Reginald Dwayne Betts, a lawyer, poet, memoirist and teacher, will deliver the keynote address at the fourth annual Shaping Justice conference, “Shaping Justice by Engaging Communities,” on Feb. 7 at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Betts, who served time in prison as a youth before graduating from Yale Law School in 2016, frequently lectures on topics ranging from mass incarceration to contemporary poetry and the intersection of literature and advocacy. He is currently working on his Ph.D. in law.

In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Betts to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. More recently, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont appointed Betts to the Criminal Justice Commission, the state body responsible for hiring prosecutors in Connecticut.

Betts has written three collections of poetry, “Bastards of the Reagan Era,” “Shahid Reads His Own Palm” and “Felon,” published in October. He was named a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow and a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. His writing has earned him a Soros Justice Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Ruth Lily Fellowship, an NAACP Image Award and a New America Fellowship.

Betts will speak at 5:15 p.m. in Caplin Pavilion.

Aimed at inspiring students and lawyers to promote justice through public service, the conference will also feature a lunch and awards ceremony to honor Claire Blumenson ’11, Chioma Chukwu ’12 and Chris Kavanaugh ’06 for their roles in serving the public. Several panels provide networking and educational opportunities for students.

The conference is sponsored by UVA Law’s Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center and Program in Law and Public Service, the student-run Public Interest Law Association and numerous other student organizations.

The event is open to the public and parking is available in D2 lots. Registration ends Jan. 31.


10-11 a.m.


Clay Hall Lobby (in front of Caplin Pavilion)

11:15 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Panel 1 | Advocacy for Transgender Rights

Sponsored by Child Advocacy Research & Education, the Black Law Students Association and Lambda Law Alliance

  • Joaquin Carcaño, Lead Plaintiff in Carcaño v. Cooper
  • Bary Hausrath, Founder, BaryLaw
  • Ali Moros Taylor, Youth Leadership Council Member, Side by Side
  • Mia Yamamoto, Criminal Defense Attorney and Community Activist
  • Moderator: Emily Walpole ’20, University of Virginia School of Law

Panel 2 | The Intersections of Immigrant Rights and Environmental Justice

Sponsored by the Virginia Environmental Law Forum and the Immigration Law Program

  • Gustavo Angeles, Environmental Justice Program Coordinator, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club
  • Jeannie Economos, Coordinator, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project, Farmworker Association of Florida
  • Chris Espinosa, Director of Public Outreach, U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources
  • Miranda Cady Hallett, Assistant Professor, Human Rights Center Research Fellow, University of Dayton
  • Moderator: Kimberly Fields, Assistant Professor, Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, University of Virginia

12:30-2 p.m.

Shaping Justice Awards Ceremony and Lunch

Caplin Pavilion

2:15-3:30 p.m.

Panel 3 | Technology and the Criminalization of Sex Work

Sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Feminist Legal Forum and the Virginia Journal of Law & Technology

  • Kendra Albert, Clinical Instructor, Cyberlaw Clinic, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University
  • David Grosso, Councilmember, District of Columbia
  • Lorelei Lee, Sex Worker, Community Organizer, Writer
  • Mia Little, Sex Worker, Educator, Organizer, Therapist-in-Training
  • Moderator: Anne Coughlin, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

Panel 4 | Disability Rights 30 Years After the Passage of the ADA

Sponsored by the Health Law Association and Lambda Law Alliance

  • Michael Allen ’85, Partner, Relman, Dane & Colfax
  • Sasha Buchert, Senior Attorney, Lambda Legal, Washington
  • Chelsea Crawford, Associate, Brown, Goldstein & Levy
  • Anne Langford, Trial Attorney, Disability Rights Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  • Steven Traubert, Director of Litigation, disAbility Law Center of Virginia
  • Moderator: Anjali Forber-Pratt, Assistant Professor, Department of Human and Organizational Development, Vanderbilt University

3:45-5 p.m.

Panel 5 | Fighting for Reproductive Justice in a Time of Crisis

Sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, and If/When/How: Lawyering for Reproductive Justice at UVA Law

  • Monica Edwards, Federal Policy Manager, United for Reproductive & Gender Equity
  • Melissa Murray, Frederick I. and Grace Stokes Professor of Law, Faculty Director, Birnbaum Women’s Leadership Network, New York University School of Law
  • Kelsey Ryland, Director of Federal Strategies, All* Above All
  • Nicole Tortoriello, Secular Society Women’s Rights Advocacy Counsel, ACLU of Virginia
  • Dr. Emily Young, Staff Physician, Planned Parenthood of the South Atlantic
  • Moderator: Lois Shepherd, Peter A. Wallenborn, Jr. and Dolly F. Wallenborn Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Professor of Public Health Sciences, Professor of Law, University of Virginia

Panel 6 | Dismantling Mass Incarceration Through Restorative Justice

Sponsored by the Virginia Law in Prison Project and American Constitution Society for Law and Policy

  • JJ Dahmer, Circle Keeper, North Denver Community-Building Circle, Restorative Justice Advocate
  • Liz Porter-Merrill, Restorative Justice Director, Office of the Colorado State Public Defender
  • Shannon Sliva, Assistant Professor, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work
  • Mikayla Waters-Crittenton, Executive Assistant/Program Associate, Restorative Justice Project, Impact Justice
  • Moderator: Josh Bowers, F.D.G. Ribble Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

5:15-6 p.m.

Keynote Address and Q&A With Reginald Dwayne Betts

Caplin Pavilion

6-7:30 p.m.

Networking Reception

6-6:30 p.m.

Book Signing With Reginald Dwayne Betts

Caplin Pavilion

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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