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DATE: December 4, 2019
Contact: Jeff Jones
Director of Communications


The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) is Failing Workers Who Are Victims of Wage Theft

A new report from the Legal Aid Justice Center cites new data and uncovers policies that prevent workers from getting what they’re owed.

Richmond, VA— The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) has released a new report: Getting Workers What They’re Owed: Why Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry Must Reform its Wage-claims Process.

The report examines never-before-seen data from DOLI showing how, due to the agency’s unusual and unnecessary internal policies, workers are being denied wages they have earned.

LAJC analyzed data it obtained under Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act showing that of the nearly 4,000 wage complaints that DOLI has closed in the past 4 years (totaling over 11 million dollars in claimed wages), DOLI rejected nearly half of them without conducting any investigation whatsoever.  DOLI also dismissed almost one-third of all claims under various internal policies that defy common sense and deny basic fairness to victimized workers. By contrast, DOLI actually recovered wages for the worker in only 18% of cases and required employers to pay a fine in just 9 cases (0.22%).

“Virginia’s workers are only asking to be paid their fair wages after doing their jobs,” said report author Nicholas Marritz. “And for that to happen, they need DOLI to do its job too.”

The report details the policies that prevent DOLI from being effective in getting Virginia workers what they are owed and makes suggestions for reform. It also includes the voices of affected workers.

Read/download the report here: Getting Workers What They’re Owed – Report

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Rally to Protect DREAMers!*

On November 12th the Supreme Court will hear arguments that will determine the fate of our DACAmented immigrant community.

Let’s make sure they hear from us!

Join Legal Aid Justice Center, VACOLAO, and VACIR at 9am at 3rd and East Capitol Streets NE, and march to the Supreme Court to rally in defense of DREAMers.

Where: the Supreme Court
When: November 12, 2019 from 9am to noon

Pre-rally Poster Making
Join us at LAJC’s Northern Virginia office on November 7th anytime between 6:30 and 8:30pm to make posters, learn more about LAJC’s Immigrant Advocacy Program, and get your Legal Aid Justice Center swag.  Light refreshments will be served.

Where: 6066 Leesburg Pike, #520, Falls Church, VA 
When: November 7, 2019 from 6:30 to 8:30pm


*We will  be joining the last leg of the Home is Here March (organized by the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), Make the Road NY/NJ/PA, CASA, Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), and Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA).



Can’t make it to the Supreme Court for the rally?  Check out these other events in Charlottesville and Norfolk:

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DATE: October 23, 2019
Jeff Jones
Director of Communications 
Legal Aid Justice Center


In the last three years, Black students made up approximately 22% of the school population in Virginia but averaged over 62% of the school-based disorderly conduct criminal complaints.

Richmond, VA – The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), today released a new report “Decriminalizing Childhood, Ending School-Based Arrest for Disorderly Conduct” that shows how Virginia’s school system is charging Black students, and Black girls at an accelerating rate, with disorderly conduct—a  vague, catch-all law that criminalizes low-level public disruption that does not rise to the level of physical harm, property damage, or even threat—unequally compared to their white counterparts. The authors call for the repeal of the school-based portion of the statute, preventing students from unneeded involvement is the criminal legal system.

 “At its root, school-based disorderly conduct charges are implements of what are often punitive systems—law enforcement and delinquency courts—improperly used to address school or health system issues—and sometimes to address behavior that is not any significant issue at all, but merely a characteristic of normal adolescent development.” said report author, LAJC Attorney Amy Woolard.

The report outlines how this subjective application of the law causes real harm to the young people affected, from the disruption of their education to the trauma of court involvement; how the damage can extend beyond the student to the family; and how its use complicates the role of School Resource Officers and creates a system of dual punishment when combined with traditional school disciplinary procedures.

“Disorderly conduct is, by law and design, the crime the state uses against you when it can’t find any other crime,” said Rachael Deane, legal director of LAJC’s Justchildren program. “Schools are learning environments—not simply for gaining academic knowledge, but also for allowing young people to learn the behavioral, social, and conflict resolution skills that form their positive maturity. To do this, we must allow them not just to make mistakes, but to recover from those mistakes without lasting consequences like school dropout, court involvement, and a juvenile record.”

The report is available at




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DATE: August 27, 2019
Media Contacts:
Kathleen Corcoran

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg
(703) 778-3450

The Legal Aid Justice Center and George Masin University’s Antonin Scalia Law School Announce New Immigration Clinic

Arlington, VA — The Legal Aid Justice Center (LACJ) today announced a new immigration litigation clinic at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. The clinic, which launches this fall offers students the opportunity to gain translatable skills and valuable perspectives on immigration law, specifically the deportation process and habeas corpus litigation.

The Immigration Litigation Clinic director is Becky Wolozin, a graduate of Harvard Law School, who started her career at LAJC in the JustChildren program, focusing on the intersection of child advocacy and immigration.

“I am thrilled this clinic will be offered at Scalia Law School.  Clinical work represents such a formative experience in law school, and it is an honor and a pleasure to be a part of that for young law students at the beginning of their legal careers,” said Ms. Wolozin.  “Not only will the students in this clinic get incredible legal experience, they will also gain important and profound human experience helping those fighting for the right to exist and to be together with their families.”

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy program at LAJC and co-teacher of the clinic, said “Through this clinic, law students will have the opportunity to represent clients, hone their litigation skills, learn a complicated area of law, and have an impact on some of the most important issues affecting millions of people across the nation.”

This clinic is made possible through a gift from Leonard A. Bennett, a 1989 graduate of George Mason University and a 1994 graduate of the George Mason School of Law.  A trial attorney and consumer advocate since 1994, Bennett works for Consumer Litigation Associates in Newport News, Virginia, and is often quoted in the New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.

“I am so grateful to Len Bennett for his generous gift, making the new Immigration Litigation Clinic possible, said Dean Henry N. Butler.  “Len’s philanthropy will profoundly impact our students and the clients they serve.”

“I also want to thank the Legal Aid Justice Center for partnering with Scalia Law to give our students first-hand experience advocating for immigrant families.  We are proud to educate students who will become lawyer committed to justice for all,” Dean Butler concluded.

About George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School
In July 2016, the George Mason University School of Law was renamed Antonin Scalia Law School in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice.  Scalia Law is renowned for its academic emphasis on the the intersection of law and economics, with some of the nation’s top law and economic scholars on the faculty.  National Jurist ranks Scalia Law as a Top 20 Law School for students pursuing careers in government.  A relatively young law school, Scalia Law School has been ranked a US News Top 50 Law School for 18 years, and recently ranked #4 for its part-time program.  Scalia Law School is ranked #19 by Shanghai’s Global Rankings for Law.  National Jurist ranks Washington DC, across the Potomac from Scalia Law School, the best city in the nation for young attorneys.

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty.  LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance.  LAJC also offers clinics at the University of Virginia Law School and the University of Richmond Law School.

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For Immediate Release

LAJC Commends Attorney General Herring’s Decision 

Charlottesville, Virginia (August 2, 2019) – The Legal Aid Justice Center commends Attorney General Herring for his decision today accepting the Fourth Circuit’s ruling regarding invalidating Virginia’s “habitual drunkard” regime.  

“We look forward to working with Virginia to implement constructive programs to address homelessness and addiction in our state, such as expanding Housing First and Addiction Recovery Treatment Services.  We also express our deep appreciation for our pro bono partner and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty for their indispensable assistance on this critical matter,” said Elaine Poon of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

“We are thrilled that Attorney General Herring has let the court decision striking down this antiquated law stand,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “We can all agree that no one wants to see homeless people with alcoholism on the streets, but law enforcement and public health experts agree that housing, not handcuffs, is the best, most cost-effective way of making that happen. While we celebrate today’s advancement, we look forward to working with Virginia’s legislature and executive to put those housing solutions in place-the true victory will come when all those who need housing have it.”



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Rachael Deane
Legal Director, JustChildren Program, Legal Aid Justice Center
804-873-0783 |

LAJC Applauds Virginia Board of Education Ban on Prone Restraints in Schools

Richmond, Virginia (July 26, 2019) – The Legal Aid Justice Center applauds the Virginia Board of Education’s vote to ban prone (face-down) restraint, a life-threatening practice that has no place in our schools. The ban is part of a broader set of regulations governing the use of seclusion and restraint in Virginia’s public schools, which will now head to the Governor for final approval.

“Too many children have been subjected to fear and trauma caused by prone restraints; some have been injured or killed,” said Rachael Deane, Legal Director of LAJC’s JustChildren Program. “We are pleased the Board has recognized the dangerousness of these restraints and urge the Governor to sign the regulations so that our schools will be on notice that these restraints are dangerous, unnecessary, and unlawful.”

The Board’s vote was a change to its previous position that an explicit ban was not necessary to comply with federal guidelines called the Fifteen Principles, which state, in part, that “prone (i.e., lying face down) restraints or other restraints that restrict breathing should never be used because they can cause serious injury or death.” Hundreds of parents and advocates wrote letters and public comments throughout the spring to urge the Board to include an explicit ban on prone restraint in the regulations. In February, the General Assembly passed legislation, subsequently signed into law by Gov. Northam, requiring the Board to identify and prohibit methods of seclusion and restraint that pose “a significant danger to students.” Testimony on the bill by parents, advocates, and a bipartisan group of legislators made clear that prone restraints posed exactly such a danger. In March, dozens of parents testified about the dangerousness of prone restraint at a public hearing on the proposed regulations, many of them sharing personal stories of the injury, pain, and trauma caused to their children by restraint and seclusion in schools. Advocates including these parents have sought this critical reform at each stage of the regulatory process, and now is the time for Governor Northam to validate the evidence and lived experiences of children and families driving these reforms by signing the regulations into law.

Schools have disproportionately used restraint and seclusion against students with disabilities and students of color, and recent news stories across Virginia have highlighted disturbing reporting discrepancies about the use of the practices. The regulations passed by the Board yesterday also include robust parental notification and data reporting requirements, though more work remains to be done to ensure that all forms of seclusion and restraint are completely banned in Virginia.


You can download a PDF of this press release here.

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Elaine Poon, Managing Attorney


CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA, July 16, 2019 — Today in Manning v. Caldwell, the Fourth Circuit, sitting en banc, struck down Virginia’s statutory scheme that permitted the state to interdict and prosecute people as “habitual drunkards”—a practice that unjustly targets Virginians with alcoholism who are also homeless. The Legal Aid Justice Center and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP brought this challenge on behalf of several Plaintiffs arguing that the statute singles them out for incarceration based on their disease and their homeless status in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Fourth Circuit agreed.

The Court ruled that the term “habitual drunkard” is unconstitutionally vague under the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. It found that the statute failed to provide fair notice to the public, “imposing criminal penalties on an untold number of chronically ill citizens.” The Court agreed that such vague language in a criminal statute invited arbitrary enforcement and allows for the state to “target persons, including the homeless, that state officials deem undesirable.”

Further, the Court agreed with Plaintiffs’ Eighth Amendment challenge, affirming a central Constitutional value that one cannot be punished for who they are rather than what they have done. The Court stated, “What the Eighth Amendment cannot tolerate is the targeted criminalization of otherwise legal behavior that is an involuntary manifestation of an illness.”

The Legal Aid Justice Center applauded this landmark decision by the Court. “It is clear that the Court understood the heart of the issues — that the Constitution cannot allow for the criminalization of illness and homelessness. We look forward to telling our clients about this victory, so that they can pursue their lives without the constant fear of arrest and prosecution,” said Elaine Poon of the Legal Aid Justice Center.

“We are thrilled the majority in the 4th Circuit agreed with the position in our amicus, and the one affirmed in the 9th Circuit’s decision in Martin v. Boise, that it is cruel and unusual to punish homeless individuals for involuntary conduct that must take place in public because they do not have an adequate alternative,” said Eric Tars, legal director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “Virginia’s cities, and other cities in the 4th Circuit, should take heed that if they want to reduce the negative impacts of homelessness on their community, the most effective, most cost-effective, and most constitutional way to do so is providing adequate housing and services. Using the criminal justice system to deal with a social service failure is not an option.”

Jonathan Marcus of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP argued the case and stated, “we applaud the Court of Appeals’ decision that Virginia’s habitual drunkard regime is unconstitutional. It is an important victory for those who suffer from the illness of alcoholism. We look forward to the development of humane and constructive solutions to the serious problems of homelessness and alcoholism that are called for by this decision.

4th Circuit Rehearing Opinion (PDF)

In March 2016, the Legal Aid Justice Center of Virginia (LAJC) and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP filed a class action lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s “habitual drunkard” statute, to the extent it criminalizes the possession or consumption of alcohol by homeless individuals suffering from alcoholism. The complaint asserts that Commonwealth’s Attorneys Offices across Virginia have used the state’s outdated “habitual drunkard” statute, or Interdiction Statute (Va. Code §§ 4.1,-305, 4.1-322, and 4.1-333), to repeatedly incarcerate homeless individuals, violating their constitutional rights by punishing homeless alcoholics for having the disease of alcoholism. It also violates their right to due process by criminalizing the possession or consumption of alcohol—an otherwise lawful activity—without required constitutional protections. The complaint also challenges the statute as unconstitutionally vague because it fails to define “habitual drunkard” and encourages arbitrary police enforcement. Virginia’s antiquated interdiction law imposes penalties far beyond the state law prohibiting public intoxication, which results in only a small fine. The Interdiction Statute, by contrast, allows a Commonwealth’s attorney to petition the circuit court to declare someone a “habitual drunkard.” Once given this stigmatizing label, that person is subject to up to a year in jail if caught simply possessing alcohol.
About the Legal Aid Justice Center

The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.

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WHAT: Are you outraged at the recent reports of abuses and deaths of immigrant children detained in President Trump’s camps and looking for a way to fight back?  Come join us at our Rally to Protect Immigrant Children where we will demand that this administration provide safe and sanitary housing and care for all immigrants detained by DHS, respect the Flores Decree, and stop the devastating family separations.  Come out and make your voice heard in defense of immigrants’ rights.  These children need all of us to act.  We must not remain silent.

WHEN: Tuesday, July 2nd from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

WHERE: 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Outside U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
For more information, please contact

Organized by: Centreville Immigration Forum (CIF), International Mayan League, Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), and Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO).

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June 28, 2019

Contact:  Angela Ciolfi, Executive Director


Charlottesville, VA—Today, Judge Norman Moon of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia issued an opinion in Stinnie v. Holcomb, a lawsuit filed in 2016 by the Legal Aid Justice Center and McGuireWoods LLP challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s law automatically suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay court costs and fines.

Judge Moon denied DMV Commissioner Richard Holcomb and Attorney General Mark Herring’s request to dismiss the case.  The Attorney General had argued that the one-year freeze of court debt driver’s license suspensions created by the budget amendment—which takes effect July 1, 2019, and expires July 1, 2020—should end the case.

Judge Moon rejected that argument, finding “although the Budget Amendment may indeed reflect shifting political winds … future enforcement of [the court debt driver’s suspension law] remains reasonably possible such that this case is not moot …” The Court refused to dismiss the case based on the “hypothetical and speculative” facts offered by the Commissioner.  

However, Judge Moon decided to stay, or postpone, trial in the Stinnie case to give the General Assembly a chance to pass a permanent fix during the current one-year freeze.

“The Plaintiffs would have preferred to have their day in court this August and end this civil rights crisis permanently,” said Angela Ciolfi, Executive Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center. “But if the Commonwealth will not take responsibility for decades of violating people’s constitutional rights, we will continue to fight in the General Assembly to fix it for the future.”

The Plaintiffs, the Legal Aid Justice Center, McGuireWoods LLP, and their pro bono partners remain committed to ending the injustice of court debt driver’s license suspensions in Virginia. It is unfair, counterproductive, and unconstitutional.  It punishes the poor, and it must end. 

Stinnie v. Holcomb is a putative class action lawsuit, filed by Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) and McGuireWoods LLP, challenging the constitutionality of Virginia’s statute automatically suspending the driver’s licenses of nearly one million Virginia drivers who cannot afford to pay court costs and fines. The case was originally dismissed at the District Court, but it was revived by the Fourth Circuit last year when the appeals court allowed plaintiffs to amend their complaint. When LAJC filed the amended complaint, they also asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction, which would have the effect of ordering the DMV Commissioner to stop suspending driver’s licenses for non-payment of court debt while the lawsuit is pending.  On November 15, 2018, Judge Moon took evidence and heard arguments for and against the preliminary injunction.  On December 21, 2018 Judge Moon granted the preliminary injunction finding the driver’s license suspension statute likely unconstitutional and ordering the DMV Commissioner to reinstate Plaintiffs’ licenses while litigation proceeds. The Court also rejected the Commissioner’s arguments that the federal court lacked jurisdiction. The case had been set for trial in August 2019.  Today’s decision has the effect of postponing the trial until next year, to permit Virginia’s General Assembly to repeal Virginia’s court debt license suspension law.  

To download a copy of today’s opinion, go to

To read more about the effect of the budget amendment, go to

To read more about the lawsuit, or to download the briefs, go to

About the Legal Aid Justice Center
The Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) fights injustice in the lives of individual Virginians while rooting out exploitative policies and practices that keep people in poverty. LAJC uses impact litigation, community organizing, and policy advocacy to solve urgent problems in areas such as housing, education, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigration, healthcare and consumer finance. LAJC’s primary service areas are Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, Richmond and Petersburg, but the effects of their work are felt statewide.