Lydia Ness, a 2016 graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law, has been selected as a 2016 Equal Justice Works Fellow. Starting in September, Ness will work for Equip for Equality, an advocacy organization for people with disabilities in Illinois, where she will provide legal services and outreach to protect people with disabilities from sexual abuse and sex trafficking.
During her two-year fellowship period, Ness will investigate reports from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of the Inspector General, about sexual abuse at facilities serving people with disabilities and identify situations where people with disabilities are not safe. She will develop written materials to educate children and adults with disabilities about their right to be free from sexual abuse and sex trafficking and about how Equip for Equality can advocate for them in situations involving abuse, neglect or civil rights violations.
Ness will also advocate in court for people with disabilities who need legal protections, such as a change of guardianship if a guardian is failing in his or her duties or an order of protection in cases of abuse. Her fellowship is sponsored by the law firm of Greenberg Traurig LLP and an anonymous donor.
Since January 2014, Ness has worked as a legal intern in Equip for Equality’s abuse investigation unit, which works with public agencies to investigate abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disabilities. In addition, she was a legal fellow in Chicago-Kent’s Criminal Defense Clinic, a legal intern at the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, and a volunteer at the Self-Help Web Center at the Daley Center. She received a Justice John Paul Stevens Fellowship in 2015 to support her summer work at Cabrini Green Legal Aid.
Ness also served as president of Chicago-Kent’s Student Humanitarian Network and executive cases and controversies editor for Chicago-Kent’s Journal of International and Comparative Law. Before law school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in theology from Biola University in California.
Equal Justice Works is a national leader in creating public interest opportunities for law students and lawyers. Equal Justice Works Fellows, who receive funding from law firms, corporations and private foundations, design two-year projects in conjunction with nonprofit organizations that have first-hand knowledge of the most critical needs in the communities they serve.