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2023 Grad Meghan McLeroy Awarded Equal Justice Works Fellowship

August 28, 2023

Meghan McLeroy poses in front of The University of Alabama School of Law

This summer, Alabama Law alumna Meghan McLeroy (‘23) was awarded a 2023 Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship. Selected among 318 applicants, McLeroy is one of 76 postgraduate students chosen from across the country to participate in the program. Those awarded this public service fellowship will spend the next two years advocating for communities that are underrepresented and underserved across the United States.

Under the Equal Justice Works Design-Your-Own Fellowship model, fellows like McLeroy collaborate with legal service organizations of their choosing to serve the needs of the community. For her fellowship, McLeroy is partnering with Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice in Birmingham, who will be working alongside her on the project. During the fellowship, participants are paid a full-time salary and provided additional monetary assistance for student loans. McLeroy is sponsored through the generous support of Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Southern Company.

Introduction to Alabama Appleseed

McLeroy began her journey with Alabama Appleseed during a project with her Public Interest Lawyering class taught by Glory McLaughlin at Alabama Law.

“My final group project for the class was focused on issues related to food funding in Alabama jails,” said McLeroy. “There was once a law that contained a loophole that would allow sheriffs to take leftover money—from the funds set aside for food for incarcerated people at the jail—and put it in their pockets. My group decided to connect with local law enforcement, circuit clerk offices, and legal nonprofits, including Appleseed, to create a class presentation bringing attention to this issue and others like it. This experience was one of my first interactions with Appleseed.”

Following that experience, McLeroy’s relationship with Appleseed bloomed as she had the opportunity to work as one of their legal interns the summer after her 2L year.

“At Appleseed, I wrote the first draft of a state habeas petition for a client,” said McLeroy. “Appleseed represents older people who are incarcerated, who are currently serving life without the possibility of parole under the Habitual Felony Offender Act—which is Alabama’s ‘three strikes’ law. The ‘three strikes’ law was amended in the early 2000s after these folks were sentenced, so, they wouldn’t be serving these life sentences under today’s current law.”

McLeroy’s time advocating for incarcerated individuals at Appleseed inspired her to continue that work by applying for an Equal Justice Works Fellowship. While doing research for an Appleseed client, she noticed sentencing disparities affecting Black Alabamians incarcerated in Alabama prisons.

“I was working on this specific petition, and I started looking at publicly available data and noticed staggering age and racial disparities,” said McLeroy. “Black Alabamians make up 25% of the state’s population, but when you look at who’s serving life with or without parole sentences in Alabama, more than 65% of those folks are Black.”

She continued, “Nearly half of incarcerated Alabamians over the age of 50 are serving a life sentence. When you look at people in Alabama prisons who are younger than 50, only 12% of those folks are serving a life sentence.”

Looking Forward

Over the next two years with Alabama Appleseed, McLeroy will work as an attorney directly representing her clients in state habeas proceedings. She will advocate for the rights of older, incarcerated Black Alabamians whose life with or without parole sentences are based on laws that have since been reformed or abolished entirely. Without diligent advocacy funded through the fellowship, these clients and their claims would likely have been overlooked.

Her project will focus on four main steps: research, representation, reentry and reform. She will analyze data and work to find representation for eligible clients seeking release, assist in developing policies for reform and help facilitate connections between formerly incarcerated people and reentry services.

“For some incarcerated individuals, this will be their first opportunity to speak with a lawyer since the direct appeal of their conviction,” said McLeroy.

During her fellowship, McLeroy aims to help address these challenges by working with Appleseed and other Alabama organizations to provide formerly incarcerated individuals with resources and support to help them successfully re-enter into society. Aside from advocating for individuals, McLeroy’s fellowship will support similar Second Look legislation initiatives—where a prison sentence is reevaluated after a certain period of time has been served.

At the conclusion of her fellowship, McLeroy hopes to have helped improve the lives of individuals living in Alabama who may have been once forgotten.

“As someone who grew up in Alabama, I’ve always loved this State and the people who live here. During my time in law school, I looked for something that allowed me to help make this State better for all Alabamians— working to end policies that overburden particularly marginalized communities—and so this project originated from that desire to play a role in improving the things I saw around me in this place that I love,” said McLeroy.

She continued, “I’m incredibly grateful for the Alabama Law community—I would not have gotten the fellowship without the help of so many of the folks here. I am especially appreciative of Glory McLaughlin, Anil Mujumdar, and Courtney Cross, who each put in many hours of their own time meeting with me about the project, strategizing with me as I prepared my application, preparing me for my interview, and offering sage guidance and support whenever I needed it.”

To learn more about McLeroy’s fellowship, please go to:

To find out more about Alabama Appleseed’s mission to help incarcerated individuals, please go to:

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Written by: Callie Jackson

The University of Alabama School of Law strives to remain neutral on issues of public policy. The Law School’s communications team may facilitate interviews or share opinions expressed by faculty, staff, students, or other individuals regarding policy matters. However, those opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of the Law School, the University, or affiliated leadership.