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2023-24 Access to Justice Scholars

Chiara Galli

Chiara Galli is a sociologist and Assistant Professor of Comparative Human Development at the University of ChicagoShe studies the profession of public interest immigration lawyering and the effects of the law on the lives of vulnerable groups of undocumented immigrants, including children and asylum-seekers. Her book Precarious Protections: Unaccompanied Minors Seeking Asylum in the US (2023, University of California Press) is based on ethnographic research that she conducted in legal clinics in Los Angeles during the Obama and Trump administrations and chronicles the experiences and perspectives of Central American unaccompanied minors and their immigration attorneys as they pursue applications for refugee status in the US asylum process. 

Project Description: Galli will examine access to legal representation and case outcomes for unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation proceedings in US immigration courtBy examining these outcomes using a large-scale national administrative dataset, this project will enhance our understanding of children’s experiences in the US immigration system, which, to date, has been based on ethnographic and qualitative studies that lack generalizability 

Claire Johnson Raba

Claire Johnson Raba is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law, where her empirical legal research is focused on the impact of the civil legal system on low-income borrowers and communities. At the intersection of big data, emerging legal technologies, consumer protection, and racial and social justice, her scholarship is directed at substantively improving the experiences of self-represented litigants in state courts. Claire is co-PI on debt collection studies funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts Civil Court Modernization Project and the Debt Collection Lab at Princeton University, and she created and teaches the Access to Justice and Legal Technology Lab at UIC Law.  

Project Description: Johnson Raba will investigate consumer defendant engagement with the civil legal system and the impact of debt collection lawsuits on financial stability. Qualitative research will explore how unrepresented consumer defendants perceive civil courts and debt collectors during litigation, and in partnership with legal aid programs, will provide referrals for unbundled technology-supported legal assistance. Quantitative research will link anonymized big data sets to study the intersection of debt collection cases and indicia of financial stability. 

Kirsten Matoy Carlson

Kirsten Matoy Carlson is a Professor of Law at Wayne State University. She is a leading authority on federal Indian law. Her interdisciplinary, empirical research investigates access to justice issues, including legal mobilization and law reform strategies used by Native peoples to reform law and policy effectively. Her work seeks to elevate Native voices in their quest for justice within the legal system. It has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Levin Center at Wayne Law. Carlson earned a Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. from The University of Michigan and was a Fulbright Scholar in New Zealand.   

Project Description: Carlson is investigating the gaps in existing measures of outcomes and impacts for legal services delivery in Native communities in the United States. Her work integrates sociolegal theories with Indigenous worldviews to develop an innovative new relational theory of legal effectiveness that reflects the values and experiences of Native communities served by legal services programs. She is collaborating with Michigan Indian Legal Services, which provides legal services to Native Americans throughout the state of Michigan, to develop, pilot, and evaluate the use of measures of impacts and outcomes informed by a relational theory of legal effectiveness. The goal is to improve access to justice by providing legal services programs with ways to measure social, institutional, relational, and generational impacts and outcomes 

Nylca J. Muñoz

Nylca J. Muñoz is aAdjunct Professor in the Health Law LLM Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico School of Law. She holds a doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Social Determinants of Health from the University of Puerto Rico. Her work explores the health systems crises under the colonial context of Puerto Rico and the mechanisms through which the territory has distanced and has been distanced from the recognition and protection of the right to health. She also collaborates with Puerto Rico’s Climate Change Experts and Advisors Committee in developing the health section of the Adaptation, Mitigation, and Resiliency Plan for the archipelago of Puerto RicoIn addition, she is a mentor for the Justice in Health Probono Section at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law, teaches a public health elective course that she developed for undergraduate students at the University of Puerto Rico Humacao Campus, and is the health sector representative in Puerto Rico’s Citizens Commission for an Integral Audit of the Public Credit.  

Project Description: Muñoz will analyze the effectiveness of accountability mechanisms for underserved populations that are beneficiaries of the Medicaid Program in Puerto Rico through Participatory Action Research methodology as a first step in evaluating access to justice under the privatized health care model implanted in Puerto Rico since 1993. 

Neel U. Sukhatme

Neel U. Sukhatme is a Professor of Law and Anne Fleming Research Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, and Affiliated Faculty at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy. Sukhatme combines his training as an economist with his experience as a practicing attorney in his empirical research, covering topics in access to justice, criminal law, courts, and patents and innovation. His work has appeared in both law and interdisciplinary journals, including the Harvard Law ReviewDuke Law Journal, and American Law and Economics ReviewIn 2020he co-founded Free Our Vote, a non-partisan, non-profit that helps restore voting rights for people with past felony convictions. Sukhatme holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University, a J.D. from Harvard Law School, and a B.S. in Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois. He is also an Andrew Carnegie Fellow and the Thomas Alva Edison Visiting Scholar at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

Project Description: Sukhatme will analyze the results of an ongoing experiment in which residents of two zip codes are provided legal aid when faced with eviction. By comparing outcomes for people in treated versus comparable non-treated areas, the project provides causal framework to test how legal aid might reduce evictions and their downstream consequences. 

Maureen Waller

Maureen Waller is a Professor in the Jeb. E Brooks School of Public Policy at Cornell University, with a joint appointment in Sociology. Her research has drawn on hundreds of qualitative interviews, national surveys and policy data to examine several cross-cutting issues related to poverty and inequality, family and U.S. social policy. A central strand of this research documents the experiences of economically and racially marginalized groups at the intersection of the welfare, child support, family court, and criminal-legal systems. Her work also prioritizes policy and community engagement, and she has presented her work to many community groups, state and federal governmental agencies, and other policy audiences. Prior to joining the Cornell faculty, she received a PhD in Sociology from Princeton University and was a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. 

Project Description: Waller will conduct a mixed methods study to examine economic and racial disparities in driver’s license suspension in New York, the potential of different policy reform options for reducing these disparities, and people’s lived experience of having a suspended license. She will also explore the challenges people with limited economic resources face in clearing suspensions and their access to legal information and assistance.

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