CCR Welcomes Four Bertha Justice Fellows

Movement lawyering is focus of fellowship

December 6, 2018, New York –
Four Bertha Justice Fellows will be spending the next two years at the Center for Constitutional Rights getting first-hand experience in movement lawyering.

The fellows—Lupe Aguirre, Aya Saed, Astha Sharma Pokharel, and Brittany Thomas—will work on cases in the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, and the Government Misconduct/Racial Justice and International Human Rights dockets.

This is the fourth cycle the Center for Constitutional Rights has participated in the Bertha Justice Fellowship Program, which is a two-year appointment for emerging lawyers who are interested in gaining practical experience working on cases and a theoretical understanding of how legal advocacy can create social change. 

“Supporting movements is embedded in the Center for Constitutional Rights’ DNA. Part of that mandate is training the next generation of radical lawyers,” said Rachel Meeropol, senior staff attorney and associate director of Legal Training and Education. “Our Bertha Justice Fellows experience lawyering that is bigger than winning (or losing) in the courtroom. Together, we are working to force the law to serve the needs of those who are fighting for justice.”

About the fellows:

Lupe Aguirre advocates for immigrant rights and racial justice by challenging government misconduct and abusive immigration practices. Prior to joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, Lupe was an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at the Empire Justice Center in upstate New York, where for two years, she represented individuals facing deportation and seeking immigration relief.  Lupe is a proud daughter and sister of immigrants. Lupe’s work is inspired by her upbringing in Southern California, where she witnessed her family and community’s vulnerability, strength, power, and resilience in the face of structural violence and oppression. Lupe was a first generation college student and holds a B.A. from UCLA and a J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law. She has worked with the National Immigration Law Center, ACLU of Southern California, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, the Haas Institute at UC Berkeley, and Berkeley Law’s International Human Rights Clinic. Lupe is a co-author of We Too Belong: A Resource Guide of Inclusive Practices in Immigration and Incarceration Law & Policy.

Aya Saed specializes in challenging unlawful detentions, counterterrorism practices, the criminalization of dissent, and systemic unlawful policing practices. Before joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, Aya worked as a student attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, where she provided direct legal representation to tenants facing eviction. She also co-founded the Deeply Rooted Emerging Leadership fellowship, a program invested in nurturing emotionally intelligent social justice activists and leaders. Aya earned a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Astha Sharma Pokharel works on international human rights, corporate accountability, and abusive immigration practices. Prior to coming to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Astha was a Global Programs Fellow at Namati, an organization focusing on legal empowerment. Astha is a 2017 graduate of New York University School of Law, where she was Root-Tilden-Kern scholar. During law school, she was a student advocate in the Global Justice Clinic, where she worked with communities affected by mining in Ghana to hold government and corporate actors accountable for the impacts of the industry. She was also a student advocate in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, representing individuals in deportation proceedings.

Brittany Thomas challenges abusive police practices and inhumane immigration policies. She is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Law, cum laude. While in law school, she was a fellow in the Environmental Justice Clinic, where she advocated alongside historically African-American communities against an array of environmental abuses, including suing the City of Miami to remediate local parks contaminated by a trash incinerator located in their neighborhood. She also worked extensively on housing issues aimed at addressing the inhumane conditions in which many communities were forced to live.

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at


Last modified 

December 6, 2018