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Representing the Pro Bono Client: Advocacy Skills for Administrative Hearings 2021

Speaker(s): Abigail M. Khodayari, Citlalli Ochoa, Lena Silver, Michael Wolchansky, Stephen Goldberg
Recorded on: Sep. 22, 2021
PLI Program #: 305349

Abigail Khodayari is a Staff Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid’s Contra Costa County Office, providing free wrap-around civil legal assistance to low-income Bay Area residents through a Medical-Legal Partnership with Contra Costa County Health Services. She joined Bay Area Legal Aid in 2016, and became the Regional Medical-Legal Partnership Coordinator in 2021.  

As part of providing wrap-around civil legal services, Abigail has represented low-income tenants in voucher termination hearings and other housing-related administrative hearings in Contra Costa. She has also represented clients in administrative hearings appealing General Assistance denials and SSI denials. She is a graduate of the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Michael Wolchansky is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Economic Justice Unit at Bay Area Legal Aid in San Francisco, where he also serves as the Volunteer Attorney/Law Student Project Coordinator. He handles Social Security claims at all levels, with a primary focus on Hearings, Appeals Council and Federal District Court. He has argued cases at the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Social Security Office of Hearings Operations and California Department of Social Services. He was the sole attorney presenter for the American Bar Association Continuing Legal Education 2018 course: Social Security Disability Hearings: Proving Mental Health. He conducts training for all Bay Area Legal Aid clerks in Client Centered Interviewing and has trained clerks and attorneys on hearing techniques and strategies.

Michael attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, graduating in 2002 with a Bachelor of Science in Personal Finance. In 2006, he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence at Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and obtained Certificates of Specialization in Public Interest and Intellectual Property Law. He founded and was the inaugural president of the Golden Gate University Chapter of the American Constitution Society. He has worked at small firms, federal and non-profit organizations. He is admitted to practice in the State of California, United States Supreme Court, United States District Court Northern District of California, United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, Veterans Administration, and the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Michael co-authored AB830 (2015) which added civil damages for violence based on gender identity and expression, which was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in August 2015. Michael volunteers with the National Veterans Legal Services Program-Pro-Bono Veterans Consortium and serves as a Panel Attorney with the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors of multiple nonprofit organizations, including: Queers United for Intersectional Liberation, Spectra Project, California Conference of Bar Associations; Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom Foundation, Pride Law Fund, and American Constitution Society.

Lena Silver is the Associate Director of Litigation and Policy Advocacy at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, where she has worked since 2015. Her focus is on access to public benefits, including Department of Public Social Services benefits, and Social Security benefits. Recently, Lena became the lead for a two-year pilot project to increase immigrant access to and enrollment in public benefits through a closed-loop referral network between benefit enrollers, legal aid, and outreach workers. Lena came to NLSLA after completing a fellowship at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago, and a clerkship at the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Ms. Silver received her bachelor’s degree with honors from UC Berkeley in 2008, and her J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2013.

Stephen Goldberg is Regional Counsel for Public Benefits for Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC). In his role as Regional Counsel, Stephen supervises the public benefits practice for LSNC which provides services in 23 Northern California counties. Stephen is a 1994 graduate of McGeorge School of Law. He worked at the Human Rights Fair Housing Commission from October 1994 to December 1995. He returned to LSNC in 2001 as a staff attorney in the Woodland office and moved to the Sacramento office in 2007. Stephen became Senior Attorney in 2013. Stephen has also worked for Northern California Lawyers for Civil Justice, the Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations and the Legal Center for the Elderly and Disabled. 

In addition, Stephen has taught administrative law and landlord/tenant law in the paralegal program at American River College since 1998. He also has taught legal writing at University of California Davis King Hall School of Law.

Citlalli Ochoa is an Employment Law Staff Attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA). Citlalli provides community-based legal services to low-income workers in LA County. She provides legal advice and representation before the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board to clients facing denials of unemployment benefits, allegations of false statements, overpayments by the Employment Development Department, and other challenges. In addition, Citlalli oversees NLSLA's Workers' Rights Clinic. Citlalli joined NLSLA in July 2020 after working as Staff Attorney at the International Justice Resource Center in San Francisco where she practiced international human rights law. Citlalli is a graduate of University of California, Irvine School of Law. She is licensed to practice in the state of California, and she is fluent in Spanish.