Novella Coleman served as the Equal Justice Society Judge Constance Baker Motley Civil Rights Fellow from October 2012 until May 2013. In June 2013, she joined the ACLU Fresno office.
Novella was previously a criminal justice and drug policy fellow at the ACLU of Northern California, where she focused on the implementation of California’s Public Safety Realignment Legislation. In her advocacy she encouraged counties to utilize evidence-based alternatives to incarceration as they assume responsibility for low-level offenders who were previously under the supervision of the state. Her work also included identifying and monitoring litigation issues related to California’s implementation of Realignment.
Prior to her fellowship at the ACLU of Northern California, Novella was a law clerk at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. She worked on impact litigation and policy advocacy affecting domestic workers.
Only five years ago, Novella was a teacher at a Seattle private school where she and other Black teachers and students experienced hostile treatment based on racial stereotypes.
“After being systematically silenced whenever I demanded a response to this discrimination, I finally had the opportunity to be heard when I and another black teacher filed an employment discrimination claim against the school,” said Novella. “While I definitely encountered challenges as I looked to the legal system for justice, I also felt liberated from the hopelessness that I had experienced for a year. This led me to pursue a career in civil rights advocacy.”
Novella graduated from Harvard Law School in May 2011. She was honored as the Dean’s Scholar in Child Advocacy Clinic and as an Irving R. Kaufman Fellow (awarded for demonstrated potential for outstanding career in public service), worked as an Equal Justice America 2010 Summer Fellow, and participated in the Black Law Students’ Association Learning and Mentorship Program.
At Harvard Law she honed her legal research and writing skills while accumulating more than 1,500 pro bono hours at various clinical placements where her case work exposed her to several areas of the law, including habeas corpus, civil rights, criminal law, immigration, and child welfare and education law. She also interned at the Boston Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, where she worked on discrimination claims involving employment, housing, and other areas of public accommodations.
As a 3L, she clerked at the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Ala., where she performed research and drafted motions and petitions related to death penalty defense, constitutional merits of restrictions to attorney communication with a client, prosecutorial misconduct and jury instructions.
She received her M.A. in Education from Stanford University where she received the School of Education Cosby Fellow award (for commitment to students in underserved areas).
Novella’s B.A.S. in Mathematics and Philosophy is also from Stanford, where she received the Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence, the Mustard Seed Foundation Bakke Scholar (awarded for development of Christian leadership), and the 2000-2001 Female NAACP Stanford Chapter Member of the Year. She was active in the Stanford Gospel Choir and the NAACP Stanford Chapter. She was also a Research Assistant in Race and Social Justice in the Psychology Department.
Novella lives in Oakland, speaks Spanish, and enjoys music, pro football and cinnamon.