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2022 Keynote
Co-Sponsored by UT Law ACS


Colette Pichon Battle 2019 Obama Fellow [PREFERRED].jpeg

Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy 

Colette Pichon Battle is a generational native of Bayou Liberty, Louisiana. As founder and Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP), she develops programming focused on equitable disaster recovery, global migration, community economic development, climate justice, and energy democracy. 


Colette worked with local communities, national funders, and elected officials in the post-Katrina and post-Deepwater Horizon disaster recovery. She was a lead coordinator for Gulf South Rising 2015, a regional initiative around climate justice and just transition in the South. In 2015 Colette was selected as an Echoing Green Climate Fellow, in 2016 she was named a White House Champion of Change for Climate Equity, and in 2018 Kenyon College awarded her an Honorary Doctorate. In 2019, Colette was named an Obama Fellow for her work with Black and Native communities on the frontline of climate change and she gave a TED Talk, “Climate change will displace millions. Here’s how we prepare.” In 2021, Colette was appointed a Margaret Burroughs Community Fellow. In addition to developing advocacy initiatives that intersect with race, systems of power, and ecology, Colette directs GCCLP’s legal services in immigration and disaster law.


Under Colette's leadership, the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy co-chairs the national Water Equity and Climate Resilient Caucus with PolicyLink, serves on the steering committee of the Ocean Justice Forum, and anchors the five-state, multi-issue initiative Gulf South for a Green New Deal. Colette also leads the Red, Black & Green New Deal, the national climate initiative for the Movement for Black Lives. 

Colette serves on the boards of the US Climate Action Network and the Highlander Research and Education Center, is a member of the Movement for Black Lives policy table leadership team, advises the Kataly Foundation’s Environmental Justice Resourcing Collective, and chairs the Equity Advisory Group of the Louisiana Governor’s Climate Initiative Task Force.





Participatory defense is “a community organizing model for people facing charges, their families, and communities to impact the outcomes of cases and transform the landscape of power in the court system.” The model was developed by Raj Jaydev and directly impacted folks working out of Silicon Valley De-Bug, a community organizing, advocacy, and multimedia storytelling organization in San José, California beginning in 2007. Participatory defense offers a way to fundamentally alter the traditional relationship that people involved with in the criminal legal system have with the system as a whole and with their attorney by allowing the individual and their community to take back a level of control and ownership of the process that the system is designed to take away. This panel will explore the concept of participatory defense, the experience of navigating the criminal legal system with the support of a participatory defense hub, and how public defenders can work in concert with participatory defense hubs to better advocate for their clients.


- Mary DeFusco: Training Director of Defender Association of Philadelphia

- Carlie Ware: Deputy Public Defender at the Santa Clara Public Defenders

- Chantel Pridgon: Participatory Defense Organizer at Grassroots Leadership (Austin)

- Carl Nix: Criminal Justice Participatory Defense Organizer & Bond Fund Organizer at       Grassroots Leadership (Houston)

- Jada X: Community Defender and Core Team Member with Participatory Defense'sTennessee (Free Hearts)

- Moderated by Tara Mikkilineni: Senior Attorney for Civil Rights Corp





The onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020 and its devastating effects on working people have exacerbated existing tensions between workers and employers, with stagnant wages and growing corporate profits continuing to stratify haves and have-nots. In turn, labor unions are now looked on with the most favorability they have enjoyed since 1965, with two-thirds of the U.S. population’s approval. As recent as October 2021, media outlets and many unions used #Striketober and the “Great Resignation” to describe a large number of strikes, walkouts, and collective actions at John Deere, Kellogg, and many other employers across the country. In this panel, we will examine how the pandemic has changed the dynamics of labor organizing, the future of labor movements in right-to-work states like Texas, and the role of labor lawyers in this dynamic and urgent fight for workers’ rights.

- Kim Kelly: Journalist, Teen Vogue

- Bo Delp: Executive Director of Texas Climate Jobs Project

- Lauren Simmons-Mitchell: Lead Organizer of We Dream in Black, National Domestic          Workers Alliance

- Gina Dvorak: Local Organizer

- Moderated by Jared Schwartz: Student at the University of Texas School of Law



The criminalization of our unhoused neighbors has an unfortunately long history in the U.S. Since the 1980s, growing numbers of states and municipalities have enacted camping bans and similar legislation aimed at punishing loitering, begging, panhandling, and sitting/lying in public places. As more people have become unhoused, especially in the wake of socioeconomic turmoil caused by the COVID pandemic, tent cities have become increasingly common. In turn, lawmakers and law enforcement have responded by criminalizing, raiding, and destroying tent cities. In Austin, 2020’s Prop B made our home a very recent adopter of policies meant to criminalize the very existence of our unhoused neighbors, buttressed by Texas state legislation that rolls back funding for cities that do not enforce similar ordinances. In this panel, we will examine how providing services - direct aid, legal, and otherwise - for our unhoused neighbors has changed in the wake of the pandemic and in cities where these laws have been enacted.

- Ana Rosa Granados: Director of Services for Texas Harm Reduction Alliance

- Karly Jo Dixon: Staff Attorney at the Texas Fair Defense Project

- Tristia Bauman: Senior Attorney at the National Homelessness Law Center

- Yasmine Smith: Development Director for the Austin Area Urban League

- Moderated by Helen Gaebler: Senior Research Attorney at the William Wayne                     Justice Center for Public Interest Law at the University of Texas School of Law


Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against peoples based on the belief that those who have certain abilities (such as the ability to see, hear, or speak a certain language) are superior/ more deserving than those without those abilities. This type of discrimination can be even more significant when it occurs within communities already experiencing marginalization. This panel will explore the difficulties that ableism poses in the immigration and disability spheres and open a broader dialogue about the difficulties experienced by members of these communities throughout the various stages of litigation. 

- Erin Thorn Vela: Texas Civil Rights ProjectLiz Jordan: Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (Denver, CO)

César Miguel Vega Magallón: Mexico Advocacy Fellow for The Rhizome Center for Migrants (Guadalajara, Mexico)

Moderated by Professor Medha Makhlouf: Assistant Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic at Penn State Dickinson Law


In the United States, the movement for Palestinian rights is growing. From BLM activists in Ferguson to dockworkers in Oakland to the floor of the U.S. House, people of all races and creeds are coming together to put an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people. (Even Ben & Jerry’s has joined the cause.) Unfortunately, non-violent forms of protest—like boycotting certain products—have come under fire from Israeli advocacy groups. Almost every state in the South has passed laws to try and stifle free speech on this issue. Some states limit a government contractor’s right to boycott. Other states conflate any criticism of the Israeli government with anti-Semitism. How will these issues play out in the courts? And what impact, if any, do these laws in the United States have on the struggle for human rights around the world?

- Faizan Syed: Executive Director of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR - DFW)

Zoha Khalili: Staff Attorney at Palestine LegalAhmad Abuznaid: Executive Director, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Moderated by Azadeh Shahshahani: Legal and Advocacy Director, Project South


As the planet heats up and our collective response to the climate crisis doesn't, we're going to face more disastrous weather events. Whether these lead to threats to communities through hurricanes, wildfires, or droughts, we are going to have to have a plan so that the actions we take in response to these emergencies don't exacerbate the injustices that have lead us to this point. What disasters should we expect to see? What plans should we make to respond to them? How can we help make sure that the people who live in threatened communities get justice?

- Kristen Schlemmer: Legal Director and Waterkeeper at Bayou City Waterkeeper

Lesley Albritton: Project Manager of the Disaster Relief Project at North Carolina Legal Aid

Ana Laurel: Disaster and Housing Attorney at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Moderated by Kelly Haragan: Director of the Environmental Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law


Famously, Austin is home to some of the country's most lucrative companies. Fortune 500s Dell and Oracle are soon to welcome another peer to the city, Tesla. But how easy is it to call Austin home? With rising home and rental prices, Austin shares the growing pains of other major American cities. And like peer cities, the pains of growth and displacement are most acutely felt by the poorest Austinites. The panelists assembled will speak to the intersection of housing, growth, and poverty in Austin and detail how the city might provide a more equitable home in the Texas capital.

- Nefertitti Jackmon: Housing & Policy Planning Manager - Displacement Mitigation at       City of Austin

Edwin Bautista: Management Assistant at Texas Housers

Shoshana Krieger: Project Director for Building and Strengthening Tenant Action               (BASTA)

Moderated by Heather Way: Co-director of the Entrepreneurship and Community             Development Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law


In March 2021, shootings in three spas and massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia spurred national conversations about hate crimes committed against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and the United States’s oppressive treatment of these communities throughout its history. As quickly as these conversations came about following the shootings, these same conversations took a backseat to other national headlines, even while Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased 339% in large metropolitan cities across the United States. However, many community groups have been serving AAPI communities throughout the South to meet the needs of these communities. Lawyers and community advocates have succeeded in expanding language access, improving voting opportunities, and confronting the immigration challenges many AAPI individuals face. This panel highlights movement lawyering within AAPI communities within the South and how those lawyers and community advocates have confronted these challenges. 

- Phi Nguyễn, Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta 

- Alice Ming Fei Yi, Southeast Region Chair, Asian Pacific Islander American Public                  Affairs Association

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