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Advocates’ Guide for Protecting Tenants’ Rights: Advanced Unlawful Detainer Defense


Speaker(s): Christian Abasto, Jason Tarricone, Lisa Greif, Lorraine A. López, Madeline S. Howard, Maria E. Palomares, Monique Farris, Navneet Grewal, Richard A. Rothschild, Sarah Steinheimer, Shirley Gibson
Recorded on: Mar. 9, 2016
PLI Program #: 150508

Jason Tarricone is the Directing Attorney of the Housing & Economic Advancement Programs at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA).  CLSEPA's housing attorneys combine impact litigation with traditional legal services to achieve results for both individual tenants and the broader community. CLSEPA defends tenants facing eviction, files affirmative litigation to keep families in healthy and safe housing, and works with policymakers and organizers to preserve existing affordable housing and encourage new affordable housing development.  Jason previously worked at Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho in Oakland, California, where he litigated numerous class actions involving wage and hour claims, employment discrimination, and disability rights, representing employees ranging from coffee shop baristas to high tech software testers.  Before that, he was a fellow at the Impact Fund in Berkeley.  Jason served as a law clerk to Judge Sidney Thomas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2006 and to Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 2007.  He graduated Order of the Coif from Stanford Law School in 2006, where he took part in the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and represented workers and tenants at the Stanford Community Law Clinic.  While in law school, Jason worked as an intern and volunteer at CLSEPA.  Jason is graduate of Brown University (B.A. 2000) and completed a year of service at City Year Rhode Island in 1999.  In 2014, he was recognized as one of the "40 Under 40" by the Silicon Valley Business Journal and has been listed as a "Rising Star" by Super Lawyers Magazine since 2012.  Jason lives with his wife and two children in San Francisco.


Lisa Greif is a Supervising Attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid's Alameda County Housing Unit. She has over 15 years of experience in affordable housing preservation and she has represented individuals and tenant associations in numerous cases. Ms. Greif's litigation experience has focused on eviction defense for clients in public, subsidized and private housing, Section 8 termination hearings, fair housing enforcement and housing authority policy advocacy. She has litigated several affirmative impact cases including enforcement of low-income senior tenants’ rights to remain with enhanced vouchers and a successful challenge to a housing authority's improper use of criminal records in the admission process.


Christian Abasto has been the Managing Attorney of the Civil Rights Practice Group of Disability Rights California since March 2017.  Christian has been zealously advocating for the poor and persons with disabilities for over 20 years.  Christian ran his own private practice litigating complex cases.  He was the Director of Litigation at the Public Law Center from 2011 to 2015 where he supervised 18 high-performing attorneys in complex litigation and policy advocacy matters and partnered with the Executive Director to manage the organization.  Under his leadership the organization tripled its impact advocacy matters.

Christian worked at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles from 1997 until 2011 where he rose through the ranks from Staff Attorney to Managing Attorney of the Housing and Eviction Defense Units.  He handled appeals to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, the California Court of Appeal, and the Appellate Division of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Christian was lead counsel in the 9th Circuit published decision, Barrientos v. 1801-1825 Morton LLC, 583 F.3d 1197 (2009).  The decision established positive precedent regarding federal preemption, Section 8 vouchers, and local rent control laws.  As the Managing Attorney of the Housing and Eviction Defense Units he supervised nine high-performing attorneys, one project coordinator, five social workers, and four paralegals. Under his leadership the Housing and Eviction Defense Units obtained a $10 million grant to provide coordinated legal services, social services, and rental assistance to low income Angelinos. He also played a lead role in the development of an eviction defense representation project in the Los Angeles Superior Court, which was awarded an $8 million grant by the State Bar of California.

Christian received a B.A. from the University of California, San Diego and his J.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1997. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.


Maria Palomares is a Staff Attorney, whose work has focused on ensuring that low income housing is preserved through impact litigation, policy advocacy and trainings.  Prior to joining Western Center, Maria served as a staff attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA), specializing in cases involving housing, language access, and civil rights issues. Maria, who has worked in legal services since 2009, is a graduate of Southwestern Law School and received her B.A. from the University of California Los Angeles.


Sarah Steinheimer is Regional Counsel of Housing at Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC). In this role, she coordinates LSNC’s housing advocacy in its 23 county service area. Sarah joined LSNC in 2009 as a staff attorney specializing in subsidized housing issues.  In 2013, she became the Supervising Attorney of LSNC’s Foreclosure Prevention Advocacy Project.  Sarah graduated from U.C. Berkeley School of Law and worked at the California Coalition for Rural Housing as a tenant organizer before attending law school.


Lorraine López is currently a Supervising Attorney for the Coordinated Attorney Team at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (“NLSLA”) (Glendale, CA). Lorraine is one of two Supervising Attorneys leading a team of 10+ attorneys who practice in a wide range of poverty law areas including housing, consumer, public benefits, immigration and family law. Prior to joining NLSLA, Lorraine was a Supervising Attorney at Inner City Law Center (“ICLC”) with their Homelessness Prevention Project. Lorraine began her legal career in 2005 as an Equal Justice Works fellow at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago (now LAF) where she provided legal representation, community legal education, and outreach programs for participants in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. In 2007, she moved to Los Angeles to work for Eviction Defense Network (EDN) where she was introduced to the specific legal challenges of low-income renters in Los Angeles before taking a position at ICLC in 2009. Lorraine received her J.D. from Tulane University Law School in 2005 and her B.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2001.


Madeline is a senior staff attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty focusing on fair housing litigation, unlawful detainer appeals, and issues impacting tenants in foreclosed homes. Before joining Western Center in 2013, Madeline was a senior staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid in San Jose and San Francisco where she represented the interests of low-income tenants against landlords and major lending institutions. At Western Center Madeline partners with legal services attorneys on impact litigation to challenge discriminatory housing practices and preserve affordable housing. She also supports direct services attorneys through technical assistance and training on issues ranging from unlawful detainer appeals to fair housing rights. Madeline received her law degree from Berkeley after working as an advocate at Medical-Legal Partnership Boston, the nation’s first medical-legal collaborative. She went on to become a research attorney at San Francisco Superior Court before returning to direct services work.


Monique is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall) where she was a recipient of the Hon. Cruz Reynoso Social Justice Fellowship. After law school, Monique spent five years as the managing attorney of the Eviction Defense Center in Oakland where she defended thousands of low-income, disabled, and elderly tenants against eviction in Alameda County and parts of Contra Costa County in both jury and bench trials. More recently, Monique was a housing staff attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid where her practice focused on defending low-income tenants in subsidized housing from eviction as well as fair housing issues. Monique is currently the Managing Attorney of the Tenants' Rights Program at Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland.


Navneet Grewal is a Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law and Poverty, a statewide legal services support center that fights, through litigation and legislative and policy advocacy, to secure housing, health care and a strong safety net for low-income Californians. She has successfully litigated cases in state and federal court that have, for example, expanded due process rights for voucher applicants, reimbursed thousands of public housing residents for rent overcharges, enforced state land use and zoning laws (resulting in the development of affordable housing), and that have preserved mobilehome parks. She also works with the housing team to develop and analyze statewide housing legislation that has led to significant protections for low-income Californians. Critically, she also works to support local legal services attorneys in identifying and assessing critical legal claims that their clients might avail themselves of, both through technical assistance and workshops. Navneet has also written several housing law-related publications; most recently, she was a contributing author to the Section 8 chapter of the 2017 California Rutter Group Practice Guide - Landlord-Tenant. She also previously served on the Steering Committee of the State Bar’s Fair Housing and Public Accommodations Section and on the Board of Directors of Housing California. In all facets of this work, Navneet strives to ensure that housing policies and practices work toward racial justice. Navneet is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she received the Vanderbilt Medal (the highest graduation honor), and the Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific American Alumni Association’s Public Service Award.


Richard A. Rothschild is Director of Litigation at the Western Center on Law & Poverty in Los Angeles. Mr. Rothschild graduated from Yale College and the University of Southern California Law School, where he was a law review editor and a member of the Order of the Coif. He was a law clerk for California Supreme Court Associate Justice Stanley Mosk before joining the Western Center as a staff attorney in 1976.

Mr. Rothschild won the NLADA’s Kutak-Dodds Prize in 2015; Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Shattuck-Price Award in 2012 (LACBA’s highest honor); and the State Bar of California’s Loren Miller Legal Services Award in 2008 (the highest honor bestowed by Bar for public interest attorneys).

Mr. Rothschild supervises Western Center’s litigation and co-counsels on cases himself in the Center’s priority areas of health, welfare, and housing law. He has litigated or settled hundreds of claims for attorneys’ fees for Western Center and its co-counsel, and has written and trained extensively in this area.


Shirley Gibson is Directing Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County, where she has supervised the housing and eviction defense practice since 2007. Ms. Gibson was previously a staff attorney at Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco for five years, and a litigation associate with Law Offices of Tim A. Pori for two years. She is a graduate of Reed College (B.A, 1994) and New College of California School of Public Interest Law (J.D., 1999).