Access to Justice

Annual ABE grant program supports 15 ‘boots-on-the-ground' projects

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Survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking. Residents at risk of losing their homes. Immigrants and asylum-seekers who rely on legal representation. All three of these groups are among those supported by the American Bar Endowment’s Opportunity Grant Program, which announced Monday that it will provide more than $275,000 to 15 “new, innovative, boots-on-the-ground" projects that address the urgent legal needs of underserved communities.

“Even a modest grant can accomplish so much and truly advance an organization’s work, often serving as the first funding to launch a critical initiative,” Carolyn B. Lamm, president of the not-for-profit public charity, said in a news release. “With our funding, the ABE meets its mission to help meet the need for legal services and supports.”

The 2021 Opportunity Grant recipients are:

Ameelio, a nonprofit technology company in New Haven, Connecticut, that helps individuals who are incarcerated communicate with their families, lawyers and service providers for free

The Brave House, a nonprofit organization in New York City that provides legal support, mentorship and holistic services to immigrant women, ages 16-24

Center for Institutional and Social Change, a part of Columbia Law School that addresses structural inequity by facilitating collaboration and innovation for scholars, practitioners and students

Choosing Justice Initiative, a nonprofit public interest law firm in Nashville, Tennessee, that aims to end wealth-based disparities in the criminal legal system through representation, education and advocacy

End Violence Against Women International, a nonprofit organization in Colville, Washington, that educates law enforcement officers, prosecutors, health care providers and other advocates who respond to gender-based violence

Free to Thrive, a nonprofit organization in San Diego that works to prevent human trafficking and provide survivors with free legal representation and other support services

Georgia State University College of Law, which opened an immigration clinic in Atlanta in January 2020 to focus on removal defense and permit students to represent low-income non-citizens in immigration court

Justice At Last, a nonprofit law firm in the San Francisco Bay area that provides free legal services to survivors of human trafficking

Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc., a legal services provider in Geneva, New York, that assists clients with civil legal issues, including eviction, unemployment insurance benefits and public assistance

Lowcountry Legal Volunteers, a legal services organization in Okatie, South Carolina, that assists its clients with family law, life and future planning and housing and consumer matters

Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal advice and representation to low-income Philadelphia residents with criminal records

Public Defender Association, a nonprofit corporation in Seattle that advocates for reforms in the criminal legal system and alternatives to punishment that focus on individual and community health

Step Up to Justice, a free civil legal center in Tucson, Arizona, that serves low-income individuals and families in Pima County

Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition, an immigrant and refugee-led collaboration based in Nashville, Tennessee, that works to empower and protect immigrants and refugees

Until We Are All Free, a human rights organization in Minneapolis led by formerly incarcerated individuals that focuses on building capital, resources and support for those disenfranchised by mass incarceration.

In addition to its Opportunity Grants, which were awarded for the fifth consecutive year, the ABE provided two grants of nearly $3.5 million to the American Bar Foundation and the ABA Fund for Justice and Education for legal services, education and research programs.

“ABE grants support the stellar ABF research projects that enhance understanding of the law and its impact on society and improve the administration of justice,” ABE Executive Director Joanne Martin said in the news release.

She added that the ABE grants also support “many of the FJE’s public service initiatives that, for example, help ensure [an] individual’s legal rights and train lawyers in specialty areas of law such as immigration, domestic violence, and veterans benefits.”

The ABE sponsors insurance plans for ABA lawyer-members who can then donate any available dividends back to the ABE. The ABE uses those funds to support its annual grant programs. More information is available at

See also:

ABA Journal: “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, legal services providers find creative ways to serve older adults”

ABA Journal: “ABE Opportunity Grants support projects focusing on elder law, immigrant rights”

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