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23rd Annual Children's Law Institute

Speaker(s): Christine Toner, LCSW-R, Danny Alicea, Gary Solomon, Gregory Desire, Esq., Hon. Alison M. Hamanjian, Jamien Weddle, Jeffrey Blinkoff, Jennifer Feinberg, Karen Yazmajian, Katherine Wojewoda, Esq., Keisha Francis, LMSW, Manju Sunny, Mikila Thompson, Randy A. Hertz, Roshell Amezcua
Recorded on: Jul. 10, 2020
PLI Program #: 274296

Gary Solomon is the Director of Legal Support for The Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Practice. In that capacity he participates in the training of staff and acts as a supervisor, consultant and advisor to staff; prepares practice memoranda and other continuing legal education materials and maintains the Juvenile Rights Practice’s electronic legal research system; and works closely with the Juvenile Rights Practice’s Appeals Unit and, in that capacity, has handled appeals raising important practice issues and prepared and edited amicus briefs.

Mr. Solomon participates in New York State Appellate Division-sponsored training programs for assigned counsel, and Unified Court System-sponsored training programs for judges and court attorneys. 

Mr. Solomon prepares the weekly JRD Newsletter, a compilation of annotated court decisions which is made available to judges, lawyers and other professionals throughout New York state and elsewhere, and is the principal author of Volumes One, Two and Three of the Practice Manual for Children’s Attorneys. He has authored chapters on child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights proceedings which appear in West Publishing's New York Family Court Practice. 
In 2003, Mr. Solomon was awarded the Howard A. Levine Award For Excellence in Juvenile Justice And Child Welfare by the New York State Bar Association, Committee on Children and the Law.  In 2006, Mr. Solomon received the Kathryn A. McDonald Award For Excellence in Service to Family Court from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. In 2007, Mr. Solomon received the Orison Marden Award For Outstanding Service and Dedication to the Organization and to the Clients from The Legal Aid Society of New York City.


Keisha Francis, LMSW is a Social Work Supervisor in the Juvenile Support Unit of The Legal Aid Society-Juvenile Rights Practice.  In her role, Keisha advocates for the needs of her clients while assisting them in navigating the systems that are involved in their lives. Keisha is also a certified expert in Complex Trauma, which helps inform her clinical practice.  Ms. Francis received her B.A/B.S. in Black Studies, with a strong concentration in Psychology from Hunter College and a Master's in Social Work from The Silberman School of Social Work.

Keisha considers herself an agent of change; therefore she is committed to ensuring that every interaction with her clients is intentional and mindful of their generational or lived experiences.

Manju Sunny has been a trainer in the Legal Support and Training Unit at Family Court Legal Services (FCLS), a division of the Administration for Children’s Services since 2018. In her current role, she trains all front line FCLS attorneys on issues ranging from constitutional law to social work issues in the law. Ms. Sunny also trains the Child Protective Specialists on legal issues in family court and still occasionally appears in family court on her own cases and to supervise new staff. Ms. Sunny started her legal career in the Brooklyn FCLS office in 2012 and then later became a supervisor in the Staten Island office where she worked until 2017. In 2017, she served as a Court Attorney to the Honorable Alison Hamanjian in Kings County & Staten Island Family Courts, and Kings County Criminal Court. Ms. Sunny received her undergraduate degree from St. John’s University and received her Juris Doctor from Hofstra Law School.

Mikila J. Thompson, Esq. is a Staff Attorney with The Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP) where she currently works as an education advocate for the Kathryn A. McDonald Education Advocacy Project (EAP).  Prior to her role in EAP, Ms. Thompson was an attorney for children  who were the subject of Child Protective and Custody cases.  Throughout her tenure with JRP, Mikila has served as a trainer for new attorneys, interns, and colleagues across The Legal Aid Society. In addition to her training work at The Legal Aid Society, Ms. Thompson has served as a trainer in other disciplines including career preparation and coaching, real estate and finance, and personal finance.  Mikila is an active member of the NYC Bar Association, serving as secretary of the Mental Health Law Committee.

Randy Hertz is the Vice Dean of N.Y.U. School of Law and the director of the law school’s clinical program.  He has been at the law school since 1985, and teaches the Juvenile Defender Clinic, first-year Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and a simulation course titled “Criminal Litigation.”  Before joining the N.Y.U. faculty, he worked at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, in the juvenile, criminal, appellate and special litigation divisions.  He writes in the areas of criminal and juvenile justice and is the co-author, with Professor James Liebman of Columbia Law School, of a two-volume treatise titled “Federal Habeas Corpus Law and Practice”; the co-author, with Professor Anthony G. Amsterdam of N.Y.U. Law School, of “Trial Manual for the Defense of Criminal Cases”; and the co-author, with Professor Amsterdam and N.Y.U. Law Professor Martin Guggenheim, of “Trial Manual for Defense Attorneys in Juvenile Delinquency Cases.” He is an editor-in-chief of the Clinical Law Review.  In the past, he has served as the Chair of the Council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar; a consultant to the MacCrate Task Force on Law Schools and the Profession: Narrowing the Gap; a reporter for the Wahl Commission on ABA Accreditation of Law Schools; a reporter for the New York Professional Education Project; and the chair of the AALS Standing Committee on Clinical Legal Education.  He received the New York State Bar Association’s Howard Levine Award for Excellence in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare in 2020; NYU Law School’s Podell Distinguished Teaching Award in 2010; the Equal Justice Initiative’s Award for Advocacy for Equal Justice in 2009; the Association of American Law Schools’ William Pincus Award for Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Legal Education in 2004; the NYU Award for Distinguished Teaching by a University Professor in 2003; and the American Bar Association’s Livingston Hall award for advocacy in the juvenile justice field in 2000.

Christine Toner, LCSW-R has over 25 years of experience working with youth, individuals and families. Christine’s clinical practice spans a variety of settings including: hospital based mental health clinics, community based organizations, child welfare agencies, substance abuse programs and governmental agencies including community corrections.

She currently consults with child welfare agencies, community corrections, problem solving courts and juvenile justice programs throughout the United States on a variety of evidence based practice models including Motivational Interviewing (MI), cognitive behavioral interventions and coaching.

Christine is a member of MINT (Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers)and is currently an adjunct professor at Fordham University.

Danny Alicea has been the Litigation Supervisor in CFR’s Immigration Practice since 2018.  Mr. Alicea supervises a team that directly represents clients applying for immigration benefits and defends clients in deportation proceedings. For any CFR non-citizen youth or adult client facing criminal charges, Mr. Alicea helps evaluate the potential immigration consequences that may result from the proceedings. He provides similar advisals on family defense cases as necessitated by recent changes in immigration enforcement. Prior to joining CFR, Mr. Alicea worked as a staff attorney at Immigration Equality, as the first Immigration Special Counsel to the Brooklyn District Attorney, and as the Fragomen Fellow at the City Bar Justice Center where he handled many SIJS cases. Mr. Alicea has served as a part-time adjunct professor in CUNY Law’s Immigrant and Non-Citizen’s Rights Clinic and also regularly presents at conferences about working in an interdisciplinary immigration practice as well as the overlap between immigration and other areas of law such as criminal and child protective law.

Gregory is Senior Counsel in the Major Case Unit of the Queens Family Court Division.

Gregory began his professional career with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. During his tenure at the District Attorney’s Office, Gregory served as a Team Leader in the Criminal Court Bureau supervising and overseeing junior Assistants. Gregory was later promoted to Felony Assistant within Trial Bureau 30 handling felony cases involving firearms, attempted murders, serious assaults, robberies, DWIs, search warrants and Trap and Traces. Within that capacity, Gregory conducted numerous Grand Jury presentations, pre-trial hearings, trials, and co-counseled and supervised junior Assistants on their respective hearings and trials. 

As Senior Counsel in the Major Case Unit, Gregory handles the most complex and serious cases within the Division involving juvenile delinquency such as firearms, gun and knife point robberies, burglaries, serious assaults, attempted murders, and homicides. Within this capacity, Gregory handles numerous hearings and trials, conducts CLE training presentations, and leads speaking engagements at NYC schools, police-community council meetings and the NYPD Police Academy. Gregory manages cases from the investigation stage through final disposition.

Gregory received his Juris Doctorate from Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from St. John’s University. Gregory is admitted to the New York State Bar and is a member of the National Black Prosecutor’s Association, Metropolitan Black Bar Association, Haitian American Lawyers Association of New York, and Practicing Attorneys for Law Students program.

Jamien Weddle joined the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice in 2006 and is currently Deputy Attorney-in-Charge of its Bronx office in New York City. Legal Aid’s JRP represents children and adolescents in New York City’s Family Courts in abuse, neglect, PINS, and delinquency proceedings. In addition to managing a team of attorneys handling child protective cases, Jamien supervises the Bronx JRP Adolescent Practice Team, an interdisciplinary group of attorneys, social workers and paralegals specializing in the representation of older youth in foster care. He is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law.

Jeffrey L. Blinkoff is a partner in the law firm of Leventhal, Mullaney & Blinkoff, LLP.   He has more than 30 years of practice experience in the field of child welfare and in the representation of foster care agencies. 

Mr. Blinkoff graduated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut in 1981, and the City University of New York Law School at Queens College in 1989.  He is admitted to the New York State Bar and in the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York.

Prior to attending law school, Mr. Blinkoff worked as a caseworker at St. Christopher-Ottilie (now SCO Family of Services).  He continued to work part-time with that agency during his first year of law school, preparing adoption home studies.  Also while attending law school, Mr. Blinkoff served as a clerk at the firm of Carrieri & Carrieri, P.C. and, upon his admission to practice in 1990, joined the firm as an associate attorney and later as a partner. In June 2015, Mr. Blinkoff joined the firm of Leventhal, Mullaney & Blinkoff, LLP, as a partner. 

Since his admission to the New York State Bar in 1990 Mr. Blinkoff has focused his career in large part in the foster care field.   He has appeared in numerous cases on behalf of  foster care agencies in the Family Courts of all counties of the City of New York.  He has also appeared on behalf of these agencies in administrative hearings such as Independent Reviews and Foster Care Removal Fair Hearings, as well as in numerous matters in the trial and appellate divisions of the New York State Supreme Court.

Mr. Blinkoff also practices in the area of Municipal Law.  He is the Village Attorney in two villages in Nassau County as well as a prosecutor in the Village Justice Courts in five villages.

Jennifer Feinberg is a Litigation Supervisor at the Center for Family Representation (CFR). She joined CFR’s Queens practice in 2013 and has been practicing in Manhattan Family Court since 2016. Jennifer has represented hundreds of clients in child protective cases and is part of CFR’s Policy and Government Affairs team. Prior to joining CFR, Jennifer was also a Law Fellow in The Bronx Defenders Family Defense Practice. Jennifer is a 2012 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, and received her BA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2006. Prior to law school, she worked as a Political and Legislative Analyst at the Embassy for Israel in Washington, DC.

Karen is an Assistant Attorney-in-Charge in Legal Aid's Juvenile Rights practice, supervising the delinquency practice in the Brooklyn office. She is a recipient of the Orison S. Marden award for attorneys within legal aid who have performed their work with excellence and dedication to the ideals of the legal aid society. 

Karen received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University in 1988, and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Southern California in 1991. Prior to joining Legal Aid, Karen worked at the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice as part of the Annie E. Casey Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

Karen conducts trainings and speaks regularly on juvenile justice matters, Both Within New York City as well as nationally.

Roshell is the Family Defense and Immigration Counsel at the Bronx Defenders. Roshell has represented parents in neglect and abuse proceedings since 2016. Her role has shifted to also include developing a deeper understanding of the harmful impact the child welfare system has on a parent’s immigration status and eligibility for immigration relief. Her role includes advising family defense and immigration advocates on the enmeshed harms a child welfare proceeding or investigation has on one’s immigration status, and vice versa.  She has trained and presented at law schools, several parent defense conferences, and to other practitioners. She has also conducted ‘know your rights trainings’ for noncitizen parents at community-based organizations. Prior to coming to the Bronx Defenders, Roshell was a post-bar law clerk at the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, and was a hired law clerk at Loyola Law School’s Center for Juvenile Law and Policy. She received her undergraduate education at the University of California, Davis and went to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, California. Her passion lies in racial, economic, immigrant justice and justice for Black, Indigenous, queer, trans, and gender non-conforming people of color.

Katherine Wojewoda is a Litigation Supervisor at the Center for Family Representation. Katherine is a 2012 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, and received her MAT from American University and BA from the University of Michigan. She has also worked as legal counsel for a charter school network and completed a law and policy fellowship on urban community development.  

Alison M. Hamanjian, Assistant Deputy Counsel to Honorable Judy Harris Kluger, Chief of Policy and Planning for New York State's Unified Court System, provides technical assistance, training and support to New York's problem-solving courts, including domestic violence courts, integrated domestic violence courts, mental health courts and adolescent diversion parts. Prior to her current position, Ms. Hamanjian served as Principal Law Clerk to Honorable Michael A. Corriero, former presiding justice of Manhattan's Youth Part. Before joining the New York State Unified Court System, Ms. Hamanjian served as Supervising Attorney for the Urban Justice Center's Domestic Violence Project, where she represented victims of domestic violence in custody, visitation and family offense proceedings. Ms. Hamanjian began her career as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx County District Attorney's Office, where she specialized in the prosecution of cases involving domestic violence, child abuse and sex crimes. Ms. Hamanjian graduated summa cum laude from Hunter College of the City University of New York and cum laude from New York Law School. She is currently a member of the New York State Bar Association's Children and the Law Committee.