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Law grad focuses on homelessness, social justice

Ezra Graham Lintner earns J.D. from DePaul University College of Law

Ezra Lintner
Ezra Lintner is a "social justice warrior" who championed for the rights of vulnerable communities during their studies at DePaul College of Law. (Photo by Claire Sloss)

CHICAGO — DePaul University’s mission to serve others has always meant something special to Ezra Graham ​Lintner. During their studies at the College of Law, Lintner has advocated for the legal rights of people experiencing homelessness and has increased awareness of social justice issues among classmates. As Lintner and 272 of their classmates graduate from the College of Law this May, the coronavirus pandemic has brought into even sharper focus the purpose of this work.

“What has made me so passionate, above all else, is that I can provide support to communities by both preventing the law from being used against them to their detriment, and also using the law to make things better,” Lintner said. 

Linter is moved by the idea that dignity is inherent and believes that those who work in the legal profession should acknowledge and uplift the dignity of the people they serve. 

Using the law as a force for good
During an 11-month internship at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Lintner was a member of the Law Project and directly represented clients, conducted legal research on current and potential cases, and engaged in community outreach. 

“One branch of the coalition’s multi-pronged approach, the Law Project focuses on legal issues that stem out of homelessness, including public benefits, criminal law, civil rights and consumer protection,” Lintner said. 

When working with people living in a tent city that was being torn down in Chicago, Lintner was able to help people keep their possessions. 

“That felt like a huge accomplishment to say, ‘I’m here, and no you’re not taking this person’s tent. I’m here as part of a team who is willing and able to legally represent them,’” said Lintner. “In the scope of the world, it’s not an impact on a monumental scale, but it can mean everything to that person.” 

COVID-19 and the future
The novel coronavirus pandemic had an impact on Lintner’s work during the last few months of their internship at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. 

“I saw things go from bad to potentially worse for people experiencing homelessness, but Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and others are putting all their effort into supporting those who live in tent cities and massive shelters,” said Lintner. 

Working to help people access medical attention and a space to sleep that isn’t with hundreds of others is a top priority for advocates working with populations experiencing homelessness. 

“The coalition knows there are tons of empty hotel rooms and houses in the city, so the coalition, amongst others, has been pushing the city to take better care of people experiencing homelessness right now,” Lintner said. 

Lintner has been hired as a staff attorney for a civil legal aid organization in the San Francisco Bay Area and will be assisting Bay Area residents with public benefits, tenants’ rights, eviction defense, civil rights, immigration and more. 

Extracurriculars with a social justice focus 
While at DePaul, Lintner was a member of the Public Interest Law Association as auction co-chair, raising money for student scholarships, before becoming the co-president. 

“Ezra is a social justice warrior and cares deeply about helping build stronger communities and a better ​world, and they organized the auction to raise funds for their fellow students who wanted to work in critical public interest summer internship,” said Shaye Loughlin, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law​. 

Lintner’s passion for writing landed them a position as the Article Sections Editor for the DePaul College of Law Journal for Social Justice. 

“I was also involved in our National Lawyers Guild, and amongst other things, we held an event called Disorientation for first-year law students to debrief about what it means to be to be in law school after the first few weeks, and to help students find an opportunity to root their experiences in social justice,” Lintner said. 

Working closely with Maria Vertuno, assistant dean in the College of Law, Lintner spearheaded the Preferred Name Project, an initiative that ensures DePaul uses the correct and affirming name when communicating to, or about a transgender student. 

“For many of our students, their preferred name and given name are two very different things, and Ezra saw a need to bring a number of administrative and academic units across campus in line with best practices in terms of the student name used in communications,” said Vertuno. 

Lintner said a passion for social justice and legal aid work brought them to law school and this interest will ​continue into a professional career. 

“Providing legal education to communities as a tool and resource, intervening whenever there is injustice, and serving as someone people in communities can depend on are things I’m incredibly passionate about,” said Lintner. “Ezra is wise beyond their years in knowing how to be a strong and effective advocate, which will serve them well as a lawyer,” said Vertuno. 

DePaul University’s College of Law is located in Chicago’s Loop and is committed to developing legal professionals who understand the bigger picture and their place in it. DePaul Law graduates are connected to an alumni network of more than 16,000 — more than 10,500 of whom live in the Chicago area. For more information, visit

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