6th Annual Shaping Justice Conference

Lawyer and author Derecka Purnell will deliver the keynote address at the sixth annual Shaping Justice conference, “Forging a More Just Society.” Purnell will speak at 4:30 p.m.

Aimed at inspiring students and lawyers to promote justice through public service, the conference will also feature an awards ceremony to honor Sejal Jhaveri ’15, Nitin Shah ’09 and Thomas Silverstein ’13 for their roles in serving the public. Delivered meal and free T-shirts for the first 75 registrants.

Event Topic(s): 
Law School
Program in Law and Public Service
Public Service
Mortimer Caplin Public Service Center, Program in Law and Public Service, and the Public Interest Law Association
Event Contact: 
Julia Eger
Contact Email: 
Event Subtitle: 
Forging a More Just Society
Event Full Details: 

Zoom links for all events

11:30 a.m.-Noon

Welcome and Presentation of Shaping Justice Alumni Awards

  • Extraordinary Achievement Recipient | Nitin Shah ’09, General Services Administration
  • Rising Star Recipient | Sejal Jhaveri ’15, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division
  • Rising Star Recipient | Thomas Silverstein ’13, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law     

Presentations by Risa Goluboff, Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law and Professor of History, University of Virginia School of Law

12:45-1:45 p.m.

Panel 1 | Returning Citizens Uplifting Communities: Advocating for the Formerly Incarcerated

As mass incarceration continues to wreak havoc on the lives of individuals and communities across the United States, an often-overlooked aspect of the prison-industrial complex involves the continued harms endured by people after their release from jail or prison. This panel seeks to address the myriad legal and social barriers facing those who have been previously incarcerated — whether for a few days, or for decades. Panelists will discuss their efforts to advocate for this population in New Orleans; Washington, D.C.; and Virginia, utilizing both legal and extralegal strategies.

  • Checo Yancy, Policy Director, Voters Organized to Educate
  • James Zeigler, Founder and Executive Director, The Second Look Project
  • Kelly Orians, Assistant Professor of Law, General Faculty; Director, Decarceration and Community Reentry Clinic, University of Virginia School of Law
  • Whitmore Merrick, Peer Navigator, Home to Hope
  • Bryant Woodland, Community Activist and Organizer
  • Moderator: Thomas Frampton, Associate Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law

Panel 2 | Safe Schools for All Students: Protecting the Rights of LGBTQ+ Youth in the K-12 Education System

The rights of LGBTQ+ public school students are at the forefront of conversations currently happening in school board meetings, nonprofit offices, the halls of Congress and even the Supreme Court. With contributions from lawyers, community organizers and school district employees who have fought for the safety and inclusion of LGBTQ+ youth, this panel will explore current issues threatening the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ students in K-12 schools. To that end, the panelists will discuss the wide variety of advocacy methods that they have collectively undertaken, in addition to looking towards the future of LGBTQ+ rights in schools and the work that remains to be done.

  • Dehaven Mays, Director of School Programs, Side by Side
  • Eden Heilman, Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia
  • Gia Loving, Associate Director, Gender Justice Leadership Programs, GSA Network and Transgender Law Center
  • Lars Holmstrom, Education Equity Specialist, Albemarle County Public Schools, Associate General Counsel
  • Ross Holden, School Board Counsel, Albemarle County Public Schools
  • ModeratorKimberly J. Robinson, Elizabeth D. and Richard A. Merrill Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law; Professor of Education, Curry School of Education; Professor of Law, Education and Public Policy, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia

2-3 p.m.

Panel 3 | Beyond Climate Change: How Environmental Injustice Harms Minority Communities

While climate change represents a growing threat to all of humanity, racial minorities continue to bear a disproportionate share of the harm caused by our warming world. This panel will explore both the causes and impacts of environmental racism. Scholars, lawyers and community organizers will discuss the intersection between climate disasters and race, as well as how climate injustice affects infrastructure, housing and health in minority communities. This panel will also explore the ways in which lawyers, policymakers and activists can help to mitigate these harms in the future.

  • Barbara Brown Wilson, Associate Professor of Urban + Environmental Planning; Faculty Director, UVA Equity Center; Director, Undergraduate Urban + Environmental Planning Program, University of Virginia School of Architecture
  • Josephus Allmond, Associate Attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center
  • Lynn Godfrey, Community Outreach Coordinator, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter
  • Marccus Hendricks, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation; Director, Stormwater Infrastructure Resilience and Justice Lab, University of Maryland, College Park
  • Thomas Silverstein ’13, Associate Director, Fair Housing & Community Development Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • ModeratorCale Jaffe ’01, Associate Professor of Law, General Faculty; Director, Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic, University of Virginia School of Law

Panel 4 | Toward Workers’ Equality: Upholding Immigrants’ Rights To Live and Work in the U.S.

Immigrant laborers have impacted the cultural, economic and political landscape of the United States for centuries. Although anti-immigrant rhetoric has likewise existed since the early days of North American settler colonialism, it today occupies a central role in U.S. media and politics. This panel explores how recent administrations have changed this landscape and how these political shifts affect the lives of millions of immigrant and migrant workers in the United States. Panelists will discuss the impact of legislation, legal reforms and judicial decisions, paying special attention to how COVID-19 continues to affect labor and immigrant rights in the United States.

  • Caitlin Boehne, Staff Attorney, Equal Justice Center
  • Kerry O’Brien, Special Advisor, Resilience Force
  • Marissa Baer, Workers’ Rights Attorney, Legal Aid Justice Center
  • Manuel Gago, Farmworker Organizer, Legal Aid Justice Center
  • ModeratorCamilo Sanchez, Assistant Professor of Law, General Faculty; Director, Center for International & Comparative Law; Director, Human Rights Program; Director, International Human Rights Law Clinic, University of Virginia School of Law

3:15-4:15 p.m.

Workshop 1 | Movement Lawyering With the Legal Aid Justice Center

Movement lawyering, as defined by the national organization Law For Black Lives, means “taking direction from directly impacted communities and from organizers, as opposed to imposing our leadership or expertise as legal advocates. It means building the power of the people, not the power of the law.” In this workshop, community organizer Harold Folley and civil rights attorneys Wyatt Rolla and Teresa Hepler will lead participants in learning about the ways in which lawyers can support organizers, activists and community members in order to build transformative power and help dismantle longstanding systems of oppression.

  • Harold Folley, Senior Supervising Organizer, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
  • Teresa Hepler ’17, Attorney, Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program, Legal Aid Justice Center  
  • Wyatt Rolla ’13, Senior Movement Attorney, Legal Aid Justice Center 

Workshop 2 | Restorative Justice With the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia

This workshop will explain how one alternative to traditional prosecution has changed juvenile criminal justice in the District of Columbia. Five years ago, Obama Foundation Fellow Seema Gajwani launched the first Restorative Justice program housed within a prosecutorial office anywhere in the United States. Gajwani will help workshop participants better understand the foundational principles and practical functioning of Restorative Justice conferences, and encourage participants to imagine a more just, less punitive criminal legal system.

  • Seema Gajwani, Special Counsel, Juvenile Justice Reform; Chief, Restorative Justice Section, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia 

4:30 p.m.

Keynote Address

  • Derecka Purnell, Lawyer, Organizer and Author of “Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom

Opening remarks by Dean Risa Goluboff, Dean, Arnold H. Leon Professor of Law, Professor of History, University of Virginia School of Law