ACLU STAFF BIOGRAPHIES
To reach the ACLU offices, send us an email.
Norma Chavez-Peterson, Executive Director
Chávez-Peterson has long been an integral part of San Diego’s organizing community with 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 2012 as organizing director, Chávez-Peterson was promoted to associate director to oversee legal, communications, policy, and organizing programs later that year. In Chávez-Peterson’s short time in leadership, 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. Twitter @normachavezp.
Jeffrey Wergeles, Deputy Director
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. Twitter @jeff_wergeles.
Laurie Levine, Business Manager
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.
Mayra Lopez, Special Projects Assistant
Lopez joined the ACLU after receiving her masters in history at San Diego State University with a focus on the U.S. Labor Movement, U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, and Mexican History. While completing her undergraduate career at the University of California, Riverside, Lopez became inspired by the labor and civil rights movement, leading her to work as a student organizer for AFSCME 3299, SEI-ULTCW, OUR Walmart, and UAW 4123. Lopez also coordinated an intensive summer program to give students organizing training through education, skills building, and hands-on-in-the-field experience working on a variety of campaigns for economic and social justice.
The Advocacy Team created a mission statement to guide their work.
“The Advocacy Department executes the mission and values of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties in the community through the building of strategic relationships, and by engaging and developing community leaders in order to create sustainable social change.”
Gloria Cruz, Organizer
Cruz is a local activist and a lifelong advocate for LGBT and immigrant rights, being a member of both communities. She has been a community organizer, in San Diego and Los Angeles, for the past 18 years. Cruz worked with San Diego LGBT Pride, where she focused on structuring the festival to be welcoming to all people. She was recently elected to the board of directors of The LGBT Center of San Diego. As one of the founding members of the San Diego Dream Team and still an active member, she works closely with students and community members to improve access to legal counsel for immigrants in remote detention and to promote its Undocuqueer project. Her advocacy work with the ACLU focuses on education equity, immigrant rights, LGBT rights and police accountability. Cruz continues to bridge the issues of those affected by injustice with her strong dedication to the legal and advocacy vision of the ACLU. Twitter @gloriacruzisso.
Esmeralda Flores, Binational Relations Associate
Flores conducts extensive outreach in Mexico for the San Diego ACLU’s Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson settlement that challenged government policy on voluntary returns. For the past four years before joining the ACLU, Flores worked as a staff attorney with the Binational Defense and Advocacy Program, housed at the Casa del Migrante in Tijuana, Mexico. Her focus was on the documentation of human and civil rights violations and family separation issues due to deportations. In 2013, Flores presented a friend-of-the-court brief before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. She is a graduate of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California School of Law. She also completed a post-graduate International Migration program at the prestigious Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) in Tijuana. Twitter @_esme9_.
Andrea Gaspar, Youth Organizer
Gaspar develops an organizing and leadership program for high school students in San Diego and Imperial counties, implementing a year-round curriculum to introduce youth to critical thinking, civil rights and liberties issues, and the value of integrated advocacy. She has a bachelor’s degree from UC Irvine in International Studies and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies and a double minor in African-American studies and Latin American literature. As a queer Mexican womxn born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, she believes that youth organizing is one of the most powerful tools to bring transformative justice and challenge both macro and micro levels of systemic oppression that are affecting and killing communities on a daily basis. Twitter @agaspar126.
Amanda Le, Special Projects Associate
Le 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. Twitter @.
David Trujillo, Advocacy Director
Trujillo has spent his career working on issues of social justice and has years of experience in community organizing, political campaigns and the legislative process. Prior to joining the San Diego ACLU, Trujillo served as Planned Parenthood Northern California’s public affairs director. There he was part of the campaign teams that defeated a Parental Notification Initiative in California and so-called Fetal Personhood Amendments in Montana and Mississippi. Trujillo also helped pass legislation that made California the only state in the country in the last five years to expand access to birth control and abortion services. Trujillo grew up in San Diego and has a degree in Political Science from the University of California, San Diego.
Lauren Alexander, Communications Strategist
Alexander joins the San Diego ACLU after working for the New York Civil Liberties Union’s communications department for the last three years. There, she worked to shape public opinion in New York on a wide range of civil liberties issues from criminal justice to women’s equality. She developed strategies to promote legislative and legal initiatives including the statewide campaign that proceeded the settlement of a seven year lawsuit against New York State to fix its broken indigent defense system. Before the ACLU, Alexander worked with ABC’sGood Morning America as a writing and production associate. After graduating from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, she is happy to leave behind the cold brutal winters of New York and Chicago for the sunshine and temperate climates of Southern California. Twitter @LaurenGA88.
Anna Castro, Communications Strategist
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. Twitter @apcastro16.
Ferchil Ramos, New Media Strategist
Ramos, born in the Phillippines, has long lived in San Diego, and seeks to make an impact on the city and the communities where he serves and lives in. With a diverse professional and volunteer background, a broad range of skills led him to his role as new media strategist for the San Diego ACLU. Ramos helps highlight civil liberties in new and exciting ways. In 2015, he was recruited to be a RISE Fellow for RISE San Diego. In his spare time, he volunteers as director for the Filipino American Arts & Culture Festival, where he adopted a sense of civic duty and culture. Twitter @WHATtheFERCH.
Rebecca Rauber, Communications Director
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. Twitter @rebeccarauber.
Criminal Justice & Drug Policy Project
Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Director, ACLU of California
Based in San Diego, Dooley-Sammuli leads the ACLU’s statewide many criminal justice and drug policy campaigns in California – including protecting the significant reforms embedded in Proposition 47 and leveraging the Affordable Care Act to advance a public health approach to drug policy. She has a decade of experience working on criminal justice and drug policy reform in California, including spearheading historic campaigns to revise the state’s drug possession penalties (SB 1506 & SB 649). Before joining the ACLU, Dooley-Sammuli was deputy state director with the Drug Policy Alliance, where she led the organization’s criminal justice advocacy in California. In her previous career, she was an editor based in Shanghai, China with The Economist Intelligence Unit. Twitter @MDS_cj.
Kellen Russoniello, Staff Attorney — Health & Drug Policy
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. Twitter @krussoniello.
Jeremy Bloom, Donor Relations Manager
Bloom has worked in the nonprofit fundraising and political organizing fields for more than seven years. Prior to coming to the ACLU, Bloom lived in Santa Barbara and served on the boards of a community-based foundation and faith group. He is an active member of Young Professionals Council, a project of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, currently sitting on the executive committee as the secretary/treasurer. Bloom is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington, in Fredericksburg, VA, with a degree in international affairs and Middle Eastern Studies.
Amy Corton, Donor Relations Officer
Corton has an extensive background in fundraising and non-profit governance. Before joining the ACLU Corton worked for Project Concern International as the director of planned giving and as the development officer for the Women Empowered Initiative. She also has consulted with nonprofits including Planned Parenthood, Words Alive, San Diego Hospice, and Educational Enrichment Systems, and served as the Treasurer and President of the Board of Directors of both Planned Parenthood of San Diego and Riverside Counties and Congregation Beth Israel. Corton is a graduate of Cornell University and Emory University Law School.
Alison Ross, Donor Relations Officer
Ross joined the ACLU in September 2015. As the Development Associate, she provides support in donor stewardship and cultivation and plans all development related events. Ross’s past development experience draws from both nonprofits and political campaigns. She is a graduate of University of California, San Diego with a degree in communication. At UCSD, she graduated Magna cum Laude, was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the Stewart Society, and the Caledonian Society, and earned Highest Distinction for her thesis examining the intersectionalities of race, religion, and politics in the United States.
Mitra Ebadolahi, Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney
Ebadolahi is the Border Litigation Project 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. Twitter @MitraEbadolahi.
David Loy, Legal Director
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). Twitter @DavidLoySD.
Jonathan Markovitz, Skadden Fellow/Staff Attorney
Before starting law school, Markovitz earned a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, and taught courses in sociology, communication, ethnic studies, and writing at UCSD and other area universities. He has written and taught about race, gender, popular culture, social movements, and collective memory. Markovitz is the author of Legacies of Lynching: Racial Violence and Memory (University of Minnesota Press, 2004) and Racial Spectacles: Explorations in Media, Race and Justice (Routledge, 2011). Following graduation from the University of California, Irvine, School of Law, he clerked for Judge John C. Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle.
Gabriela Rivera, Staff Attorney
Rivera joined the ACLU of San Diego in 2012 as a Yale Public Interest Fellow, focusing on the civil rights consequences of immigration enforcement. She was instrumental in developing and litigating the groundbreaking class action lawsuit, Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson, which challenged systemic abuses in ICE and Border Patrol’s administration of “voluntary return” throughout southern California. She is the lead attorney for the class action portion of the Lopez-Venegas settlement. Now a staff attorney, her additional areas of practice and expertise include: due process challenges to the deportations of U.S. citizens; process-free removals of non-citizens; police practices; and public records requests. Prior to graduating from Yale Law, Rivera received a B.A. in History from UCLA. Originally from Central California, she is fluent in Spanish and has a French bulldog named Gigi.
Aude Ruffing, Legal Assistant
A native of France, Ruffing moved to San Diego in 2011 after completing a Master’s degree in International Cooperation and Economic Development in Toulouse. She spent some time abroad in Mexico and Germany as an exchange student. Prior to graduate school, she studied Humanities with a focus on Philosophy, German and Latin. She is passionate about social justice and human rights and wants to dedicate her career to advocate for vulnerable populations. Since living in San Diego, she has been working and volunteering with several non-profits.She earned her paralegal certificate from USCD Extension and recently became a Certified Paralegal.In her free time, she loves traveling,cooking and learning new languages.
Gabriel Urias, Staff Attorney – Lopez-Venegas
Urias is the contract attorney hired to assist in the implementation of the landmark class action lawsuit, Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson. Urias was born and raised in the rural farm community of Shafter, California, and the proud son of two immigrant parents from Mexico. Throughout his legal career, Urias has committed himself to serving underrepresented immigrant communities with the care, compassion, and dignity they deserve. He attended UC Berkeley and San Diego State University as an undergrad, and received a law degree from California Western School of Law. He is an active member of the San Diego Raza Lawyers Association and is on the executive board for Cal’s Chicana/Latino Alumni Association of San Diego.
Bardis Vakili, Senior Staff Attorney
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.
Jess Jollett, Communications Strategist
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.
Lori Shellenberger, Voting Rights Director, ACLU of California
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.
Jonathan Stein, Voting Rights Attorney
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 Cal 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.
ACLU OF SAN DIEGO & IMPERIAL COUNTIES BOARD OF DIRECTORS – 2015 Term
Mark Adams, Board President*
* Board President, Mark Adams
Mark Adams is a San Diego criminal defense lawyer who has been in private practice since 1981. He focuses solely on the defense of serious felony cases in the District Court, earning the highest peer-review rating available from Martindale-Hubbell. He has represented people charged in various classes of cases, with many of his clients being citizens of Mexico with language and cultural barriers; many impaired by mental illness, drug addiction and substance abuse issues or other personality disorders and medical conditions. Adams attended the University of San Diego School of Law.
You can contact the Board President or any board member by sending a letter to:
ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties
P.O. Box 87131
San Diego, CA 92138-7131
The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties fights for individual rights and fundamental freedoms for all through education, litigation, & policy advocacy.