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Newsworthy

Alumni Spotlight: Maia (Brewton) Spotts '94 and Emily Berger '97
Maia (Brewton) Spotts '94 and Emily Berger '97

Emily Berger ’97 became passionate about working in the foster care system while receiving her J.D. and M.S.W. from Rutgers Law School – Newark. She was able to intern at Inwood House, working with pregnant and parenting teens in the foster care system, who were often getting their own children detained from their care. After receiving an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to create a program at The Alliance for Children’s Rights to assist youth aging out of the foster care system, she continued to see the same pattern: young people, traumatized by their own childhood and lack of permanent connections, were having their children taken by the system that had raised them. She quickly determined the best career for her would be found at Los Angeles, Dependency Lawyers, Inc., (LADL) the country’s largest non-profit legal organization committed to defending parents and legal guardians facing allegations of abuse or neglect.

Emily began her career at LADL in the fall of 2009. Imagine her complete surprise when, in the fall of 2017, she discovered that a fellow Brentwood alum, Maia (Brewton) Spotts ’94, had been hired by her law firm.

Maia (Brewton) Spotts ’94 took a less direct route to her current position. After graduating with a B.A. in Theatre Studies from Yale, Maia worked as an actor (and occasional bartender) in NYC and Los Angeles, while becoming increasingly aware of and alarmed by the ever-present impact of systemic racism, particularly the collateral consequences of incarceration. Eventually, the desire to properly educate herself on the law, as a tool of change, overwhelmed the acting bug. After graduating from Southwestern Law School’s 2-year J.D. program, Maia worked as a Senior Law Clerk in the Major Crimes Division of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, until relocating to NYC. There, while exploring the city with twin toddlers, Maia shifted focus to legal policy, specifically in the realm of criminal justice. Maia worked with a number of policy groups, including the Children’s Justice Center, the Vera Institute of Justice, and the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, on reforming juvenile incarceration, gun policy, domestic violence response, community-based alternatives to policing, and legislative practices. Upon her inevitable return to Los Angeles, Maia sought out a job that would allow her to more directly empower individuals trying to navigate a harsh legal system. LADL turned out to be just the place.

Both Emily and Maia have had the opportunity to create California case law that helps to protect parents and young people from having their families disrupted by a too-often callous, racist, and classist governmental agency. In the summer of 2020, Emily was promoted to Law Firm Director at which time she promoted Maia to be one of the Supervising Attorneys in the firm, mentoring and training the next generation of zealous defense attorneys.

Emily and Maia feel it is no coincidence that they are both Brentwood Theater Company (BTC) alums– on a daily basis they use the improvisational and creative skills imparted by Judith Lyons to everyone lucky enough to learn from her.

Emily will never forget when Ms. Lyons told her “your voice carries, Emily” – now instead of causing Ms. Lyons grief by speaking backstage, she is using her voice to amplify the disenfranchised parents of Los Angeles County.

Maia can reassure everyone that her role as Nurse Ratched in the 1993 production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has never informed her practice or her parenting.

If you are interested in learning more about LADL or dependency law, feel free to email Emily at bergere@ladlinc.org or Maia at spottsm@ladlinc.org, or check out www.ladlinc.org.

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