Board and Staff Information
ACLU STAFF BIOGRAPHIES
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Executive Director, Norma Chavez-Peterson
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties’ new executive director, Chávez-Peterson has long been an integral part of San Diego’s organizing community. Chávez-Peterson has nearly two decades of experience in community leadership and nonprofit management, advocating for affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization, and immigrant rights. Since starting with the San Diego ACLU in February 2012 as organizing director, Chávez-Peterson was promoted to associate director to oversee legal, communications, policy, and organizing programs in December 2012. In Chávez-Peterson’s short time as the associate director, she has been instrumental in creating integrated advocacy campaigns advancing priority issue areas, such as criminal justice, immigrant rights, and voting rights. Before coming to the San Diego ACLU, Chávez-Peterson was the co-founder and executive director of Justice Overcoming Boundaries, a network of faith, community, education, business and labor partners working together to advance social justice in San Diego. She has a Bachelor’s degree from SDSU in political science and Chicano/a studies.
Administrative Assistant, Eric Hufford
Hufford is a long time San Diego resident originally from Kansas City, Missouri who is also an advocate for LGBT and HIV issues. He is currently involved with several community organizations to help get to zero new HIV infections by 2024.
Border Litigation Attorney, Mitra Ebadolahi
Ebadolahi is the border litigation staff attorney at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. From 2011–13, she was the inaugural Nadine Strossen Fellow with the ACLU’s National Security Project in New York. Her areas of expertise include: constitutional and administrative law and litigation, particularly in the areas of immigrants’ rights and racial justice; international human rights law, especially economic and social rights; national security law and policy; and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation. Ebadolahi attended UCLA as an undergraduate and the London School of Economics as a U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Scholar before completing her legal studies (JD ’08, LL.M. ’12) at New York University School of Law, where she was a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow and a Root-Tilden-Kern Filomen D’Agostino Scholar. Following graduation, Ebadolahi clerked for Judge Betty B. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Seattle, Washington, and for Judge Margaret M. Morrow of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in downtown Los Angeles, California. Follow her on Twitter @MitraEbadolahi.
Business Manager, Laurie Levine
Levine has worked in the accounting field for 30 years. Her experience as the office manager for a training and consulting professional prepared her for the multi-faceted responsibilities of managing the business functions of the San Diego ACLU. For five years she was the sole proprietor of a bookkeeping consulting service. Levine’s belief in the dignity and equality of every human being fuels her passion and dedication to helping the ACLU fight for individual rights and fundamental freedoms.
Communications Director, Rebecca Rauber
Rauber has devoted her professional and personal life to community organizing and community development. She is the former San Diego director of an international hunger relief organization, and program director for the Central American Refugee Organizing Project of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, helping to create the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s. While with the archdiocese, she led delegations of North Americans to see and live the reality of the region’s civil wars. She was a reporter and news anchor for KPFA and has written for numerous publications, including The Daily Cal, San Diego Lawyer, and Boston Phoenix. Rauber has a degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley and a certificate in Marketing and Media from San Diego State University.
Communications Strategist, Anna Castro
Castro graduated from Amherst College in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Black Studies. She volunteered with the Texas Civil Rights Project and Austin’s Self-Help and Advocacy Center, learning first-hand about the intersections between the criminal justice system and immigration policy in a border state. At Amherst, she served as Senior Chair of La Causa of Amherst College, and worked towards fostering stronger relationships between the college and the local community.
Communications Strategist, Jess Jollett
Since 2009 Jollett has worked in both the communications and development departments at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. She formerly spent two years as an Americorps VISTA serving a local refugee resettlement organization, Survivors of Torture, International. Jollett has a degree in Media Communications from Point Loma Nazarene University. She was also a leader in the local arts organization, So Say We All, and her creative writings have been published in San Diego CityBeat and the San Diego Writers, Ink Anthology.
Community Organizer (Criminal Justice Focus), Christina Griffin
Griffin was born and raised in San Diego. She graduated from Howard University with a B.A. in political science. Griffin works in her community to rally residents around increasing voter engagement and responding to injustices that befall youth of color via groups like National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), 100 Strong and Pillars of the Community. Christina has worked as an organizer with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), United Domestic Workers of America (UDWA), the California Democratic Party and Obama for America (OFA).
Deputy Director, Jeff Wergeles
Wergeles joined the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties in February 2011 as the development director, and in November 2013 was appointed deputy director. In this position he leads our development work, and oversees the organization’s finances and operations. Prior to joining the ACLU, Wergeles was the director of development at the San Diego LGBT Community Center and before at KPBS, public radio and television for San Diego. He has an extensive resume of community involvement, serving as president on the boards of Mama’s Kitchen and the Greater San Diego Business Association. Prior to working at KPBS he was a member of their community advisory board, and also served as vice president of the Diversionary Theater and on the boards of the June Burnett Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He holds a degree in economics from UCLA.
Development Associate, Mitchell Price
Price graduated magna cum laude from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2012 with a degree in political science. His main research focused on urban planning and city development, culminating in a senior thesis project mapping current rates of residential segregation in San Diego based on the 2010 Census. While in school he interned for Circulate San Diego, a local nonprofit advocating for better public transportation through civic engagement and policy reform, and participated in a comparative metropolitan studies program in Berlin, Germany. After graduating, he worked for PLNU as an Admissions Counselor, recruiting prospective students and managing event planning for the university.
Development Director, Susan Lapidus
Lapidus has spent her professional life working to improve lives in San Diego and around the world. She is an accomplished senior development professional with a successful track record partnering with community leaders and executives to advance the missions of nonprofit organizations. With more than 20 years of high-integrity leadership experience in major gift stewardship, campaign development, event management and oversight, she serves as a trusted strategic partner and advisor to high net-worth individuals to cultivate well-aligned and meaningful philanthropic investments. Previously, she was the senior director of development for Jewish Family Service and has worked with Susan G. Komen, City Heights Partnership for Children and the United Jewish Federation. Lapidus has a degree in Journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Immigrant Rights Organizer, Gloria Cruz
Cruz has been a local activist and organizer advocating for the empowerment of undocumented students and the immigrant community in San Diego and Los Angeles for the past fifteen years. She is also a strong advocate for LGBT rights, being a member of the LGBT community. Her advocacy bridges both movements in the hopes of advancing of both. Cruz most recently served as director of entertainment for San Diego LGBT Pride, where she focused on structuring the festival to be welcoming to all people. She was part of the founding members of the San Diego Dream Team and is still an active member, working closely with students and community members around DACA and its Stopping Deportations project.
Law Fellow/Staff Attorney — Imperial County Immigrants’ Rights,
Corona is the legal advocate for the Access to Freedom and Justice for Immigrants in Isolated Detention Centers Project sponsored by the Berkeley Law Foundation. Corona’s advocacy focuses on providing legal outreach to the Imperial Regional Detention Facility and on promoting the rights of indigent detainees to have publicly appointed counsel. Corona has years of experience working as a community organizer on efforts to empower immigrant communities and people of color through popular education, advocacy, and litigation. Corona has a B.A. from Fresno State, a Masters from the University of Texas at Austin in History (Latin America & Borderlands), and a J.D. from Berkeley Law (Boalt). Corona is the proud daughter of Central Valley farmworkers who immigrated from Guanajuato, México.
Legal Director, David Loy
After graduating law school, Loy clerked for Judge Dolores K. Sloviter of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He worked as a staff attorney with Office of the Appellate Defender in New York City and public defender and civil rights attorney in Spokane, Washington before joining the ACLU in 2006. He previously served on the Southern District Lawyer Representative Committee and the board of California Appellate Defense Counsel. Loy was named one of San Diego’s Top Attorneys 2009 and 2010 by San Diego Daily Transcript. He supervises all legal advocacy at the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties, and has particular expertise in freedom of speech and religion, open government and public disclosure, police misconduct, and constitutional criminal procedure. Loy has a law degree from Northwestern and a B.A. from Brown, and is licensed to practice in California and New York (with inactive licenses in Illinois and Washington). You can follow him on Twitter @DavidLoySD.
Legal Program Manager, Justine d’Auteuil
D’Auteuil graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Mexican-American Studies and then earned a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential with a Spanish emphasis and began teaching a bilingual kindergarten and after-school ESL program in Woodland, CA. After eight years, she started at UC Davis School of Law as the legal administrator/office manager for the Immigration and Prison Law Clinical Programs. In 2006, she joined the ACLU’s national Drug Law Reform Project as a legal assistant, and a year later, joined San Diego ACLU as the legal program coordinator.
Policy Advocate, Homayra Yusufi
Yusufi is trained as a policy analyst dedicated to creating change through advocating for policy reforms. Yusufi served as a consultant for the City of Emeryville and Emery Unified School District analyzing the impacts of housing policies on educational outcomes and also spent three years working for CAIR San Diego where she addressed civil rights issues confronting the Muslim community. Yusufi holds a degree in Political Science from San Diego State University and a Masters in Public Policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
Policy Director, Margaret Dooley-Sammuli
Before joining the ACLU, Dooley-Sammuli was the deputy state director in Southern California with the Drug Policy Alliance, where she led the organization’s statewide criminal justice advocacy. In 2008, Dooley-Sammuli was deputy campaign manager for Yes on Prop 5, a ballot initiative that would have significantly expanded access to drug treatment while safely reducing prison overcrowding. Before joining DPA, Dooley-Sammuli spent five years in China where she was an editor with the Economist Intelligence Unit. She holds a degree from Bryn Mawr College.
Policy Fellow, Paola Guzman
Paola Guzman has recently rejoined the ACLU’s policy department after finishing her masters in international affairs with a focus on public policy and Latin America at UC San Diego’s Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. While there, Guzman completed an internship with Qualcomm’s government affairs department, where she worked on human rights, corporate social responsibility, privacy and freedom of expression issues in the ICT industry. Before earning her masters she worked as the executive projects associate at the ACLU. As an undergraduate at UCSD, Guzman interned at the League of United Latin American Citizens and completed the Mexican Migration Field Research and Training program under Wayne Cornelius.
Senior Staff Attorney, Bardis Vakili
Prior to coming to the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Vakili worked in the Orange County office of the ACLU of Southern California, where he litigated primarily in the areas of immigrants’ rights, voting rights, and free speech. Vakili has also written amicus briefs for courts in gang injunction cases and advocated on a variety of additional issues, including community-police relations, the school-to-prison pipeline, rights of homeless individuals, national security, and government transparency. In 2008, Vakili was part of the ACLU of Southern California immigrants’ rights team that was awarded the National Lawyer’s Guild’s Daniel Levy Award for contributions in the field of immigrants’ rights. He was formerly director of the political asylum program at Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego. He graduated from Tufts University in 1997 and the University of San Diego School of Law in 2006, where he received a Wiley Manuel award for pro bono service. Vakili is proficient in Spanish and speaks basic Farsi.
Special Projects Associate, Amanda Le
Le recently graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a degree in international studies-political science/sociology and a minor in business. At UCSD, Le was an active member of the student council, International Center, and the Education Abroad Program, through which she studied political science in Spain. Le previously worked for a Buddhist foundation managing media outreach and had an earlier stint with the San Diego ACLU as a communications intern.
Staff Attorney, Gabriela Rivera
Rivera joined the ACLU of San Diego in 2012 as a Yale Public Interest Fellow. Her work at the ACLU will focus on addressing racial profiling and other abuses of local police partnerships with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Rivera’s project seeks to remedy not only the front-end immigration enforcement issues in San Diego County, but also addresses two specific consequences of local policing of civil immigration law: the proliferation of coerced and misinformed administrative voluntary departures and worsening conditions in short-term immigration detention. A member of the Yale Law School class of 2011, Rivera received her B.A. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Staff Attorney — Health & Drug Policy, Kellen Russoniello
Russoniello earned his JD and MPH from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. While in graduate school, he drafted Good Samaritan overdose prevention legislation for the District of Columbia, which became law in March of 2013. He also volunteered by drafting motions to seal criminal records, providing outreach to sex workers and homeless people, and teaching middle-school children about the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He has interned with the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Drug Policy Alliance, and the ACLU of Washington State. Kellen currently serves on the board of directors of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
Voting Rights Attorney, Jonathan Stein
Stein recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a master’s in public policy from the Goldman School of Public Policy, and a J.D. from Berkeley Law. While in graduate school, Stein served as the Student Regent on the University of California’s Board of Regents, representing the 230,000 students of the UC system. Prior to that, he served on the board of directors of the UC Students Association, led all student lobbying for UC Berkeley, organized and led a statewide student campaign on behalf of Proposition 25 (majority vote budget), and founded and led the UC Berkeley chapter of Common Cause. Prior to graduate school, Stein spent four years at Mother Jones magazine as a researcher, assistant editor, blogger, and campaign correspondent during the 2008 presidential elections. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of California Common Cause.
Voting Rights Director, Lori Shellenberger
Shellenberger, Director of the California Voting Rights Project, advocates for statewide and local election reform to reduce barriers to voter participation. Since joining the ACLU in 2011, she advocated for the mapping of the first majority-minority supervisor district in San Diego County; worked to increase compliance with the National Voter Registration Act and Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act; and provided technical assistance to San Diego nonprofits to build capacity for civic engagement work. Shellenberger brings a breadth of legal, nonprofit and community organizing experience to the ACLU. She began her legal career at the Alameda County Public Defender and was associate and capital appellate counsel at the Legal Aid Society of New York where she litigated cases before New York’s Court of Appeals, the 2nd Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. She graduated from New York University School of Law.
ACLU OF SAN DIEGO & IMPERIAL COUNTIES BOARD OF DIRECTORS – 2014 Term
Board of Directors
Deborah Fritsch, Board President*
* Board President, Deborah Fritsch
Deborah Fritsch has held executive positions in accounting, finance, and administration in several high-tech companies. She subsequently worked as a consultant in these areas, as well as management, strategic planning, valuations, and mergers. Fritsch served on the board, as treasurer, and on the executive committee of Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties.
You can contact the Board President or any board members by sending a letter to:
ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
P.O. Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131