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2020-21 Access to Justice Scholars

Margaret Hagan

Margaret Hagan is the Director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford University, as well as lecturer in the Institute of Design (the d.school). She is a lawyer, and holds a J.D. from Stanford Law School, a DPhil from Queen’s University Belfast, an M.A. from Central European University, and an A.B. from University of Chicago. She specializes in the application of human-centered design to the legal system, including the development of new public interest technology, legal visuals, and policy design. Her research and teaching focuses on the development and evaluation of new interventions to make the legal system more accessible. Her recent articles include “Participatory Design for Innovation in Access to Justice” (Daedalus 2019) and “A Human-Centered Design Approach to Access to Justice” (Ind. JL & Soc. Equal. 6, 199, 2018).  Her blog is Open Law Lab, and her the Stanford lab’s site is Legal Design Lab.

Project Description:

This project will use datasets from online legal help intake forms and forums, as well as search engine audits, to understand more about how people seek legal help on the Internet, and what kinds of strategies can most effectively engage them with public legal help. This includes analyzing datasets from virtual clinics, worker right chatlines, legal aid intake forms, and Reddit advice boards, to identify the patterns and clusters of legal needs people are seeking help for. A second strand of research focuses on auditing search engines including Google, Yahoo, and Bing to see whether quality legal information is being shown to people when people try to use them to seek help. Finally, the project will include testing prototypes of new bots or information displays on search engines, forums like Reddit, or legal help websites, to determine what kind of information and design can best engage people in a legal process.


Rebecca Johnson

Rebecca Johnson is an incoming Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College in Quantitative Social Science, following a Ph.D. in Demography, Sociology, and Social Policy from Princeton University. She studies how law and ethics shape the ways that social service bureaucracies ration scarce resources. Her dissertation and book project focus on rationing in U.S. school districts, investigating how school districts with tight budgets struggle with two types of legal pressure: weakly-funded legislative mandates that direct them to prioritize certain groups of students and parents’ due process claims pressing for priority for their children. Her work has also included partnering directly with governments to aid in more equitable prioritization, including as a pre-doctoral fellow at the NIH Department of Bioethics, a 2018 fellow with Data Science for Social Good, a visiting Data Scientist at The Lab at DC, and an Associate Fellow with the U.S. Office of Evaluation Sciences.

Project Description: Parent-Driven Prioritization: Legal Categories and Student Inequality

How do organizations with limited resources decide who gets what?  This project investigates how school districts grapple with ethical dilemmas about whom to help as they navigate legal mandates that conflict with fiscal realities: state and federal requirements for districts to prioritize certain categories of students coupled with prohibitions on allowing cost to influence decisions.

My research shows that these mandates do not eliminate rationing.  Rather, they encourage rationing by inconvenience; hidden roadblocks to receiving extra help that deter all but the most persistent parents and advocates. This yields two forms of unequal access to justice. The first is between different categories of students: parents of students with disabilities have rights to insist that the student receives more resources, while parents of students in other categories like students living in poverty or struggling to learn English have weaker rights. The second form of inequality is within the disability category. While all parents have the same formal rights, there is unequal rights enforcement. The project uses spatial analyses of due process filings and computational text analyses of hearing decisions to illuminate these patterns of inequality. By studying this case, the project aims to contribute to research on the role of civil enforcement in anti-poverty policy and on how to use tools from computational social science to study everyday forms of legal adversity


Sarah Lageson

Sarah Lageson is a sociologist who studies criminal justice, law, privacy, surveillance, and tech. Her research examines the growth of online crime data, mugshots, and criminal records that create new forms of “digital punishment” and has been featured in the New York Times, the Guardian, National Public Radio’s Planet Money, WNYC’s the Takeaway, and other media outlets.

Sarah is an Assistant Professor at Rutgers University-Newark School of Criminal Justice and is a grant recipient of the National Institutes of Justice Early Career Award. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Criminology, Law and Society Review, Law and Social Inquiry, and Punishment & Society. Her forthcoming book, Digital Punishment, will be available in summer 2020 from Oxford University Press.

A former Americorps VISTA volunteer and nonprofit Research Coordinator, Sarah is interested in mixed methods research and producing scholarship for policy, litigation and public debate.

Project Description:

Across the United States, advocates and policymakers are working in earnest to pass ‘Clean Slate’ legislation, designed to seal or expunge criminal records and deliver civil justice for those who have been barred from employment and housing due to their records. Dr. Lageson is studying the development and implementation of Clean Slate, with a focus on the technological, cultural, and legal implications of these data-driven justice policies. Using a mixed methods approach, this project asks how automated systems will change our understandings of access to justice, the perpetuation of bias and inequality, and effective legal outcomes.


Erin Paquette

Erin Paquette, M.D., J.D., MBe is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Associate Chair of the Ethics Advisory Board, Associate Director for Ethics Advocacy and Co-Chair of the Health Equity Task Force at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. She is on the Steering Committee for the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities, and teaching faculty in the Bioethics Scholars Program and Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. As a critical care physician, she provides care for critically ill children. Her scholarly work addresses health disparities and barriers to social justice in three areas: (1) examining the role for medical-legal partnerships in addressing social determinants of health; (2) exploring ethical and legal issues related to brain death; and, (3) as a Pediatric Critical Care and Trauma Scientist Scholar, assessing barriers to research participation by seriously ill children. Dr. Paquette completed undergraduate studies at Northwestern University, and earned her MD, JD, and Masters in Bioethics from the University of Pennsylvania, followed by residency at the University of Chicago and fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

Project Description:

Medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) integrate legal services into the healthcare setting with knowledge that social influencers of health, including unmet legal needs, can negatively impact health outcomes. The most common health-harming legal needs managed by MLPs include income, housing and utilities, education and employment, legal status, and personal and family stability. Providing legal services to patients to address unmet health-harming legal needs would seemingly improve their health outcomes. However, few studies have described or quantified the impact that MLP's have had specifically on patient health outcomes. There is a need for more outcomes research to establish MLP's as an evidence-based intervention and an effective health delivery model that should be funded in efforts to minimize health disparities and improve equity. This project will describe legal issues in a group of medically complex children who were referred for legal services, explore parent experiences with the medical-legal partnership and evaluate health outcomes associated with referral to a medical-legal partnership.


Emily Ryo

Emily Ryo is a professor of law and sociology at the USC Gould School of Law. She received a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University. Immediately prior to joining USC, she was a research fellow at Stanford Law School. She served as a law clerk to the Honorable M. Margaret McKeown of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and practiced law at the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen, and Hamilton. Her current research focuses on immigration enforcement, criminal justice, legal attitudes, legal noncompliance, and access to justice. She approaches these issues through innovative interdisciplinary lenses, using diverse quantitative and qualitative methods. As an empirical legal scholar, she has published widely in both leading sociology and law journals. Her recent work as an Andrew Carnegie Fellow has focused on a variety of issues related to immigration detention.

Project Description: Access to Justice in U.S. Immigration Courts

The U.S. government initiated over 500,000 new removal proceedings in U.S. immigration courts in fiscal year 2019 alone.  This represents more than a five-fold increase in the number of new removal proceedings filed since 1992.  Removal proceedings are not only notable in terms of their growing numbers, but also in terms of their extraordinarily high stakes.  Yet research and public knowledge about who immigration lawyers and immigration judges are, and how the two sets of legal actors interact to bring about case outcomes in removal proceedings remain relatively limited.  Drawing on original datasets, this project will address the following key questions: How have immigration lawyers’ demographic profiles, specializations, practice settings, and geographic locations shifted over time relative to the changing population of immigrants in removal proceedings and their legal needs?  Does the impact of legal representation on case outcomes vary across immigration judges, and if so, which judge characteristics moderate the effect of legal representation on case outcomes?  This project will employ theoretically-grounded and rigorous empirical analyses to advance a comprehensive understanding of who immigration lawyers are and the contingent nature of their impact on removal proceedings. 


Kathryne Young

Kathryne M. Young, J.D., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She is a sociologist and legal scholar whose work spans the civil and criminal justice systems, focusing on the social mechanisms that maintain inequality.  Young’s current areas of research include access to justice, legal consciousness, criminal procedure, parole decision-making, and legal education.  Her work has been cited by the United States Supreme Court and the Washington State Supreme Court and has appeared in numerous journals, including Law & Society ReviewSocial Forces, and Harvard Law Review.  Her first book, How to Be Sort of Happy in Law School (Stanford University Press, 2018), was named one of Above the Law’s Distinguished Dozen Legal Reads of the Year.  Young serves on the Editorial Board of Law & Social Inquiry and the Editorial Advisory Board of Law & Society Review.

Project Description:

While access to justice research provides a distributive picture of civil justice problems’ prevalence, the social processes that underlie the ways different groups experience and think about these problems remain a puzzle. Professor Kathryne M. Young’s research will shed new light on the U.S. access to justice crisis by uniting theoretical questions at the core of sociolegal studies and applied questions at the core of access to justice research.  Her two-part project will investigate everyday people’s legal consciousness—their beliefs and understandings of the law—around seven key civil justice problems.  A nationally representative survey will examine connections between the problem-solving routes people consider and social characteristics such as race and class.  Additionally, interviews with a broad cross-section of people experiencing these seven problems will provide an in-depth, longitudinal picture of how different people grapple with access to justice challenges.  Professor Young’s investigation of the relationship between legal consciousness and access to justice will help scholars understand the social sources of variation in how people think about the law, and help policymakers create solutions that approach access to justice challenges from the perspective of the everyday people who experience them.

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