Novella Coleman is a staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California, where she works on a variety of issues including racial justice, religious freedom, and criminal justice.
Novella is lead counsel in Phillips v. State of California, a challenge to the systemic denial of Fresno County indigent defendants’ right to counsel. She also worked on All of Us or None v. Bowen and Scott v. Bowen, cases challenging an unlawful state regulation disenfranchising individuals sentenced under California’s 2011 Criminal Justice Realignment Act. In Scott, the court ruled that Californians convicted of a felony and on mandatory supervision or post-release community supervision have “the same right to register to vote and to vote as all other” Californians.
Novella’s racial justice work includes a civil rights administrative complaint against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) challenging discriminatory hair searches targeting Black women passengers, and an amicus brief in United States v. Mumphrey, a case challenging San Francisco police officers and federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents’ targeting of Black people in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood for federal drug law enforcement.
Novella’s religious freedom cases include Al-Mowafak v. Trump, a challenge to the executive order banning refugees and nationals of majority-Muslim countries; Titman v. Clovis Unified School District, a case challenging the school district’s refusal to let a Native American student wear an eagle feather on his cap at his high school graduation ceremony; Chamberlain v. Mims, a challenge to the Fresno County Sheriff’s religious diet policy; and Lavagetto v. Calaveras County, a challenge to a county resolution endorsing a specific religion.
Prior to joining the ACLU as a staff attorney, Novella focused on racial justice and equal protection law as the Judge Constance Baker Motley Civil Rights Fellow at the Equal Justice Society. Before that Novella worked on criminal justice and drug policy reform as an intern at the national ACLU’s former Drug Law Reform Project and as a fellow at the Northern California affiliate.
Novella earned her law degree at Harvard Law School, where she was named an Irving R. Kaufman Fellow based on her demonstrated potential for an outstanding career in public service. At Stanford University she earned her M.A. in Education and her undergraduate degree in mathematics and philosophy. At Stanford she was named a Forchic Fellow based on her commitment to students in underserved areas.