Legal Action Center Staff

Dan Belnap | Sherie V. Boyd | Janet Coleman | Sally Friedman | Gabrielle de la Gueronniere | Katarina Leiser | Robert B. Levy | Karla Lopez | Sarah Nikolic | Anita R. Marton | Roberta Meyers | Frank Murphy | Mark O’Brien | Lionel Oglesby | Catherine H. O’Neill | Gladys Peeples | Michael Perez | Jessica Ramos | Paul N. Samuels | Vanessa Severino | | Crystal M. Seward | Sebastian Solomon | Joseph N. Thompson | Kate Wagner-Goldstein | Monica Welby Brent Yoshikami


Dan Belnap, Senior Health Policy Analyst: Dan joined Legal Action Center’s Washington DC office in August 2008. At Legal Action Center, Dan’s work focuses primarily on national advocacy efforts to expand effective health policy responses to drug and alcohol addiction. Dan came to Legal Action Center from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), where he worked on issues related to Medicaid, covering the uninsured, and access to care. Before joining NASHP, Dan was a policy advocate working to improve anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs at Utahns Against Hunger. He holds a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.

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Sherie V. Boyd, Office Manager: Sherie V. Boyd joined the Legal Action Center in November 2006. Ms. Boyd manages LAC’s Washington, DC office for LAC’s National Policy Team. Ms. Boyd also serves as Administrative Assistant for the State Associations of Addiction Services. In addition to performing a variety of administrative functions, Ms. Boyd also is responsible for formatting and disseminating a number of electronic newsletters and alerts for the Center. Prior to joining LAC, Ms. Boyd worked for five years as the Administrative Assistant II for Joseph J. Blake & Associates, Inc., located in Washington, DC. Ms. Boyd also serves as an Election Judge for the state of Maryland. Ms. Boyd is currently attending P.G. Community College in Largo, Maryland, where she is pursuing a degree in Business Management Science.

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Janet Coleman, Accountant: Janet Coleman joined the Legal Action Center in September 2000. She works as the Center’s accountant.

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Crystal M. Ferguson, Senior Administrative Assistant: Crystal joined the Legal Action Center in November of 2006 bringing over 8 years of administrative experience. Crystal is the assistant to the Center’s Senior Vice-President, Vice-President, New York Policy Director/ WISH-NY Coordinator and Fiscal Department. Before coming to the Legal Action Center, Crystal worked at the National Development and Research Institutes and the Fortune Society.

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Sally Friedman, Legal Director: Ms. Friedman directs the Center’s Legal Department, which serves over 2,500 clients annually and provides trainings and technical assistance for hundreds of health and social service program serving LAC’s constituency. Since joining the Legal Action Center in October of 1993, Sally Friedman has prosecuted cases involving the breach of HIV confidentiality and discrimination on basis of HIV status, criminal record, and drug or alcohol history. She has also advised and trained hundreds of organizations across the country on privacy and anti-discrimination laws protecting individuals with HIV, criminal records, and alcohol/drug histories. Ms. Friedman has authored numerous publications and produced video/DVD and online trainings on these topics. She is a graduate of Brown University and New York University Law School.

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Gabrielle de la Gueronniere, JD; Co-Director of Policy: Gabrielle de la Guéronnière leads the Center’s federal policy advocacy to expand and improve the health responses to drug and alcohol addiction, and to end discrimination against people with drug and alcohol histories and criminal records. Ms. de la Guéronnière directed the Center’s federal advocacy toward passage into law of the Second Chance Act reentry legislation and successful inclusion of strong addiction and mental health provisions in the Affordable Care Act.  Ms. de la Guéronnière currently works with Congress and the Administration to increase funding for drug and alcohol prevention, treatment, recovery, and research programming; to ensure that the federal health care reform law is implemented well for people with addiction and mental health service needs, and for people in the criminal justice system; and to eliminate legal and policy barriers faced by people with criminal records and drug addiction histories. Ms. de la Guéronnière coordinates and helps to direct strategy for the Coalition for Whole Health, a coalition of national addiction and mental health organizations, and is a frequent presenter on health and criminal justice policy at national and state-wide conferences.

Ms. de la Guéronnière joined the Legal Action Center’s Washington, DC, office in 2003, and, after serving in various policy positions at the Center, she became the Center’s Co-Director of Policy in 2014.  Ms. de la Guéronnière is a graduate of Boston University and American University’s Washington College of Law.

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Katarina Leiser, Development Associate:  Katarina joined the Legal Action Center in May 2014. She assists all aspects of LAC’s development department, including planning the Arthur Liman Public Interest Awards Benefit. Prior to joining the Center, Katarina worked at The Child Center of NY in the external affairs department, where she had various responsibilities in development, event planning, and communications.

Katarina is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at Baruch College, specializing in Nonprofit Administration.

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Robert B. Levy, Director of Development: Robert Levy is the Director of Development for the Legal Action Center. Prior to joining LAC, Robert served as the Executive Director of the Givat Haviva Educational Foundation, the oldest and largest educational institute in Israel, dedicated to building a future of peace and democracy between Israeli Arabs and Jews.

He has worked as the ED or Director of Development for several social-service oriented non-profits, promoting education, medical research, elder care, and community outreach. Robert has extensive experience in marketing and advertising, and teaches Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology. He is the past Chair of the Board of Directors of the All Stars Project, Inc in New York, and has his own consulting firm dedicated to helping small businesses and non-profit organizations grow.

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Karla Lopez, Staff Attorney: Karla Lopez is a Staff Attorney at the Legal Action Center, a non-profit law and policy organization that fights discrimination against people with addiction, HIV/AIDS, and criminal records. At the Legal Action Center, Karla represents clients facing such discrimination, as well as clients whose HIV confidentiality has been breached. Karla also counsels and trains health and social services providers, as well as state and federal governments, on their obligations under anti-discrimination and privacy laws. Karla participated in writing and editing the 2012 edition of LAC’s seminal book on the law governing the privacy of alcohol and drug treatment information, Confidentiality and Communication: A Guide to the Federal Alcohol and Drug Confidentiality Law and HIPAA. Karla has also conducted trainings on behalf of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration around the confidentiality of alcohol and drug treatment records, with a focus on special issues arising in the context of electronic health records and integrated care. Prior to joining the Legal Action Center, Karla worked on criminal justice reform at the Open Society Institute and Policy Center. Karla received her B.A. from Bard College and her J.D. Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar.

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Sarah Nikolic, Institutional Giving Officer: Sarah Nikolic is LAC’s Institutional Giving Officer. She works with foundations and corporations to develop lasting relationships that will support LAC’s programs throughout the country.  Before coming to LAC, Ms. Nikolic managed grants for a national nonprofit provider of children’s health care, a small New York City girls’ theater organization, and several organizations serving refugees on the East Coast.  Ms. Nikolic holds a master’s degree in International Affairs and Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Anita R. Marton, Vice President: Anita Marton joined the Legal Action Center in 1988, after spending five years at the Legal Aid Society in the Criminal Defense and Criminal Appeals Divisions. During her tenure at LAC, Ms. Marton has provided legal advice and assistance to individuals with alcohol and drug histories, criminal records, and HIV and has participated in ground-breaking litigation on all of these issues. She has also provided training and technical assistance to health and social service providers, federal, state, and local policymakers, employers, employee assistance programs, and unions on such issues as managed care and welfare reform, confidentiality of treatment records, and employment discrimination. Ms. Marton has drafted legislation, written position papers, testified before legislative committees, and developed funding proposals. She has also served on advisory committees at the state and local levels. Ms. Marton is a graduate of Brandeis University and Northeastern Law School.

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Roberta Meyers, Director of the National H.I.R.E. Network: Roberta Meyers is Director of the Legal Action Center’s National H.I.R.E. (Helping Individuals with criminal records Reenter through Employment) Network project. She has worked at the LAC for over 15 years in various capacities and in October 2007 became the sole director of H.I.R.E. She works directly with policy makers and advocates to reform policies and practices that limit employment opportunities for people with criminal histories. She has accepted invitations to present at dozens of national, regional, and local criminal justice and workforce development conferences and has been called to testify before Congress and state legislators.

Roberta has a Master of Science degree in Public Safety with specialization in Criminal Justice Policy and Public Administration from Capella University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business, Management, and Economics from the State University of New York/Empire State College. She serves on the Board of Directors of Youth Represent, Women On the Rise Telling Herstory (WORTH), steering committee member of the National Transitional Jobs Network, and Advisory Board member of the National Reentry Resource Center.

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Frank Murphy, Paralegal: Frank Murphy has worked for LAC as a Paralegal/Legal Assistant since September, 2005. His duties include assisting individuals with criminal records clean up their New York State rap sheets as well as advising them about their legal rights and obligations when seeking employment. Mr. Murphy currently undertakes this work through the Rikers Island Single Stop (RISS) program. At RISS he helps clients obtain their official criminal history “RAP sheets” and reviews them for errors. Mr. Murphy works with the Office of Court Administration (OCA), various district attorneys’ offices and the state Division of Criminal Justice Services to help correct common RAP sheet errors. He then counsels clients on how to understand their criminal histories, the collateral consequences of it and how to explain their histories during job interviews. He does all of this with the goal of making clients more able to obtain employment. Additionally, Mr. Murphy trains people with histories of drug and alcohol dependency and HIV/AIDS, and people who work with them about their right to be free from discrimination. Mr. Murphy received his Bachelors Degree from Canisus College of Buffalo. Also, Mr Murphy served in the US Navy and is a decorated soldier.

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Mark O’Brien, Senior Criminal Justice Policy Associate: Mark joined Legal Action Center’s Washington, DC office in May 2010. His work at Legal Action Center focuses primarily on advocating for federal policies that reduce barriers for and discrimination against individuals with criminal records. Mark came to Legal Action Center from the Jericho Re-entry Initiative in Baltimore, MD, where he assisted individuals with criminal records with obtaining employment and transitioning into the community. Prior to working at Jericho, Mark assisted in preparing capital and other serious felony cases for trial as a paralegal for a criminal defense law firm. Mark is a graduate of Towson University and Georgetown University Law Center.

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Catherine H. O’Neill, Senior Vice President and Director of HIV/AIDS Projects: Katie O’Neill joined the staff of the Legal Action Center in 1977, became Executive Vice President in 1992 and Senior Vice President in 2000. She oversees all of LAC’s legal work, including providing legal and technical assistance and training to individuals and organizations, consulting with policy makers, and developing training materials and publications on a wide range of issues relating to drug and alcohol problems, HIV/AIDS, and criminal justice. As litigation director, Ms. O’Neill supervises LAC’s federal and state court litigation in the areas of discrimination based on disability (drug or alcohol history or treatment; HIV status) and criminal history and protection of confidentiality. She is also responsible for directing LAC’s HIV/AIDS Projects, which include training health and human service providers on confidentiality and other HIV-related legal issues, providing legal services to individuals and families with HIV and AIDS, and assisting policy makers. Ms. O’Neill is the author of many of LAC’s manuals on confidentiality and discrimination issues. She is a member of the Bar Association of the City of New York’s AIDS Committee, a past president and member of Board of Directors of the New York AIDS Coalition andpast member of the Board of Directors of two New York City syringe exchange and harm reduction programs. In 1992, she was awarded the Bar Association of the City of New York’s Third Annual Legal Services Award. Ms. O’Neill is a graduate of the University of Michigan and Yale Law School.

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Gladys Peeples, Executive Assistant: Gladys Peeples joined the staff of the Legal Action Center in 1985 as a Legal Secretary and Administrative Assistant to the President and Vice President. In 1993, she became LAC’s Office Manager. Since 1996, she has worked as the Executive Assistant to LAC’s President and Vice President. In this position, she is responsible for all secretarial services, including telephone reception, travel arrangements, correspondence, reports, word–processing and filing. She acts as liaison between the President and the senior staff, is the primary back-up for the development office, and mentors and assists support staff. Prior to joining LAC, Ms. Peeples worked for five years for the then New York State Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

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Michael J. Perez, Paralegal: Michael joined the Legal Action Center in June 2011. Before joining the Legal Action Center, Michael was an AmeriCorps fellow where he worked as a paralegal for the Monroe County Legal Assistance Center (MCLAC) in Rochester. During his two years as an AmeriCorps fellow Michael worked intimately within MCLAC’s service areas of public benefits, housing, unemployment benefits, seniors law, re-entry, and fair housing. Michael also created a legal services homelessness initiative where he went to various homeless shelters to provide legal assistance/intakes. Michael graduated with a B.A. from Drew University where he majored in philosophy and minored in political science.

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Paul N. Samuels, Director and President: Paul N. Samuels is Director/President of the Legal Action Center, a not-for-profit public interest law firm with offices in New York City and Washington, D.C. specializing in legal and policy issues involving alcohol and drug abuse and dependence, AIDS and criminal justice.  For more than two decades Mr. Samuels has worked on a wide range of alcohol and drug policy issues at the federal, state, and local levels, including developing creative strategies to increase public and private financing for treatment and improve the quality of treatment, and working with government agencies, service providers, national organizations, and the recovery community to implement those strategies and educate the public and policymakers.  He has testified before numerous Congressional and state legislative committees and lectured in more than 30 States on a range of policy issues related to alcohol and drug problems.  Mr. Samuels has served on numerous national and state advisory groups, including the Expert Panel of CSAT’s National Treatment Plan, the Advisory Council of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Currently Mr. Samuels is the Co-chair of the Coalition for Whole Health and was appointed in June 2013 by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve as the Chair of New York State’s new Behavioral Health Services Advisory Council.  Mr. Samuels is the recipient of a number of awards, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s (ASAM) John P. McGovern, M.D. Award in 2014; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Innovator Combating Substance Abuse in 2002; AMERSA’s Betty Ford Award in 1998, and Awards from the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors in 1998 and 1992.  Mr. Samuels joined the staff of the Legal Action Center upon graduation from Columbia Law School in 1979.  He became Executive Vice President in 1983 and Director/President in 1992.  He is a graduate of Harvard College.

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Vanessa Severino, Senior Administrative Assistant: Vanessa Severino joined the Legal Action Center in October 1998.  Her duties include assisting attorneys, coordinating trainings and rap sheet workshops, organizing office operations and procedures such as, requisition of supplies and other clerical duties.  She previously spent five years working in a variety of capacities for the Women’s Prison Association and Home.

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Crystal M. Seward, Executive Assistant/Office Manager: Crystal joined the Legal Action Center as an Administrative Assistant in November of 2006 bringing over 8 years of administrative experience.  In 2008 Crystal was promoted to Senior Administrative Assistant and promoted once again in 2014 to the position of Executive Assistant/Office Manager.  In her new position, she is the assistant to the Center’s Deputy Director/Vice President, Senior Vice-President, Co-Director of Policy and Chief Financial Officer.  Before coming to the Legal Action Center, Crystal worked at the National Development and Research Institutes, Fortune Society and the NYC Department of Health-Vital Records.


Kate Wagner-Goldstein, Senior Staff Attorney: Since joining the Center in 2010, Ms. Wagner-Goldstein has represented individuals who have experienced discrimination because of a criminal record, drug/alcohol history, or HIV status, as well as those who suffered a breach of their HIV confidentiality rights. She advises and trains organizations about privacy and anti-discrimination laws protecting the Center’s constituencies. She also supervises the paralegal staff, who provide information and advocacy to thousands of clients each year. Prior to joining the Legal Action Center, Ms. Wagner-Goldstein was a Staff Attorney at the Bronx Defenders, where she represented people with criminal and family court cases. She is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School.

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Monica Welby, Senior Staff Attorney: Monica Welby joined the Legal Action Center’s Legal Department in November 2011. She represents and advises individuals who have suffered discrimination because of a criminal record, drug/alcohol history, or HIV status, as well as those who suffered a breach of their HIV confidentiality rights. Ms. Welby is actively involved in the Center’s development of impact litigation. She also advises and trains organizations about privacy and anti-discrimination laws protecting the Center’s constituencies. Ms. Welby is a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Committee and a member of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

Prior to joining the Legal Action Center, Monica Welby was a Litigation Associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP for five years. She also was a law clerk to the Honorable Barry T. Albin of the Supreme Court of New Jersey. She is a graduate of Duke University and Rutgers School of Law – Newark.

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Brent Yoshikami, Manager of Grants and Information Systems: Brent Yoshikami joined the Legal Action Center in November of 2011. His work includes data and Information Systems analysis, web site maintenance, and grants management. Before coming to LAC, he worked as a budget analyst for the Hawaii State Legislature and a data systems analyst for the State of Hawaii Department of Health. Brent has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics.

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