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Tulane Law student awarded prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship

May 21, 2024 12:45 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu



After a 10-year journey working and organizing on juvenile justice issues, Tulane Law student Malcolm Lloyd (L’24) has earned the competitive and nationally renowned Equal Justice Works Fellowship to continue helping low-income children who face criminalization by law enforcement across Louisiana.

Lloyd, who recently graduated from Tulane Law, will spend two post-graduate years hosted by the ACLU of Louisiana, working through an EJW Fellowship that he designed himself. The project is one that he created to bring civil rights cases on behalf of low-income children and children of color in Louisiana who face higher rates of criminalization from school resource officers, police, and prison guards than more affluent peers. Through the fellowship, he will also work to advance a progressive child-centered legislative agenda at the state capitol as well as educate and organize the public on these issues in New Orleans.

“Advancing protections for low-income children has been a long-term project for me since moving to New Orleans,” he said. “Poor kids in Louisiana deserve equal dignity and opportunities as any other child would, and because the fellowship is a three-prong project, I can try to address various forms of violence and criminalization they confront every day. This is an area of law that brings with it a great opportunity for systemic change.”

Equal Justice Works each summer selects a class of fellows – all working in the public interest. This year’s 84-student class, like Lloyd, has designed their two-year fellowships. The organization is a nonprofit that connects law students, lawyers, and legal organizations in the promotion of public interest work.  This years class includes graduates from 42 law schools who will work at 79 legal services organizations across 22 states and Washington, D.C. 

“I am so honored to welcome these public service leaders to our Equal Justice Works community. These new Fellows advance our longstanding work of building a movement of public interest leaders who are transforming communities across the nation,” said Verna Williams, CEO of Equal Justice Works. 

A native of Canton, Mass., Lloyd received his Bachelor of Arts degree in International studies from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. His mother, a social worker, inspired his passion for improving the lives of others, which was just beginning to take shape, he said.

He first moved to New Orleans through City Year AmeriCorps to teach reading, writing and mathematics to middle schoolers at a local charter school. That was where his love for the Big Easy began, he said, and where he met other people interested in social justice issues.

“I was able to get involved in criminal justice reform in Louisiana,” he said. “I found my community.”

It’s also where he saw children criminalized in the school system by resource officers and police. The experience led him to join the Orleans Public Defenders’ Office in New Orleans as a client advocate, helping kids stay enrolled in school, find employment, or find substance abuse treatment, he said. Later, he became a staff investigator, where he specialized in juvenile investigation, defending incarcerated children charged with felonies, many of whom faced decades and life in prison.

In 2020, frustrated with the limitations of advocacy within criminal defense work, Lloyd turned to the United Kingdom and the University of Edinburgh, where he pursued a master’s degree in history. His passion for public interest work stayed with him, he said, and he spent the year writing a dissertation that investigated the history of two prisons located in Cancer Alley in Louisiana in order to examine the relationships between slavery, mass-incarceration, and environmental justice.

“At OPD, I was inspired by the many self-sacrificing and talented public defenders there, and I realized that law school was a good use of my skills,” Lloyd said. “So I knew I would finish my master’s and then go to law school. And it was clear after OPD that my interests were shifting from public defense to civil rights litigation.”

He accepted Tulane Law’s offer to come home in 2021, because “it made sense having friends around, which was important to me, and also being in the South, where I could continue to work on civil rights issues on the front lines of our country’s mass-incarceration crisis.”

Lloyd, right, was a student attorney in the 
Criminal Justice Clinic where he helped
gain parole for Deidre Pierre ​​​​​​(center).

His law school years were filled with internships and jobs that strengthened his interest in civil rights work. His first year, he joined the Tulane University Legal Assistance Program (TULAP) which helps Tulanians navigate legal resources. That summer, he worked at the National Resource Defense Council in New York City, where he helped fight a drinking water crisis that had broken out in the Illinois state prison system.

His second year of law school, he worked with the ACLU Louisiana’s Justice Lab, a statewide project fighting police brutality, and assisting with cases designed to fight racially discriminatory police stops and other 4th amendment violations. The internship's highlight was assisting his legal director, along with Tulane classmate Sanjay Das, prepare and argue before the Fifth Circuit in a 30-year-old racial gerrymandering case. “It was a fascinating and incredible experience to serve New Orleans with the ACLU,” he said.

He also worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center on children’s rights cases, including a heartbreaking situation at Louisiana’s State Penitentiary at Angola, where teens were imprisoned for months in a former death row facility. The children there endured repeated, extended periods of solitary confinement, excessive temperatures, bad drinking water, the use of chemical agents by guards, and were denied basic educational and mental health services as required by law.

 “That was incredibly difficult, seeing kids in former death row cells, and having little access to their families and basic services,” he said, adding that the children’s families often were scattered far away in remote parts of the state. Lloyd and the Center were able to secure the children’s relocation to safer facilities.

As a 3L, he was a student-attorney in Tulane Law’s Criminal Justice Clinic, which Lloyd calls “the highlight of my law school experience.”

“I’m so grateful that I was able to work at such a high a standard and work with a group of law students absolutely dedicated to public defense and helping those who are incarcerated fight for their freedom,”  he said.

His supervising attorney in the clinic has high praise for Lloyd.

“Malcolm has an exceptional ability to connect with clients, showing a deep sense of care and empathy,” said Clinic Director Katherine Mattes. “He listens attentively, making each client feel truly heard and supported.”

He worked on a case where he and his clinic partner, Barbara Bathke (L'24), were able to gain parole for a woman who had been incarcerated for most of her life. Their client, Deidre Pierre, originally from Lafayette, La., went to jail at the age of 24 after surviving years of abuse and hardship. During her incarceration and after earning her bachelor’s degree, she built up a reputation across the state as a trusted counsel substitute, an unlicensed legal advocate who assists incarcerated people with their appeals and other legal issues.

Pierre, center with Lloyd and Batke, on graduation

“Ms. Pierre is an incredible legal advocate for incarcerated women and helps everyone she meets. Now that she is out, she’s working as a paralegal with the Promise for Justice Initiative, a civil rights non-profit in New Orleans, where she’ll continue to fight for incarcerated women facing similar life circumstances as she did,” said Lloyd.

Pierre attended the law school graduation this past weekend, an incredibly touching moment for Lloyd and Bathke.

“We worked so hard on that case and it was an amazing feeling to see her out,” he said.

After all that he has experienced, he said working on behalf of low-income children is what he feels compelled do, Lloyd said. It’s why he chose juvenile justice issues as his EJW fellowship.

“The types of mistreatment and inequity I’ve witnessed poor kids and children of color face every day in school and behind bars in Louisiana has changed my life,” said Malcolm. “Too often poor, black, and marginalized kids are denied their humanity. These kids endure terrible trauma. They are denied an equal and quality education. And then, if they make a mistake or act out like any other young kid would, they’re locked away and their futures stolen from them. I’ve had many second chances in my life, so fighting for a fairer future for them is something I am driven to do.”