Jihan serves as the Foreclosure Prevention Paralegal with the Consumer Finance and Housing Unit (CFH) in the firm’s Rochester office. She provides intake and administrative support to the CFH Unit, assisting in its efforts to prevent foreclosures for low-income homeowners.
Jihan is a College at Brockport alumna. She has over five years of experience working in the foreclosure field. Jihan worked in mortgage services at JPMorgan Chase & Co. for several years, first serving as a mortgage customer service representative, and then as a loss mitigation relationship manager. Before joining Empire Justice Center, Jihan worked at a private law firm in Rochester for several years, providing document management services and contested foreclosure legal assistance.
Saima Akhtar is a Senior Staff Attorney with the Public Benefits Unit in the Albany office of Empire Justice Center. She works on issues that include supplemental nutrition assistance program benefits (food stamps), emergency assistance, cash public assistance, and subsidized child care.
Saima represents low income clients both in court and in administrative proceedings. She provides legal representation to her clients by handling individual cases and through class action litigation, challenging laws or administrative policies and practices that harm low income people. Saima has served as counsel to the class in a number of cases in New York's State and Federal Courts including Richard C. v. Proud, Brooks v. Roberts, and Karamalla v. Devine. She has also provided continuing legal education sessions for the New York State Bar Association, The Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Practicing Law Institute, and the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association on topics such as SNAP basics, emergency assistance benefits in New York, and basic lawyering skills for new attorneys.
Saima currently serves as the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee for the Board of Directors of New York's Early Care and Learning Council. She is a graduate of Albany Law School of Union University and holds a masters degree in Public Policy from the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy from the University at Albany.
Susan Antos focuses her work on public assistance benefits, child care, and child support as it pertains to low income individuals, and has a special interest in the equal protection and due process rights of low income families and individuals.
Ms. Antos has represented low income individuals in numerous class actions in both state and federal court. She began her career with Empire Justice as co-counsel for the plaintiffs in two federal court class actions establishing the right of public assistance recipients to notice and opportunity to be heard in the IV-D child support context first, with respect to the child support pass through (Schwartz v. Perales) and then regarding excess support (Broniszewski v. Perales). She also was co-counsel in Velazquez v. State, 7 A.D. 3d 449 (First Dep't 2004), a statewide class action regarding the rights of indigent respondents in child support proceedings to rebut their ability to pay a monthly minimum order. Ms. Antos was co-counsel in Doe v Doar, a statewide class action that restored public assistance benefits to 27,000 households containing children and disabled family members. She has also successfully challenged the lack of notice in the recovery of public assistance benefits through the tax offset process in Dantzler v. Wing.
Most recently she has been involved in a number of cases which resulted in federal court orders requiring local social services districts to comply with application processing timelines for public assistance, SNAP, and medical assistance applications. She was also co-counsel in Torres v. Blass, a case which successfully challenged inadequate notices sent to recipients of child care subsidies who would have lost their benefits when the County lowered eligibility levels. She represented the plaintiff in Carver v. State of New York, in which the New York State Court of Appeals held that participants in welfare work experience programs must be given credit for the value of their work when the local social services district attempts to recover properly paid public assistance. Ms. Antos is the author of a number of publications on issues of interest to attorneys representing low income individuals, including: New Law Provides Uniform Standard for Assessing Medical Child Support and Protections for Low Income Parents, "Family Law Review, A Publication of the New York State Bar Association, Spring, 2010; What's New in Child Support? A review of the provisions in the federal Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 which become effective in 2008 and 2009, Legal Services Journal, February 2008; Child Support Desk Reviews: New State Procedures Frustrate Those Seeking Relief, Legal Services Journal, June, 2007; and S. Antos and M. Smyth, "Public Benefits and Child Support Arrears," NYU Review of Law and Social Change, Volume 30 Issue 4, (2006).
Linda A. Bennett-Rodriguez is a staff attorney with the Immigration Unit at the White Plains office of the Empire Justice Center. She primarily practices immigration law. Her areas of representation include filing VAWA Self-Petitions for victims of domestic violence , Battered Spouse Waivers, U visas, Adjustment of Status, Naturalization Applications and general family based applications.
Prior to joining the Empire Justice Center, she earned her law degree from Pace University School of Law and her Bachelors from New York University.
Meredith Bloch, a 2010 graduate of Cornell Law School, is an Immigrant Rights Attorney in the Yonkers, NY office of the Empire Justice Center. Meredith was previously a staff attorney at the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project in St. Louis, MO. A participant in a US Fulbright Project in the Dominican Republic in 2004-05 and having spent time in Paris with an international arbitration group, Meredith is fluent in Spanish and French. She provides direct legal assistance to immigrants in the Hudson Valley and participates in community education and Know Your Rights efforts.
Susan Bonkowski is the Administrative Assistant for the C.A.S.H. Coalition (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope). C.A.S.H. is a community coalition led by Empire Justice and the United Way of Greater Rochester. She works out of Empire Justice Center's Rochester office.
C.A.S.H. was established in 2002 with the mission of creating opportunities for workers with low incomes to obtain, maintain and build economic assets. C.A.S.H. is led by the Empire Justice Center and the United Way of Greater Rochester. In addition to Earned Income Tax Credit outreach and free income tax return preparation, C.A.S.H. volunteers along with community professionals, link interested clients to community resources such as food stamps, child care subsidies, bank and credit union services, home buying programs, money management education, and credit counseling.
Susan is responsible for providing administrative support to the C.A.S.H. Coalition staff and volunteers.
Susan comes to C.A.S.H. from Thomson Reuters where she most recently was a Sr. Project Manager and Business Analyst.
Susan holds an A.A.S. degree from Marymount College of Virginia and a BA degree in English from William Smith College in Geneva, NY.
Kristin is Empire Justice Center's Vice President for Policy and Government Relations. She works out of the Albany office and is a member of the Leadership Team, co-leads the Marketing and Communications Team and is co-chair of Empire Justice Center's Diversity Committee.
Kristin is responsible for overseeing and directing the policy and governement relations work at Empire Justice. In this capacity, she works closely with staff attorneys, paralegals and advocates to develop and implement an annual comprehensive, proactive anti-poverty agenda that focuses on state level advocacy, as well as internal local and federal agendas. She works closely with staff to identify policy opportunities and to develop strategic communications and campaigns to achieve policy change in areas critical to low income and vulnerable New Yorkers.
After graduating cum laude from Hartwick College with honors in Anthropology and History in 1994, Kristin worked in non profit direct service and small business management before returning to school in 1999 to attain a Master's Degree in Social Policy from Empire State College. A 2000 Center for Women in Government Fellow, part of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, Kristin has also worked at the Hunger Action Network of New York State as Upstate Public Policy Coordinator and American Farmland Trust as Senior Policy Manager.
Michelle Caldera-Kopf is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Immigration Practice Group and the Program Manager for the Liberty Defense Project. Michelle works in the Long Island Office where she represents low income immigrants at risk of removal and manages Empire Justice Center’s Liberty Defense Project.
Michelle has a deep knowledge of immigration law and broad range of experience as a lawyer and teacher. She represents immigrants at all stages of the immigration process, from applications for asylum, lawful permanent residence, VAWA and U-visas, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status to removal defense, naturalization, and appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal courts. Michelle has practiced, taught, consulted, and trained other attorneys about immigration law since she graduated from Columbia Law School in 1998. Michelle served as a staff attorney at the New York Association for New Americans, and as a fellow at Human Rights Watch and later at the Asylum Clinic of the University of Connecticut Law School. Michelle taught Immigration Law and practiced in the Civil Rights, Immigration, and Mental Disability Law Clinics at Touro Law Center. Michelle has also worked as a public defender providing immigration legal advice to indigent criminal defendants and their attorneys as a Padilla Attorney at Suffolk County Legal Aid Society and at the Long Island Regional Immigration Assistance Center.
Prior to law school, Michelle was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Craiova, Romania. Michelle has also taught International Human Rights law in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Michelle speaks English, Spanish, Russian, and Romanian, but please be patient as the latter two are a little rusty.
Catherine M. (Kate) Callery is a senior staff attorney with the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) Unit in Empire Justice Center’s Rochester office.
Kate focuses on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability issues.
Kate previously served as the Supervising Attorney of the DAP Unit at the Public Interest Law Office of Rochester (PILOR) and the Unit Supervisor of the DAP Unit at Monroe County Legal Assistance Corporation. Kate serves as coordinator of the Western New York DAP Task Force and has presented trainings for NOSSCR, the New York State Bar Association, the Monroe County Bar Association and various DAP conferences. She has represented numerous clients before the Social Security Administration and in federal court.
Kate is a graduate of Smith College and the University of Connecticut Law School.
Jonathan Campozano is an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Empire Justice Center's Yonkers office. He is part of the Immigration Practice Group representing low-income people in immigration matters such as removal defense, complex affirmative asylum applications, and other forms of relief available to juveniles and victims of crime, domestic violence, or human trafficking.
Jonathan is a graduate of SUNY Purchase where he received his Bachelor's Degree in Legal Studies. Subsequently, Jonathan obtained his Juris Doctor Degree from Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. While at law school, he spent two of his three years as a Student Attorney with the Immigration Justice Clinic. Jonathan was also a part-time Case manager at Cardinal McCloskey Community Services, interviewing immigrant children in preparation for Immigration Court hearings and unification with family in the United States. Jonathan is licensed to practice law in New York State.
Gladys is a Senior Administrative Assistant based out of the Rochester office.
She provides administrative support to the attorneys and paralegals.
Robert Cisneros is a senior staff attorney with the Immigration Unit at the White Plains office of Empire Justice. He practices primarily immigration law.
Prior to joining Empire Justice, he practiced immigration law at Central American Legal Assistance, a not-for-profit law firm located in Brooklyn, New York, where he represented Central and South American refugees, and in the private sector.
Rob is a graduate of Saint Lawrence University and the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law.
Doris is a senior paralegal with the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester office.
She is a bilingual paralegal representing individuals on SSI appeals before Administrative Law Judges and the Appeals Council.
Doris has been with the DAP Unit since 1996.
As of April 2018, Marlene serves as the Western, Central, and Southern Tier Regional Coordinator for Empire Justice's Anchor Partner Program for the office of the NYS Attorney General’s Homeownership Protection Program (HOPP). Marlene coordinates legal services and housing counseling services related to HOPP and organizes out of the Rochester office of Empire Justice Center.
Previously, Marlene served as a bi-lingual Foreclosure Prevention Intake Paralegal with the Consumer Finance and Housing Unit (CFH) in Empire Justice Center's Rochester office. She provided administrative support to the attorneys and paralegals in the CFH Unit.
Before joining Empire Justice Center, Marlene worked with Preferred Care (MVP Health Care) as an enrollment representative for 9 counties. Prior to that she worked for a private attorney as a Legal Assistant and also with Monroe County Legal Assistance in various positions.
Maria DeGennaro joined Empire Justice Center as a Staff Attorney with the Consumer Finance and Housing Unit of Empire Justice Center, and is the Long Island Regional Coordinator for its Anchor Partner Program for the Office of the NYS Attorney General's Homeownership Protection Program ("HOPP"). Maria provides and coordinates legal services and housing counseling services related to HOPP out of the Central Islip office at Touro Law School's Public Advocacy Center.
Maria's previous experience includes being the Foreclosure Prevention Program Manager for Long Island Housing Services, Inc. ("LIHS"). Maria worked at LIHS and built their foreclosure prevention program while attending law school. After graduating from Touro Law School, Maria worked in legal private practice handling a range of litigation cases.
Prior to attending law school, Maria worked for two decades in business, banking and lending institutions. She graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in Business Administration and received her M.B.A. from Sacred Heart University.
Peter Dellinger is a senior staff attorney with the Empire Justice Center's Rochester office. He represents low-income clients in consumer, civil rights and employment matters, and supervises the Empire Justice Wage Theft Project and consumer rights work.
Before attending law school he was a Robert F. Kennedy Fellow, and after receiving his J.D. degree from the Antioch School of Law, he clerked for Judge John T. Curtin of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York.
Peter began his legal services career in the Midwest, where he directed a state-wide legal services program representing migrant farmworkers. During this time, he completed language course work at the Academia Hispano Americana in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Peter Dellinger is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, Ohio, and New York, and before the United States Tax Court and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
He received his B.A. degree from University of Toronto, and has an M.A. degree in American Government from American University.
Prathiba Desai is a Staff Attorney with the Immigration Unit working out of our Yonkers office. Prior to joining the Empire Justice Center, Prathiba represented victims of domestic violence and human trafficking from the Lower Hudson Valley and New York City region in immigration proceedings. She also has experience representing young people seeking Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
Prathiba is a graduate from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law. As a law student she was a part of the International Women's Human Rights Clinic. Prathiba is a graduate of St. John's University, earning a Master of Arts in Political Science and International Law & Diplomacy and Rutgers University, where she earned her undergraduate degree.
Jim is the Document Paralegal for the Foreclosure Prevention team. He works out of the Rochester office.
He is responsible for assisting the attorneys on the team in putting together the necessary paperwork to apply for mortgage loan modifications on behalf of our foreclosure prevention clients.
Jim has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Union College, and was a volunteer at Empire Justice before being hired full time.
Anne Erickson is President and CEO of Empire Justice Center. Anne works in the Albany office.
Anne has been with Empire Justice since 1989. She started as a policy analyst and legislative coordinator and became President when the organization’s director of over 30 years retired in 2000. Anne has overseen the transformation of the organization, guiding its merger with the Public Interest Law Office of Rochester, expanding its White Plains office and opening a new office on Long Island. She has put together a solid management team and has strategically combined the two organizations, aligning staff into five major practice groups: Consumer, Housing, C.A.S.H. and Community Development; Civil Rights, Education and Employment; Disability Benefits; Immigrants and Immigrant Rights; and Public Benefits, Health and Family.
Prior to taking on her current leadership of the organization, Anne directed the legislative and policy advocacy work of the Greater Upstate Law Project. Working closely with GULP’s staff attorneys, she helped develop and pursue an annual legislative agenda, focused primarily on health and welfare issues.
Anne provides statewide leadership in efforts to strengthen and improve access to justice and to expand funding for civil legal services. She is the former chair of the Equal Justice Commission and helped lead the LSC-driven state planning efforts in New York State.
Anne was an adjunct instructor for the Center for Women in Government’s graduate Fellowship program for many years, offering an intense course on the practical workings of state government, the development of the state budget and the interactions between and among the various branches of state government.
Before entering the world of advocacy, Anne was a journalist, working as the first legislative correspondent for WAMC-Northeast Public Radio, providing daily coverage of state government and politics and developing and hosting a weekly half-hour news show, The Legislative Gazette.
Anne is a graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a dual major in English/Journalism and Political Science.
Don Friedman is the managing attorney of the Empire Justice Center Long Island office. He is part of the Government Benefits, Family & Health Unit.
Don's primary focus is in public benefits policy advocacy. This work strives, at all levels of government, through legislative and administrative change, to ensure that benefits are adequate and accessible to those in need.
Before joining Empire Justice in 2007, Don had been a staff attorney at legal services offices in Queens and Manhattan, the public benefits coordinating attorney at Legal Services for New York City, and a policy analyst at the Community Food Resource Center and the Community Service Society, both in New York City.
He is a co-founder of Project FAIR, a member of the boards of Hunger Solutions New York and the Public Utility Law Project and a member of the Suffolk County Welfare to Work Commission. He is the author of An Advocate's Guide to the Welfare Work Rules, available on the Empire Justice Center website.
Jane Gabriele is an attorney with the Civil Rights, Employment and Education Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester Office. She works with parents on education issues.
Her focus is primarily on assisting parents with gaining access to special education and compelling school districts to provide each child a free, appropriate education. She offers trainings to parents and local agencies designed to increase their understanding of the process and providing them the tools necessary to advocate for children with special needs.
Ms. Gabriele established legal precedent in Appeal of Crawford, Ed. Dept., decision No. 15,801 changing NYS law to reflect a child's actual residence rather than their theoretical one.
In 2004, she taught courses in Law and Ethics to students at Bryant & Stratton and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Special Education Task Force.
She is the 2009 recipient of the NYS Bar Association President's Award for Pro Bono Service, 2006 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service and 1989 recipient of the JC Penney Golden Rule Award.
She received her law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law.
Amanda Gallipeau is a Coordinator with the Health Law Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester office. Her work is focused on assisting those who are struggling to access health benefits, providing direct client services, technical assistance and training to advocates. She is responsible for the management and reporting of the various funding contracts that support the work of the health team.
Amanda serves on the Partnership for Access to Healthcare (PATH), a community partnership through Common Ground Health, whose mission is to increase health insurance coverage and expand access to care, by promoting universal coverage, monitoring state policy, and tracking the impact of the lack of insurance in the region. Before joining the Health practice group, Amanda previously worked in the Foreclosure Prevention unit at Empire Justice Center. Her work focused on advocating for low-income homeowners who had been targeted by predatory lenders as well as with those homeowners who are unable to meet current mortgage obligations in an attempt to prevent foreclosure.
Angela Hale (Angie) is a paralegal with the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester office.
Linda Hassberg is a senior staff attorney in Empire Justice Center's Long Island office. Linda's primary responsibility is impact litigation to bring about systemic change, primarily in the areas of public benefits, civil rights, health and family law.
Linda joined the Empire Justice Center in 2007 to help open the Long Island Office. Prior to that time, she served as litigation counsel of the not-for-profit Western New York Law Center in Buffalo, New York, where she conducted individual and class action impact litigation on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged in the areas of public benefits, health care, education, housing discrimination, and civil rights. Her other legal experiences include association with a private law firm in a practice devoted to the rights of people with disabilities and special education law. She also maintained a practice in union-side labor and employment law.
Linda graduated magna cum laude from the University of Buffalo Law School in 1992 and clerked for the Hon. John T. Curtin, USDJ for the Western District of New York from 1992-95. Prior to law school, Linda was a union activist, educator, and organizer for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees "AFSCME" and holds a Masters degree in U.S. Social and Labor History.
Bryan is responsible for the focus and effectiveness of the legal work of Empire Justice. Bryan works in the Rochester office. Most of his career has involved complex litigation and other systemic non-litigation advocacy with regard to social services programs, health access, education, housing and civil rights.
Bryan came to Rochester in 1980 to serve as Litigation Director of Monroe County Legal Assistance Center. He remained in that position until 1996 when he founded the Public Interest Law Office of Rochester. He became Chief Counsel of Empire Justice Center in 2004. He is a Past President on the Monroe County Bar Association, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the New York State Bar Association. He serves on the boards of a number of not-for-profit health and community organizations. He serves on the Steering Committee for the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. He is past board chair of the Greater Rochester Regional Health Information Organization and was founding board chair of the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.. He is a graduate of LaSalle College and the Cornell Law School.
Laura is the Immigrant Rights Paralegal for the Long Island office. Laura is fluent in both English and Spanish. Laura assists immigrant clients in applying for immigration benefits, provides translations and interpretation, and conducts intakes. Laura also assists the Liberty Defense Project Manager and Senior Immigration Attorney in grant reporting and case tracking.
Laura has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Stony Brook University. Prior to working at Empire Justice, Laura was a legal intern at SEPA Mujer and a Graduate Coordinator for Off-Campus Living at Stony Brook University. Laura is also a singer and performer in her spare time.
Kristi is Empire Justice Center's Vice President of Development & Administration. She works out of the Rochester office and is a member of the Leadership Team.
Kristi is responsible for marketing, grant writing, fundraising and overall development initiatives as well as for the administration of all grants and contracts.
Before joining Empire Justice in 2002, Kristi worked in development at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Golisano Children's Hospital and in marketing at the YMCA of Greater Rochester.
Kristi is a mentor with Lawyers for Learning at School 29, serves as a volunteer tax advisor and preparer for C.A.S.H. and is a member of Avon Central School District's Board of Education.
She graduated magna cum laude with Bachelor's degrees in Mandarin Chinese and Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993 and holds a Masters degree in Public Administration from SUNY Brockport. She also studied at National Taiwan Normal University.
Keith Jensen is a Disability Advocacy Paralegal with the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) in Empire Justice Center’s Rochester office. Before joining Empire Justice Center, Keith was a student at the University of Rochester. As a student, he interned with US Senator Kirstin Gillibrand’s regional Rochester office. Keith is also a graduate of the New Visions Law & Government Program, which allowed him the opportunity to intern with the Broome County Family Court system, an Educational Law firm, and The City of Binghamton’s Office of Corporate Counsel.
Jennifer Karr is a staff attorney at the Empire Justice Center in the Rochester office. She represents clients appealing the denial of disability benefits before ODAR and the Appeals Council. Prior to joining Empire Justice, she practiced disability law at the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York and worked for the New York State Department of Labor. She is admitted to practice in New York, and is a member of the state and women’s Bar Associations. She graduated from the David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC) and the George Washington University.
Kirsten E. Keefe is a senior staff attorney with the Consumer Finance and Housing Unit in Empire Justice Center's Albany office. Kirsten works on policy issues regarding mortgage lending, foreclosure and consumer financial issues. Kirsten is also the Director of Empire Justice’s Anchor Partner program for the NYS Office of the Attorney General’s Homeownership Protection Program (HOPP), overseeing the statewide administration of grants to non-profit organizations providing direct assistance to homeowners. Kirsten has focused on anti-predatory lending and foreclosure since 1998, having started in direct services at Community Legal Services, Inc. in Philadelphia, PA. From 2009 - 2011, Kirsten served on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System’s Consumer Advisory Council. Kirsten has taught consumer law at Temple University Beasley School of Law, and has lectured at Albany Law School and other local universities. She received a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and a J.D. from Beasley School of Law at Temple University.
Prior to law school, Kirsten served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.
Cheryl Keshner is a Senior Paralegal/Community Advocate with the Empire Justice Center in the Long Island office, where she assists indigent people, particularly immigrants, in obtaining assistance from the Department of Social Services and other government agencies. She is active in advocating for the rights of people with limited English proficiency and has provided training and technical assistance to other advocates throughout the state.
She is the founder and coordinator of the Long Island Language Advocates Coalition (LILAC), a coalition of individuals and organizations based on Long Island working to attain equal access to programs and services, such as healthcare, law enforcement, social services, education and justice through the courts, for persons who are limited English proficient. The coalition was successful in obtaining passage of executive orders in both Nassau and Suffolk counties mandating county agencies to provide comprehensive language access. Cheryl was the recipient of the 2013 Suffolk County Civil Liberties Union Equality Award.
Prior to joining the Empire Justice Center, Cheryl worked for fifteen years as a social worker with Nassau/Suffolk Law Services where she assisted numerous homeless individuals and families, challenged work rules disqualifications and provided representation at fair hearings, and engaged in community education regarding welfare reform. She has also worked as a community organizer with the NYC Commission on Human Rights . Cheryl is fluent in Spanish and has an MSW from Hunter College School of Social Work.
Ruhi Maker is a senior staff attorney with the Consumer, Finance and Housing Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester office. Ms. Maker has been a public interest attorney for over 35 years.
Since 1989, she has worked on affordable housing issues and community reinvestment issues in Rochester New York. Ms. Maker co-convened the Community Development Block Grant Coalition to improve targeting of CDBG funds to low and moderate income households in Rochester New York. Ms. Maker co-convened the Greater Rochester Community Reinvestment Coalition (GRCRC) in 1993. Since then, the Coalition or its convener, Empire Justice Center, has released over twenty analyses of home mortgage, foreclosure, small business and subprime lending data. GRCRC has submitted dozens of CRA exam and merger comments, based on the data, to the appropriate State and Federal regulators who have oversight of the banks.
Ms. Maker served on the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer Advisory Council from 2002-2004. In 2016, Ms. Maker was appointed to a three year term on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Consumer Advisory Board.
A native of Pakistan, she received her law degree from the London School of Economics. She was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1986.
Alexia Mickles is a Staff Attorney with the Health Law Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester office.
Alexia devotes her practice to ensuring access to Medicaid and Medicare to New York's most vulnerable populations. As a law student, she interned with the Empire Justice Center's Disability Advocacy Program (DAP). Alexia graduated cum laude from SUNY Fredonia (2012) and holds a law degree from Pace University School of Law (2015). At Pace, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Pace Intellectual Property, Sports, & Entertainment Law Forum (PIPSELF). Alexia is licensed to practice law in New York (2016).
Matthew is the Public Benefits Litigation Paralegal in Empire Justice Center’s Albany office.
He provides support to a team of attorneys working on issues that include public assistance, child care, emergency assistance and the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP).
He relocated to the Capital Region after completing the Paralegal Studies program at Florida International University.
Ryan Mullaney is a staff paralegal with the Civil Rights, Education, and Employment (CREE) practice group at the Empire Justice Center’s Rochester office. He provides intake and administrative support to the CREE team.
Ryan has a background in legal services, policy advocacy, and community organizing. He has focused on issues related to education, domestic violence, police brutality, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree from Hobart & William Smith Colleges. He is a native of Schenectady, New York.
Remla Parthasarathy is the Project Leader of the Crime Victims Legal Network, a federally-funded partnership between the New York State Office of Victim Services, the Empire Justice Center, Pro Bono Net, and the Center for Human Services Research at the State University of New York at Albany. The goal of the Project is to connect victims of crime with the civil legal services they need through the development of new technology solutions. The Network is expected to be operational in late 2018.
Since graduating from the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School, Remla has worked in a variety of capacities primarily in the field of intimate partner violence. She served as an attorney representing domestic violence victims in Family Court, a systems advocate for a domestic violence shelter and county-wide coalition, a coordinator of a misdemeanor domestic violence court, a coordinator of a safe-home network, and a Domestic Violence in the Workplace Educator. Prior to joining Empire Justice, Remla worked for ten years as the Clinical Instructor for the Women, Children, and Social Justice Clinic at the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School. There, she supervised and taught students placed in agencies that work in the areas of intimate partner violence, elder abuse, child abuse, and human trafficking, and provided assistance to coalitions and task forces in the Western New York area to enhance their communities' response to intimate partner violence. She also teaches as an adjunct professor, and works as a consultant and trainer.
Remla has presented workshops at several national and state-wide conferences. She has served on the Board of Directors of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the International Institute of Buffalo, the YWCA of Western New York, and the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence. She is a recipient of the Sr. Karen Klimczack Peace and Justice Award from the Erie County Coalition Against Family Violence, and the Trailblazer Award from the SUNY Buffalo Law School Students of Color Committee.
Ellie Pepper joined Empire Justice Center in December 2012 as the Hudson Valley and Northeast Regional Coordinator for its Anchor Partner Program for the office of the NYS Attorney General’s Homeownership Protection Program (HOPP). Ellie coordinates legal services and housing counseling services related to HOPP and organizes training and technical assistance for HOPP grantees out of the Albany offices of Empire Justice Center.
Ellie’s previous experience includes being the Deputy Director of a non-profit homeownership center in Schenectady, NY for six years. Her focus in this position was the management of a tri-county Housing Counseling Program that provided prepurchase education and counseling, post purchase counseling and mortgage default and foreclosure counseling. Her previous experience includes non-profit program management and substance abuse counseling.
Ellie graduated from SUNY Empire State College with a BA in Psychological Counseling.
Kevin Purcell is a staff attorney with the Consumer Finance and Housing Unit in Empire Justice Center's in Rochester office.
Kevin works with low-income homeowners who have been targeted by predatory lenders as well as with those homeowners who are unable to meet current mortgage obligations in an attempt to prevent foreclosure.
Kevin graduated cum laude from George Mason University Law School in 2005, where he was on the Moot Court Board and Civil Rights Law Journal.
Sujata is the 2017-19 Hanna S. Cohn Equal Justice Fellow. A graduate of the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Syracuse University, she has extensive community service, community organizing and clinical experience at agencies that serve low-income people including the Public Defender’s office, homeless shelters, nonprofits focused on child advocacy, and after school programs.
Before attending law school, Sujata worked as an AmeriCorps paralegal in the Ithaca office of Legal Assistance of Western New York (LawNY) and as an advocate for the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County in California.
Sujata’s Fellowship project will focus on investigating the root causes of the dismal graduation rate of students in the Rochester City School District (RCSD) and directly advocating for youth re-entering RCSD after long-term education interruptions.
Berta Rivera is the Director of Creating Assets, Savings & Hope (C.A.S.H.)*, a community coalition led by Empire Justice and the United Way of Greater Rochester. She works out of Empire Justice Center's Rochester office. As Director, she is responsible for the overall management and operations of C.A.S.H.
Her formal education includes a Bachelors of Applied Sciences from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Before being promoted to C.A.S.H. Director, she worked as the Assistant Director from 2012 to 2014, and the Outreach and Volunteer Manager from 2009 to 2012. Prior to joining C.A.S.H., she was a paralegal working in the Foreclosure Prevention program of Empire Justice Center. Ms. Rivera grew up in the City of Rochester and is bilingual. She provides interpreting services for Hispanic families in a variety of settings, including budget and foreclosure counseling, and tax preparation.
Ms. Rivera is an active member of the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC). By invitation, she has presented at National Conferences hosted by NCTC and the Institute for Financial Literacy. Topics covered included the recruitment, retention, and management of volunteers; best practices for training and communicating with volunteers and staff; client engagement and customer service at VITA sites; and financial coaching. VITA volunteer coordinators and prospective financial coaching program coordinators from agencies across the nation are often referred to Ms. Rivera for advice, training, and technical support.
*C.A.S.H. is aimed at creating opportunities for workers with low incomes to obtain, maintain and build economic assets In addition to Earned Income Tax Credit outreach and free income tax return preparation, C.A.S.H. volunteers along with community professionals, link interested clients to community resources such as food stamps, child care subsidies, bank and credit union services, home buying programs, money management education, and credit counseling.
Mario Roque is Empire Justice Center's first Cornell Law Frank H.T. Rhodes Public Interest Fellow. His project will focus on school segregation.
Before graduating with a B.A. in Political Science from San Francisco State University, Mario worked in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. His work at the center instilled in him a drive for turning ideals into action. Prior to, and while attending Cornell Law School, he served as a case manager at an immigration law firm.
While a student at Cornell Law, Mario participated in the Farmworker's Legal Assistance Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic, and organized and coordinated the Public Interest Academy, a student-led initiative that brings together Cornell alumni and students in order to support and promote public interest legal careers. Mario began some of the educational research for his project during the summer of 2016 as Empire Justice Center's Diversity Fellow.
Amy Schwartz-Wallace is a Senior Attorney with the Empire Justice Center in Rochester where she has overseen their Domestic Violence Unit for over a decade. She provides legal training and technical assistance to civil legal services attorneys, domestic violence programs and other agencies and organizations statewide. Amy coordinates a multi-year, statewide grant through the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services where she provides legal training and technical assistance around the intersection of intimate partner violence and LGBT communities. Amy also successfully litigated several impact litigation cases on behalf of victims of intimate partner violence, most notably the Third Department’s 2010 & 2011 decisions in Dickerson v. Thompson which affirmed access to a New York Supreme Court for equitable dissolution of out-of-state civil unions. The Dickerson rulings have since been widely cited in New York, other states, as well as to 2nd Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. Amy engages in policy analysis and legislative advocacy, and her advocacy has directly resulted in numerous law, regulation, and policy changes on local, state, and national levels. Amy has also supervised Empire Justice Center’s LGBT Law Project and Crime Victims Legal Network Project since their respective inceptions. From 2006-2008, Amy also served as an Adjunct Law Professor at Syracuse University College of Law where she taught an upper-level course on domestic violence law.
Amy is the author of numerous publications including, Important Identity Change Precedent Created By New York Courts for Domestic Violence Victims and their Children in the compendium VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: VICTIMS AND ABUSERS, LEGAL ISSUES, INTERVENTIONS AND TREATMENT (Joan Zorza, ed., Civic Research Institute 2006) and DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REPORT, Volume 9, No. 4 (June/July 2004). With Sharon Stapel, she co-authored the chapter, Public Assistance and Housing: Helping Survivors Navigate Difficult Systems in the First Department’s LAWYER’S MANUAL ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: REPRESENTING THE VICTIM (2015 ed,, 2006 and 2004 eds.). With state agency, the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Amy co-authored their 2013 GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR COMMUNITY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE POLICY. This multi-disciplinary statewide tool assists communities with creating and updating comprehensive, responsive policies for cases involving domestic violence.
Amy is a proud recipient of several awards recognizing her legal work. In 2015, she was the first recipient of the Ally Windsor Howell Champion of Diversity Award given by the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys. She was also the first recipient of RESOLVE’s 2014 Resolutionary Award, recognizing those who demonstrate vision, leadership and determination toward ending and preventing violence against women in our community. In addition, Amy also had the honor of being recognized with the Up and Coming Attorney Award by the DAILY RECORD legal newspaper in 2007, as well as their Leaders in Law Award in 2010.
Among her many community activities, Amy serves on the Board of Trustees for the Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA) and is a former President of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys (GRAWA). In 2014, she helped to found, and is now currently a member of, the MCBA’s LGBT Committee. She is also a member of Women’s Bar Association of New York’s new LGBT Committee. Amy served as Statewide Co-Chair of WBASNY’s Domestic Violence Committee (2005-2008, 2011-2015) and their Access to Justice Committee (2010-2011). She also co-founded the Domestic Violence Committee for the Greater Rochester Association of Women Attorneys in 2003 and has served as its co-chair for many years.
Amy Schwartz-Wallace received her Bachelor of Arts from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey and her law degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law.
Kristin is a senior attorney with the Civil Rights, Employment and Education Unit in Empire Justice Center's Rochester Office. She is a 2008 graduate of Harvard Law School, whose practice is concentrated in the areas of discrimination in employment and education, particularly on the basis of disability. Notable cases include a lawsuit against a public university alleging denial of reasonable accommodation, as well as a class action lawsuit against a public school district for unequal treatment of female athletes under Title IX.
While at Harvard Law Kristin served on the Board of Directors of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, the oldest student-run legal services office in the country, and was awarded the Edith W. Fine and Skirnick Fellowships for public service. After graduating from law school in 2008, she worked as a staff attorney in housing and benefits law for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Weslaco, Texas, and later at Medical-Legal Partnership | Boston in Boston, Massachusetts.
Shannon joined Empire Justice Center in January, 2015, as the New York State Mortgage Assistance Program Assistant, working with The Center for New York City Neighborhoods to support housing counselors and legal services providers across New York State. As the point of contact for both housing counselors and legal services providers, Shannon ensured the smooth processing of loan applications for thousands of New York homeowners. Over 1,000 homes were saved as a result of this program.
Shannon now overseas the day-to-day operations of the HOPP Anchor Partner program for all funded agencies outside of New York City. Her role has also expanded to include supporting the organization’s Marketing & Communications Team, as well as its Diversity Committee.
Louise M. Tarantino is a senior staff attorney with the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP) Unit in Empire Justice Center's Albany office. She focuses her practice on Social Security and disability law.
Louise is a member of the New York and District of Columbia Bars. She is a contributing author of the NYSBA Committee on Disability Rights publication, Representing People With Disabilities. She is also a contributing author of Benefits Management for Working People with Disabilities: An Advocate's Manual. Louise is a frequent lecturer and trainer on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income issues.
She is a graduate of Nazareth College and the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law.
Barbara Van Kerkhove is a researcher/policy analyst in Empire Justice Center's Rochester Office where she does research and advocacy on a variety of consumer finance and economic justice issues. She is the principal author of "#AllTogetherNow: Improving Small Business Lending in the Rochester NY Community," a January 2018 report which found disparities in lending to Rochester area small businesses. In 2015, Barb completed two reports examining mortgage lending on Long Island and in the Rochester metro area to see how low-moderate income families and communities of color were recovering from the Great Recession.
Barb co-convenes the Greater Rochester Community Reinvestment Coalition (GRCRC). The coalition was one of the key players in negotiating the $16.5 billion KeyBank Community Benefits Agreement. Barb also works with state and national coalitions, including New Yorkers for Responsible Lending (NYRL) and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), on access to responsible credit and financial services and public access to lending data.
Barb received her Ph.D. from the University at Albany, SUNY.
Connie is the Senior Administrative Assistant based out of the Albany office.
She provides administrative support to the attorneys and paralegals in the Albany office.
Keana Williams is a Staff Attorney with the Disability Advocacy Program (DAP). Keana focuses on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability issues. She represents individuals on SSD and SSI appeals before Administrative Law Judges and the Appeals Council.
Keana is a graduate of Hampton University (2011) and The Pennsylvania State University: Dickinson School of Law (2015). She is licensed to practice in New York (2016).
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