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Reentry in California – Overcoming Legal Barriers to Community Reintegration 2020

Speaker(s): Adam Poe, Andrew Wachtenheim, Asher Waite-Jones, Autumn Paine, Brandon C. Banks, Brandon L. Greene, Chloe Noonan, Deborah Thrope, Erika L. Watts, Jael Myrick, John Jones III, Katie Dixon, Maureen Kildee, Oscar Lopez, Osha Neumann, Rebecca Oyama, Sonja Tonnesen-Casalegno, Tony Cheng, Vinuta Naik
Recorded on: Aug. 5, 2020
PLI Program #: 274940

Deborah Thrope is the Deputy Director of the National Housing Law Project (NHLP). Deborah’s work focuses on federal, state, and local policy advocacy to preserve affordable housing and tenants’ rights. She provides training and technical assistance to advocates working with low-income tenants and serves as an advisor and editor of NHLP’s seminal publication, HUD Housing Programs: Tenants Rights. Deborah has testified before Congress about increasing economic mobility in the Housing Choice Voucher program and improving living conditions for public housing residents. Before she joined NHLP, Deborah was a Senior Attorney at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley and represented clients with disabilities facing eviction and civil commitment.

Maureen Kildee is a staff attorney and clinical supervisor at the East Bay Community Law Center, serving indigent people in Alameda County seeking record clearing relief. Maureen received her B.A. from the University of Delaware, her A.A. from Cabrillo College, and her J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2001.

Maureen joined the East Bay Community Law Center’s Clean Slate Practice in 2017, where she focuses on removing barriers to employment and civic engagement for people with criminal records. She also works with EBCLC’s immigration unit to provide specialized post-conviction relief to immigrants who are not U.S. citizens.

Maureen is an active member of the Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County (JRC), and serves on the steering committee. The JRC is a group of local community-based organizations dedicated to creating a fair and just public safety system that invests in our communities, our families and our people.

Prior to working at EBCLC, Maureen spent ten years in private practice in Alameda County where she represented hundreds of indigent adults and children accused of serious crimes. She started her law career at the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office.

John Jones III was most recently on the staff of Just Cities as the Director of Community and Political Engagement. As a father of three and third generation East Oakland resident, John is also a formerly incarcerated advocate who was unemployed and homeless for eighteen months. Seeking to improve his Community John became involved in organizing and advocacy to empower himself and others by using his personal story of pain, trauma, faith and transformation. He works hard to inspire young (and not so young) people, as well as fighting for policy change. John has worked on several local and state campaigns and ballot measures, including Measure FF, Measure Z, Prop 47, and Prop 57- all successfully passing. John is a passionate and vocal advocate for affordable housing, employment, violence reduction, ending mass incarceration and advancing racial equity. In his spare time, John enjoys time with his kids and can be seen/heard rooting loudly for the Oakland Raiders, Oakland Athletics, and the Golden State Warriors. 

Brandon L. Greene is the Director of the Racial and Economic Justice Program at that ACLU of Northern California and an Adjunct Professor and Affiliated Scholar in the Center for Race and Economic Justice at UC Hastings School of Law. Brandon is a graduate of Boston University Law School where he was a Public Interest Scholar and Martin Luther King Social Justice Fellow. Previously, Brandon managed the Civic Design Lab in Oakland and was an Attorney and Clinical Supervisor at the East Bay Community Law Center where he helped to create and lead the decriminalization of poverty clinic. His recent articles Too Rich to be Poor: The Hypocrisy of Indigency Determinations and Mirror, Mirror: Anti-Blackness and Lawyering as an Identity were published in the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law and the Harvard Black Letter Law Journal, respectively. His article Depraved Necessities: Prison Privatization, Educational Attainment and the Path to Profit was published in 2013 by SRBLSA Law Journal.

Adam joined Bay Area Legal Aid in 2008 as a housing attorney in the Contra Costa Office and has been managing attorney in that office since May 2018. Adam became the first dedicated reentry attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid in 2012 and took on the role of regional project coordinator for the growing reentry unit shortly thereafter.

In his housing practice Adam has represented hundreds of low-income and disabled clients in Unlawful Detainers and administrative hearings in Contra Costa. He maintains a case load of housing and reentry cases and is involved in efforts to support individuals with criminal records achieve stability through housing and employment advocacy.

Adam serves on several regional task forces and steering committees, including the Reentry Community Advisory Board (CAB), the Reentry Success Center, the Youth Justice Initiative and the Alliance to End Abuse. He has trained hundreds of attorneys, advocates and service providers on Fair Housing issues and the housing rights of individuals with criminal records.

Education: DePaul College of Law (2006); Michigan State University, B.S. Pol. Sci (1999)

Practice Area: Housing, Reentry

Bar Admission: California, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California

Andrew joined the ILRC as a staff attorney in 2019 and focuses on a range of issues involving the consequences of criminal legal system contact for noncitizens. He has worked at this intersection of immigration and criminal law for nearly a decade, first as a staff attorney at The Bronx Defenders and then as a supervising litigation attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project. In those capacities, he engaged in impact litigation affecting the rights of immigrants in the criminal legal system and their vulnerability to deportation, represented noncitizens in removal proceedings in detained and nondetained immigration court cases in New York and New Jersey and in affirmative applications before the immigration agencies, challenged ICE enforcement abuses, advised noncitizens with pending cases in criminal and family courts, and co-led an advocacy campaign in New York seeking to end ICE arrests of immigrants attending state court proceedings. He is a frequent presenter and trainer on representing and defending immigrants with criminal convictions and currently sits on the Advisory Committee to the American Bar Association Commission on Immigration. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School, where he was a Stein Scholar for Public Interest Law and Ethics. He speaks Spanish and is conversant in French.

Asher Waite-Jones joined EBCLC’s Clean Slate Practice in 2019. Prior to joining EBCLC, Asher was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco, where he worked defending homeless youth in quality of life infractions and fighting for decriminalization of youth homelessness in the City and County. Asher graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law in 2016. During law school, he interned at the Bronx Defenders, the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office, and in the Immigration and Homelessness Units at the East Bay Community Law Center. Prior to law school, Asher worked as a paralegal for a nonprofit representing incarcerated people in federal civil lawsuits in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is committed to serving people facing structural oppression of all kinds, dismantling all hierarchical systems, ending mass incarceration, and moving towards the total liberation of all marginalized people. Outside of work, Asher is a reluctant Steelers fan, a karaoke superstar, and an amateur wedding dress consultant.

At age 21, Jael Myrick founded Standing To Represent Our Next Generation (STRONG) to strengthen our young leaders’ civic participation. From 2009-2014, Jael served as a Field Representative for (then) Assemblymember (now Senator) Nancy Skinner during which time he helped lead the initiative to bring the Clean Slate program to Contra Costa County. Jael was appointed to the Richmond City Council on February 4, 2013. He was elected in his own right in November 2014 and reelected in November 2016. Since joining the Richmond City Council Jael has been integral in establishing programs like the Richmond Promise which guarantees money for College to Richmond youth when they graduate High School and has played a key role in moving forward policies like Fair Chance Housing for people with criminal records. In February 2017, Jael was hired as Program Coordinator for the Clean Slate Practice at the East Bay Community Law Center. In addition to providing direct services to clients, Jael led efforts on behalf of EBCLC and a broad coalition of over a dozen organizations to pass AB 2138 this past year. AB 2138 allows individuals with criminal records the opportunity to access Occupational Licenses under the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Brandon Banks has dedicated his entire legal career to indigent defense work.  He has been an attorney at the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office since December 2002.  During that time, he has represented clients in cases ranging from misdemeanors to serious felonies.  Brandon Banks has tried over 50 jury trials, including multiple murder and life cases.  Brandon Banks is an Assistant Public Defender with the Contra Costa Public Defender.  He currently supervises the Clean Slate, Arraignment, and Probation Units in his office.

Chloe is the Associate Director of Legal Education at Root & Rebound. She received her J.D. in 2016 from Boston University School of Law, where she was a Public Interest Scholar.

Before joining Root & Rebound, Chloe provided technical assistance to communities in California seeking to establish more permanent housing and supportive services for people experiencing homelessness. Chloe also worked as a legal fellow in Chicago, where she defended low-income tenants in eviction cases and advocated for the preservation of affordable housing. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois.
Chloe received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY. Between college and law school, Chloe was a paralegal at LegalHealth, a medical-legal partnership of New York Legal Assistance Group.

In her free time, Chloe volunteers in a community garden and is an enthusiastic beekeeper with San Francisco Bee Cause. She also co-chairs the Queens’ Bench SF Juvenile Hall Project, through which groups of volunteers from the legal profession visit incarcerated children.

Erika Watts is a Clean Slate Attorney at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office.  Erika has focused her career on helping people impacted by the criminal legal system remove barriers to employment and other collateral consequences.  She became interested in reentry legal work during law school while working at several public defender offices around the greater Bay Area.  Erika received her J.D. from U.C. Davis School of Law.

Katie Dixon is the Fair Chance Community Rights Organizer with Legal Aid at Work, who recently completed a year long Policy Fellowship with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, an organization that organizes individuals, families and communities impacted by the American carceral system, advocates for the release of incarcerated people, and fights’ to restore human and civil rights for all Formerly Incarcerated People (FIP). Since graduating from Delancey Street Foundations’ Life-Learning Academy (a two year program for FIP), in 2014, Katie has been active in supporting communities through the Bay Area. Katie is a proud alumni of the Young Women's Freedom Center, where system impacted girls are transformed into leaders; she continues to work closely with the San Francisco Adult Probation Department, Reentry Division, which focuses on job placement for people on SF probation. Katie is a member of ALL OF US OR NONE(AOUON), the driving force behind the nations’ Ban the Box movement. Katie is also a member of the League of Women Voters Oakland Chapter, which has a Reentry component.

Oscar is a Staff Attorney and Clinical Supervisor in the Education Advocacy Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). The Education Advocacy Clinic advocates for students, primarily youth of color with disabilities, who are being pushed out of school and into the juvenile system. Oscar also partners with grassroots community organizations to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. He joined EBCLC in 2017.

Osha Neumann is a supervising attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center (“EBCLC”), where he heads its homeless practice. He has represented hundreds of people experiencing homelessness who have been cited for sleeping, sitting, camping, and lodging – in fact for just living in public spaces. He has sued the University of California for destroying the property of homeless people in People’s Park, and led EBCLC’s participation in two civil rights lawsuits, the first challenging the City of Albany’s eviction of a long-standing homeless encampment on a beautiful overgrown landfill on the edge of the bay, and the second, a class-action lawsuit against Caltrans for repeatedly taking and destroying the property of people living on its right away (the settlement in that suit provides $1.3 million to homeless people who are members of the class). His work includes lobbying and organizing – against policies that result in criminalization of people living outside, and for policies that sanction their encampments. It’s been an uphill battle.

Rebecca is a Clinical Supervisor and Staff Attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center’s (EBCLC’s) Clean Slate Practice, where she advocates to remove barriers to employment and civic participation for people with conviction histories through client representation in post-conviction relief and legislative advocacy. Prior to joining EBCLC, Rebecca worked at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, where her work focused on combating discrimination and harassment in all forms, including employment and housing, and through enforcement of the San Francisco Fair Chance Ordinance. She also provided trainings on advancing racial equity in Government services. As a trained mediator, Rebecca believes in the power of cross-cultural conflict resolution through story-telling and shared learning. Rebecca spent the first six years of her legal career at The Bronx Defenders’ Family Defense Practice, representing parents adversely impacted by the child welfare system and training new attorneys in a holistic defense model.

Sonja is Deputy Director of Programs and a founding staff member of Root & Rebound, a nonprofit reentry legal advocacy center whose mission is to restore power and resources to the families and communities most harmed by mass incarceration through legal advocacy, public education, policy reform and litigation — a model rooted in the needs and expertise of people who are directly impacted. Since its founding 7 years ago, the organization has reached more than 80,000 people through its California programs and services, and is working to expand its model nationally. Prior to Root & Rebound, Sonja received her J.D. from Berkeley Law School, where she advocated for survivors of domestic violence, criminal justice reform, and youth justice. During law school, she participated in Queer Caucus, the Women's Association, student government, and served an editor for two law journals, California Law Review and Berkeley Journal of General, Law & Justice. Sonja received her B.A. in Urban Studies and African Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and worked for an urban nutrition nonprofit in Philadelphia.

Tony Cheng is the Director of the Youth Defender Clinic (YDC) at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), the community-based legal services clinic for the UC Berkeley School of Law. Clinical law students in the YDC represent system-involved and system-adjacent youth in Alameda County in both juvenile delinquency proceedings and school discipline matters.

Prior to joining EBCLC in 2018, Tony practiced as a public defender for twenty years, litigating cases in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the federal district court for the Southern District of California, the San Diego County Superior Court and, most recently, the Alameda County Superior Court. In addition to six years of experience as a juvenile defender, Tony also tried nearly forty criminal jury trials to verdict during his public defender career. A juvenile defense trainer certified by the National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC), Tony also serves on the board of directors of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center (PJDC). In addition to presenting at the NJDC Leadership Summit, Tony has also contributed to training and educational materials published by PJDC.

Tony is a graduate of the UC Davis School of Law (King Hall), where he served as chair of the Moot Court Board and on the board of directors of the King Hall Legal Foundation and was a graduate of the school’s Public Interest Law Program.

J.D., UC Davis School of Law (1998)
A.B., Architecture, UC Berkeley (1993)

Vinuta joined the Economic Advancement Program team at CLSEPA in September 2019. Prior to joining CLSEPA, she developed an interest in criminal justice and reentry issues by serving in Public Defender offices across the Bay Area. She joined the East Bay Community Law Center’s Clean Slate Practice in 2015. Her work focused on removing collateral consequences and barriers to employment, immigration, housing, and civic participation. She also worked in coalition to pass AB 2138 and AB 2293 to improve occupational licensing and employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people. As a clinical instructor and UC Berkeley School of Law lecturer, she trained and supervised law students in their work product, advocacy, and court representation. Vinuta graduated from the University of Georgia in 2009 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies. She received her J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2013.

With over a decade of experience as a criminal defense lawyer, she goes to battle for people charged with all kinds of crimes. With a solid education, years of professional development, and dedication to ongoing training, Autumn Paine brings the best to the courtroom to help her clients achieve their desired outcomes.

Paine Criminal Defense is a small, boutique law firm focused on giving each client and each case personal attention. We thoroughly prepare with every defense with obsessive attention to detail, mounting the strongest defense possible for every client. Autumn and her staff work with a team of professional investigators and expert witnesses, including psychologists, DNA experts, fingerprint, firearms and forensic experts to bring you the best possible defense, to get the best possible outcome.