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Nick Allen

Nick Allen

Directing Attorney

Travis Andrews

Travis Andrews

Equity Director

Alex Bergstrom

Alex Bergstrom

Legal Assistant

alex.bergstrom@columbialegal.org 

I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and am privileged to still live here today. After a stint in New York earning an MPH in Healthy Policy, I returned home looking for a chance to work on radical changes to the systems and structures that create inequity in my home state. I worked briefly in adolescent mental health research, and am lucky now to be working for the Institutions Project at Columbia Legal Services. In my roles supporting our policy work and managing our Reentry Legal Clinic, I am focused on building accountable, authentic relationships with the communities we serve. I believe that “those closest to the problem are closest to the solution” and I try to keep that perspective in all the work I take on. Outside of CLS I am cofounder of Viewfinder Media Group, which offers multimedia services to community groups and advocacy organizations. 

Ali Bilow

Ali Bilow

Attorney

alison.bilow@columbialegal.org 

I grew up in Washington State and received my B.A. from the University of Washington in 2010 and my J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2015. I am passionate about working for social and economic change, and I am dedicated to increasing access to justice for low-income individuals and communities. As a law student, I interned and volunteered with legal services programs and clinics in the areas of public benefits, landlord/tenant issues, public housing, and employment discrimination. 

I was drawn to civil legal services work because of these experiences. I have been an attorney and elder law fellow at CLS since 2017. I focus on advocacy for seniors, access to benefits, and housing and homelessness issues. Prior to working at CLS, I worked as an attorney at the Seattle Community Law Center where I represented and provided advice to homeless and low-income clients on Social Security benefits issues.  

Julia Bladin

Julia Bladin

Legal Assistant

julia.bladin@columbialegal.org

I was born and raised in Seattle, WA in a mixed race household. I graduated from Whitman College where I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Since graduating, I completed two terms of AmeriCorps service as a College Access Counselor at College Possible, a non-profit that supports low-income students through college admission and success. After completing my AmeriCorps service, I had the opportunity to participate in a Paralegal Bootcamp internship with the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Oregon. This experience built upon my academic knowledge of systemic/institutional, cultural, and individual racism as well as sparked my interest in expanding access to the justice system. Since moving back to Seattle, I have thoroughly enjoyed working in the civil legal aid community. I came to the Institutions Project team from the Pro Bono Services program at the King County Bar Association. I am passionate about continuing to work in the world of social justice and legal aid, and I am honored to be a part of the CLS team.

Cheli Bueno

Cheli Bueno

Legal Assistant

cheli.bueno@columbialegal.org 
Spanish
 

I was born and raised in Yakima, WA – daughter of a farm worker family, and one of eight siblings. I currently work as a legal assistant in the Yakima office. My career in legal services started in 2001 when I was hired as a Temp with Columbia Legal Services. From my Temp position with CLS, I was picked up as a program assistant with TeamChild.  Although my work with TeamChild was rewarding, my roots as a farm worker called me back to Columbia Legal Services where I have remained since 2008.  

Elvia Bueno

Elvia Bueno

Legal Assistant

elvia.bueno@columbialegal.org
Spanish

I was born in Zapotiltic, Jalisco, Mexico. I was 6 months old when my parents left Mexico and settled in the Yakima Valley to work as farm workers. Years later we were granted amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, and in my early 20’s I chose to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Watching my parents struggle to give our family a better life in the U.S. instilled in me a strong work ethic and a desire to make things better for my community. After high school, I decided to pursue a degree in teaching and took courses at the local community college. I quickly became discouraged by the lack of support and mentorship and decided to work full time to support myself. For most of my adult life I worked corporate jobs including retail management and banking, and obtained certification as a massage therapist. Working in those professions never provided me with a sense of purpose. In early 2013, I applied for a temporary administrative position with Columbia Legal Services. Having two sisters that worked for CLS, I understood the job responsibilities but did not have a clear grasp of the work being done. I felt the job would provide me with an opportunity to gain a few skills before moving on to something else. Immediately after starting I realized this organization was something special and something I had to be a part of. I feel privileged to work alongside some of the most amazing advocates and am inspired by the brave clients who are willing to risk everything in their pursuit of justice. 

Janet Chung

Janet Chung

Advocacy Director

Amy Crewdson

Amy Crewdson

Attorney

amy.crewdson@columbialegal.org

I was born and grew up in eastern Washington, graduated from Washington State University (Go Cougs!), and the University of Washington Law School (Go Dawgs!).  I worked in legal services internships throughout law school. My first attorney job was with Spokane Legal Services. After a two-year tour of public defense, I came back to legal services in late 1983. I’ve focused the last several years on public benefits, primarily Medicaid and Basic Food, formerly known as food stamps.  

Denise Davis-Bobino

Denise Davis-Bobino

Controller

Merf Ehman

Merf Ehman

Executive Director

merf.ehman@columbialegal.org

As executive director of Columbia Legal Services (CLS), I’m leading organization-wide efforts to prioritize advocacy that supports community-led social justice movements that transform racialized systems and eradicate racism. Organizationally, CLS and I are focused on creating an adaptive organization that prioritizes anti-racist efforts internally and externally, and learning how to use our legal skills to support and build collective power around initiatives identified by the communities most impacted. I credit the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond for training, supporting, and challenging me and CLS staff on what it means to be an anti-racist organization and for informing the personal, internal work that I need to do as a white person and leader.

More than 25 years ago, I was a client in a welfare-to-work program at a local legal aid office, and now lead a legal aid organization working to change the world for the better. My life experience has been informed by other people believing that I could be more, and do more, than the limited options that felt available. People and institutions supported me in moving beyond the challenges of poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse to an unimaginably wonderful life. I want those same organizations, people, and institutions to work toward ending racism so that all people enjoy a full life free from trauma and abuse.  Additionally, I prefer to be as pronoun free as possible.

Diana Garcia

Diana Garcia

Attorney

diana.garcia@columbialegal.org 
Spanish

My parents were migrant farm workers and would travel to different states to work. I was born in California and one year when my parents traveled to Pasco, Washington to work, they decided to stay and my sister was born. I was the first in my family to graduate high school. I attended the University of Washington where I majored in political science and psychology. Then I went on to Gonzaga University School of Law where I received my J.D in 2007. My mother wanted a better life for us than what she had growing up. She ingrained in us that we needed to receive an education if we wanted to succeed in life. She also took me with her to work in an asparagus field and told me you can do this for the rest of your life or you can go to school. I made my choice, school it was. I wanted to fight against the injustices my parents and other farm workers faced. During my second year in law school, I did an internship with Columbia Legal Services, where I helped the attorneys serve farm workers through outreach, community education, and legal work. In 2007, I returned to Columbia Legal Services as a staff attorney and I have been here for over a decade. I have represented farmworkers in employment cases, represented low-income tenants in manufactured housing issues, and I am currently focused on immigrant youth and youth homelessness. I am also active in the legal aid community and currently serve as the vice president of the board for Benton Franklin Legal Aid. 

Antonio Ginatta

Antonio Ginatta

Policy Director

antonio.ginatta@columbialegal.org
Spanish

I was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and moved to the United States when I was seven. I’m a naturalized US citizen – though my mom was born in Boston, she lived most of her life abroad and due to US immigration laws at the time she was prohibited from passing her US citizenship to her children. I took the naturalization oath in my mid-20s. I speak Spanish, though I wish I spoke it and read it more. After Ecuador, I’ve lived mainly between Miami, Washington DC, and the Pacific Northwest. I have a masters degree in criminology and started law school with the goal of being a criminal defense attorney, but after an internship at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (now Americans for Immigrant Justice) I was drawn to civil legal work, particularly with immigrants. I’ve worked for Columbia Legal Services twice, for two governors, for Human Rights Watch, and for AMC Theaters as an usher and concessionist. I’m an Eagle Scout who’s thinking about introducing both his daughter and son to scouting. I have a soft spot for the state of Georgia because I met my wife there. I believe in the mission of Columbia Legal Services: we work to dismantle the structures that perpetuate poverty and injustice.  One of those structures is the US immigration system. I believe that people who’ve lived in the US for 10 years should have their immigration status regularized (for children, 5 years). It’s not a difficult concept, and it’s worth the fight.   

Tony Gonzalez

Tony Gonzalez

Attorney

Alfredo Gonzalez Benitez

Alfredo Gonzalez Benitez

Attorney

alfredo.gonzalez@columbialegal.org
Spanish/Español

After graduating from undergrad at Texas State, I began working with my community by helping immigrant youth and families apply for immigration status. While I loved working in direct services I grew frustrated by the lack of resources available to help my clients solve other legal issues that were made more complicated by status. This frustration led me to law school.

In 2018 I graduated with my J.D. from the University of Washington where I was a William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholar. In law school I worked with immigrant communities on issues including wage and hour, employment, immigration, and civil rights.

Today, I am fortunate that I can continue serving my community through my work at Columbia Legal Services.

Meredith Grigg

Meredith Grigg

Attorney

Kim Gunning

Kim Gunning

Attorney

kim.gunning@columbialegal.org

I have always enjoyed listening to peoples’ stories about their lives and challenges as well as sharing my own stories with others. As a lawyer, storytelling is one of the tools I rely on to create change on a systemic level, along with the knowledge I acquired studying American social and labor history as an undergraduate at Macalester College and a graduate student at Rutgers University, and the traditional legal education I received in law school at the University of Washington. Along the way, I had a variety of jobs including radio DJ, college instructor, housecleaner, and legal secretary, and those experiences, and the stories I heard and inequities I witnessed, also shape how I approach lawyering. I joined CLS in 2016, first in the Economic Justice Project and now in the Institutions Project, after spending several years as an advocate for consumers and workers in private practice and a stint at the Washington Attorney General’s Office. At CLS, my advocacy focuses on prisoners’ access to appropriate and necessary healthcare, sentencing reform, and addressing economic barriers to reentry. I have a special interest, informed by my personal experiences, in supporting advocacy identified by LGBTQ people and people with mental illness.

Adriana Hernandez

Adriana Hernandez

Communication Coordinator

adriana.hernandez@columbialegal.org
Spanish  

I was born in San Juan de Los Lagos, Jalisco, México. I came to the United States when I was only 3 years old and I became a naturalized US citizen in my early 20s. I was the first in my family to graduate from college when I received my Bachelor’s in Business Administration from the University of Oregon. Go Ducks! After college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to help people. My amazing parents ingrained in me the value of helping others so it’s in my nature. I worked for the United Farm Workers for a short time and then for a personal injury law office that largely helped Spanish speakers. My family and I decided to move back to Tri-Cities to be closer to family and during my job search, I was lucky enough to have stumbled across Columbia Legal Services. I began as a legal assistant and I am currently our communications coordinator. It’s a perfect fit for me. I get to use my design and organizational skills while helping so many amazing people! 

Alanna Huntman

Alanna Huntman

Executive Assistant

alanna.huntman@columbialegal.org

I have been a storyteller ever since I was small–just ask my aunt about the time I fabricated an entire universe to explain TV static. I care deeply about motivations, meaning, and the human repercussions of larger systems. While studying creative writing at Western Washington University, I also had the opportunity to run a literary magazine. Somewhere between updating project timelines, negotiating printing contracts, and writing, I began to see the poetry in a team working together to accomplish something bigger. That was the beginning of my interest in project management and organizational strategy.

In 2013, I joined CLS as the first official member of the Communications Team and applied to the Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, where I was eventually accepted. Now I use my Masters of Public Administration degree to support the leadership team at CLS. I focus on the meaning in the details so that my team can focus on the bigger picture. I am proud to support my colleagues and our clients in the effort to create a world where everyone has the opportunity to tell their own story.

Lori Isley

Lori Isley

Directing Attorney

lori.isley@columbialegal.org
Spanish

I have had the great privilege of working with Columbia Legal Services, then Evergreen, in Yakima since 1991. I went to law school to become a legal services attorney and work with immigrants and people working several jobs to make ends meet so their children could get an education and live the American dream, like my grandparents. I am so grateful to our clients and our team of support staff and attorneys who repeatedly teach me about the values of working hard and having pride in our work, being courageous and the power of believing in one another and what we can accomplish together. My practice recently has focused on representing farm workers in employment class actions and civil rights cases. 

Maureen Janega

Maureen Janega

Paralegal

maureen.janega@columbialegal.org

I am a paralegal with the Institutions Project, where I’ve worked since 1985. I was inspired to a life-long support for human, civil, and workers’ rights through the example of activists in the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, labor and union activism, and the women’s rights movement, all of which were advancing while I was growing up as Iin the late 60s and early 70s. The knowledge of the suffering and struggles of our clients who are in institutions or reentering the community motivates me to keep working for justice. The violations of the human rights of people in institutions and the injustices faced by people reentering the community after serving their time need to be revealed and addressed by our laws, courts, and government. I feel privileged to be able to serve the community through the mission of Columbia Legal Services, and I hope to be able to achieve just outcomes for our clients in the years to come.

Annabell Joya

Annabell Joya

Engagement and Resource Manager

annabell.joya@columbialegal.org
Spanish

I was born and raised in Wenatchee, Washington formally known as the “Apple Capital of the World.”  Growing up in a farmworker community, I was exposed to socioeconomic and racial inequities. Despite these disparities, I am proud to come from a community that is dedicated and hardworking so other communities and nations can enjoy the fruit of their labor. Anytime I take a bite of an apple or pear, I am reminded of these very people who continue to provide me and others with delicious produce. At a young age, I have been passionate and committed in achieving social equity and social justice in our local communities, and this is reflected in my academic, professional, and personal endeavors. Most recently, I received a Master’s in Public Administration from Seattle University with knowledge in both the non-profit and government sector. In 2006, I also earned a Bachelor of Arts of Law and Diversity from Western Washington University and earned a Paralegal Certificate from Highline College. I have been working for Columbia Legal Services for 6 years, and I am honored to work in an organization that strengthens local communities and builds relationships with community members through its unique vision of social and economic justice. It is my intention and desire to grow in this sector, where I am not only working to fight injustice, but where I am also educating my communities on resourceful solutions and social sustainability.  

 

Trisa Kern

Trisa Kern

Director of Program Administration

trisa.kern@columbialegal.org

In 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected. The national and local landscape fostered hostility towards reproductive freedom, routinely denied recognition of the rights of LGBT communities and families, and many other pressing systemic and civil liberties issues badly needed reform, so I chose to focus my career path squarely on social justice. For the next 8 years I worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, first in Kansas City, Missouri, and later in Chicago, Illinois. My body of work has always focused on business and program operations, ranging from human resources, development and fundraising, foundation relations, program operations, technology, and other special projects. In 2013, I received my Master of Nonprofit Management from DePaul University, where I focused my studies on the internal evaluation processes of nonprofit organizations. I also received my Bachelor’s Degree in 2003 from the University of Missouri. I began work at Columbia Legal Services overseeing human resources and program operations in 2014. I continue to work in legal services because I have witnessed the improvement of people’s lives through the application of large-scale systems reform to issues of justice and equality. Legal services employees are modern heroes, and I hope to continue to do what I can to effectively support them. When I’m not working, I enjoy raising my children, petting my cats, watching documentary and most Martin Scorsese films, and following the Kansas City Royals. Since my move to the Pacific Northwest, I have gone camping exactly three time.

Bonnie Linville

Bonnie Linville

Attorney

bonnie.linville@columbialegal.org

I grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. I became interested in becoming a lawyer as a way to affect social change. I attended college at the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2007 and later attended law school at Tulane University in New Orleans, graduating in 2012. In law school I became passionate about reforming our justice system and developed a particular interest in youth advocacy. In 2014, I relocated to Yakima to advocate for the civil legal rights of youth at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system. Since moving to Yakima, I have put down roots while also working to dismantle the barriers faced by immigrant and systems-involved communities. I joined CLS and the Working Families Project in 2018 because I wanted to expand my reach in advocating for justice in my community.

Charlie McAteer

Charlie McAteer

Communications Director

charlie.mcateer@columbialegal.org  

At age seven, when asked by my family what I wanted to be when I grew up, advised that I could be anything, I thought deeply about it and said: “a horse.” Didn’t pan out. Instead, I’ve been blessed and privileged to work and learn in movements to advance racial, economic, and immigrant justice across the country. I grew up in Madison, studied at Boston University, lived in Brooklyn, and continue growing up here in Seattle. Progressive politics, urban living, travel, and great music have long inspired my choices and adventures; yet, my family’s roots in Wisconsin farming and Ireland also inform my identity. I stopped believing in the bootstrap myth long ago and question the promise of the American dream I was taught when I see the powerful demonize immigrants and turn back refugees. I fight to dismantle systems of oppression which means I’m still learning when to speak up and when to listen and get out of the way. Columbia Legal Services is the right place to be in this struggle. 

In my early career (after waiting tables and playing drums in a hip hop band), I thought globally: I got my graduate degree in international human rights at Columbia University and worked at Human Rights in China in NYC. Then I figured out I could have a bigger impact if I worked locally. As a strategic communications consultant, I’ve worked alongside advocates and communities at OneAmerica, the National Partnership for New Americans, TeamChild, the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, the City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, and helping elect U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal. 

I obsess about soccer and am grateful that my two boys feel the same. Twitter, too, but they’ll have to wait on that one. 

Joe Morrison

Joe Morrison

Attorney

joe.morrison@columbialegal.org

I’ve worked for Evergreen/Columbia Legal Services since 1993 in our Wenatchee office working primarily with farm worker families on employment and civil rights cases. I love working collaboratively to try and solve complex problems in our communities and to fight for clients who have been wronged.

Sarah Nagy

Sarah Nagy

Attorney

sarah.nagy@columbialegal.org

I’ve lived in three countries and five states, but I’m happy to call Washington my home. I entered college knowing I wanted to be involved in large-scale, systemic change, but at first I was interested in a global perspective. While studying international affairs at the University of Oklahoma, I came to understand that what I really wanted was to work against the inequalities present in my own country. I attended Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where I worked on behalf of teachers facing racial discrimination in employment, was involved in policy initiatives supporting transgender and gender-diverse students in Illinois, and helped establish a network of services for Native women in the Midwest harmed by human trafficking. In 2017 I moved to Olympia with my fiancée, where I split my time between washing dishes in a local bakery and working housing cases for low-income clients through the Housing Justice Project. In October of 2018 I became a staff attorney in CLS’ Basic Human Needs project, where I work on policy issues and litigation that affect how state and local governments support Washington’s most marginalized populations. I’m excited to be involved in work that has the potential to shift oppressive systems and empower entire communities to self-advocate and thrive.

Rachael Pashkowski

Rachael Pashkowski

Paralegal

rachael.pashkowski@columbialegal.org
Spanish 

In 1998, I returned to the Wenatchee Valley after achieving a BA in English from the University of Chicago, and spending the next few years working various administrative support jobs to support myself as a set designer for a small, feminist-focus, start-up theater company. I didn’t know then that I was really looking for CLS and my life’s work in social justice. Although I came here looking for some temporary work to tide me over, I found a connection through this work to my deepest and most fundamental sense that all people are valuable, and that the social and economic systems we construct should be fair and equitable. The constant variety of tasks here, the broad array of research subjects, and the analytical nature of this job dovetail neatly with my liberal arts background, natural curiosity, and lifelong love of learning. All of these aspects of my work, plus the daily opportunity to work in and deepen my understanding of the Spanish language make this my ideal job. I’m so grateful for the first day I walked in the door here. 

Madeline Rider

Madeline Rider

Accounting and HR Assistant

madeline.rider@columbialegal.org

Boozhoo! Madeline nindizhinikaaz. Kijisibianishinaabe nindoonjibaa. Duwamish nindaa. Hello, my name is Madeline. I am Algonquin Anishinaabe from the Ottawa River valley and I currently live on Duwamish land in the city of Seattle. My family has lived in Coast Salish territory since I was a young child so this place is very much my home today. Before attending college, I worked as a family law legal assistant for several years where I got my foot in the legal. That experience has seemed to follow me ever since. Upon making my way to higher education at The Evergreen State College, I pursued Native American studies and Native education, including Indian law and policy. While attending school and shortly after, I continued to develop my administrative and operations skills as an assistant in the Office of the President at The Evergreen State College and as Programs & Events Manager at the ACLU of Washington. I ended up at Columbia Legal Services after taking a break from office life to manage Loki Fish Company, a family-owned wild salmon operation, where I deepened my understanding of finance, HR, and all it takes to run a small business. I’m very happy to coalesce my varied experiences and support the amazing work done here at Columbia Legal Services.

Peter Roach

Peter Roach

System Administrator

Andrea Schmitt

Andrea Schmitt

Attorney

andrea.schmitt@columbialegal.org
Spanish 

By cosmic accident, I was born and raised in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. A modicum of success at high-school debate caused my doctor dad to extract a promise from me never to become a lawyer. After getting History and Spanish degrees from the University of Montana, I moved to northern Peru, and later to northern Spain, with a plan to go to graduate school in Romance Linguistics. I was abroad for 9/11 and the first years of the war in Iraq, and I watched the world and our country’s place in it rapidly shifting.  I came back with a commitment to use the skills I have to do the most good for folks who don’t have meaningful access to the resources and opportunities implied in the “American Dream.” So I became a lawyer. My interest in working with low-wage immigrant workers was cemented when I did a Laurel Rubin Farm Worker Justice Project internship at CLS in my first summer of law school at UW. After law school, I clerked for a year for Justice Susan Owens of the Washington State Supreme Court, and then I was fortunate to be hired in the Olympia office of CLS.  I have been here since 2008, inspired by the high standards, creative advocacy, and relentlessness of my colleagues and the courage and wisdom of my farmworker clients. 

Cheryl Seelhoff

Cheryl Seelhoff

Legal Assistant

cheryl.seelhoff@columbialegal.org

I am a third generation Washingtonian, born in Tacoma.  My grandparents were all hardworking immigrants who made good lives for their families despite having attended school only through eighth grade.  I grew up during the civil rights, anti-war and women’s liberation era of the 1960s and became involved in political activism as a student at the University of Washington beginning in 1969.  In the summer of 1970, I traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, which was in turmoil because of race riots the previous year, and there I volunteered with an agency that worked to create jobs for inner city black teenagers.  I was forever changed by this experience.  As the mother and grandmother of mixed-race children and grandchildren, and as a mother-in-law to immigrants, I am dedicated to, and personally, deeply vested in, confronting the systems and structures in our society and culture which prevent my loved ones from enjoying lives free of bigotry, hatred and injustice.   I was a single mother for many years, and during that time, I worked as a court reporter, a writer and editor, and later for a large, corporate Seattle lawfirm.  Once my children were adults, I sought work suited to my passion for social justice and found it at CLS.  I have the deepest respect for all of my colleagues and have found it a revelation and great privilege to work alongside people whose first commitment is to justice and civil and human rights for all people.

Brandy Sincyr

Brandy Sincyr

Policy Analyst

brandy.sincyr@columbialegal.org

I was born in Fort Worth, Texas where my family is from, but raised in Washington. I’m from a blended family, and was one of the first to go to a University where I studied Political Science.  I came to this work after experiencing the devastating impacts of poverty in my life, my family, and in my community. These experiences motivated me to question why poverty was so hard to climb out of, and ultimately seek solutions to change it. I started my career as a community organizer registering underrepresented communities to vote, and building collective action. The hours were long and the work was hard, but it cemented values in me that still exist. That those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and that authentic relationships and collective action take honesty, time, and trust. As a Policy Analyst at Columbia Legal Services I’m grateful to work for an organization and with colleagues that share these values.

Nick Straley

Nick Straley

Attorney