University with a BA in International Studies and a focus in Identity, Race, Gender and Cultural Studies. On campus, she led inter-group dialogues on topics of race, class, and nationality as a Dialogue Facilitator with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. In the Spring of 2018, she joined a campus service project to advance LGBTQ justice initiatives alongside community partners in Guyana, where same-sex relationships are criminalized. Throughout college, Belén obtained research, policy, and advocacy experience through fellowships and internships with The Aspen Institute, Promundo-US, and Education Week in Washington, DC, while engaging in transformative justice and community building work in her hometown of San Antonio, TX through summer internships with the Martinez Street Women’s Center, the Claude W. Black Community Center, and the City of San Antonio Office of Sustainability.

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.

Erika Sisneros Kelley is the 2021 Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. Growing up, and then later in law school, Erika experienced how people in her community struggled to fight debilitating obstacles because of their gender, economic status, and race. Raising up communities to overcome these obstacles motivates her to work toward racial justice. Erika graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2014 with a B.A. in Integrative Physiology. She earned her master’s in Public Health in 2016 from Claremont Graduate University and completed her J.D. at University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 2021. She graduated law school with a certificate in Constitutional Rights and Remedies and a Public Good Distinction. As a law student, Erika participated in the Movement Lawyering Clinic which partnered with a local Latinx organization to abolish the school to prison pipeline in Colorado. Erika also interned at the ACLU of Colorado, applied her training in trauma-informed advocacy at the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center, and served as a judicial intern for the Colorado Court of Appeals in the chambers of the Honorable Judge Navarro. Erika currently serves as a mentor in the Law School...Yes We Can program.

Joanne Choi (she/her) is the Herbert and Nell Singer Social Justice Fellow with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where she focuses on litigation and advocacy efforts to end the criminalization of poverty. Joanne is dedicated to advancing freedom and justice for marginalized people – particularly those marginalized because of their race, economic vulnerability, and immigration status. Joanne received her J.D. from Columbia Law School in 2021, where she was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Notes & Online Editor of the Columbia Journal of Race and Law, and Advocacy Chair for the Student Public Interest Network. During law school, she was an advanced student in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic, in which she litigated conditions of confinement issues in state and federal court. Joanne interned with Still She Rises and the Center for Constitutional Rights for her first and second summers, respectively. Additionally, she worked as a team coordinator for the UCLA Law COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project, where she and her team gathered data to understand the impact of COVID-19 on various immigration detention facilities across the country. Prior to law school, Joanne worked at Deloitte Consulting and LinkedIn, and she volunteered with the Eviction Defense Collaborative to assist low-income tenants facing eviction in San Francisco. She received her B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley.

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