Staff

Columbia Legal Services’ advocates, staff, and Board of Directors work collaboratively to provide legal assistance to low income clients throughout the state of Washington. CLS is proud that many of the people who make up our program come from the communities we serve. We continue to strive to increase diversity in the program, because it is both a source of program strength and a matter of fundamental fairness.

Nick Allen is a staff attorney in the Institutions Project at CLS. Nick began at CLS as an Equal Justice Works fellow, whose two-year project focused on addressing the legal barriers to legal financial obligations (LFOs) – the fees, fines and restitution imposed by the court as part of a criminal judgment and sentence. As a staff attorney, he continues to work on LFOs as well as other issues, including juvenile life without parole in Washington State. Additionally, as a Youth Justice Leadership Institute fellow, he advocates for policies that change the way youth are transferred to and sentenced in the adult criminal justice system.

Michael Althauser focuses on legislative advocacy and class action litigation that improves access to essential public benefits, housing affordability, and reduces homelessness. He is an attorney with the Basic Human Needs project and works in the Olympia office. While attending Seattle University School of Law, he worked for both Columbia Legal Services and Northwest Justice Project. Before law school, Michael served as a Spokesman in the Washington State Legislature and has worked on numerous political campaigns. Michael is a 2011 Fellow of the Institute for a Democratic Future. In his spare time, he serves as a Board Member for the Washington Bus, a state-wide youth engagement and civic education organization.

Alex Bergstrom is a Legal Assistant in the Institutions Project in Seattle. He studied health policy at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Alex runs the Reentry Clinic, where community members with criminal records can come for help with barriers to reentry. Before that he worked in mental health research at the University of Washington.

Sujatha Jagadeesh Branch is the Directing Attorney of the Children and Youth Project and works in the Seattle office. Her work focuses on a wide range of issues affecting children and youth, including health care, foster care, public benefits, immigration, education, child care, and homelessness. She was a Children's Defense Fund Emerging Leader in Early Childhood Education and is Capitol People First Bob Rosenberg Award recipient. She has worked for many years in the legal services community and the disability rights community and has expertise in class action litigation, legislative, public policy, and administrative advocacy, and client-friendly publications. Sujatha was Charles Evans Hughes Fellow at Columbia Law School and graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in Sociology and English. Sujatha is a long-time core faculty member of the Benchmark Institute's public interest trainings.

Ann Brooks is a legal assistant in the Seattle office. She works with the Children and Youth Project.

Cheli Bueno is a legal assistant in the Yakima office. She has been working for equal justice since 2000, first at TeamChild and then, in 2008, at Columbia Legal Services.

Elvia Bueno is alegal assistant with the Working Families Project in the Yakima office. She is committed to assisting client communities and is passionate about CLS’s mission of social justice and economic opportunity for all. Her work is informed by her own farmworker background.

Amy Crewdson is a staff attorney with the Basic Human Needs Project and Economic Justice Project. Her current client representation focuses on homeowners adversely impacted by the foreclosure crisis. Her past client representation, which included class action litigation as well as administrative and legislative advocacy, focused primarily on elderly persons, persons with disabilities, and Food Stamps. Amy has worked in legal services since 1983. She works in the Olympia location.

Bernardo Cruz is a staff attorney in Yakima with the Working Families Project. Originally from Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, he earned a BA in Finance and International Business from the University of Texas at El Paso. He joins us most recently from the Seattle University School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 2016. While in law school he worked at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica and at the Center for Justice and International Law in Washington, D.C.. 

Denise Davis-Bobino is Controller. She has worked in legal services since 1991 with CLS and Evergreen Legal Services. She works in the Central Support Office.

Ty Duhamel is an attorney with the Basic Human Needs Project and works out of CLS’ Wenatchee office. His work has focused on public benefits, health law, elder law, public utilities, child care, child support, manufactured housing, employment law, civil rights, and class actions.

Merf Ehman is Deputy Director. She has deep experience with multi-disciplinary advocacy through partnerships with local universities, government agencies and national research groups to employ-cutting edge research in the quest for social justice. As a staff attorney with our Institutions Project, Merf focused on removing barriers to housing and employment for people with criminal records so they could successfully re-enter society. Throughout her career, Merf has trained numerous lawyers, students, and other advocates on working with clients from diverse backgrounds and clients with limited capacity. Merf’s work is informed by her past experiences as a legal aid client and a person living in poverty.
 

Diana Garcia is a staff attorney with the Children and Youth Project in the Tri-Cities office, where she focuses on homeless youth issues. She has also worked on representing farmworkers in cases involving employment and manufactured housing issues. She is active in the legal aid community as a board member of the Benton Franklin Legal Aid Society’s Volunteer Lawyer Program and has been a fellow of the Washington State Bar Association Leadership Institute.

Matt Geyman is an attorney in the Economic Justice Project. His litigation and policy advocacy currently focuses on foreclosure, consumer rights and economic justice issues, hospital charity care, and immigrant worker rights. He works in the Seattle location.

Antonio Ginatta is the Policy Director and works in the Olympia office. He rejoins CLS, where he started his legal career in 1999, from six years of service as advocacy director for the US program of Human Rights Watch. He is a naturalized US citizen, and has focused most of his career on policies that respect and protect immigrant communities. He holds Bachelors of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a masters in criminology from Florida State University, and a JD from the University of Florida.
 

Tony Gonzalez is currently involved in researching housing issues and hospitals' charity care policies as an attorney with the Basic Human Needs Project in the Wenatchee Office. His passion for public interest work stems from his parents' struggles and triumphs moving from Mexico to the U.S., which was reflected in his previous work as a Laurel Rubin Intern at Columbia Legal Services. Tony is a 2015 graduate of the University of Washington's LLM program in Taxation and a 2014 graduate of Seattle University's School of Law. He is fluent in Spanish.

Kim Gunning is a staff attorney in the Seattle office in the Economic Justice Project. Kim's consumer rights advocacy started in private practice and grew through her role as assistant attorney general in the Washington AG's Consumer Protection Division. She was a founding board member of the Northwest Consumer Law Center and received the 2015 KCBA President's Award for her work on State v. Arlene's Flowers. She is also currently on the board of the QLaw Foundation, which educates the public and the courts on LGBTQ legal issues. She graduated law school from the University of Washington, earned her M.A. from Rutgers University, and her B.A. from Macalester College.

Adriana Hernandez is a legal assistant with the Children and Youth Project in the Kennewick Office.

Lori Isley is a project coordinator in the Working Families Project and works out of the Yakima office. Lori’s has been working on employment and civil rights in Washington since 1992. Her early work focused on housing. Recently, she has been focusing on employment related issues for farm workers.  She speaks Spanish and started a community-based environmental learning organization.

Maureen Janega is a paralegal with the Institutions Project, where she has worked since 1985.  Maureen has extensive experience advocating for persons institutionalized in Washington’s jails, prisons, juvenile facilities, mental hospitals and other facilities, and has helped the Institutions Project to achieve successful outcomes for clients in many major cases.

Annabell Joya is a legal assistant with the Basic Human Needs and Working Families Project, supporting individual and large-scale advocacy.  Annabell is bilingual in Spanish and English. She works out of CLS' Seattle office.

Trisa Kern is the Director of Program Administration and works out of the Central Support Office in Seattle, where she oversees human resources and program operations. Trisa is a 2013 graduate of DePaul University’s Master of Nonprofit Management program, and a 2003 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia. Trisa has worked in legal services since 2004, serving in roles focused on development, foundation relations, operations, and technology.

Anna Kim is an Executive Assistant in the Seattle office. She has a paralegal certificate and comes to us from the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, where she advocated in the areas of tenants' rights, welfare, and consumer law. Outside of CLS Anna has dedicated herself to the fight against human sex trafficking, and is working toward a Master of Social Work with a clinical focus at the University of Washington. She has lived in Spain and Argentina and is a fluent Spanish speaker.

Ann LoGerfo is a Directing Attorney with the Basic Human Needs Project. She advocates for clients on access to the fundamentals of human need: housing, food, medical services and financial justice. She is also the primary attorney focusing on issues specific to the elder population of King County and Washington State. Ann joined CLS in 2015, following a varied career, which included clerking for the Washington State Supreme Court, private firm litigation, and leadership in a corporate law department. After many years of volunteering for nonprofit organizations, Ann now devotes herself full-time to providing legal services to those most in need. She works in the Seattle office.

Hillary Madsen is a staff attorney with the Children & Youth Project (CYP) where she represents low-income, at-risk, homeless and foster children and youth. Outside of the courtroom, Hillary serves clients through organizing and coalition-building across a broad base of communities to advance sound legislative and administrative policies. She joined CLS in 2014. Prior to joining CLS, Hillary practiced in commercial and contract law, primarily focusing on civil litigation. She has volunteered with King County Family Law CASA, King County Dependency CASA, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and the U-District Youth Shelter. Hillary lived in Brazil and speaks Portuguese. She is primarily based in the Olympia office.

Michelle Majors is the Resource & Equity Director in the Central Support Office in Seattle.  She has over 20 years non-profit, development, grant-writing and strategic communications experience. Michelle holds a Doctorate of Educational Leadership with concentration on Adolescent Leadership Formation.  Her commitment to social justice and equity fuels her passion, advocacy and service work with girls of color in the community.

Aurora Martin is the Director of CLS. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Washington. She began as an intern in 1995 with the Refugee Clinic of Evergreen Legal Services, CLS's predecessor organization. Since joining CLS, she has served as a National Equal Justice Works Fellow focused on housing and expanded leadership development efforts and access to justice issues. Among her accomplishments she re-envisioned CLS’s community worker program as a pipeline for local legal aid lawyer development.

Joe Morrison has been in practice for 20 years working to protect the employment and civil rights of farm workers and their families in Eastern Washington. Joe is most proud of his work with a team of lawyers to improve housing conditions in Washington’s cherry harvest. He helped homeless families get out from under cardboard boxes and blue tarps and into safe housing with real cooking and sanitary facilities. He is a staff attorney with the Working Families Project.

Candelaria Murillo is an attorney with the Children and Youth Project. Currently, she focuses on working with at risk children and youth for right to counsel, extended foster care, and homeless students’ rights. Candelaria has also worked with immigrant and farmworker communities in Central & Eastern Washington. She supervises the Laurel Rubin intern, whose focuses on educating migrant farm worker families and youth in large array of issues. She is a graduate of Gonzaga University School of Law, class of 2004.

Sharon Nyland is an administrative assistant in the Central Support Office. Sharon has worked in legal services since 1984 with CLS and the Puget Sound Legal Assistance Foundation.

Rachael Pashkowski is a paralegal with the Working Families Project. She has worked in CLS's Wenatchee office since 1998.

Chip Phillips is the I.T. Manager based in Seattle. She graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH and holds several industry certifications including MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). Chip has been working as an IT professional for over 20 years.

Ivy Rosa is a paralegal in the Wenatchee office. Ivy has worked in legal services since 2005.

Yurij Rudensky is an attorney with the Economic Justice Project, where he works to increase opportunities for communities and individuals to build economic stability. Prior to joining Columbia Legal Services, he was a term clerk for a federal district court judge and a Washington Supreme Court justice, and served as the program manager of the Housing Justice Project. Yurij graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 2013. In his spare time, he writes short stories and screenplays. He is fluent in Russian.

Andrea Schmitt is a staff attorney with the Working Families Project and works out of the Olympia and Seattle offices.  Her practice has focused on issues relating to farmworkers and other low-wage workers, in addition to housing and public benefits.  She also devotes significant time to a variety of legal needs for indigenous Guatemalan communities on the Olympic Peninsula, assisting with consumer, housing, and public benefits issues. Andrea has lived in Peru and Spain and is fluent in Spanish.

Lili Sotelo works in the Seattle office as Directing Attorney for the Economic Justice Project. Lili grew up in Los Angeles and attended Harvard University before returning to California for law school at UC Hastings. She has worked on consumer and housing issues ever since, and joins us most recently from Northwest Justice Project, where she received the Power of Community Award. Her passion for our work lights a fire under us all – no surprise considering her father’s professional soccer nickname was “El Diablo.”

Nick Straley is a staff attorney with the Institutions Project in the Seattle office. He represents people incarcerated in Washington’s jails and prisons, with particular focus on institutional conditions of confinement, treatment of youth in the adult criminal justice system, and access to justice for justice-involved people and their families.

Rhona Taylor is the Institutions Project Directing Attorney and currently heads the Washington State Reentry Taskforce. Throughout her legal career, she has worked to increase access to justice for all, whether as a member of the Institutions Project or in her prior role as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in Michigan. She holds a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from Spelman College.

Alanna Tritt is a Communications Associate based in the Seattle office. When she is not bolstering CLS' communications and development work, she finds time to attend the Masters of Public Administration program at the University of Washington's Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. She brings a diverse skillset to CLS with experience as a writer, editor, and administrative assistant. She also enjoys writing literary horror stories and poetry.

Odile Valenzuela is a Legal Assistant with the Institutions Project and works in the Seattle Office. Odile was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Seattle. Since graduating from Western Washington University she has worked in legal services, with a focus in immigration law. Her experience is a major asset to the Institutions Project and CLS as a whole.

Mary Van Cleve is an attorney with the Children and Youth Project in the Seattle Office. Her litigation and administrative law practice seeks systemic change in laws and policies impacting foster care, homeless, immigrant, delinquent, and at-risk youth. She joined CLS in 2013. Her practice experience includes large firm complex administrative law and litigation, and domestic and sexual violence criminal prosecution. She is a 1988 graduate of The University of Texas School of Law.