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.

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.

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.

Orion Danjuma is a Staff Attorney with the ACLU's Racial Justice Program. Previously, he was an associate at the law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady and a Skadden Fellow with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. He received his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2010, where he was a Public Interest Fellow, co-president of the Black Law Students Association, and a Symposium Editor of the Stanford Law Review. During law school, Orion participated in the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and received the Thelton E. Henderson prize for clinical work and the Steven M. Block Civil Liberties award for written work in the area of civil rights and personal freedom.  Before joining the ACLU, Orion clerked for the Honorable Ann Claire Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and the Honorable Myron H. Thompson of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Prior to law school, Orion worked for the Rockefeller Foundation’s global public health initiative. He has a B.A. from Yale University where he was a Mellon Mays fellow.

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.

Leah Watson is a 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.

Bobby Hunter is an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where he focuses on challenging debtors’ prisons through litigation and supporting the work of direct services providers. During law school, he was a Latinx Rights Scholar and student advocate in the N.Y.U. Immigrant Rights Clinic, where he helped defend noncitizens in removal, post-conviction and habeas corpus cases, as well as co-authored Dismantle, Don’t Expand, a report about the 1996 immigration laws. Bobby has also interned with the Center for Appellate Litigation and the Federal Defenders of New York, and served as a student fellow for N.Y.U.’s Center on Race, Inequality and the Law. Prior to law school, he was a paralegal at Make the Road New York and the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, and provided research support to the Vera Institute of Justice’s Coming of Age with Stop and Frisk report. He graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law and magna cum laude from Brown University.

Gerardo Romo is the Marvin M. Karpatkin Fellow with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. He obtained his J.D. from NYU School of Law in 2019, where he was a Latinx Rights Scholar, an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow, Co-Chair of OUTLaw, Political Chair of Latinx Law Students Association, and an Executive Editor of NYU Law Review. During law school, Gerardo participated in the Immigrant Rights Clinic and received the Law Alumni of Color Association Clinical Service Award and the Dean John Sexton Prize for his service to NYU Law School. As a student advocate at the Immigrant Rights Clinic, he successfully argued in front of the Second Circuit, leading to a published opinion, Hylton v. Sessions, which held that New York third-degree distribution of marijuana is not an aggravated felony under the Immigration & Nationality Act. He also interned at the Center for Constitutional Rights, ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project, Immigrant Defense Project, and the Sex Workers Project. Prior to law school, he was a paralegal at the Center for Appellate Litigation. He has a B.A. from Columbia University. At the end of his fellowship, he will serve as a law clerk to the Hon. James L. Cott of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Sierra Mohamed is a Paralegal with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She is a graduate of Earlham College where she majored in Peace and Global Studies with a focus in Praxis and minored in African and African American Studies. While at Earlham, Sierra served as the At-Large Student Representative on the student senate and was named a Black Woman of Excellence by her student peers for her work addressing racism, gender violence, and trans/national xenophobia on campus. She was awarded the Designation of Distinction in Global Engagement for her work surrounding coalition building and international human rights. In Summer 2014, Sierra worked at a tri-lingual, interfaith summercamp in Jerusalem, Israel/ Palestine. In Spring 2016, Sierra studied abroad in Derry, Northern Ireland and interned at The Rainbow Project, the largest LGBT organization in Northern Ireland, where she created a database that works to provide origin-country information for LGBT asylum seekers coming to the United Kingdom.

Shyenne Medina is a Paralegal with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She is currently a law student at City University of New York (“CUNY”) School of Law. At CUNY School of Law, she served as a Law Review 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 family law court proceedings.  She also previously 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. As an undergraduate, she served as a member of the college’s Honor Council and worked as a teaching assistant in the Public Policy and Law Department.

Sadé Evans is a Legal Assistant with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. She is a recent graduate from Lafayette College where she majored in International Affairs with concentrations in four global regions themed around conflict and cooperation. While at Lafayette, Sade received a leadership award for co-founding the Concerned Student Coalition which furthered efforts at achieving diversity and inclusion on her campus. She also was member of her college’s Student Government and studied abroad in both Costa Rica and Morocco. Prior to the ACLU, Sadé has worked in a number of public interest positions including internships at the Environmental Defense Fund and the New York Supreme Court, Bronx County.

Afraz Khan is a Legal Assistant with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. Previously, Afraz served as a Community Liaison at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office where he worked alongside elected officials and Community Boards in developing reforms on local issues including affordable housing and access to mental health resources. He recently graduated summa cum laude from New York University with a BA in International Relations where he obtained policy experience through his internships with the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Washington D.C. and the Fulbright Commission in Argentina. Through his passion for community engagement, Afraz coordinated several university-wide programs uniting thousands of students and community members to tackle issues of police brutality, Islamophobia and the deportation of undocumented students. In 2016, he was chosen as one of NYU’s 10 Most Influential Students.

 

 

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