Faculty & Staff
Aderson Francois is a Professor of Law and the Director of the Civil Rights clinic, and the Voting Rights Institute. Prior to joining the Georgetown faculty, Professor Francois directed the Civil Rights Clinic at Howard University School of Law, where he also taught Constitutional Law, Federal Civil Rights, and Supreme Court Jurisprudence. His scholarly interests include voting rights, education law, and the history of slavery and Reconstruction. His practice experience encompasses federal trial and appellate litigation concerning equal protection in education, employment discrimination, voting rights, marriage equality, and the right to a fair criminal trial. Professor Francois received his J.D. from New York University School and clerked for the late Honorable A. Leon Higginbotham, Jr., Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In 2008, the Transition Team of President Barack Obama appointed Professor Francois Lead Agency Reviewer for the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He has provided pro bono death penalty representation to inmates before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, served as a Special Assistant in with the United States Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., and practiced commercial litigation in the New York Offices of Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton &Garrison. He has testified before Congress on civil rights issues and drafted numerous briefs to the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of California, the Supreme Court of Iowa, and Maryland’s highest court. Before joining Howard’s faculty, Professor François was the Assistant Director of the Lawyering Program at New York University School of Law.
Heather Abraham is a supervising attorney and clinical teaching fellow in the Civil Rights Clinic.
She began her legal career as a judicial clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan for District Judges Gordon J. Quist and Robert J. Jonker. She then clerked in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for the Honorable Richard A. Griffin.
In 2016, Heather crowdfunded an innovative public interest fellowship through Equal Justice Works to combat rural homelessness and housing discrimination. As a fellow, she defended tenants against unlawful eviction and launched a problem-solving “Community Outreach Court” serving people experiencing homelessness stuck in a debtor’s cycle. In 2018, the Michigan courts honored Heather with the Robert P. Griffin award for her contributions to the judicial system. As a fellow, she found her passion for teaching in training pro bono attorneys.
Heather earned her J.D. and Master of Public Policy degree in housing and community development from the University of Minnesota and B.A. from Kalamazoo College in Michigan. In law school, she gained a breadth of legal experience as a legal intern for the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, a law clerk at the Federal Election Commission, and a student attorney at Legal Services of South Central Michigan and the Minneapolis Legal Aid Society. She also served as a research assistant to Professor Myron Orfield in the Institute on Race & Poverty (now the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity), drafting and editing complex administrative comments on Fair Housing Act compliance.
Heather has spent her life engaged in public affairs. She has worked on political campaigns at nearly all levels of government and worked for the U.S. Senate as legislative staff member to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. Beginning in 2005, she served in the United States Peace Corps in Guatemala, where she helped rebuild the post-civil war municipal government in Huehuetenango.
Zina Makar is a clinical teaching fellow in the Civil Rights Clinic. Before joining Georgetown Law, Makar taught at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where she co-founded and co-directed the Pretrial Justice Clinic, a clinic that serves indigent persons wrongfully incarcerated prior to trial. During her time at Baltimore Law, Makar was recognized for her work and advocacy to advance bail reform in Maryland and was the 2017 recipient of the Baltimore City Bar Association’s Public Interest Attorney of the Year Award. Makar’s scholarly interests include criminal procedure, pretrial rights and plea bargaining.
Prior to teaching, Makar was an Open Society Institute Fellow from 2014 – 2016. During her fellowship Makar created the Pipeline to Habeas program, which the Baltimore City Office of the Public Defender now uses as a model to challenge the wrongful pretrial detention of indigent persons. Makar’s project focused on revitalizing the use of the writ of habeas corpus in the pretrial context to secure release for her clients. Makar’s program was used by the Office the Public Defender to obtain the pretrial release of 101 protestors arrested after the death of Freddie Gray.
Makar received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law and received her Bachelor of Science in Business and Government and Politics from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Maria Islam is the clinic office manager for the Civil Rights Clinic where she manages the day-to-day operations of the clinic. After receiving a B.A. in International Studies and a minor in Law and Society from American University, she started working at Georgetown Law as a faculty assistant with faculty support. Maria has interned at the U.S. House of Representatives, Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, DC Volunteer Lawyer’s Project, the U.S. Department of Justice, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association and various law firms.