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Staff

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Paul Bland

Executive Director

F. Paul Bland, Jr., Executive Director, manages and leads Public Justice’s legal and foundation staff, guiding the organization’s litigation docket and other advocacy. Paul has argued and won more than 40 cases that led to reported decisions for consumers, employees or whistleblowers, including…

one victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, and has won one or more cases in six of the U.S. Courts of Appeals and the high courts of ten different states. Paul’s Twitter handle is @FPBland.

Paul has worked with the organization since 1997, as a staff attorney until becoming Executive Director in 2014. He has presented at more than 100 continuing legal education or professional conferences in more than 25 states; has testified in both houses of Congress, several state legislatures and administrative agencies; has been quoted in more than 100 periodicals throughout the country and has appeared in several radio and TV stories. Most recently, Paul successfully argued before the Supreme Court in Home Depot, U.S.A. v. Jackson, 139 S. Ct. 1743 (2019) (neither the general removal statute nor the Class Action Fairness Act permits removal to federal court by a third-party counterclaim defendant).

Recognition of Paul from other organizations includes:

  • In 2006, named recipient of the National Consumer Law Center’s Vern Countryman Award, which “honors the accomplishments of an exceptional consumer attorney who, through the practice of consumer law, has contributed significantly to the well being of vulnerable consumers.”
  • Recipient of The Pound Institute’s 2017 Appellate Advocacy Award, “which strives to recognize excellence in appellate advocacy in America and those who achieve it.”
  • In 2016, he received the Justice Janie L. Shores Trailblazer Award from the Litigation Counsel of America.
  • In 2013, he was the recipient of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition’s “Legal Champion” Award.
  • In 2010, he received the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s “Champion of Justice” Award.
  • Paul is a former co-chair and member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
  • He was also the 2002 San Francisco co-Trial Lawyer of the Year and the 2001 and 2009 Maryland Trial Lawyer of the Year.

 

Paul successfully argued several appeals where courts rejected claims that various federal laws preempted state laws that would benefit consumers: Aguayo v. U.S. Bank, 653 F.3d 912 (9th Cir. 2011) (National Bank Act did not preempt state debt collection law); Epps v. JPMorgan Chase Bank 675 F.3d 314 (4th Cir. 2012) (National Bank Act did not preempt state debt collection law); Singh v. Prudential Health Care Plan, Inc., 335 F.3d 278 (4th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 1073 (2003) (claims under Maryland HMO Act were within ERISA’s Savings Clause and did not conflict with ERISA’s Enforcement Clause); Ting v. AT&T, 319 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 53 (2003) (Federal Communication Act does not preempt state contract law); McKee v. AT&T, 191 P.3d 845 (Wash. 2008) (same); Sweeney v. Savings First Mortgage, 897 A.2d 1037 (Md. 2005) (federal law does not preempt state statute limiting mortgage brokers’ fees); and Wells v. Chevy Chase Bank, 832 A.2d 812 (Md. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 983 (2004) (Home Owners Lending Act does not preempt state contract law claims against credit card issuer).

Paul has also argued and won several appeals where courts limited abuses of mandatory arbitration clauses: A-1 Premium Acceptance, Inc. v. Hunter, 557 S.W. 3d 923 (Mo. 2018) (loan contract precluded appointment of a substitute arbitrator for the organization named in the mandatory arbitration clause; original organization stopped handling cases due to corruption investigation), Lee v. Intelius, Inc., 705 F.3d 1129 (9th Cir. 2013) (arbitration clause not enforceable where “even an exceptionally careful consumer would not have understood” that they were agreeing to arbitration by clicking on icon on website); Murphy v. DirecTV, Inc., — 724 F.3d 1218 —-, (9th Cir. July 30, 2013) (non-party to arbitration clause was not entitled to enforce it against consumer); Gibson v. Nye Frontier Ford, Inc., 205 P.3d 1091 (Ak. 2009) (selective appeal provision unconscionable; case would only be sent to arbitration if employer would pay all substantial costs of arbitration); Cordova v. World Finance Corp., 208 P.3d 901 (N.M. April 29, 2009) (one-sided arbitration provision unconscionable); Toppings v. Meritech Mortgage, 569 S.E.2d 149 (W.Va. 2002) (co-argued with Dan Hedges of Mountain State Justice) (where a lender’s arbitration clause designates an arbitration forum that is paid through a case volume fee system, and the arbitration forum’s income is dependent on continued referrals from the creditor, this so impinges on neutrality and fundamental fairness that the clause is unconscionable and unenforceable); Raymond James Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Saldukas, 896 So.2d 707 (Fl. 2005) (broker waived right to compel arbitration, even though investor proved no prejudice); Lewallen v. Green Tree Servicing, LLC, 487 F.3d 1085 (8th Cir. 2007) (also finding waiver of right to compel arbitration by a lender).Larkin v. New Century Auto Sales Inc., No. 12-13917, 2014 WL 29119, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 350 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 3, 2014) (arbitration agreement was not validly formed under Michigan law, because it violated the state’s “single document rule” for retail installment sales contracts).

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, Paul had argued and won a number of appeals where courts struck down contract terms banning consumers from bringing class actions, including: Ting v. AT&T, 319 F.3d 1126 (9th Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 53 (2003) (also striking from AT&T’s arbitration clause secrecy term and terms imposing excessive costs upon consumers); Homa v Am. Express Co., 558 F3rd 225 (3rd Cir. 2009); Discover Bank v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (Boehr), 113 P.3d 1100 (Cal. 2005) (co-argued with co-counsel Brian Strange); Scott v. Cingular Wireless, 161 P.3d 1000 (Wash. 2007); Fiser v. Dell Computer Corp., 188 P.3d 1215 (N.M. 2008) (argued as amici, co-argued with plaintiffs’ counsel Austin Tighe).

His other successful oral arguments include the following decisions:

  • United States v. United States ex rel Thornton, 207 F.3d 769 (5th Cir. 2000) (relators under qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act are entitled to receive a statutory share of the value of some non-cash proceeds of a settlement between the U.S. and the defendants).
  • Dua v. Comcast/Harvey v. Kaiser, 805 A.2d 1061 (Md. 2002) (statute that retroactively stripped consumers of accrued cause of action violated several provisions of state constitution).
  • Riemer v. Columbia Medical Plan, 358 Md. 222, 747 A.2d 677 (Md. 2000) (unanimously holding that the Maryland HMO Act prohibits HMOs from pursuing members for subrogation of recoveries members receive from third parties, on the grounds that HMOs offer pre-paid care and may not charge consumers a second time for such care.)
  • Rhodes v. R+L Carriers, Inc., 491 Fed. Appx. 579 (6th Cir. 2012) (employment discrimination claim pled with sufficient specificity to meet Iqbal standards)
  • Chisolm v. TranSouth Financial Corp., 184 F.R.D. 556 (E.D.Va. 1999) (certifying class in RICO case involving repossession car churning scheme)

 

Paul is a 1986 cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School and a 1983 magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, where he received a B.A. in Government. Prior to coming to Public Justice, Paul was Chief Nominations Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and worked for nearly seven years with Kieron F. Quinn in Baltimore, Maryland, where he handled consumer and toxic tort class actions, prosecuted qui tam suits and defended libel suits.

ATTORNEYS

Tammy Sun

Managing Attorney

Tammy Sun is the Managing Attorney at Public Justice, based in the Washington, DC office.  Tammy has worked as a civil rights attorney litigating prison conditions cases in the South and served as a public defender in Washington, DC and Oregon.  Prior to joining Public Justice…

Tammy managed and directed programs at the Pro Bono Institute and Equal Justice Works focused on increasing access to justice for vulnerable communities and developing new generations of public interest lawyers.

Following law school, Tammy was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to work at the Southern Center for Human Rights where she founded the Juvenile Justice Project to address the over-incarceration of children in juvenile detention centers and prisons.

As a visiting professor, Tammy has taught criminal law, criminal procedure, and juvenile justice courses at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Tammy earned a B.A. and M.A. at Stanford University and a J.D. at Yale Law School.  She clerked for Judge Reginald Lindsay of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

Jessica Culpepper

Director, Food Project

Jessica Culpepper is Director of Public Justice’s Food Project.  Before joining Public Justice, Jessica was a Barker Fellow and Staff Attorney at the Humane Society of the United States in the Farm Animal Welfare Division. There she worked primarily on fighting pollution from…

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and advocating for federal and state policy reform to advance sustainable food systems and the humane treatment of animals. Jessica also defended constitutional challenges to state laws protecting the treatment of dogs in puppy mills and preventing the practice of cockfighting.

Jessica is a 2007 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where she won the Outstanding Clinic Achievement Award in the Domestic Violence Clinic and helped establish the Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspective. She received her B.A. in history and political science from Warren Wilson College in 2004, where she won the Alton P. Pfaff Award for Most Outstanding Member of the Graduating Class.

David Muraskin

Litigation Director, Food Project

David S. Muraskin is a Food Project Senior Attorney with Public Justice in Washington, D.C. He focuses on impact litigation to promote sustainable alternatives to the industrial animal agriculture system. His docket consists of constitutional, consumer, worker, and environmental cases. Of particular…

note, he is lead counsel in two of the “Ag-gag” cases—a series of challenges to state laws that penalize investigations of factory farming. In that role, he secured the first appellate court decision holding that those investigations are protected by the First Amendment, and obtained a judgment striking down portions of the Wyoming Ag-Gag statutes.

David also represents ranchers, farmers, and consumers who are being exploited by corporate consolidation in the food industry. For example, he represents the nation’s largest association of independent ranchers in suits concerning the advertising and labeling of beef. And, he is counsel in two antitrust cases on behalf of poultry growers against Tyson and other integrators.

David speaks regularly on the legal and structural barriers to a more fair, transparent, and equitable food system. He also served as an Adjunct Professor at Vermont Law School, where he taught on food justice, and is currently an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches on the procedural and strategic considerations in complex civil litigation.

Prior to joining Public Justice, David prosecuted first-of-its-kind qui tam litigation, served as the Alan Morrison Supreme Court Assistance Project Fellow with Public Citizen, and clerked for Judge James L. Dennis on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

David graduated from Stanford Law School with Distinction, has a Master’s in Forced Migration from Oxford University, St. Antony’s College, and received a B.A. from the University of Chicago with highest honors.

Surbhi Sarang

Staff Attorney, Food Project

Surbhi Sarang (she/her) joined Public Justice’s Food Project as a staff attorney in 2022. Before joining Public Justice, Surbhi worked on food and agricultural policy as an Associate Attorney at Earthjustice with the Sustainable Food & Farming program. Surbhi has spent her career working…

on environmental issues.

Previously, she fought for stronger climate and clean air protections at the Environmental Defense Fund and worked alongside communities in NYC on environmental justice campaigns as a fellow at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.

She is deeply committed to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the environmental movement and increasing the movement’s accountability to impacted communities. Surbhi is a graduate of Oberlin College and Columbia Law School and is based in Colorado.

Leslie Bailey

Director, Debtors' Prison Project

Leslie A. Bailey is Director of the organization’s Debtors’ Prison Project, in Public Justice’s Oakland, California office. Leslie litigates complex public interest cases and appeals involving civil rights and liberties, consumer protection, and court secrecy. She has briefed, argued, and won cases…

in state and federal appellate courts across the country and has testified in both houses of Congress.  Leslie has spoken on court secrecy, private probation, class actions, ethics, and forced arbitration at over three dozen national and state conferences and CLEs.

Civil Rights & Criminal Justice:  Leslie is dedicated to fighting the criminalization of poverty and the jailing and financial exploitation of low-income criminal defendants. Leslie is the head of Public Justice’s Debtors’ Prison Project, and she is currently counsel in Carter v. City of Montgomerya putative class action in federal court in Alabama challenging the unconstitutional practices of the City, its municipal court, and for-profit probation company Judicial Correction Services. The court in Carter has denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiffs’ Due Process, Equal Protection, and Sixth Amendment rights were violated and that a reasonable jury could hold the City, probation company, and a contract defense attorney liable.

She was proud to be a member of the trial team in Hankin v. City of Seattle, in which a jury found Seattle liable for violating the Fourth Amendment rights of 200 peaceful protesters.

Court Secrecy: As one of the attorneys in Public Justice’s Court Secrecy Project, Leslie testified before subcommittees of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives about how secret settlements and sealed court records threaten public health and safety. She was interviewed by Andrea Cambron on the radio show EnlightenMe about how NDAs and arbitration agreements have been used to silence survivors of sexual assault and harassment–and how the #MeToo Movement and pending legislation can change that.

Leslie has represented public interest groups in successfully blocking corporate efforts to hide evidence of wrongdoing through secrecy orders, including Remington Rifle Co. and Cooper Tires. Leslie was co-counsel with Jennifer Bennett in Chrysler Group v. The Center for Auto Safety, in which the Ninth Circuit ruled that documents containing information bearing on the safety of millions of Chrysler vehicles must be unsealed unless the company can demonstrate that compelling reasons for secrecy outweigh the public’s presumptive right of access to court records. Chrysler’s petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied, but the district court refused to unseal almost all the documents, and unfortunately that decision was affirmed in an unpublished decision by a panel of the Ninth Circuit.

Leslie participated in an invitation-only meeting at Yale Law School’s Collaboration for Research Integrity and Transparency about best practices to ensure public access to health and safety information in medical product litigation.

Consumer Rights & Payday Lending: Leslie served as co-chair of the Board of Directors of NACA, the National Association for Consumer Advocates, from 2016-2018, and as a board member from 2012-2016. She has been counsel in several consumer rights cases, including lead counsel on appeal in Rosas v. AMG Services, Inc., a putative class action against an internet payday lender in California state court. The defendant—a payday lender that charged over 700% interest on short-term loans and which was controlled by notorious kingpin Scott Tucker when the loans were made—claims that its nominal affiliation with a Native American tribe entitles it to share in the tribe’s immunity from state law. The California Court of Appeals rejected the defendant lender’s efforts to escape liability, and the case is now proceeding in the trial court.

The “tribal immunity” defense is an increasingly popular defense strategy among payday lenders seeking ways to continue charging exorbitant interest on short-term consumer loans while evading state consumer protection laws. Leslie conceived and directed the creation of a first-of-its kind report on tribal lending, “Stretching the Envelope of Tribal Sovereign Immunity?: An Investigation of the Relationships Between Online Payday Lenders and Native American Tribes.”  This 200-page report, which was funded by a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, features the most comprehensive research and analysis done to date on the relationships between payday lenders and tribes.

Forced Arbitration: Leslie also has extensive experience opposing the enforcement of unfair arbitration clauses in consumer contracts. In April 2019, she won a unanimous victory in the South Carolina Supreme Court on behalf of victims of insurance scams. The court held that the defendant insurance companies could not to force their claims into arbitration based on a clause in a contract between those companies and another defendant, where the plaintiffs were not parties and had never agreed to arbitrate. Leslie’s oral argument can be viewed here. She also argued and won Sgouros v. TransUnion Corp., in which the Seventh Circuit struck down the arbitration agreement of one of the largest corporations in the country on contract formation grounds; and FIA Card Services v. Weaver, a in which the Louisiana Supreme Court held that a debt collector cannot enforce an arbitration award against a consumer without proving the consumer agreed to arbitration.

Leslie has also successfully opposed certiorari in several cases, most recently TAMKO v. Hobbs, in which the Missouri Court of Appeals held that consumers did not agree to arbitration merely by keeping a product, where the corporation failed to provide any evidence that it had given the consumers reasonable notice that they’d lose their right to go to court if they kept the product; and Beverly Enterprises v. Cyr, in which the Eleventh Circuit held that where an arbitration clause provides for arbitration “exclusively” before a forum that has been barred from conducting consumer arbitrations, the Federal Arbitration Act does not require a court to override the parties’ intent and designate a substitute forum.

Leslie authored Public Justice’s comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on why the Trump Administration should not cave to the nursing home industry’s demand to be able to force wrongful death claims out of court and into secret arbitration.

Personal: In her spare time, Leslie is the lead singer of Oakland band Lucy & The Long Haul. She received her J.D. cum laude from New York University School of Law and her B.A. in Philosophy cum laude from Claremont McKenna College.

Admissions

U.S. Supreme Court

California Supreme Court

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California

Brian Hardingham

Senior Attorney, Debtors' Prison Project

Brian Hardingham is a Senior Attorney with the Debtors’ Prison Project. He is based in the Oakland, California office of Public Justice. Before joining Public Justice, Brian clerked for Judge Jane Stranch on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Cormac Carney in the Central District…

of California. Brian also spent a year and a half doing pretrial and trial work on drug and medical device multidistrict litigation cases as an associate at Weitz & Luxenberg P.C. in New York.

Brian was a member of the inaugural class at University of California, Irvine School of Law, and received his J.D. in 2012. As a student, he interned at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the ACLU of Southern California, was an active member of his school’s Environmental Law Clinic, and worked as a summer associate at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, a New York firm that focuses on civil rights litigation. In his third year of law school, Brian was a member of UC Irvine’s international human rights clinic, where he helped to prepare Professor Paul Hoffman for oral argument in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum—a case concerning corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute—before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Before attending law school, Brian was a senior investigator at New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board and a field organizer for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

Adele Kimmel

Director, Students’ Civil Rights Project

Adele P. Kimmel, Director of Public Justice’s Students’ Civil Rights Project, is based in the DC Headquarters of Public Justice. Since joining the law firm in 1994, Adele has worked on wide range of civil rights cases, representing prisoners and immigrant detainees who were beaten, sexually assaulted…

denied adequate medical care, and killed; women intercollegiate athletes seeking to reinstate their wrongfully eliminated teams; coaches of female interscholastic and intercollegiate sports who were fired in retaliation for voicing concerns about gender inequities in their schools’ athletic programs; students who were denied athletic scholarships based on their race; women who hit the “glass ceiling” in their workplace; employees who were denied promotions based on their race; student survivors of campus sexual assault whose schools denied them equal access to educational opportunities; and students whose schools failed to protect them from bullying by their peers.

Adele is a widely quoted authority on school bullying and Title IX issues. She is the head of Public Justice’s Anti-Bullying Campaign, which seeks to hold school districts and officials accountable for failing to protect students from bullying, make systemic changes in the ways that schools respond to bullying incidents, and educate others about bullying and the law.

Highlights from Adele’s successful litigation include:

• Representation of five Jewish students who suffered virulent anti-Semitic harassment in New York’s Pine Bush Central School District. The lawsuit, covered on the front page of the New York Times, alleged that the school district’s failure to respond appropriately to the students’ bullying complaints violated their constitutional and civil rights to be free from racial, ethnic, and religious harassment. After over three years of litigation, the school district agreed to pay $4.48 million to the students and make sweeping reforms to its policies, curriculum, and training. The settlement serves as a blueprint for what school districts across the country should do to prevent and address bullying.

• Representation of an Ohio high school student who suffered gender-based and anti-Semitic harassment by her peers, including death threats. The lawsuit alleged that the school district’s failure to address her complaints violated her constitutional and civil rights to be free from religious and sex discrimination. The school district agreed to pay her $500,000, revise its anti-bullying policies, and receive anti-bullying training from the U.S. Department of Education.

• Representation of the family of an immigrant detainee who died of penile cancer as a result of egregious medical neglect while he was in California and federal custody. After more than seven years of litigation in federal and state courts, the family received settlements totaling $3.2 million from the federal and state governments. The federal case, Castaneda v. United States, served as a catalyst for reforming the medical care provided to immigrant detainees and was featured in a joint investigative piece done by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes.

• Representation of two former coaches for women’s intercollegiate athletic teams at Florida Gulf Coast University who suffered retaliation after voicing concerns about gender inequities in the university’s athletic programs. Before discovery began, the university agreed to pay the coaches $3.4 million and hire an independent expert to assess and monitor its compliance with Title IX.

• Representation of a pretrial detainee beaten by prison guards and denied access to file a grievance. His federal civil rights lawsuit, Dillon v. Rogers, was dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Adele successfully argued on appeal that the suit should be reinstated, resulting in an important decision on the procedures courts should follow when determining the availability of administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

Adele is the 2016 recipient of the Sandra H. Robinson Women’s Caucus Award, given to “trailblazing women attorneys” by the Trial Lawyers Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. She is a former Chair of the American Association for Justice’s Civil Rights Section and a longtime member of the Section’s Executive Board.

Adele received her B.A. degree with high honors from the University of Virginia in 1982, where she was an Echols Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, and a participant in the Philosophy Honors Program. She received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1985 and an M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Virginia in 1986, as part of a joint degree program. She is admitted to practice in California and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Public Justice, Adele was a principal in a mid-sized, private law firm in Washington, DC, where she represented plaintiffs in employment discrimination cases and litigated a wide variety of civil and commercial cases.

Alexandra Brodsky

Staff Attorney, Students' Civil Rights & Debtors' Prison

Alexandra Brodsky is a staff attorney at Public Justice. She litigates cases concerning civil rights abuses in schools and the criminal legal system with Public Justice’s Students’ Civil Rights Project and Debtors’ Prison Project. Alexandra’s recent and ongoing cases include…

  • Doe v. Fairfax County School Board, in which Alexandra successfully argued an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concerning Title IX’s “actual knowledge” standard, resulting in a powerful opinion ordering a new trial for a student victim of sexual assault; Alexandra currently serves as counsel of record in opposing the defendant’s cert petition
  • Doe v. Gwinnett County School District, in which Alexandra served as lead appellate counsel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on behalf of a girl of color suspended by her high school after she reported that she had been raped by a white classmate
  • Hyman v. Devlin, an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in which Alexandra and co-counsel defended a jury verdict against a police officer who unconstitutionally assisted a private debt collection through threats of violence
  • Carter v. City of Montgomery, a putative class action against public and private actors who engaged in a systemic practice of jailing low-income municipal court defendants too poor to pay traffic tickets and other fines, with significant briefing at the district court and the Eleventh Circuit
  • Snyder-Hill v. The Ohio State University, a set of cases (currently on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit) against the Ohio State University for its deliberate indifference to years of sexual abuse of student-athletes and others by a campus doctor, Richard Strauss
  • K.R. v. Duluth Public Schools Academy, a suit on behalf of Black children subjected to discriminatory discipline and a racially hostile environment at a public charter school
  • The Women’s Student Union v. U.S. Department of Education, an Administrative Procedure Act challenge to key portions of the Title IX sexual harassment regulation promulgated by the Trump Administration
  • Doe v. Crestwood School District, an administrative complaint against a Pennsylvania school district on behalf of a child subject to harassment and discriminatory discipline based on their gender identity
  • Conviser v. DePaul, a Title IX retaliation suit that the defendant has sought to dismiss on the basis that the plaintiff was an independent contractor
 

Before joining Public Justice, Alexandra clerked for the Honorable Marsha S. Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked to end discriminatory school push out at the National Women’s Law Center, where she was a Skadden Fellow. During and before law school, she served as a senior editor at Feministing.com and founding co-director of Know Your IX, a youth-led organization combatting gender violence in schools. For her work on sexual harassment, she received a Ms. Wonder Award from the Ms. Foundation and was named to POLITICO Magazine’s “50 Thinkers, Doers, and Visionaries” and Forward Magazine’s Forward 50.

Alexandra received her B.A. from Yale College and her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she received the Charles G. Albom Prize for excellence in appellate advocacy and the Reinhardt Fellowship for public interest law.

Alexandra is the author of Sexual Justice: Supporting Victims, Ensuring Due Process, and Resisting the Conservative Backlash (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt 2021) and the co-editor, with Rachel Kauder Nalebuff, of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future (The Feminist Press 2015). She has written for publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Nation, the Atlantic, the American Prospect, and Dissent. She is also the author of A Tale of Two Title IXs: Title IX Reverse Discrimination Law and Its Trans-Substantive Implications for Civil Rights, 55 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 754 (2021), with Dana Bolger and Sejal Singh; Against Taking Rape “Seriously”: The Case Against Mandatory Referral Laws for Campus Gender Violence, 53 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 131 (2018); “Rape-Adjacent”: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal, 32 Colum. J. Gender & L. 183 (2017); and A Rising Tide: Learning about Fair Process from Title IX, 66 J. Legal Educ. 822 (2017).

Alexandra is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and New York. She is also admitted to the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court; U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Sixth, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits; and the U.S. District Court for the District of D.C.

Leah Nicholls

Co-Director, Access to Justice Project

Leah M. Nicholls is Co-Director of the Access to Justice Project, working in Public Justice’s Washington, DC headquarters. Leah litigates high-impact civil public interest cases at the trial and appellate levels, including cases involving access to courts, court secrecy, consumer protection, and…

Public Justice’s Food Project. She has briefed, argued, and won cases in state and federal appellate courts across the country and spoken at numerous national and state conferences on topics such as arbitration, class certification, standing, court secrecy, consumer protection, and ag-gag laws.

Leah first joined Public Justice in 2012, serving as the Kazan-Budd Attorney from 2012 to 2014, Staff Attorney from 2014 to 2019, and Senior Attorney from 2019 to 2021. Prior to joining Public Justice, she was a senior staff attorney for civil rights and general public interest at Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Public Representation. Previously, she served as the Supreme Court Assistance Project Fellow at Public Citizen Litigation Group and clerked for Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill.

She has also taught Federal Courts and Appellate Advocacy as an adjunct law professor at Georgetown University Law Center and the University of the District of Columbia. Leah currently serves as a Consumer Fellow to the American Bar Association’s Consumer Financial Services Committee.

She earned her J.D. magna cum laude, Order of the Coif from Duke University Law School and her B.A. in History and Philosophy summa cum laude from Boston University. Leah has also received an L.L.M. in Advocacy from Georgetown Law, an L.L.M. in International and Comparative Law from Duke Law, and an M.A. in History from Boston University.

Leah is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia and Virginia (inactive). She is also admitted to the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court, eleven U.S. Courts of Appeals, and two U.S. District Courts.

Notable Cases

Lead counsel in the following appellate victories:

  • Smith v. GC Services Limited Partnership, 907 F.3d 495 (7th Cir. 2018) (debt collector waived any right to enforce arbitration agreement).
  • Gustavsen v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc., 903 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2018) (plaintiffs had standing to allege that manufacturers of prescription eyedrops packaged eyedrops in a way that forced consumers to waste medication in violation of state consumer law, but the claims were preempted by federal law).
  • Cottrell v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc., 874 F.3d 154 (3d Cir. 2017) (plaintiffs had standing to allege that manufacturers of prescription eyedrops packaged eyedrops in a way that forced consumers to waste medication in violation of state consumer law).
  • Parnell v. Western Sky Financial, LLC, 664 Fed. App’x 841 (11th Cir. 2016) (predatory lender’s arbitration agreement requiring arbitration before an arbitrator who did not exist was unenforceable).
  • Midland Funding LLC v. Bordeaux, 147 A.3d 885 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2016) (debt buyer could not enforce arbitration agreement where there was insufficient evidence that the cardholder agreed to arbitrate).
  • Abraham v. St. Croix Renaissance Group, L.L.L.P., 719 F.3d 270 (3d Cir. 2013) (continuous release of hazardous materials from a single industrial site was “an event” for purposes of the Class Action Fairness Act, and, thus, the mass action could not be removed to federal court).
  • McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393 (4th Cir. 2010) (plaintiffs had standing to challenge the constitutionality of Virginia’s FOIA law, which limits the right to access records to Virginia citizens).
  • Dickerson v. Longoria, 995 A.2d 721 (Md. 2010) (arbitration agreement signed by nursing home patient’s cousin did not bind the patient’s estate to arbitration).

 

Counsel in the following U.S. Supreme Court cases:

  • Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. v. Jackson, 139 S. Ct. 1743 (2019) (co-counsel on the merits in successful case holding that a counterclaim defendant may not remove a case to federal court and that the Class Action Fairness Act does not permit a third-party defendant to remove).
  • New Prime Inc. v. Oliveira, 139 S. Ct. 532 (2019) (co-counsel on the merits in successful case holding that the Federal Arbitration Act’s exclusion for contracts of employment of transportation workers applies to independent contractors).
  • Heimeschoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co., 571 U.S. 99 (2013) (co-counsel on the merits in case involving whether, under ERISA, a statute of limitations to seek judicial review could commence before the cause of action accrues).
  • US Airways, Inc. McCutchen, 569 U.S. 88 (2013) (co-counsel on the merits in case involving whether an ERISA plan’s terms, rather than equitable principles, govern the enforcement of an equitable lien by agreement).
  • Elgin v. Department of the Treasury, 567 U.S. 1 (2012) (co-counsel on the merits and at the cert stage in case concerning whether district courts have jurisdiction over constitutional claims for equitable relief brought by federal employees).
  • Croix Renaissance Group, L.L.L.P. v. Abraham, No. 13-116 (lead counsel in successfully opposing cert in case involving the definition of “an event” in the Class Action Fairness Act).
  • Dow Chemical Co. v. Tanoh, No. 08-1589 (lead counsel in successfully opposing cert in case involving whether claims joined by a motion of a defendant are mass actions under the Class Action Fairness Act).
  • Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540 (2016) (lead counsel for amici in brief describing how lawsuits brought against consumer reporting agencies cause real harms to consumers).
  • McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013) (lead counsel for amicus in brief describing the history of the common-law right of access to government records).
  • Smith v. Aegon Companies Pension Plan, No. 14-1168 (co-counsel at cert stage in case concerning whether an ERISA plan can defeat the venue provision in the statute).
  • Frazier v. Life Insurance Co. of North America, No. 13-759 (co-counsel at cert stage in case concerning what language is sufficient to confer discretionary authority to an ERISA plan administrator over benefits determinations).
  • Thurber v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., No. 13-130 (co-counsel at cert stage in case concerning what is sufficient for an ERISA plan to enforce an equitable lien by agreement).
  • CGI Technologies & Solutions, Inc. v. Rose, No. 12-240 (co-counsel at cert stage in case concerning whether an ERISA plan’s terms, rather than equitable principles, govern the enforcement of an equitable lien by agreement).

 

Co-counsel in the following trial court cases:

  • Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Hormel Foods Corp. (D.C. Super. Ct.) (alleging that Hormel’s advertising claim that its Natural Choice products are “natural” is false under state consumer-protection law because, in fact, the animals raised for those products are raised on factory farms).
  • Total Transportation Services, Inc. v. Armenta (Cal. Super. Ct.) (opposing petition to compel arbitration on behalf of port truck drivers who were misclassified as independent contractors).
  • Blackwood v. De Vries (C.D. Cal.) (alleging that a mega-dairy’s factory farming practices resulted in manure poisoning the groundwater for downstream community residents who rely on well water).

 

Other notable advocacy:

  • Parm v. Bluestem Brands, Inc., 898 F.3d 869 (8th Cir. 2018) (lead appellate counsel in case alleging that online retailer charged low-income customers more for the same products; issue on appeal was enforceability of arbitration agreement).
  • In re Energy Future Holding Corp. (D. Del. Bankr. & D. Del.) (co-counsel for amicus in asbestos bankruptcy case arguing that it violates constitutional due process to discharge the claims of unmanifested claimants as part of a bankruptcy plan).
  • Eike v. Allergan, Inc., 850 F.3d 315 (7th Cir. 2017) (lead appellate counsel in case concerning whether users of prescription eyedrops had standing to pursue claims that the eyedrop size violated state consumer law and whether the class had been properly certified).
  • Reyes v. Lincoln Automotive Financial Services, 861 F.3d 51 (2d Cir. 2017) (lead counsel in seeking rehearing from decision holding that the TCPA does not permit a consumer to revoke their consent to be contacted).
  • Terrell v. Kernersville Chrysler Dodge, LLC, 798 S.E. 412 (N.C. Ct. App. 2017) (lead appellate counsel in case concerning whether agreement to arbitrate had been formed between car dealer and consumer; victory on remand).
  • Hayes v. Delbert Services Corp., 811 F.3d 666 (4th Cir. 2016) (co-counsel in case successfully arguing that an arbitration agreement renouncing the applicability of all state and federal law was unenforceable).
  • Hudson v. Citibank (South Dakota) NA, 387 P.3d 42 (Alaska 2016) (co-counsel in case arguing that debt collectors waived right to enforce arbitration agreement by seeking to collect the debt in state court).
  • S. ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Industries, Inc. (5th Cir. & E.D. Tex.) (co-counsel for intervenors seeking to unseal records regarding the safety of highway guardrails).
  • Moses v. CashCall, Inc., 781 F.3d 63 (4th Cir. 2015) (co-counsel in case successfully arguing that bankruptcy court had discretion to retain claims that otherwise would have gone to arbitration).
  • Nemphos v. Nestle Waters North America, Inc., 775 F.3d 616 (4th Cir. 2015) (lead appellate counsel in case concerning whether claims that fluoridated water was misleadingly marketed were preempted by federal law).
  • In re Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC (W.D.N.C. Bankr.) (counsel for amici steamfitters and sheet metal workers and their unions in arguing that a questionably appointed representative cannot vote in favor of a bankruptcy plan that would limit the ability of future asbestos claimants to obtain relief).
  • Chaney v. Eskridge Chevrolet, LLC, No. 112810 (Okla.) (lead counsel in seeking cert before the Oklahoma Supreme Court on the question whether loser-pays provisions in form contracts are unconscionable).
  • McBurney v. Young, 667 F.3d 454 (4th Cir. 2012) (lead appellate counsel in case concerning whether Virginia’s FOIA unconstitutionally limited the right of access to public records to Virginia citizens).

Karla Gilbride

Co-Director, Access to Justice Project

Karla Gilbride, Co-Director of the Access to Justice Project, joined Public Justice in October 2014 and became co-director of the Access to Justice Project in 2021. Her work focuses on dismantling structural barriers that make it more difficult for people harmed by corporate or…

governmental abuse to use the civil courts to seek redress and change those harmful practices. One such structural barrier is the proliferation of arbitration provisions and class action bans that are imposed on consumers and workers in non-negotiable, boilerplate contracts. In May of 2022, she won a significant victory in the fight against forced arbitration as counsel of record for former Taco Bell worker Robyn Morgan in Morgan v. Sundance, in which the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that courts cannot craft rules that favor arbitration agreements over other types of contracts.

Karla has also testified before the state legislatures of New York and California on the topic of forced arbitration and has successfully briefed and/or argued arbitration-related appeals before the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Fourth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Circuits, as well as state appellate courts in New Jersey and Maryland. These cases involved such issues as whether a rental car company could use the arbitration clause in Orbitz’s Terms of Use to terminate a class action against it even though the allegations of the lawsuit had nothing to do with Orbitz, Calderon v. Sixt Rent A Car, LLC, 5 F.4th 1204 (11th Cir. 2021); whether a retail store chain can change the terms of its customer loyalty program at any time without notice and whether it can display those programs terms, including an arbitration clause, on a point-of-sale interface its blind customers could not use independently, National Federation of the Blind v. The Container Store, Inc., 904 F.3d 70 (1st Cir. 2018); and whether a debt buyer can file a collection action in court and then require that a subsequent lawsuit brought to challenge that collection activity take place in arbitration Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC, 156 A.3d 807 (Md. 2017). In each of these cases, the appeals court rejected the corporation’s attempt to force the plaintiff into arbitration.

In addition to her arbitration-related work, Karla has pursued appeals in innovative cases seeking legal redress for predatory corporate conduct. She was successful in convincing the Ninth Circuit to reinstate a lawsuit against for-profit companies that partner with jails and prisons to return the cash of people released from incarceration on fee-laden debit cards, so that people who had their money lost to fees can pursue claims under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and the U.S. Constitution. Karla has also combated the tactic of corporations trying to decapitate class actions by offering individual settlements to the named class representatives, and argued and won a challenge to such a pick-off attempt in the Seventh Circuit in 2015 in a case called Webster v. Bayview Loan Servicing.

Karla is a member of the bar in New York, California and the District of Columbia, as well as several federal district courts, the US Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh and D.C. Circuits. She is also a board member for the National Employment Lawyers Association, and a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

Before coming to Public Justice, Karla spent three years as an associate at Mehri & Skalet PLLC, where she worked on wage and hour, and employment discrimination cases, as well as consumer class actions and cases brought under the Fair Housing Act. She previously spent three years at Disability Rights Advocates in Berkeley, Calif., bringing disability discrimination class actions and representing disabled consumers before the California Public Utilities Commission.

Karla graduated with honors from Georgetown Law in 2007 and clerked for Judge Ronald Gould on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She received her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College with highest honors in 2002 with a major in linguistics and minor in psychology.

She is an avid baseball fan and fantasy baseball nerd and enjoys hiking, cycling and playing goalball.

Shelby Leighton

Staff Attorney, Access to Justice Project

Shelby Leighton joined Public Justice in March 2022 as a staff attorney in the Access to Justice Project. She litigates high-impact cases with the goal of making the civil court system a fair, equitable, and effective tool for those with less power to win just outcomes and hold those with more power… 

accountable, including cases involving civil rights, access to courts, and consumer protection.

Before coming to Public Justice, Shelby was an attorney for more than three years at a civil rights law firm in Maine, where she represented workers, consumers, and other plaintiffs whose rights had been violated. Some highlights of her work there included: reaching a successful settlement on behalf of incarcerated workers who had their unemployment benefits seized by the government; successfully defending in Maine’s highest court the constitutionality of the City of Portland’s ordinance providing workers with COVID-19 hazard pay; representing workers with age discrimination claims against IBM in challenging the validity of an arbitration agreement and class action waiver; and obtaining relief for dozens of individual plaintiffs in employment discrimination actions.

Shelby also previously represented plaintiffs in complex civil rights, employment, consumer, and human rights class actions as a law fellow at Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC in Washington, DC, and was a Supreme Court Assistance Project fellow at Public Citizen, where she authored briefs in opposition to certiorari on topics including qualified immunity and forced arbitration. She clerked for Judge Kermit Lipez of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and Justice Jeffrey Hjelm of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Shelby graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown Law in 2014. In law school, she represented civil rights plaintiffs at the Institute for Public Representation, served on the editorial staff of the Georgetown Journal of International Law, and was a Global Law Scholar. She received her undergraduate degree from Claremont McKenna College in International Relations and Psychology.

Shelby works remotely from Portland, Maine, where she enjoys sailing, skiing, and taking her terrier mix, Jackie, to the beach. She continues to advocate for the rights of workers in Maine by serving on the Board of the Southern Maine Workers’ Center and helping to coordinate the Workers’ Center’s legal clinic.

Jim Hecker

Director, Environmental Enforcement Project

Jim Hecker, Environmental Enforcement Project Director at Public Justice, received an undergraduate degree with honors from the University of Illinois, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Jim received his J.D., magna cum laude from the University of Illinois College of Law. He earned distinctions…

as a member of the Order of the Coif, and as editor of the Law Forum. During law school he interned with the Center for Law and Social Policy in Washington, D.C.

After serving as a law clerk for two years with U.S. District Judge Prentice H. Marshall in Chicago, he joined Terris & Sunderland, a Washington, D.C. public interest environmental law firm, as an attorney handling environmental citizen suits on behalf of national environmental groups, citizen groups, and other clients.

In 1990, Jim left private practice after 11 years to join Public Justice to re-establish and lead its Environmental Enforcement Project.

Recently, in 2009, he won the Sierra Club’s William O. Douglas Award, which recognizes outstanding use of the legal process to achieve environmental goals, particularly those with national significance.

For nearly three decades, Jim has been fighting on behalf of local citizens, grass roots organizations, and national environmental organizations. In the 23 years that Jim has been with Public Justice he has litigated over 40 citizen suits in fourteen states under federal environmental statutes regulating clean air, clean water, hazardous waste, and coal mining.

Ellen Noble

Budd Attorney

Ellen Noble is the Budd Attorney at Public Justice where she litigates high-impact public interest appeals. Her practice covers a wide range of issues, including access to justice, civil rights, consumer protection, workers’ rights, constitutional law, and court secrecy. She primarily works with the…

Access to Justice Project, but also litigates cases with the Students’ Civil Rights Project and Food Project.

Ellen has briefed and argued appeals and dispositive motions in state and federal courts across the country. Her recent and ongoing cases include:

  • Lindenbaum v. Realgy, LLC, 13 F.4th 524 (6th Cir. 2021): Argued and won unanimous Sixth Circuit victory reversing district court and holding that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act’s robocall ban was constitutional and enforceable between 2015 and 2020, protecting hundreds of thousands of consumers’ statutory claims. Law360 called it “a major blow to companies’ argument that the national robocall ban doesn’t apply to calls made during the five years that government debt collectors were exempt from the law.” Argument | Opinion
  • Lyons v. PNC Bank (4th Cir. 2021): Lead appellate counsel in case concerning the scope and retroactive application of the Dodd Frank ban on predispute arbitration agreements in mortgage lending. Argument 
  • Fedor v. United Healthcare Inc. (10th Cir. 2021): Lead appellate counsel in Fair Labor Standards Act case on behalf of healthcare workers addressing whether company formed an arbitration agreement with employees by posting arbitration policy on its intranet. 
  • Food & Water Watch v. Smithfield (D.C. Superior Court 2021): Lead counsel in case seeking to hold multinational meat processing company responsible for misrepresenting worker safety conditions and the status of the nation’s meat supply to consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now This Interview | Case Brief 
  • Doe v. Gwinnett County School Board (11th Cir. 2021): Appellate co-counsel in suit on behalf of a girl of color suspended by her high school after she reported that she had been raped by a white classmate. Appeal concerns legal standards for sex discrimination and retaliation under Title IX. Case Brief 
  • Moore v. LaSalle Management (5th Cir. 2021): Appellate co-counsel in case on behalf of the surviving family members of Erie Moore, who was beat to death by guards at a for-profit prison in Louisiana. Developed and briefed novel argument for holding private prisons vicariously liable for employee conduct under 1983. Case Brief 
  • Hunstein v. Preferred Collection and Management Services, Inc. (11th Cir. 2021) (en banc): Lead counsel for amicus brief on behalf of Public Justice, the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) defending disclosure of private debt information in violation of the FDCPA as concrete injury sufficient to establish Article III standing.
  • Home Depot USA v. Jackson, 139 S. Ct. 1743 (2019): Co-counsel in U.S. Supreme Court victory holding that third-party counterclaim defendant cannot remove class action to federal court. Litigation team received 2020 Pound Institute Appellate Advocacy Award. Opinion

In addition to litigation, Ellen regularly speaks on access to justice issues like forced arbitration and court secrecy at conferences and CLEs, and has testified before the California state legislature on ensuring open access to the courts during the COVID-19 pandemic. She also monitors proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and participates in the rulemaking process advocating for fair, equitable rules that promote access to justice.

Before coming to Public Justice, Ellen clerked for Judge Albert Diaz on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Judge John D. Bates on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

She graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center where she received the Trial Lawyers Award for her appellate advocacy in the Appellate Courts Immersion Clinic and was the Senior Articles Editor of the Georgetown Law Journal. Ellen also holds a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and received her B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Macalester College. She is a member of the District of Columbia Bar, as well as the Court of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits.

FELLOWS

Mollie Berkowitz

Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellow in Women’s Rights

Mollie Berkowitz is a Peter and Patricia Gruber Fellow in Women’s Rights with the Students’ Civil Rights Project. In addition to litigating cases concerning civil rights in schools with the SCRP team, Mollie’s fellowship focuses on clarifying in the law that dating violence is a form of sex-based…

harassment under Title IX.

As a law student, Mollie was an active participant in the Veterans’ Legal Services Clinic, where, in addition to representing individual veterans in administrative proceedings, she represented a class of veterans with less than Honorable discharge statuses in landmark litigation against the US Navy. Mollie was also a member of the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, where she worked on both impact litigation and legislative advocacy to support reproductive choice. In addition, she served as co-chair of the law school’s Title IX Working Group.

Before joining Public Justice, Mollie worked with a number of civil rights-focused private law firms and at the New York State Office of the Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau. Mollie is a recent graduate of Yale Law School, where she was awarded the Francis Wayland Prize for proficiency in preparing and presenting a case in negotiation and litigation. She holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies and History, Phi Beta Kappa, from the University of Michigan.

Mollie is admitted to practice law in New York.

Matthew Clifford

Law Fellow

Matthew C. Clifford is the Law Fellow at Public Justice. He litigates cases across Public Justice’s diverse issue areas, with a focus on forced arbitration and the privatization of public goods and services. During law school, Matt was involved in the American Constitution Society, and…

served as a judicial extern for Judge Gregory H. Woods III at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. He spent his 1L summer at Public Citizen, where he worked on civil justice and consumer protection issues, and his 2L summer with Public Justice, where he worked on a variety of litigation projects.

Before attending law school, Matt worked in the green housing sector, fundraised for a top-rated veterans support organization, and advocated for Catalans’ right to self-determination as a communications officer for the Government of Catalonia.

Matt holds a B.A. in international relations and Hispanic studies from Brown University, an M.Sc. in contemporary democracy studies from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School, where he was a James Kent and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar.

John He

Skadden Fellow, Debtors' Prison Project

John He is a Skadden Fellow at Public Justice’s Debtors’ Prison Project. A Bay Area native, John is based out of our office in Oakland, California, where he litigates cases involving the criminalization of poverty. Before joining Public Justice, John served as a law clerk for…

the Honorable Marsha S. Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Honorable Sidney H. Stein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

John received his B.S. in physiological science from University of California, Los Angeles, and his J.D. magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where he was awarded the Henry M. Bates Memorial Scholarship, the law school’s highest honor.

During law school, John served as the editor-in-chief of the Michigan Law Review and the president of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. He was also a finalist in the Henry M. Campbell Moot Court Competition and a project manager for the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, an online database of documents and information from civil rights cases across the United States. For his summers, John served as an intern for the Honorable Rudolph Contreras on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and a summer associate at Altshuler Berzon LLP, a San Francisco public interest law firm.

John is admitted to practice in California.

Jane Kim

Seneca Falls Fellow, Food Project

Jane J. Kim is a Food Project Fellow with Public Justice in Washington, D.C. Jane litigates high-impact cases with a focus on promoting competition in America’s agriculture industry. Jane believes in creating a more equitable food system by amplifying the voices of local communities and taking…

down the structures that aid corporate abuse of power. Before joining Public Justice, Jane was a fellow with the California Department of Justice, Antitrust Law Section, where she assisted with enforcing state antitrust laws. During law school, Jane served as an extern in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Jane was also an editor of the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice. Jane received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and B.A in International Studies from Korea University. Jane is admitted to practice in California.

Anita Yandle

Access to Justice & Justice Catalyst Fellow

Anita N.H. Yandle is the Justice Catalyst and Access to Justice Litigation Fellow at Public Justice. She litigates cases related to access to courts and racial justice, with a focus on undocumented and migrant farmworkers’ rights. During law school, Anita was active in the human and civil rights…

community. She spent both of her summers at the United Nations, first researching on environmental justice and Indigenous land rights at the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean in Santiago, Chile, and then working on appeals in genocide cases with the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, Netherlands. She also was a law clerk with the ACLU National Prison Project, where she supported civil rights litigation in immigration detention centers, jails, and prisons. In addition to working on the board of the Human Rights Law Review and A Jailhouse Lawyers’ Manual, Anita spent full years in both the Human Rights Clinic as a trial monitor and student attorney for the Clooney Foundation for Justice, for which she monitored and reported on a trial against political dissidents in Thailand, and in externships on death penalty defense. In her research assistantships with the African American Policy Forum, Columbia Justice Lab, and Human Rights Institute, among others, Anita wrote and edited reports and book chapters on critical race theory, mass supervision, war crimes, compassionate release, and more. Finally, as a recipient of the Davis Polk Leadership Initiative Innovation Grant, she founded the law school’s only in-house pro bono project to focus on abortion rights.

Prior to joining the legal profession, Anita was a civil rights lobbyist with the Washington State Association for Justice, advocating for police accountability; pregnant, disabled, and injured workers’ rights; and access to justice. She was also highly active on local nonprofit boards, including the Northwest Abortion Access Fund and the Washington Bus.

Anita received her B.A. from the University of Washington and her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she was a James Kent and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, a recipient of the Certificate of Achievement in International and Comparative Law from the Parker School, and a teaching fellow to Professors Bernard E. Harcourt and Sarah A. Seo.

Anita is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia.

PARALEGALS & LEGAL ASSISTANTS

Paula Athey

Legal Assistant

Paula Athey assists Students’ Civil Rights Project Director Adele Kimmel, Debtors’ Prison Project Attorney Brian Hardingham, Director of the Environmental Enforcement Project Jim Hecker, and Staff Attorney Alexandra Brodsky. She manages the case intake process, including…

fielding calls, routing requests for assistance to attorneys, tracking case intake activity, and preparing rejection letters.  She joined Public Justice in 1995 as the Receptionist and was promoted to several other positions.

From 1997-1999, Paula served as Legal Secretary and, from 1999-2000, as the Administration Coordinator. Paula returned to Public Justice in 2002 as a Legal Assistant. She studied Government, Politics and Paralegal Studies at the University of Maryland and University of Maryland University College, receiving a B.S. in Paralegal Studies from the latter.

Austin Bryniarski

Food Project Junior Paralegal

Austin Bryniarski joined Public Justice in 2021 as the Food Project Junior Paralegal. Before joining Public Justice, Austin contributed research and writing to several organizations and served as the Lazarus Fellow at the Yale Sustainable Food Program, where he collaborated with students, faculty…

staff, and community members on academic programming that centered food and agriculture topics. Austin holds both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from Yale.

Kathleen Morris

Legal Assistant/Operations Coordinator

Kathleen Morris joined Public Justice in January 2012 and currently serves as Legal Assistant/Operations Coordinator, based in our West Coast office. Prior to coming to Public Justice, Kathy worked as a paralegal for a small civil litigation practice which represented clients in a wide variety of…

real estate, business, and construction litigation matters involving mortgage lenders and brokers, real estate agents, individuals and corporations.

She also worked for a sole practitioner whose employment law practice specialized in representing victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. After working as a legal secretary for ten years, Kathy earned her paralegal certificate from California State University, East Bay in 2010.

Lisa Reed

Food Project Paralegal

Lisa Reed joined Public Justice in 2019 as the Food Project paralegal, supporting the Food Project in all aspects of their work. Before joining Public Justice, Lisa worked as a litigation and government contracts paralegal. She received her Master’s Degree in Political Science from Boston College.

Yvonne Stewart

Legal Assitant

Yvonne Stewart joined Public Justice in 2011 as a Legal Assistant. She assists Executive Director Paul Bland, Senior Attorney Leah Nicholls, Cartwright-Baron Senior Attorney Karla Gilbride, and Access to Justice Attorney Stevie Glaberson on their many public-interest cases. Yvonne has…

over 25 years of legal secretarial experience. She worked for two law firms — Williams & Connolly from 1989-1998 where she assisted various attorneys with civil suits and highly visible criminal cases; and Howrey LLP from 1998-2010 where she supported four associates and one partner. Before joining Williams & Connolly, Yvonne worked for the United Mine Workers of America Health & Retirement Funds, a group that provides health and pension benefits to retired coal miners and their eligible dependents.

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

Steve Ralls

Director of External Affairs

Steve Ralls, Director of External Affairs, first joined Public Justice in April 2015 as the organization’s Director of Communications. In his current role, Steve oversees Public Justice’s communications and development teams, which are responsible for the organization’s media, marketing, outreach &…

education and fundraising programs and campaigns.

Steve has secured prominent media coverage for Public Justice cases, including in NBC NewsThe New York TimesFOX News and more. He also coordinated a widely read op-ed in The Guardian newspaper, highlighting the deplorable working conditions in Mexican electronics factories, which was shared more than 83,000 times. He also spearheaded Public Justice’s presence in DailyKosHuffingtonPost and the Legal Examiner, providing prominent platforms for the organization’s leadership to speak out about their work.

Prior to joining Public Justice, Steve was Communications Director for Immigration Equality, a legal aid and advocacy organization dedicated to securing equal access to immigration rights, including asylum and marital immigration benefits, for LGBT immigrants and their families. He also worked for nearly a decade with Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, where he spearheaded communications for the successful campaign to repeal the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian and gay service members. He has also been a communications and marketing consultant for The National LGBT Bar Association.

Steve’s work has included national media coverage in the nation’s leading print, online, television and radio news outlets. He has placed media stories in, and been quoted by, The Washington PostNew York TimesSan Francisco ChronicleLos Angeles TimesPolitico, Associated PressNational Public RadioCBS NewsCNN and numerous other outlets. He has also placed dozens of op-eds and editorials and has coordinated coverage of impact litigation cases, and diverse legal issues, on national newsmagazines, including 20/20, Nightline and a groundbreaking 60 Minutes report on openly gay troops serving in the war zone.

Peter Pieh

External Affairs Project Manager

Peter Pieh is the External Affairs Project Manager. Prior to joining Public Justice, Peter was the Economic Justice Specialist with the National Network to End Domestic Violence. At NNEDV Peter managed the regulatory compliance of the Independence Project, a micro lending project aimed at…

providing financial security for survivors of domestic violence.

Peter also previously worked as a Policy Officer with the World Council of Credit Unions, at WOCCU Peter primarily focused on advocating for financial reform for International credit unions and other non-banking institutions.

Peter earned his M.A. in International Relations and Global Governance from Middlesex University in the United Kingdom, where he also worked for the political consulting firm PB Political Consulting. Peter also earned his B.A. in International Relations from Ohio Wesleyan University.

Karen Ocamb

Director of Media Relations

Karen Ocamb is the Director of Media Relations. She is an award-winning journalist who, upon graduating from Skidmore College, started her professional career at CBS News in New York where she clerked for such luminaries as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, and Bob Schieffer. Her last…

assignment was producing coverage of the 1984 Olympics for CBS affiliates out of TV City in Los Angeles.

Karen joined the LGBTQ press in the late 1980s after more than 100 friends died from AIDS. She covered the spectrum of the LGBTQ movement for equality until June 2020, including pressing for LGBTQ data collection during the COVID pandemic. She continued freelance writing and worked for the passage of the California Rental Affordability Act ballot initiative.

Karen joined Public Justice in March 2021 to advocate for civil rights and social, economic, and racial justice issues. Karen lives in West Hollywood, California with her rescue dog, Pepper.

Lucy Sears

Director of Communications

Lucy Sears, Public Justice’s Director of Communications, supports the Communications team with the organization’s messaging strategy, media outreach and other communications efforts. Lucy previously served as the Communications Coordinator for…

the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), a national nonprofit that represents the nation’s locally-led conservation districts, who help their state’s farmers and landowners implement conservation and natural resource management programs on their land. During her time at NACD, Lucy supported communication and outreach efforts of several programs, including one that helped provide funding for developed or predominantly developing areas in need of technical assistance to combat issues such as water quality, food desertification, and wildlife habitat degradation. She also has a background in public relations and journalism, as well as graphic design and development.

­A native of Bethesda, Md., Lucy graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018 with Bachelors of Arts in English Literature and Communications. ­­­

Ameesha Sampat

Food Project Organizing Director

Ameesha Sampat, Food Project Organizing Director, is responsible developing and overseeing the Food Project’s organizing and outreach strategies. She joined Public Justice’s Washington, D.C. office in October of 2017…

Prior to joining Public Justice, Ameesha managed digital strategies at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, where she implemented campaigns around Advancing Justice | AAJC’s political, grassroots, and legal advocacy work. Ameesha has extensive experience in digital advocacy and organizing within the immigrant and LGBTQ communities, as well as communities of color and progressive faith communities. Ameesha is also Vice Chair of the Board for Esperanza Education Fund, a volunteer-led organization that provides college scholarships and professional mentorship to local immigrant students regardless of national origin, ethnicity, or immigration status.

Masha Vernik

Food Project Communications & Organizing Coordinator

Masha Vernik is the Food Project Communications and Organizing Coordinator. She crafts strategic narratives and builds power with affected communities to build a regenerative, humane, and independently owned food system. Prior to joining Public Justice, Masha was the Food Policy Advisor…

with Peace Rising, working with a grassroots community gardening group to grow food on public land in Cambridge, MA. That work grew out of a combination of two earlier projects –  managing Cambridge City Councilor Quinton Zondervan’s election campaign and producing Common Roots, a short documentary that shows how an East Boston urban garden builds community resiliency.

Before that, Masha worked at Local Roots, a small vegetable farm in Duvall, WA, where she harvested, weeded, and transplanted vegetables. In 2019, Masha graduated from Boston University summa cum laude with a B.A. in International Relations and a minor in Biology, where she earned the Student Sustainability Leadership Award for her ongoing engagement with the fossil fuel divestment movement.

Kelly Simon

Development Director

Kelly Simon joined the Public Justice staff as Director of Development in October 2017. Prior to beginning this role, Kelly served as the Director of Development for the Pro Bono Institute, a legal organization dedicated to enhancing and strengthening pro bono programs of large law firms…

and legal departments.

Kelly’s other professional experience includes serving as the Director of Development for the National LGBT Bar Association, the Director of Development for SMYAL, DC’s Youth Center dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth, the Events Manager for People For the American Way Foundation, and the Director of Development for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, all located in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Connecticut, Kelly holds a bachelors degree from George Mason University in Government and International Politics and a Masters Degree in Management from Catholic University.

Sara Jex

Development Communications Associate

Sara Jex is the Development Communications Associate. She is responsible for drafting donor correspondence, maintaining development-related social media posts, and supporting our fundraising program. She joined Public Justice’s Washington, D.C. office in March 2021…

Sara previously interned with the Public Justice’s Development Team in 2019. She has also worked at the Michigan Department of Transportation and the Office of former Michigan Congressman Sander Levin.

Originally from Port Huron, Mich., Sara graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science in 2021. Her thesis, entitled “Going the Social Distance: The COVID-19 pandemic, Space, and Belonging,” focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the relationship between space and social integration at a large, public research university.

Megan Kyte

Membership Manager

Megan Kyte joined Public Justice in June 2019 and currently serves as the organization’s Membership Manager. Prior to joining Public Justice, Megan was the Senior Development Associate at The Arc of the United States, an organization dedicated to promoting and protecting the human rights of…

people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Megan earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology from The University of Mary Washington, where she became increasingly involved in human and civil rights advocacy through her involvement in Best Buddies International and thesis research on disability rights, advocacy, and culture.

As Membership Manager, Megan leads the expansion of the organization’s membership program to support Public Justice’s work, progress, and mission.

Tonia Allison

Member Services Coordinator

Tonia Allison joined the Foundation staff as Development Processing Assistant in September 2010 and currently serves as the organization’s Member Services Coordinator. Before coming to Public Justice, Tonia had three years of gift processing experience with the…

United States Naval Academy Foundation. In her capacity at the Foundation, Tonia provides assistance on membership engagement and renewals as well as overseeing data processing and database operations.

Margaret Davis

Director of Strategic Partnerships

Margaret B. Davis, Director of Strategic Partnerships, joined Public Justice in May 2020. In her prior leadership roles at non-profit organizations, she built a strong track record of deepening the public’s investment in the mission and work of numerous causes.

Margaret’s commitment to social justice and equality threads through her decades-long career as an experienced consultant and executive with a proven track record in advancement, strategic philanthropy, planning and partnerships – including securing and advising on transformational financial gifts.

At Public Justice, she focuses on ensuring the organization’s most committed supporters are engaged with other organizational leaders and play an active part in its strategic capacity building work. Margaret’s relevant assignments prior to joining Public Justice include serving as Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation President & CEO, Washington National Cathedral Associate Dean of Advancement, Maryland Hall President & CEO, and being of counsel for major campaigns to: Center for Public Leadership (Harvard), National Children’s Museum, Arena Stage (DC), Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (Tucson), Chicago Public Library Foundation, Shedd Aquarium (Chicago), and Maryland State Humanities Council.

Susan Gombert

Senior Meetings & Events Manager

Susan Gombert, CMP is Senior Meetings & Events Manager at the Public Justice Foundation. She is responsible for all aspects of the Foundation’s meetings and special events, and is a staff liaison to the Foundation’s Gala Committee.

Prior to joining Public Justice, Susan was the Membership Director for the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution. She has served on the Board of the Potomac Chapter of Meeting Professionals International and is also active in the Association for Meeting Professionals.

Finance and administration

Victoria Ni

Director of Finance and Administration

Victoria W. Ni, Director of Finance & Administration, is based in the Oakland, Calif., office of Public Justice. Prior to her current role with the organization, Vicky litigated a wide range of cases focused on protecting and ensuring the rights of consumers, workers, victims, and individuals with disabilities…

free speech; and equal opportunity for women in athletics and in the workplace. She has also accepted increasingly senior roles in the management of the organization and was named Managing Attorney in October 2014 and Deputy Director in August 2017.

In her current role, Vicky ensures day-to-day operational, infrastructural, and financial efficiency of all parts of the organization to fulfill and advance its programmatic, fundraising, and communications functions. She has managerial responsibility for finance, accounting, human resources, information technology, and other administrative areas.

With a B.S. in broadcast journalism and a B.A. in international relations, Vicky graduated summa cum laude from Boston University in 1992. She graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law in 1995. While at NYU, she served as staff editor of the Annual Survey of American Law and president of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association. After clerking on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, she was an associate at two New York law firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and Reboul, MacMurray, Hewitt, Maynard & Kristol (later part of Ropes & Gray). While in private practice, Vicky handled complex commercial litigation matters as well as public interest cases regarding the constitutionality of school voucher programs and the use of statistical sampling in the decennial census.

Leroy Hughes

Director of Operations

Leroy Hughes, Jr. joined Public Justice in March 2020. Leroy’s primary responsibility includes oversight of operations, human resources, information and technology as well as administrative services supporting the organization’s east and west coast offices. Prior to joining…

Public Justice, Leroy was employed as a senior executive with various local and national non-profit organizations where he acquired over 25 years of experience providing executive level oversight of operations and related administrative services. Past employment included: Vice President, Operations, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Director of Operations, National Cherry Blossom Festival, Chief Operating Officer, CBM National Inc. and Support Director, Teach For America. Leroy earned his BA from Louisiana State University and his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Troy University. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

Danshell Evon

Office Manager

DanShell Evon is the Office Manager for Public Justice, based in the National Office located in Washington, DC. DanShell brings over 20 years of administrative experience in Office Management, Human Resources, and Accounting. She is responsible for managing the daily operations of the…

D.C. office, serving as the primary point of contact for building management.

DanShell assists the Director of Operations in implementing and enforcing office policies, developing standards and promoting activities that enhance operational procedures.

Prior to joining Public Justice, DanShell was the Junior HR Recruiter for Michael and Son Services Inc, where she established key working relationships with hiring supervisors and project managers to facilitate teamwork and a more effective recruitment process.

DanShell is a graduate of the University of Maryland where she acquired duo Bachelor of Science degrees in Business Administration and Accounting.

Norma Sapp

Office and Human Resources Manager

Norma Sapp is the Office and Human Resources Manager, located in Public Justice’s DC headquarters.  Norma has spent much of her career managing office operations for both non-profit organizations and for-profit companies in the Washington, D.C. area.

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