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California Eviction Defense 2.0: Beyond the Basics of Protecting Low-Income Tenants 2018

Speaker(s): Alex Prieto, Christian Abasto, Deepika Sharma, Denise McGranahan, Erin Katayama, Leah F. Simon-Weisberg, Lisa Greif, Lorraine A. López, Oliver Ehlinger, Richard Walker, Shirley Gibson, Ubaldo Fernandez
Recorded on: Mar. 7, 2018
PLI Program #: 221567

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.

Deepika Sharma is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Homelessness Prevention Law Project at Public Counsel. She developed Public Counsel’s dedicated affirmative housing litigation unit. Most recently, she is serving as the lead attorney in a multi-building Fair Housing Act case, Martinez v Optimus, challenging the discriminatory harassment and predation against tenants that flourishes in gentrifying neighborhoods. Ms. Sharma also works on impact litigation cases aimed at racial equity and access for people with disabilities. To date, she has represented several hundred tenants and conducted several bench and jury trials. Prior to joining Public Counsel, Ms. Sharma was the Supervising Attorney at the Eviction Defense Network in Los Angeles. She began her career as an associate in the Litigation Department of Morrison & Foerster's Los Angeles office. Ms. Sharma also spent a year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia working for the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunals. She earned her J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law in 2007. While in law school, she was a clerk for the East Bay Community Law Center in the housing unit and for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles in the Torture Survivors Unit. Ms. Sharma earned her B.A. degree in Mass Communications from UC Berkeley in 2000, where she graduated with Highest Honors.

Leah Simon-Weisberg is the Managing Attorney of the Tenant Rights Program at Centro Legal de la Raza in Oakland.  Leah came from Tenants Together (TT) where she was the Legal Director. At TT, she managed the litigation practice which included class action and multi-plaintiff fair housing, habitability, tenant contract and consumer rights matters. She regularly provided technical assistance on rent control and drafted the ordinance that passed in Richmond, California in November 2017. Before joining Tenants Together, Leah was the Managing Attorney of the Anti-Predatory Lending and Home Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention Practice at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. Leah began her housing work in Los Angeles as the co-Executive Director of the Eviction Defense Network (EDN). At EDN, Leah litigated over 1,000 unlawful detainer cases on behalf of tenants facing eviction in Los Angeles County. Leah has extensive experience providing education to legal service providers on eviction defense and rent control.  Before attending law school at Northeastern University, School of Law, Leah worked for Senator Barbara Boxer in her San Francisco Office and served as a Peace Corp Volunteer in Morocco. Leah is presently an elected Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner.

Oliver is the Managing Attorney of the Solano County field office of Legal Services of Northern California.  He began his legal career as a Shriver Eviction Defense attorney in Legal Services of Northern California’s Woodland office.  He is a graduate of King Hall School of Law.

Denise McGranahan is a senior attorney at the Santa Monica office of the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA).  She has been working at LAFLA in its Santa Monica office since 1996.  After graduating from UCLA School of Law in 1987, Ms. McGranahan worked in private practice as a civil litigator.  For the past seventeen years, she has worked in public interest law, specializing in housing matters. Her expertise is in the areas of eviction defense, rent control, the Ellis Act, habitability, affordable housing, fair housing (concentrating on disability issues), affirmatively furthering fair housing requirements, tenant harassment and the federal Section 8 program.  She regularly co-counsels with private attorneys in affirmative fair housing and other litigation.  Ms. McGranahan has been a trainer and panelist at programs sponsored by various fair housing and legal aid organizations.  She has also been involved in the drafting and revising of local and state legislation that has resulted in significant changes to landlord-tenant laws and greater protections for tenants.

Ubaldo Fernandez is a Staff Attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center where he defends tenants in unlawful detainer actions. Previously, Ubaldo worked as a Staff Attorney at California Rural Legal Assistance, specializing in housing and education cases, and as a fellow at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, where he represented workers facing discrimination based on their immigration status, language, and national origin. Since 2015, Ubaldo has served as a member on the City of Oakland’s Housing, Rent, and Relocation Board. Ubaldo earned his undergraduate degree from Boston University and his J.D. from Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall) in 2013.

Alex Prieto is a Senior Litigator at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, where he focuses on housing, public benefits, and economic justice issues.  Before joining Western Center, Alex was a staff attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County for six years, where he defended the rights of low-income clients in landlord-tenant, employment, environmental justice, and public benefits cases.  Previously, Alex was a clerk for the Hon. Margaret M. Morrow in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and the Hon. Susan Kenny of the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne.  Alex has a J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law, where he was Articles Editor for the California Law Review, and a B.A. in comparative literature from New York University.  In his spare time, Alex enjoys hiking and backpacking, especially in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Erin has been with the Justice and Diversity Center’s Homeless Advocacy Project since 2012 and is the Supervising Attorney for the Eviction Defense program. She specializes in full-scope legal representation for tenants who are facing eviction - including work on discovery, pre and post-trial motions, settlement, trial, and post-judgment work. While working at HAP, Erin has been a guest speaker at the Housing Justice Network conference, the Mental Health Association, the University Of San Francisco School Of Law and the Equal Justice Network annual conference. While working at HAP, Erin has temporarily supervised and trained attorneys who volunteered to represent tenants for the Housing Negotiations Project.

In 2015, Erin joined the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Criminal Justice Task Force, formed to address shortcomings and the role of race in the criminal justice system. In 2017, she became an adjunct professor at Golden Gate University Law School teaching Eviction Defense for students in the Honors Lawyering Program.

Erin is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and earned her J.D. from the McGeorge School of Law.

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.

Richard Walker works for the Public Law Center in Orange County. At PLC, Richard is a staff attorney in the Housing and Homelessness Prevention Unit and works with PLC’s Consumer Unit on mobilehome issues. Richard represents low-income tenants in eviction defense cases and appeals, provides legal assistance to mobilehome owners, advocates on behalf of homeless and low-income individuals for improved housing policies and assistance in local municipalities, and provides legal assistance in a variety of other housing issues. Richard also works with local pro bono attorneys on impact cases addressing a wide range of issues including land use, affordable housing, habitability, discrimination, and other housing-related matters. Before law school, Richard was a junior high math teacher. Richard graduated from J. Reuben Clark Law School and has a B.A. in mathematics education from Utah State University.

Shirley Gibson is Directing Attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. Shirley came to LASSMC in 2007 to develop the housing practice and eviction defense program, which has grown over the past decade to provide direct legal services to over 1,200 tenant households each year. Before coming to Legal Aid, Shirley was a staff attorney at Eviction Defense Collaborative in San Francisco for five years, where she helped pilot San Francisco’s day-of-court representation program for pro per tenants in settlement conferences and the Family Eviction Prevention Consortium rental assistance program. As an associate with the Law Offices of Tim A. Pori, Shirley represented plaintiffs in civil rights and bad faith actions. She has a B.A. from Reed College and a J.D. from New College of California School of Public Interest Law.