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 the Directing Attorney for 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 communications officer 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 for the Working Families Project in the Yakima office, supporting large-scale advocacy. She has been working with Columbia Legal Services since 2008, and with legal services over 16 years.

Elvia Bueno is a legal 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 in Olympia. Her current client representation focuses on class action litigation as well as administrative and legislative advocacy with emphasis on public benefits and housing for elderly persons, persons with disabilities, immigrants, and Medicaid for children. Amy has worked in legal services since 1983. Amy earned her B.A. from Washington State University and her law degree from the University of Washington.

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.

Merf Ehman is the Executive Director of Columbia Legal Services. 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 immigrant youth and youth homelessness. Before joining the Children and Youth Project, she represented farmworkers in cases involving employment and low-income tenants in manufactured housing issues. She is active in the legal aid community as the vice president of the Benton Franklin Legal Aid Society’s Volunteer Lawyer Program.

Matt Geyman is an attorney in the Economic Justice Project. His litigation and policy advocacy currently focus on hospital charity care, fair debt collection practices, and a variety of other economic justice and civil rights issues. He has also devoted significant time representing low wage immigrant workers and farm workers. Before joining Columbia Legal Services, he spent over 20 years in private practice handling class actions and other complex civil litigation for both plaintiffs and defendants. 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 Institutions 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 Communications Coordinator in the Kennewick Office.

Lori Isley is a Directing Attorney 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 Paralegal 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.

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.

Travis Andrews is a Juvenile Justice Policy Analyst in the Institutions Project at CLS. He studied sociology/psychology and criminal justice at Voorhees College where he earned his B.A. He also received a Master Certification in Paralegal Studies from Emory University. Travis also provides support to our equity team and human resources. Travis specializes in community engagement and investigations and is currently working to bring restorative practices to Washington’s penal system. Before that he worked in juvenile justice and for the State of Georgia.

María Quintero is a Legal Assistant in the Institutions Project. She studied History at the University of Washington. María is fluent in Spanish and has personal ties to eastern Washington’s immigrant farming community.

Hillary Madsen is a staff attorney with the Institutions Project (IP). 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.

Joe Morrison is an attorney with the Working Families Project in Wenatchee and has been in practice for almost 25 years working primarily to protect the employment and civil rights of farm workers.

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 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.

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 focuses on advocacy alongside farmworkers and other low-wage workers.  She joined CLS after graduating from the University of Washington Law School in 2007 and clerking for the Honorable Susan Owens of the Washington State Supreme Court. Andrea is fluent in Spanish and is an avid ultimate frisbee player.

Lili Sotelo works in the Seattle office as Directing Attorney for the Economic Justice Project.  Lili attended Harvard College and UC Hastings.  She has worked on consumer and housing issues for of over twenty years.  Before coming to CLS, Lili worked at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Northwest Justice Project.

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.

Alanna Tritt is the executive assistant based in the Seattle office. She brings a diverse skillset to CLS with an MPA from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington, and experience as a writer, coordinator, and assistant. She also enjoys writing literary horror stories and poetry.

Mary Van Cleve is an attorney in CLS’s Seattle Office. Her litigation and administrative law practice seeks systemic change in laws and policies impacting foster care, homeless, immigrant, and other at-risk youth. She joined CLS in 2013. Prior to joining CLS, she represented over five hundred youth in the foster care, juvenile justice, family law, and children in need of services court systems. Her practice experience also 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.