Movement lawyering is focus of fellowship
January 19, 2021, 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—Luna Martinez, Elsa Maria Mota, Samah Sisay, and Rafaela Uribe—will work on cases in the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, and the Government Misconduct/Racial Justice and International Human Rights dockets.
This is the fifth cycle in which the Center for Constitutional Rights has participated in the Bertha Justice Fellowship Program, 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.
“The importance of standing with and defending activists on the ground who are fighting against white supremacy and facism cannot be learned in a law school classroom," said Rachel Meeropol, Senior Staff Attorney and Associate Director of Legal Training and Education. “The Center for Constitutional Rights has a long history of training the next generation of radical lawyers. We are thrilled to welcome our newest fellows as they embark on a career of working for justice.”
About the fellows:
Luna Martinez is a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she works on defending the rights of Palestine solidarity advocates, challenging the unlawful detentions at Guantánamo, and supporting Indigenous and environmental justice movements. Prior to joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, Luna worked with our partners Palestine Legal and Earthjustice. She also started a nonprofit in Zapatista communities in Chiapas, where her grandfather was a political prisoner. Luna was a first-generation college student and holds a B.A. from Prescott College and a J.D. from Berkeley Law with a Certificate in Public Interest and Social Justice. She is currently on the Steering Committee of National Students for Justice in Palestine and on the National Executive Committee of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of two articles in the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal.
Elsa Maria Mota is a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she specializes in advocating for immigrant rights and racial justice by challenging government misconduct and abusive immigration practices. Elsa was born to Dominican immigrants and is a first-generation college student. She holds a B.A. in Criminology and Law and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Florida and is a 2020 graduate of Yale Law School. Elsa’s interests lie at the intersection of empowering marginalized communities, building infrastructure for opportunity, and racial justice. Her work is inspired by her experience in diverse, low-income communities that creatively fight against systems of oppression to seize opportunities. During law school, she worked with the Community Justice Project in Miami, The Bronx Defenders immigration defense practice, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Yale’s Educational Opportunity and Juvenile Justice Clinic, and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), and volunteered with asylum seekers through ASAP. During law school she also conducted research on the intersection of human rights and plea bargaining in Uganda.
Samah Mcgona Sisay is a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she specializes in international human rights and challenging inhumane immigration policies and abusive police practices. Prior to coming to the Center for Constitutional Rights, Samah worked as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at African Services Committee. During her two-year fellowship there, Samah provided legal representation on immigration matters to undocumented Black immigrant women, both transgender and cisgender, impacted by gender violence. Samah was born in Liberia and immigrated to the United States with her family at a young age during the Liberia's civil war. This experience informs her work as an attorney and propelled her to become the first person in her family to attend and graduate college. Samah earned a B.A. in International Affairs at George Washington University and is a 2018 graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she was an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellow. During law school, Samah served as a student advocate for two years in the Immigrant Rights Clinic representing individuals in deportation proceedings. Samah was also awarded an International Law and Human Rights (ILHR) fellowship to work for Defence for Children International in Freetown, Sierra Leone, where she monitored the juvenile court and detention centers and advocated for the release of juvenile survivors of sexual violence.
Rafaela Uribe is a Bertha Justice Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where they work on issues of racial and gender justice, discriminatory policing, governmental abuses of power, and government surveillance. Prior to coming to the Center of Constitutional Rights they worked at the Defender Association of Philadelphia in the Child Advocacy Unit. There they represented Philadelphia youth in family court cases where there were allegations of child abuse and/or neglect. Before attending law school, she worked as a Civil Legal Advocate at the Bronx Defenders. As a civil advocate, she represented low-income Bronxites in administrative hearings connected as collateral consequences to contact with the criminal justice system, immigration system, or family law apparatus. Rafaela was born and raised in the Bronx in NYCHA housing by a single mother from the Dominican Republic and credits her upbringing as her inspiration for pursuing a legal education. She was a first-generation college student at Bowdoin College, where she earned her B.A. in Government and Legal Studies with a concentration in Comparative Politics. She is a 2019 graduate of Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law, where she was a Conwell Merit Scholar, a Rubin Public Interest Honor Society Fellow, and was awarded the Lena L. Hale Award for her commitment to public interest work. She was also an Ella Baker intern at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
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 ccrjustice.org.