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2020 Summer Forum Preview: Protecting Civil Rights is Vital Work

By Alexis Applegate

At our 2020 Summer Forum, the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel will explore the critical role lawyers play in protecting individuals’ fundamental rights.  These fields of law strive to ensure the free exercise of First Amendment speech rights at protests, provide post-arrest legal representation to protester, safeguard reproductive rights, strive toward greater workplace equity, and advance education access for all. Lawyers working in these fields are making significant societal impacts and creating lasting change. These areas of law are changing rapidly today in response to demands to advance racial justice and to protect voters’ rights when COVID-19 threatens in-person voting in a key election. All of these issues and more will be discussed at the Civil Rights & Civil Liberties panel on Tuesday, July 21, from 12:00–1:00 pm ET.

This panel’s moderator will be Brandy Wagstaff, Legal Counsel for Litigation in the Criminal Section’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit at the U.S. Department of Justice.  In this role, Brandy provides legal and strategic analysis in support of the Unit’s enforcement activities.  Prior to joining DOJ’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit, Brandy worked within the Department’s Civil Rights Division as an Attorney within the Disability Rights Section, where she engaged in litigation and developed regulations to enforce the American’s with Disabilities Act.  She also works as an adjunct professor at George Mason University, where she has taught courses in legal writing, appellate advocacy, and disability law.

Brandy will moderate an expert panel, which includes:

Sasha Buchert

Sasha Buchert is a Senior Attorney in the Washington D.C. office of Lambda Legal, the oldest and largest organization dedicated to advancing the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and individuals living with HIV. During her time at Lambda Legal, Sasha has been involved in extensive federal and state legislative and policy efforts on a wide range of issues including judicial nominations, criminal justice reform policy and health care initiatives. She is also litigating a number of cases expanding and solidifying federal civil rights protections for transgender people. Before joining Lambda Legal, Sasha served as Staff Attorney and Policy Counsel at Transgender Law Center. Sasha was the first openly transgender person to be appointed to an Oregon state board, and from 2012-13, she served as the chair of the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board.

Fatima Gross-Graves

Fatima Gross Graves has had a distinguished career fighting for the rights of women and girls.  She has worked across a broad set of issues central to women’s lives, including income security, health, and reproductive rights, education access, and workplace fairness.  Fatima is the current President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), and she is among the co-founders of the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund.  Prior to becoming NWLC’s President, Fatima served as the Center’s Senior Vice President for Program, where she led the organization’s broad program agenda to advance progress and eliminate barriers for women in a multitude of program areas.  Prior to that role, Fatima was NWLC’s Vice President for Education and Employment, where she led the Center’s anti-discrimination effort, with a particular focus on outcomes for women and girls of color.

Jonathan Smith

Jonathan Smith became Executive Director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in 2016.  Immediately prior to joining the Committee, Jonathan was the Associate Dean of Experiential and Clinical Programs at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clark School of Law.  Jonathan has also served as the Chief of the Special Litigation Section of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.  Jonathan has an also had a distinguished and extensive career in civil legal services prior to his government services. He was Executive Director of the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland and the D.C. Prisoners’ Legal Services Project. Jonathan is also a member of the Washington Council of Lawyer’s Honorary Board.

Hassan Zavareei

Hassan Zavareei founded Tycko & Zavareei LLP with his partner, Jonathan Tycko in 2002, where he focuses primarily on class action lawsuits.  The firm handles a full breadth of cases in its practice with a focus on public interest cases, including those representing consumers, employees, and whistleblowers.  Prior to founding the firm, Hassan was in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. While at Gibson Dunn, Hassan managed the defense of a nationwide class action brought against a major insurance carrier. In recent years, Hassan’s class action practice has focused on the representation of plaintiffs in consumer fraud cases, primarily relating to the financial services industry. In his civil rights practice, Hassan has represented individuals, groups of employees, and tenant associations in employment and fair housing litigation.

Alexis Applegate is Washington Council of Lawyers Communications Director and a member of our board of directors.

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