February 19, 2024

AJMLS Welcomes the Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice: National Law School Tour


Click here to view the live stream during the event

[J]ustice demands more than good prosecutors and good judges. It demands meaningful access to counsel for the accused, including those who cannot afford attorneys. To provide that access, and to reaffirm the kind of faith in law upon which our democracy depends, public defender offices need more resources. Our nation needs more lawyers to answer the call of public service by providing criminal defense for those who cannot afford it.

Rachel Rossi, Director, Office for Access to Justice, U.S. Department of Justice

President Joseph R. Biden and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the appointment of Rachel Rossi as Director of the Office for Access to Justice in May 2022. Prior to her appointment, Director Rossi served as Deputy Associate Attorney General in the Office of the Associate Attorney General, Vanita Gupta. In that role, she also served as the inaugural Anti-Hate Coordinator for the Justice Department. Director Rossi began her career as a public defender in Los Angeles for almost a decade. She practiced in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender’s Office, and the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Central District of California, where she vigorously defended hundreds of low-income clients in state and federal courts. Director Rossi then served as Counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Richard J. Durbin (Illinois), where she was the lead staffer on the First Step Acta major U.S. federal criminal justice reform billsigned into law in 2018 that created comprehensive sentencing and prison reforms. She then transitioned to the role of Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, working for then Crime Subcommittee Chair Karen Bass (CA-37). In 2020, Director Rossi was the first former public defender to run for the nonpartisan seat of District Attorney of Los Angeles County, where she was only five points shy of qualifying for the runoff election, receiving almost half a million votes. She then served as the Legal Director for the REFORM Alliance, where she launched the development of a litigation program for direct representation in criminal cases and in civil litigation matters surrounding issues of probation, parole, supervised release, and community supervision. Director Rossi received her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law, where she won the International Moot Court Competition, in Grays Inn, London, and served as Student Articles Editor for the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal. She received the Pepperdine University School of Law Larry D. Kimmons Racial and Social Justice Award, was named one of the National Bar Association’s Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers, and was recognized as an Influential Capitol Hill Staffer by Lawyers of Color. Director Rossi grew up in Los Angeles, California.  She is the daughter of immigrant parents born in the Dominican Republic and Greece.

Participating Organizations

Opportunities available for graduating law studentsOpportunities available for 1L and 2L studentsOpportunities available for graduating college studentsSummer opportunities available for college students
Atlanta Community Support Project
Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (Atlanta, GA)
Black Public Defender Association (BPDA) (National)l
Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit Office of the Public Defender (Columbus, GA)L, I
City of Atlanta Office of the Public Defender (Atlanta, GA)L, I
Defender Association of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)L, I, u
The Law Office of the DeKalb County Public Defender (Decatur, GA)L, I
Flint Judicial Circuit Office of the Public Defender (McDonough, GA)L, l, u
Georgia Justice Project (Atlanta, GA)L, l, u
Gideon’s Promise (Atlanta, GA)l, u
Gideon’s Promise (National)
Gila River Indian Community: Defense Services Office (Phoenix, AZ)L, l, U, u
Griffin Judicial Circuit Office of the Public Defender (Griffin, GA)L,l
Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy (Kentucky)L, I
Law Offices of the Public Defender, Second Judicial Circuit of Florida (Tallahassee, FL)L, I, U
Macon Circuit Public Defender (Macon, GA) L, I
Maryland Office of the Public Defender (Offices throughout Maryland)L, I
North Carolina Indigent Defense Services (North Carolina)L, l, U
Public Defender for Metropolitan Nashville & Davidson Counties (Nashville, TN)L, l, u
Rehabilitation Enables Dreams (Atlanta, GA)
Robeson County Public Defender Office (Lumberton, NC)L
Southern Center for Human Rights (Atlanta, GA)L, I
Stern Law, LLC (Criminal Law and Immigration) (Atlanta, GA)

Panel Discussion – Transformational Stories: Wisdom From Justice-Impacted Law Students

Panelists:Travis Andrews
Richeda Sinclair
Luci Harrell
Ricky Panayoty
Moderator:David Lee Windecher, Founder, Rehabilitation Enables Dreams (RED)

Panel Discussion – Connecting Advocacy in the Courtroom, Community, and Statehouse

Panelists:Sara Becker, Sara Stewart Law & Legislative Chair, Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Zanele Ngubeni, Executive Director, Gideon’s Promise
Tiffany Roberts, Public Policy Director, Southern Center For Human Rights
Natasha Silas, Federal Defender, Inc & Dean, National Criminal Defense College
Sam Starks, Cochran Firm, Founder of The Barristers Society
Moderator:Professor Jonathan Rapping

Networking Opportunities for Law Students and College Students

Students will have opportunities to meet legal professionals and learn of employment opportunities at morning and afternoon table talk sessions, a networking lunch, and an evening reception.


Throughout the day a variety of workshops led by seasoned practitioners will be available for law students and college students.

WORKSHOP SERIES 1 (11:05 – 11:55 a.m.) – concurrent with table talks

  • Writing to Courts and Other Audiences: Effective Arguments, Motions, and Briefs (Patick Mulvaney, Southern Center for Human Rights)
  • Making a Good Impression in an Interview (Georgia Sims, Nashville Public Defender & Atteeyah Hollie, Southern Center for Human Rights)

WORKSHOP SERIES 2 (2:35 – 3:25 p.m.) – concurrent with table talks

  • Client Interviews and Developing Client Relationships (Professor Michael Mears, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School)
  • Telling Stories Through Trial Advocacy: Using Games with Blocks to Teach Trial Skills (Zanele Ngubeni, Gideon’s Promise)

WORKSHOP SERIES 3 (3:35 – 4:25 p.m.)

  • Professionalism: Look, Think, and Act Like a Lawyer (Sam Starks, Torris Butterfield & Lauren Dillingham, The Barristers Society)
  • I Object!: Introduction to the Art & Techniques of Making & Meeting Objections in Court (Professor Suparna Malempati, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School)
  • Full Disclosure: Constitutional and Ethical Discovery Requirements in Criminal Cases (Professor Judith Barger, Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School)
  • So You Want to Go to Law School?: Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School Information Session for College Students (AJMLS Office of Admissions)

An evening reception sponsored by The Barristers Society

The evening reception is open to the public. Details forthcoming.

Are you a student interested in participating? Register here

All students, whether law students, undergraduates, or any other program, are welcome to register.

Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School alumni are invited to participate.

If you would like to attend but are not affiliated with Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School or are not a collegiate or graduate student, please reach out to Professor Jonathan Rapping or Associate Dean Sheryl Harrison.

Are you a public defender organization or legal service provider who serves justice impacted communities interested in participating? Let us know here

Are you considering attending? Review the event brochure here