Sherie V. Boyd | Janet Coleman | Gabrielle de la Gueronniere | Sally Friedman | Tracie Gardner | Norma Juarez |Arianne Keegan |Katarina Leiser | Robert B. Levy | Karla Lopez | Sarah Nikolic | Anita R. Marton | Roberta Meyers | Phil Miller | Frank Murphy | Lionel Oglesby | Gladys Peeples | Adela Prignal | Jessica Ramos | Deborah A. Reid | Paul N. Samuels | Vanessa Severino | Crystal M. Seward | Sebastian Solomon | Joseph N. Thompson | Melissa Trent | Kate Wagner-Goldstein | Ellen Weber| Monica Welby | Abigail Woodworth | Brent Yoshikami
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.
Janet Coleman, Accountant: Janet Coleman joined the Legal Action Center in September 2000. She works as the Center’s accountant.
Gabrielle de la Gueronniere, JD; 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.
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.
Tracie Gardner, Associate Director: As the Legal Action Center’s first Associate Director, Tracie plays a leading role in the overall growth of the organization and creating strategic partnerships that will support LAC’s mission. As a senior member of the policy team, Tracie spearheads major initiatives to advance the Center’s federal and state priorities. In addition, she also plays a key role as part of agency management in staff development, administration, fundraising and strategic planning.
Tracie has worked more than 25 years in the public health, public policy and not-for-profit fields as a policy advocate, trainer and lobbyist. She has led advocacy campaigns that won substantial increases in funding for substance use, HIV and alternatives to incarceration and reentry services, landmark HIV confidentiality and testing legislation, and landmark criminal justice reforms. From 2015-2017, Tracie served as the Assistant Secretary of Health for New York State, where she oversaw the state’s mental hygiene agencies, including, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the Office of Mental Health, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council, and the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs. Prior to her appointment by the Cuomo Administration, Tracie was a key member of the Legal Action Center for over fourteen years, serving as LAC’s Co-Director of Policy. In this role she conducted and coordinated the Center’s New York State public policy advocacy in the areas of substance use disorders, criminal justice and HIV/AIDS. Tracie focused on special projects to promote Medicaid enrollment and health care access for the justice-involved population in the Office of Health Insurance Programs at the State Department of Health. Tracie received a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College.
Norma Juarez, Paralegal: Norma Juarez is a Spanish-speaking paralegal and coordinates LAC’s outreach efforts to people living with HIV or AIDS. Norma conducts RAP sheet workshops, educates clients about their rights, and provides technical assistance to providers. She joined LAC in May 2015. Prior to joining LAC, Norma worked as a Harm Reduction counselor at Project Hospitality, Staten Island, New York. Norma is a graduate of The School of Undergraduate Studies, The New School, New York, NY.
Arianne Keegan, Development Assistant: Arianne joined the Legal Action Center in May 2015 to assist with various components of both LAC’s development and communications departments utilizing her marketing and fundraising skills to support the growth of the organization. Arianne also currently works for the international nonprofit organization NPH and is co-founder of the NYC-based women’s creative collective She/Folk.
Katarina Leiser, Senior 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.
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.
Karla Lopez, Senior Staff Attorney:
Karla Lopez is a Senior 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 about 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, and has conducted trainings around the country about the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. 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. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar.
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.
Anita R. Marton, Deputy Director and 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.
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.
Frank Murphy, Senior 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.
Lionel Oglesby, Senior Paralegal: Lionel Oglesby has worked at the Legal Action Center as a legal assistant, and was recently appointed the task of creating client education materials – written and visual. Some of Lionel’s other responsibilities include providing tailored trainings and presentations to clients and service providers on various issues related to barriers to employment, including Article 23-A, and most recently, The Fair Chance Act.
During his tenure at the Legal Action Center, Lionel has successfully advocated on behalf of, and represented, clients in administrative court hearings with the New York State Department of Health, New York City Housing Authority, and other government and private agencies.
Adela Prignal, Senior Staff Accountant: Adela joined the Legal Action Center in January 2015 and is our Senior Staff Accountant. She has over 6 years of accounting experience and has held roles at variety of nonprofit organizations and corporations, including Single Stop USA and Barreabon Corporation. In addition to her role at LAC, Adela is an Accounting Professor at Medgar Evers College, and serves as a Site Coordinator for their Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program. Adela graduated with a Masters of Arts in Economics from Brooklyn College and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Medgar Evers College. She is a member of the National Association of Black Accountants, and is a recipient of the association’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Dedicated Service Award.
Jessica Ramos, Administrative Assistant: Jessica Ramos joined the Legal Action Center in July 2006, bringing a wealth of experience in administrative work. Before coming to LAC, Ms. Ramos worked as a receptionist at New York Sports Clubs. As a member of our support staff team, she currently serves as both LAC’s receptionist for our New York office as well as an administrative assistant to the National H.I.R.E Network coordinating administrative tasks for all of LAC’s various departments. Ms. Ramos graduated from the Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers with a Diploma in Information Systems and the Sanford-Brown Institute with a Medical Assistant Certificate.
Deborah A. Reid, Senior Health Policy Attorney – Ms. Reid joined the Legal Action Center in April 2015. She directs LAC’s work to protect the confidentiality of substance use disorder treatment and prevention records. She also participates in LAC’s advocacy to ensure implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for justice-involved individuals.
Prior to coming to the Legal Action Center, Ms. Reid was a senior attorney at the National Health Law Program, where her work focused on issues relating to reproductive health, health equity, Medicaid, and ACA implementation. Previously, she was also an attorney advisor in the Office of General Counsel of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., and a senior health care program planner analyst at the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation. Ms. Reid has a J.D. from Rutgers School of Law-Newark; a Master’s of Professional Studies in health services administration from the New School for Social Research (Milano-The New School for Management and Policy); and a B.A. in Sociology from Rutgers University. She is currently a board member of the Black Women’s Health Imperative.
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 three decades Mr. Samuels has worked on a wide range of alcohol and drug and criminal justice policy issues at the federal, state, and local levels, including developing creative strategies to increase public and private financing for prevention, treatment and recovery and improve the quality of services, 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 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 and the Advisory Council of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Mr. Samuels is the Co-Chair of the national Coalition for Whole Health. He was appointed in June 2013 by Governor Andrew Cuomo to serve as the inaugural Chair of New York State’s Behavioral Health Services Advisory Council, and also serves on the Governor’s Council on Community Reentry and Reintegration. Mr. Samuels is the recipient of a number of awards, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine’s John P. McGovern, M.D. (ASAM) 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.
Vanessa Severino, Senior Administrative Assistant/Office Manager: Vanessa Severino joined the Legal Action Center in October of 1998. Her responsibilities include assisting attorneys, coordinating trainings and rap sheet workshops, maintain office systems by managing office operations and procedures, and assigning and monitoring clerical functions of the front office. She previously spent five years working in a variety of capacities for the Women’s Prison Association and Home, Inc.
Crystal M. Seward, Executive Assistant: 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.
Sebastian Solomon, Director of State Policy: Sebastian joined the Legal Action Center in November 2001 as a Research Associate, working on syringe access issues and Rockefeller Drug Law Reform, as well as supporting LAC’s National H.I.R.E. Network. Sebastian then became a paralegal, providing advice and advocacy to hundreds of clients working to overcome barriers caused by their HIV status, criminal record, and/or history of addiction. After leaving LAC in 2004, Sebastian returned with a masters degree in history of international relations in 2007. He resumed work as a paralegal, while also working on a policy projects. In 2011, Sebastian became a policy associate. In this role, he researched, analyzed and advocated on New York State policy issues and wrote reports and positions papers on these issues. In February 2015, Sebastian was named Director of State Policy. Sebastian is also currently one of the rotating co-chairs of the Coalition of Reentry Advocates, a coalition of organizations from around New York State working to change New York laws and policies that limit opportunities for those who have had interactions with the criminal justice system. Lastly, Sebastian assists with the organization’s communications needs, including speaking with reporters and providing material for the agency’s social media and other communications outlets.
Joseph Thompson, Chief Financial Officer: Joseph is a dedicated accounting and finance professional with nearly two decades of experience. He brings with him an array of skills in organizational operations and financial management. Prior to joining the Legal Action Center, Joseph worked in various capacities in the fiscal department of a variety of nonprofit organizations. Joseph began his journey at LAC by serving as the agency’s Controller from 2004 to 2010. He then went on to become a Controller at the Fortune Society, one of LAC’s partner organizations. In 2011, Joseph returned to LAC as our Chief Financial Officer. His role comprises of overseeing all administrative and financial operations of the agency. Joseph has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Cape Coast and an MBA in Accounting from St. John’s University. He is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Melissa Trent, Equal Justice Works Fellow : Melissa Trent is an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by the Friends and Family of Phillip M. Stern. She joined the Legal Action Center in September 2015 for a two-year fellowship to expand access to medication assisted treatment for opioid addiction in the criminal justice system. Her project incorporates impact litigation, direct legal services, and policy advocacy to ensure that people who need access to life-saving addiction medication will not face discriminatory barriers. Melissa received her B.A. from the University of New Mexico and graduated from Berkeley Law. There, she worked at a clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center, helping with low income individuals and children with HIV and other disabilities on a variety of legal issues, such as public benefits, education, criminal justice, and eviction. She also interned with the ACLU of Northern California and worked on advocating for pregnant and parenting youth in California’s Central Valley.
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.
Ellen Weber, Vice President for Health Initiatives: Ellen Weber rejoined the Legal Action Center in July 2016 to help lead the Center’s efforts to expand access to comprehensive and equitable substance use treatment at both the state and federal levels. Joining the Center initially in 1985, Ms. Weber conducted disability rights litigation and led the Center’s national policy work. She opened the Center’s D.C. office in 1988 and, among other initiatives, led the field’s efforts to obtain protections for persons with substance use disorders under the Americans With Disabilities Act, participated in the first round of national health care reform legislation and advocated for a more balanced federal budget for the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.
Ms. Weber become a member of the faculty at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law in 2002, where she established and directed the Drug Policy and Public Health Strategies Clinic. She worked with students on disability rights litigation and legislative advocacy, health care reform and Parity Act implementation in Maryland and harm reduction legislation. Ms. Weber has published in the area of disability rights, women’s health issues, integration of substance use disorder treatment in primary care and the enforcement of the Parity Act. She continues to hold an appointment as a Professor of Law at the law school and works on the expansion of substances use disorder services through public and private insurance in Maryland. Ms. Weber started her career in 1980 as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, where she litigated cases to enforce the Voting Rights Act. She graduated from Dickinson College and New York University School of Law.
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.
Abigail Woodworth, Director of Communications and Strategy: Abigail oversees communications and public engagement in support of the policy and advocacy priorities. For over fifteen years, Abigail has worked to advance public understanding of mental health and substance use disorders, and to advocate for better treatments and policies for those affected. From 2012-2017, Abigail was the Vice President of Public Affairs at the Treatment Research Institute (TRI), a non-profit organization focused on substance use research and policy. At TRI, Abigail directed the communications and fundraising strategies, and served as the Institute’s spokesperson with the media and stakeholder organizations. Before her appointment at TRI, Abigail occupied senior management positions at the University of Pennsylvania as well as the Johns Hopkins University, developing and directing external relations efforts for mental health and addiction treatment and research programs. In addition, she has served as co-chair of the Public Policy Committee for the National Network of Depression Centers, representing 20 leading academic Departments of Psychiatry. Abigail has co-authored numerous publications about the impact of policies on the financing and management of addiction treatment; she has taught graduate classes on mental health and addiction policy; and has presented at academic and policy conferences, including at the White House. She has earned both her B.A. in Psychology and her M.S. in Social Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.
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.