ACLU STAFF BIOGRAPHIES
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Norma Chavez-Peterson, Executive Director
Chávez-Peterson is an integral member of San Diego’s civil rights community, with nearly two decades of visionary leadership, organizing and advocacy experience in California’s second-most populous county and southern borderlands. She joined the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (“ACLU SDIC”) as organizing director in 2012, and became the affiliate’s executive director in 2013. She was instrumental in creating the ACLU SDIC’s integrated advocacy campaign to advance priority issues such as criminal justice reform, police accountability and immigrant rights. Under her leadership, ACLU SDIC staff size has more than doubled to forty dedicated professionals who work with, and within diverse communities to build power together. Further, the affiliate expanded its presence in the Imperial Valley, establishing an Imperial County office in January 2018.
Prior to joining the ACLU, Chávez-Peterson was executive director of Justice Overcoming Boundaries, a collaborative network of faith, community, education, business and labor partners she co-founded to advance social justice. She currently serves on the boards of Partners For Progress and Engage San Diego; and most recently, helped to launch the San Diego Rapid Response Network. She was deeply honored to be named 2017 Woman of the Year by California Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. (79TH AD) who said “Norma demonstrates the kind of strong, passionate, visionary and effective leadership we need so desperately right now to protect the rights of our most vulnerable residents.”
Chávez-Peterson attended San Diego State University where she earned a BA in Political Science and Chicano/a Studies. She is married and lives with her family in Chula Vista.
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.
Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Special Projects Director, ACLU of California
Margaret Dooley-Sammuli is Director of Criminal Justice and Drug Policy for the ACLU of California. Based in San Diego, she leads the ACLU’s statewide criminal justice and drug policy projects, including addressing the state’s broken money bail system. Dooley-Sammuli also serves as Senior Campaign Strategist for pretrial justice (bail reform) with the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, an unprecedented, multiyear effort to cut the nation’s jail and prison population by 50% and combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system. She has more than a decade of experience working on criminal justice and drug policy reform in California, including spearheading historic campaigns to reduce the state’s drug possession penalties.
Jhon Monrreal, Administrative Associate
Monrreal is born and raised in San Diego. He is a first-generation college student attending San Diego Mesa college in pursuit of transferring to a 4-year university with a Public Health major. Monrreal previously worked for Circulo de Hombres, a program through an organization called Izcalli. There he assisted young Chicano/Latino males from the San Diego Unified School District feel a sense of support and belonging on their school campus as a means for them to reach their intellectual potential. On my free time, he likes to go on adventures and spend time with his daughter. He is happy to be a part of an organization that is filled with passion and ambition.
Maria Elena Morales, Special Projects Assistant
Maria Elena Morales grew up in the Coachella Valley and established herself in San Diego six years ago. As a community college student, Maria Elena has used her personal experience with the criminal justice system to empower individuals from previously incarcerated and marginalized groups; by providing resources and giving sound to their voices. Since she began attending San Diego City College she has created opportunities to lead and co-establish student organizations such as the Urban Scholars Union and the Social Justice Coalition, organizations committed to increasing equity for individuals regardless of background. In the community, she has been active with the American Federation of Teachers Guild Local 1931. Maria Elena has participated as a Fellow for Students for Economic Justice and has always looked for new ways to expose the campus culture while working for SDCC to events like the first annual Women of Color in Leadership forum, Social Justice and Education Conference, and City Women Rock. Maria Elena is also a 2016 “Leading with Conviction” Fellow with Just Leadership USA’s national leadership training program. She was recently appointed to the California Advisory Board for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Samantha Ollinger, Business Manager
Ollinger joined the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties in October 2017 as the Business Manager. In this position she is responsible for bookkeeping and related financial and administrative duties for the affiliate under the supervision of the Deputy Director and in cooperation with other staff and the Board of Directors. Prior to joining the ACLU, Ollinger was the executive director and founder of Bike San Diego, a community and grassroots based organization dedicated to advocating for equitable land use policies. Ollinger holds a degree in Business Administration with a focus in Accounting from Temple University.
Kathleen Sanchez, Executive Administrator – Office Manager
Sanchez comes to the ACLU after more than nineteen years specializing in human resources with one of the biggest public relations and advertising agencies in San Diego. She attended the University of Arizona where she studied early childhood education and special education. She says she loves being surrounded by everyone’s drive and passion, and is inspired and grounded by family, and close friends.
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.”
Roberto Alcantar, Senior Immigrant Rights Policy Strategist
Roberto Alcantar was raised in the San Ysidro community of San Diego. Roberto graduated from UC Berkeley and spent time abroad at the University of Western Australia doing research on social justice issues pertaining to Aboriginal communities. Shortly after, Roberto was recruited into the U.S. Department of State and served overseas. Roberto has worked in the non-profit sector on issues like human trafficking, gang violence and hunger in underserved communities. He has served on the City of San Diego’s International Affairs Board. Prior to the ACLU, Roberto worked for San Diego City Councilmember Christopher Ward. Roberto also served in the State Senator under Senator Marty Block and was his point person in the district on labor issues, immigration issues, binational affairs, public safety, transportation, and education. Roberto is a San Diego Leadership Alliance Fellow and was named one of San Diego’s 40 Leaders under 40 in 2015. He was also named one of San Diego’s most notable leaders by San Diego Magazine and was awarded the WESTOP Achievement Award for his work on education in his community. He was elected to the Southwestern College Board of Governance in November of 2016.
Gaia Croston, Advocacy Associate
Croston grew up in San Diego and received her bachelor’s degree in Geography and Sociology from the University of Edinburgh. While in college she was involved in the national Youth Stop AIDS Campaign for three years, advocating for better prevention, awareness, and care for individuals living with HIV in Scotland and beyond. Gaia also spent time working on student newspapers and with community organizations including the Centre for LGBT Health and Wellbeing. She is delighted to join the ACLU team and as Advocacy Associate, she hopes to connect many community members to opportunities that allow them to grow and effect positive change.
Esmeralda Flores, Immigrant Rights and Binational Affairs Advocate
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.
Gerrlyn Gacao, Organizer
Gacao joined the ACLU San Diego to continue and deepen advocacy work throughout communities in the southern portion of San Diego County. As a previous council representative for Councilmember David Alvarez’s office, she dedicated her role to organizing and outreaching to constituents across San Diego’s South Bay communities and increased community access and equity of city services. Passionate about cultural awareness and socioeconomic justice, Gacao has also held leadership roles in various electoral campaigns, community organizing opportunities, and political or AAPI community organizations. Gacao was born and raised in Stockton, CA and earned a Bachelor of Arts in urban planning with an economics minor from the University of California, San Diego.
Christie Hill, Senior Policy Strategist
Hill is a San Diego native and has worked in California, Washington, DC and New York advocating for the rights of women, children, and low-income communities. She has focused her work on issues that impact the lives of people of color including education equity, homelessness and economic justice. Hill earned her bachelor’s degree from the School of Social Welfare at Berkeley, and a juris doctorate from Columbia Law School, where she served for two years as an adjunct faculty member. Prior to joining the San Diego ACLU, she served as the program and policy director at the Center on Policy Initiatives and helped to launch a campaign focused on promoting equity and transparency in the City of San Diego’s budget as well as fighting for a higher minimum wage.
Amanda Le, Policy 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.
Destiny Lopez, Criminal Justice Fellow
Destiny grew up in San Ysidro, California and recently moved back to San Diego after receiving her undergraduate degrees in History and Political Science from Stanford University. Prior to joining ACLU, she was involved in the movement for housing justice in the rapidly-gentrifying Bay Area, where she worked for the City of East Palo Alto on housing affordability. At Stanford, she lead a student organization called the First-Generation and/or Low-income Partnership (FLIP), which organizes and advocates for first-generation and low-income Stanford students (the first student group of its kind). She has also interned for the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Reality Changers (in San Diego), and at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and watching makeup tutorials.
Cassie Purdy, Organizer
Cassie Purdy joins the ACLU after three years at the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, where she worked with labor and community allies to build power for working families. She played various roles at the Labor Council, managing campaigns for pro-worker candidate and ballot measures, organizing coalitions to deepen community partnerships, and supporting various worker organizing and contract campaigns to advance social and economic justice throughout the region. Purdy has developed and honed her organizing and advocacy skills through work with the Gamaliel Foundations, local candidate campaigns,and coalition organizing. Born and raised in Northern California, she moved to San Diego in 2008 to earn her degree from Point Loma Nazarene University in Social Work. She currently serves on the board of the San Diego Leadership Alliance.
Crystal Quezada, Senior Community Advocate in Imperial County
Crystal has over ten years of experience in state legislative affairs and has strong expertise in policy advocacy and research and analysis. She was born in El Centro and grew up in Calexico, CA where she attended Imperial Valley College. In 2005, she moved to Sacramento and later she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Government from California State University, Sacramento. In 2008, Crystal started her legislative career at the California State Capitol by participating in the Assembly Fellowship Program and served as legislative staffer for various member of the California State Assembly. Prior to joining the ACLU, Crystal served as Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber’s Legislative Director for five years. Some legislative measures she had the opportunity to work on include, education equity, prevent racial and identity profiling by law enforcement, comprehensive sexual health education, clarifying voting rights for former offenders, among other important issues. Crystal has participated as a guest speaker at the Imperial Valley Migrant Program Young Latinas Leadership Program in El Centro, CA and was the program coordinator for the CAMP Scholar’s Internship Program in Sacramento that recruits and mentors the next generation of migrant leaders in California through professional development, civic engagement, and relationship building.
Chloe Triplett, Policy Advocate
A native of Annapolis, Maryland, Chloe Triplett holds a degree in political science and history from Loyola University Maryland. Before joining the ACLU team as a Policy Advocate, Chloe worked in the Office of District 3 Councilmember Christopher Ward, as a Council Representative. Prior to relocating to San Diego, Chloe previously worked for the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch, and as the District Director for then Majority Leader of the Maryland House of Delegates, Anne R. Kaiser. Chloe is a member of the Delta Sigma Theta, a public service organization that focuses on outreach in communities of color, and is a recent member of the Black Women’s Institute for Leadership Development and San Diego Young Leaders.
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.
Graciela Uriarte, Organizer
Graciela is a first-generation college graduate and proud daughter of immigrant farm workers in the Central Valley. She was born and raised in the rural agricultural community of Mendota and San Diego became home when she studied Political Science and Chicano/a studies at the University of California, San Diego. Since attaining her bachelor’s degree, Graciela has been involved with and worked for MANA de San Diego in the Hermanitas Mentorship Program and Pre-College Institute’s Upward Bound. She is passionate about organizing in order to impact on a range of issues critical to making society more equitable. As an advocate and scholar, Graciela is a current RISE Urban Leaders Fellow and active with the Chicano/Latino Alumni Association. In her spare time she enjoys discovering new places to eat and learning about different topics through podcasts.
Nazanin Wahid, Community Education and Training Advocate
Nazanin Wahid was born in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union War. Her family escaped the devastation of war and became refugees in Pakistan, India and finally the United States. Growing up in the US, she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and in Comparative Religions from UCSD in 2000. She received an MA in Peace and Justice Studies from USD in 2003. Since graduating, she worked as a community organizer, dedicated to civic engagement and social awareness in underrepresented communities. She also managed several California campaigns for education and individual races in the 79th Assembly District. Nazanin lectures on topics covering the Middle East, Islam, Immigration, Muslims in America, War/Peace and Women’s issues as well as Social Activism. She spent many years dedicated to educational and social development in Islamic Centers throughout Southern California, teaching leadership in youth and interfaith understanding through community service and civic duty. Nazanin lectures on topics covering the Middle East, Islam, Immigration, Muslims in America, the Environment, War/Peace, Women’s issues as well as Social Justice.
Cheryl Alethia Phelps, Communications Director
A native San Diegan, Phelps is deeply committed to dismantling systems that perpetuate injustice, isolation and powerlessness. This passion and 25 years of experience in nonprofit, legislative and philanthropic environments inform her work as communications director for the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. Prior to joining the ACLU, Phelps was a consultant specializing in strategic communications, social impact project design and philanthropy, and civic engagement. She was previously employed as the San Diego Foundation’s Director of Civil Society, where her efforts achieved notable innovation in the use of digital media to enhance news literacy and inspire San Diegans to share their own stories. Before that, she was employed by the U.S. House of Representatives’ committee with 360º oversight jurisdiction of executive branch agencies and programs. Phelps was a founding director and chairman of the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership. Currently, she serves on the board of directors for California Humanities, the state’s independent nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Ferchil Ramos, New Media Strategist
Ramos, born in the Philippines, 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.
Alison Ross, Communications Associate
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.
Edward Sifuentes, Senior Communications Strategist
Sifuentes, a former longtime local journalist, is a Sr. Communications Strategist. Before joining the ACLU in January 2017, he had been a reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the North County Times. During his 16 years as a journalist, he covered the region’s most disenfranchised communities, including undocumented immigrants, migrant workers and homeless people. He also covered state government and local politics, and reported on issues concerning race and ethnicity, tribal casinos, and the military. The son of immigrants from Mexico and the first in his family to graduate from college, Ed attended San Diego State University earning a BA in Journalism with a minor in Latin American Studies.
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, Director of Donor Relations
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.
Stephanie Malyn, Donor Engagement Manager
Stephanie Malyn has a background in fundraising and donor engagement programming for San Diego nonprofits. Prior to joining the ACLU of San Diego, She worked for the Museum of Photographic Arts as the Development and Events Coordinator and at the San Diego Museum of Man as the Membership and Development Associate. Malyn also founded and sits on the board of an industry-based early professional’s organization, engaging a community of like-minded individuals and advocating for professional development and growth. In her spare time, she enjoys attending community events and volunteering with the San Diego Humane Society. Malyn is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University.
Rachel Stevens, Development Assistant
Rachel received a B.A. in Economics and Women & Gender Studies from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where many of her studies focused on political science and the economics of inequality and discrimination. She also studied international economics and finance in Florence, Italy with an emphasis on immigration. In college Rachel worked with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) in fundraising, event planning, and community engagement efforts. Rachel joined the ACLU in March 2017, relocating from her home town of Chicopee, Massachusetts. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, yoga, and trying new restaurants in San Diego.
Melissa Deleon, Equity Staff Attorney
Deleon is the ACLU’s Equity Staff Attorney, focusing on litigation and initiatives that advance civil liberties in San Diego. Prior to joining the ACLU, Deleon was a member of San Diego’s longest-standing plaintiff’s law firm, Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield, where she helped to recover millions of dollars on behalf of injury victims and focused her practice on aviation litigation. A longtime Bar leader, Deleon currently serves on the Board of Directors of National Filipino American Lawyers Association and is a 2017 Committee Chair for Lawyers Club of San Diego. Deleon was the 2016 Chair of San Diego County Bar Association’s Ethnic Relations & Diversity Committee and served as 2013 President of Filipino American Lawyers of San Diego. Deleon has volunteered for Legal Aid Society of San Diego and “Think Dignity,” a local nonprofit that advocates on behalf of the homeless community in San Diego. She was previously the co-director of Community Law School, a program which offered free legal education to the public. Deleon is a three-time recipient of San Diego Daily Transcript’s “Top Young Attorney” award and received San Diego Business Journal’s “Best of the Bar” award in 2015 and 2016. A native San Diegan, Deleon received her BA in journalism from San Diego State University and her juris doctorate from California Western School of Law.
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.
Perla Gonzalez, Legal Assistant
Gonzalez has a profound passion for serving San Diego’s immigrant communities. She has been involved in many immigrant rights activities including managing the Screening for Immigration Relief Project through UCSD’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies. This project was born to help meet the legal service needs of San Diego’s undocumented Mexican population. Gonzalez was also a volunteer with the San Diego ACLU’s Imperial Legal Orientation Project, an intern with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and a research assistant with the Mexican Migration Field Research Program. She most recently served as a consultant for Dr. Mai Khanh Tran’s congressional campaign in California’s 39th Congressional District. Gonzalez earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego.
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).
Mayra Lopez, Legal 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.
Jonathan Markovitz, 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.
Zoë McKinney, Border Litigation Fellow / Staff Attorney
McKinney joined the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties in October 2016 as the Border Litigation Project Fellow. McKinney earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human and Organizational Development, and Spanish from Vanderbilt University in 2010. She has a demonstrated commitment to social justice–particularly racial justice, government accountability, and immigrant rights. While an undergraduate, she drafted a Local Rule for Davidson County Juvenile Court to improve the quality of appointed juvenile representation. Before completing her legal education at UC Irvine School of Law (J.D. ’16), she worked in Quito, Ecuador as the Overseas Operations Associate for the refugee legal aid organization Asylum Access. At UCI, she earned Pro Bono High Honors for her work related to immigrant rights projects. Also at UCI, McKinney was involved with international human rights and civil rights clinics, focusing on global freedom of expression issues as well as law enforcement accountability.
Linda Naters, Legal Program Manager / Paralegal
Naters joins the firm as a paralegal with 20 years of experience in civil and criminal litigation in a broad spectrum of cases, such as legal malpractice, securities fraud, healthcare billing fraud, and environmental violations. A native of Panama, Naters received a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from San Diego State University in 1995, and a Paralegal Certificate, with honors, from the University of San Diego in 1996. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, weight lifting, and salsa dancing.
Kellen Russoniello, Staff Attorney
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.
Bardis Vakili, Senior Staff Attorney
Vakili came to the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties in September 2014 after four years in the Orange County office of the ACLU of Southern California. His primary areas of focus are immigrants’ rights and the rights of youth and children, and he also works on voting rights and policing issues. For his work in the field of immigrants’ rights, Vakili has received a California Lawyer Attorney of the Year award in 2017 and a National Lawyer’s Guild’s Daniel Levy Award in 2008. Prior to coming to the ACLU, he was the 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.
ACLU OF SAN DIEGO & IMPERIAL COUNTIES BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Jeff Chinn, President – Director of Career Services, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Luz Villafana, Vice President – Community Volunteer
Deborah Fritsch, Treasurer – Community Volunteer
Leticia Cazares, Secretary – Organizational Development Consultant
Kwofi Reed, Affirmative Action Officer – LISC San Diego, Program Officer
Mark Adams, National Board Representative – Attorney, Law Offices of Mark Adams
Octavio Aguilar – Retired Attorney
Nasser Barghouti – CEO, Objectiva Software Solutions
Frances Beope – Retired Educational Counselor
Carl Crider – President, Crider Associates
Amber Cyphers Stephens – Communications Consultant
David Gangsei – Psychologist
Alex Gantman – Vice President, Qualcomm
Robert Goldstein – Retired Partner, Foley & Lardner, LLP
Beth Herman – Registered Nurse
Rimah Khouri – Deputy Director of Human Resources, City of San Diego
Udoka Nwanna – Adjunct Professor of Law
Neal Ortiguerra – Manager of Operations, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest
Greg Rose – Cryptography and Security Consultant
Madison Shockley – Pastor, Pilgrim United Church of Christ
Andrea Skorepa – CEO, Casa Familiar
Pat Wilson – Attorney at Law
Andy Zlotnik – Attorney, Zlotnick 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.