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California Public Benefits: The Basics for Nonprofit and Pro Bono Advocacy 2017


Speaker(s): Abby Herzberg, Antionette Dozier, Cori Racela, Joanna Parnes, Kendra L. Amick, Lauren Hansen, Lisa M. Newstrom, Maya H. Watts, Robert P. Capistrano, Stephanie Haffner, Tiffany Huyenh-Cho
Recorded on: Mar. 23, 2017
PLI Program #: 182407

Bob Capistrano is an attorney with the Contra Costa County office of Bay Area Legal Aid, and was for many years the program's Director of Advocacy and Training.  Bob has been in legal services since graduating from Hastings College of the Law, and focuses on public benefits, health access, and public and subsidized housing.  Bob authored the sections of the Federal Practice Manual on litigating using 42 USC § 1983 and has also been on the faculty of the Affirmative Litigation Training sponsored by the National Center on Poverty Law.


Stephanie Haffner, a graduate of UC Berkeley Law School, began her legal career at California Rural Legal Assistance where she chaired its statewide public benefits task force and served as lead counsel in Price v. City of Stockton, which secured replacement housing and relocation benefits for hundreds of Stockton downtown hotel residents.  Stephanie taught Administrative Law and other subjects at Whittier Law School.  From 2006 to 2011, Stephanie supervised the Housing/Consumer Advocacy Group of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.  She joined Western Center in 2011 as a Senior Litigator, and became a Director of Litigation for Western Center in 2017.  Her practice includes administrative law, anti-discrimination law, food and cash benefits, and homelessness issues, among others. As of April 30, 2018, she will be joining Legal Aid of Marin as their Executive Director.


Joanna Parnes is a Supervising Attorney at the Alameda County Regional Office of Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, California. Joanna currently serves low-income clients with mental and physical health disabilities through direct legal services and systemic advocacy in the area of public benefits, with a focus on SSI and Social Security disability benefits. Prior to joining Bay Legal, Joanna worked at the East Bay Community Law Center and as a researcher at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, evaluating programs and policies that impact poor families. She holds a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law and received her B.A. from the University of Michigan.


Abby Herzberg is a Staff Attorney at the Alameda County Regional Office of Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, California.  Abby currently serves low-income clients with mental health disabilities through direct legal services and systemic advocacy in the area of public benefits, with a focus on SSI and Social Security disability benefits.  Prior to joining Bay Legal, Abby clerked for a magistrate judge in the United States District Court, Central District of California, where she reviewed appeals of SSI and Social Security denials.  She holds a law degree from New York University School of Law and received her B.A. from Tufts University.


Kendra Amick is an Economic Justice attorney in the San Francisco office of Bay Area Legal Aid.  Prior to joining BayLegal, Kendra worked as Staff Attorney and Volunteer Coordinator at the General Assistance Advocacy Project. She has been providing direct representation for clients with public benefits issues and advocating for administrative policy reform with local agencies for more than five years. Kendra also coordinates a drop-in legal clinic that provides info, advice and brief services to low-income San Francisco residents in an accessible community setting.


Lisa Newstrom joined Bay Area Legal Aid in 2009 as a Public Benefits Attorney and has served as Managing Attorney of the Santa Clara County Regional Office since 2013. In her practice, Lisa represents clients in matters regarding safety-net programs such as SSI, CalWORKS, CalFresh, Medi-Cal and General Assistance. Lisa serves on several regional task forces including the South Bay Coalition to End Human Trafficking and the Santa Clara County Public Benefits Task Force. She has trained hundreds of attorneys, advocates, and social services providers on legal issues in public benefits, particularly for immigrants, youths with disabilities, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Prior to her legal career, Lisa worked with low-income immigrant families as a bilingual/ESL special education teacher.


Maya Hazarika Watts is a Staff Attorney at the Alameda County Regional Office of Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, California.  Maya currently serves low-income clients through direct legal services and systemic advocacy in the area of public benefits.  Her work focuses specifically on CalWORKs, CalFresh, and general assistance.  Maya has also worked in the family law unit at Bay Legal, providing assistance to domestic violence survivors.  Prior to joining Bay Area Legal Aid, Maya was a staff attorney at Family Violence Law Center.  Maya earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings in 2006.


Tiffany Huyenh-Cho is a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid in Oakland, California. Tiffany works in BayLegal's Health Consumer Center providing direct legal services to individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tiffany's work focuses on barriers to health care access involving Medicare, Medi-Cal, Covered California, and private health insurance.  She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and completed her undergraduate studies at the University of California San Diego.


After joining PILP as a fellow in 2012, Lauren is now a staff attorney in the public benefit unit. Prior to joining PILP, Lauren worked at Legal Services of Northern California for in its Ukiah office doing housing, public benefits, and health law. Lauren graduated from UCLA and went to law school at the University of Iowa College of Law.

At PILP, Lauren has worked on a variety of cases on issues including redevelopment, housing element, General Assistance/Relief, CalFresh (SNAP), and CalWORKs (TANF). She started and currently leads PILP’s Rural General Assistance Project (Rural GAP), a project dedicated to increasing access to General Assistance/Relief benefits in rural areas. She is admitted to practice in California and Washington D.C.


Antionette Dozier, Senior Attorney at Western Center on Law & Poverty, focuses on public benefits and other economic disparity issues facing poor Californians. At Western Center, Antionette litigates, provides technical support to legal services attorneys, and provides technical assistance on policy and legislation that is aimed removing economic barriers to opportunity for the poor. She also facilitates state and community discussions to ensure that public benefits recipients receive a fair opportunity to achieve economic security. At Western Center, she has co-counseled on class action cases involving the right to mental health services and public benefits, and impact cases regarding the CalWORKs, CalFresh and General Assistance/General Relief programs. Before Western Center, Antionette completed a term as a clerk for the United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit in the chambers of the Honorable R. Guy Cole, Jr. Antionette also was a litigation associate at Jones Day after graduating from UCLA School of Law.


Cori Racela is a Senior Attorney on Western Center’s Health Team. Before Western Center, she served as an attorney with both National Health Law Project and Neighborhood Legal Services. At Western Center, she works on securing quality, affordable healthcare for low-income Californians through policy advocacy and litigation, with a particular focus on Medi-Cal eligibility and due process rights. Cori received a J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law and her B.A. from Harvard University.