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California Public Benefits: The Basics for Nonprofit and Pro Bono Advocacy 2021


Speaker(s): Andrew Kazakes, Helen Tran, Jessica Mark, Joanna Parnes, Krista R. Granen, Lauren Hansen, Melissa A. Morris, Raegan Joern, Rose Molloy, Stephen Goldberg, Tyler Mischeaux Press Sutherland
Recorded on: Mar. 18, 2021
PLI Program #: 305313

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.


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.


Andrew Kazakes is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where he represents poor and low income patients with a broad range of legal problems through the LA County Medical-Legal Community Partnership. He’s litigated writs of mandate in Superior Court against the California Department of Social Services and the Department of Health Care Services. He previously held positions with LAFLA’s eviction defense and government benefits work groups.

Andrew received his juris doctor from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, a master’s degree studying philosophy from the University of Chicago, and his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College.


Helen Tran is a Staff Attorney with Western Center’s health team, with a focus on administrative advocacy, litigation, and support for California’s health care advocacy community.

Previously, she was an attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles’s Medical Legal Partnership, and prior to that, an attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County’s Health Consumer Center. She completed a fellowship in healthcare and civil rights at Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC after law school.

Helen received her J.D. and Master of Health Administration from the University of Southern California, and her B.S. from the University of Southern California.


Jessica Mark is a Senior Staff Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid. She works in the Alameda County Regional Office, located in Oakland, assisting people primarily with CalWORKs, CalFresh, and General Assistance. However, she is also familiar with Social Security, SSI, CAPI, Medi-Cal, and In Home Supportive Services. Before coming to BayLegal, Jessica worked at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, also assisting people with their various government benefits. Jessica earned her law degree at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, CA. She has a B.A. from California State University, Long Beach.


Krista Granen graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in May 2015 with a concentration in Social Justice. While at UC Hastings, she was Co-President for the Hastings Public Interest Law Foundation (HPILF) and Executive Editor for the Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal (HRPLJ). While working with HRPLJ, she published a Note advocating payday lending reform in California. She also clerked for several non-profit law firms: Bay Area Legal Aid, East Bay Community Law Center, Legal Assistance for Seniors, and Justice in Aging.

Krista is currently a Staff Attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid’s Health Consumer Center (HCC). She has worked with the HCC for over four (4) years, helping clients enforce their rights to healthcare services. The HCC is part of the Health Consumer Alliance (HCA), which includes various legal aids and support centers to help serve consumer in all California counties. BayLegal’s HCC has no income or asset limits, so she has been able to help clients with various types of health coverage, including Medi-Cal, Covered California, Medicare, COBRA, and ERISA.

Prior to working with the HCC, she was a Borchard Fellow based with Bay Area Legal Aid, helping older adults living in Santa Clara County in the areas of consumer protection and public benefits. Her interest in helping older adults stemmed from directly experiencing the effects of elder abuse in her family. She continues to help older adults throughout the Bay Area with the HCC, as many of the HCC’s most vulnerable clients are older low-income adults.


Melissa A. Morris is a Staff Attorney with the Public Interest Law Project, a statewide support center for legal aid programs throughout California.  Melissa’s work at PILP includes litigation in state and federal court on behalf of low-income individuals and families regarding access to California public benefits programs, affordable housing, fair housing, and the rights of people experiencing homelessness; as well as legislative and administrative advocacy regarding housing and public benefits issues.  Melissa also regularly provides training and technical assistance to legal aid attorneys and other advocates on topics including disability rights, California public benefits programs, eviction defense, criminalization of homelessness, affordable housing policy, mobile home park preservation, and rent control.

Prior to joining PILP in 2018, Melissa worked for 12 years at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, where her practice included direct client representation, impact litigation, and policy advocacy regarding housing, public benefits, voting rights, consumer issues, and the rights of people with disabilities in institutional settings.  Much of her work at the Law Foundation focused on preventing the displacement of low-income tenants and communities of color from Silicon Valley; this work included representing individuals, families, and resident groups at risk of displacement in court and administrative proceedings, advocating for state and local policies to designed to prevent displacement and increase the supply of affordable housing, and working with community groups and low-income tenants to build political power among the people most affected by Silicon Valley's housing crisis.

Melissa began her legal career in 2004 as a Borchard Foundation Center on Law & Aging Fellow at Legal Aid of Marin, where she represented low-income and senior residents of Marin County in housing, domestic violence, elder abuse, and consumer matters.


Raegan Joern is the Supervising Attorney for the SSI Advocacy Program at Bay Area Legal Aid's San Francisco office which serves unhoused San Francisco residents with disabilities who are eligible for County General Assistance (CAAP) benefits; assisting them with Social Security disability applications and appeals.  Ms. Joern has represented clients with various public benefits claims, appeals and hearings at the county, state and federal level.  Recently, she was co-counsel for the case Cruciani v. Contra Costa County, which resulted in multiple changes to Contra Costa County's General Assistance program.  She has a law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law.


Rose Molloy is a Senior Staff Attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid working in Alameda and Marin counties with a focus on public benefits and economic justice for individuals with disabilities. Prior to joining Bay Legal in 2016 Rose worked with Sitra Services in London developing and delivering training to providers and users of supportive housing, consulting with local governments and non-profit providers on emerging legal issues in supportive housing. Previously Rose worked with the Homeless Advocacy Project of the Justice and Diversity Center of the San Francisco Bar Association as a Supervising Attorney. Rose enjoys amateur theater, secondhand shops and old movies (currently defined as the 1970s). 


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 landlord/tenant law and administrative 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.


Tyler Press Sutherland is a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, where she represents poor and low income Angelenos in government benefits legal cases. She’s litigated numerous writs of mandate in Superior Court against the California Department of Social Services. She previously was an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow in LAFLA’s Veterans’ Justice Center.

Tyler received her juris doctor from Georgetown University Law Center and her undergraduate degree from Harvard College.