Skip to main content

Representing the Pro Bono Client: Advocacy Skills for Administrative Hearings 2014


Speaker(s): Carole Vigne, Jodie Berger, Lisa Lunsford, Steven Weiss
Recorded on: Oct. 2, 2014
PLI Program #: 50178

Lisa Lunsford is the managing attorney of Homeless Action Center’s Oakland office.  She has been a public benefits attorney for fourteen years, focusing primarily on claims for Social Security disability benefits.  She has represented claimants at all levels through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and has won over 200 SSI cases.

Ms. Lunsford is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University Law Center.  She began her career at HAC with an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to participate in a multi-agency collaboration assisting families having difficulty transitioning from welfare to work.  She subsequently participated in Project RESPECT (Reducing Emergency Services through Promoting Effective Community Treatment), a medical-legal partnership providing case management, primary care, housing and benefits advocacy to frequent users of the Highland Hospital emergency room.  She obtained SSI and Medi-Cal for 50 frequent users, most of whom were homeless.


Carole Vigne is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid at Work (the organization formerly known as Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center).  She currently directs the Wage Protection Program, which represents low-wage workers through litigation in state and federal court and administrative advocacy before the California Labor Commissioner, San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards and the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board; provides advice and brief services to workers through a semi-monthly Wage Claim Clinic hosted at the California Labor Commissioner’s San Francisco and Oakland offices; conducts trainings for workers and provides technical assistance to worker advocates; and engages in legislative advocacy and amicus briefing to expand protections for workers.  In her prior role, Carole oversaw Legal Aid’s Wage and Unemployment Claims Project, training and supervising scores of volunteer legal advocates to represent hundreds of clients at wage claim conferences and hearings before the California Labor Commissioner and unemployment insurance appeal hearings before the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

Carole was previously a Skadden Fellow with Legal Aid’s National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program, working to expand the rights of immigrant workers and serving San Francisco’s immigrant, limited-English-proficient, Latino workers through a workers’ rights clinic.  In that capacity, Carole also litigated discrimination and wage and hour cases on behalf of immigrant workers.  She also litigated employment law cases, primarily wage and hour class actions, at Rukin, Hyland, Doria & Tindall, LLP.

Carole is a graduate of Brown University and University of California, Berkeley School of Law (the law school formerly known as Boalt Hall).


Steven Weiss is a Regional Managing Attorney in the Alameda County office of Bay Area Legal Aid, and their Social Security & SSI Advocacy Regional Coordinator, specializing in administrative advocacy with the Social Security Administration. Prior to working at Bay Area Legal Aid, Mr. Weiss was a staff attorney at the Homeless Action Center in Berkeley, California. He is a 1998 graduate of the Golden Gate University School of Law, and received his B.A. from the State University of New York at Buffalo in Urban Public Policy Administration.


Jodie Berger has been an Administrative Law Judge with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) since 2014. In 2016, Judge Berger was appointed to the State Hearing Division’s Training, Quality Development, Rehearings, and Special Projects Bureau. In that position, she is responsible for conducting rehearing reviews (an internal appellate review), updating state hearing regulations, maintaining an updated and accurate database of summaries of legal authority binding in the CDSS hearings, and other special projects.

Judge Berger has assisted in developing and presenting trainings on the state hearing process for hearing representatives, judicial training on Engaged Neutrality complex benefit budgeting, as well as various presentations for the biannual statewide State Hearings conference.

Prior to joining the State Hearing Division, Judge Berger worked for Legal Services as a Public Benefits Specialist (administrative law and litigation) for 28 years. As a Legal Services attorney, Judge Berger worked extensively with the CDSS on regulation and policy development, participating in eight Stakeholder groups.

Judge Berger is Co-Chair of the Administrative Law Committee of the State Bar, working on issues for unrepresented claimants, and the prior Chair of the Bar’s Delivery of Legal Services Committee. Judge Berger co-developed and presented a training program on Administrative Hearings for CLE, and for several years provided training at the annual CDSS CalWORKs and NLADA conferences, on public benefit and language access topics.