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Our Commitment

We are committed to do the work to balance the individual clients who need our help with the impact litigation and organizing work that is part of the fight to dismantle structures of oppression.

Our History


New Haven Legal Assistance was founded in 1964 during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement

We were established on the principle that everyone, regardless of race or income, should have access to one of our country’s cornerstone ideals, that is, the justice system. Our charge was to serve low-income neighborhoods in New Haven and provide free lawyers to people who could not afford to pay for help with everyday issues like eviction, family law, and income support.


May 1, 1965

United States Supreme Court Justice, Arthur J. Goldberg attended a Law Day ceremony at LAA’s office

In his speech, Justice Goldberg said that LAA “would take its place as another of the great historic contributions of this city to the progress of the nation. I hope that we will see in city after city … programs such as this which will bring equal justice and dignity to all. For law is a powerful force. Alone it cannot make a man free, but it can strike the shackles from him. And, it can make him realize in a democracy such as ours, no man need be powerless, for every man is entitled to a say in the affairs of our nation and the conduct of our institutions.”
May 1, 1965


LAA formed the Family Law Unit

LAA formed the Family Law unit to more effectively respond to clients’ domestic problems such as divorce, child custody and child neglect.


The Elder Law Unit is established to meet the needs of senior citizens



The Community Legal Education Program began operation to educate clients about their legal rights


1978 - 79

The Disability and Child Law Units are added

1978 - 79


The Valley Legal Assistance (VLA) branch opens in Derby, Connecticut

With funding from the New Haven Foundation, LAA founded Valley Legal Assistance (VLA). VLA was established to provide legal services to the low-income residents of the six towns of the lower Naugatuck Valley.


Statewide Legal Services is established

In the early 1980s the federal administration imposed a number of restrictions on Legal Services Corporation funding. These restrictions prohibited legal aid recipients from representing undocumented immigrants, filing class actions, engaging in legislative lobbying, among other activities.

As part of a statewide planning process, LAA determined it could no longer accept LSC funds and effectively carry out its mission. In addition, as part of that planning process, the legal services network created a new entity- Statewide Legal Services (SLS) in 1995.

SLS provides a telephone intake system, advising clients via the telephone and for the state and advice/brief service to clients whose issues cannot be referred to the regional legal services’ programs because of the programs’ limited resources. As a result of this process, there is an ongoing collaboration among the legal services’ programs throughout the state.



LAA establishes the Friends of New Haven Legal Assistance

The Friends Board worked diligently raise funds to support LAA’s work. The Board is comprised of community members who truly believe in LAA’s mission and work.

The Friends Board also established two endowments which are both managed by the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven: the Fund for Legal Assistance Association in Memory of James W. Cooper and the Goldstein Fellowship Fund, named in honor and memory of two of our long-time supporters.


Board of Directors

Statement from NHLAA Board Chair Dave Reif

Nelson Mandela said, “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” Every day, the lawyers, paralegals, and staff of NHLAA do the hard work that is needed to protect those rights. They litigate to assure that families have safe housing. They negotiate a path through the regulations that can stand between those deserving assistance and the agencies who should provide it. They protect employees from wage theft and underpayment. In short, they stand up for those who, but for NHLAA, would lose the rights, dignity, and decency they deserve. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us that “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.” It is our job to make sure that justice is never denied merely because someone cannot afford a lawyer.

David Reif, President
Barbara Katz, Vice President
Joshua Goodbaum, Treasurer
Hiram Brett
Sister Mary Ellen Burns
Maggie Castinado
Jennifer Celentano
Conor Duffy
Jeff Hellman
Evette Hamilton
Beverly Hodgson
Kia Levey-Burden
Jennifer Quaye-Hudson
Eric Smith

Friends of Board of Directors

David A. Reif
Jennifer Willcox
Molly Arabolos
Maureen Burns
Pamela Chambers
Jenny Chou
Nicole Dwyer
Howard Fetner
Lauren Hopwood
Richard Jacobs
David A. Reif
Gretchen Randall
Kristen Zaehringer

Media Inquires

Mercy Quaye at the Narrative Project: mercy@narrative-project.com

Alexis is currently NHLAA’s executive director. She previously served as the organization’s Deputy Director, and before that was a staff attorney at Greater Hartford Legal Aid where she represented children facing denial of their educational rights. In addition to leading NHLAA, Alexis has served in numerous leadership roles for the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA), including as Secretary of the CBA, a member of the CBA’s House of Delegates, co-chair of the CBA Task Force on Policing, a member of the CBA Awards Committee, and the Pandemic Recovery and the Future of Court Technology Task Force. She has also served as president of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association and has earned awards from The West Haven Black Coalition, Junior Achievement, New Haven Probate Court, and Gateway Community College Foundation. Committed to community service, she currently serves on a number of local non-profit boards. Born and raised in Connecticut, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Duke University and law degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Elizabeth joined LAA as Deputy Director in May 2017, after more than ten years at Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago. Elizabeth was an undergraduate at Yale and attended Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, from which she graduated cum laude with a Law and Social Policy concentration. Before LAF, Elizabeth clerked for the Honorable Benson E. Legg, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, in Baltimore. In 2016, Elizabeth and her litigation team, which included attorneys from a private law firm, were awarded the Seventh Circuit Bar Association’s Pro Bono and Public Service Award for litigating a Fair Housing Act case in federal court that led to securing 1800 units of public housing in a desegregated opportunity area in Chicago. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her extended family, traveling abroad, and catching up on news and politics from her native Washington, DC.

Shelley has been fighting for the civil rights of low-income people with LAA since 1987. She develops, manages, and supervises all federal cases, state court class actions, and appeals. She also coordinates amicus work done by LAA on cases raising issues of concern to our client community.

Shelley currently sits on the board of directors at the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and is a past president of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project. Shelley received the David H. Neiditz Professional Writing Award, 1994 (for best appellate brief in a Connecticut case), was a James Cooper Fellow and is a Connecticut Bar Foundation life member.

For the last decade, Shelley has been on the faculty for an Affirmative Litigation course for legal services attorneys currently sponsored by the Shriver Center in Chicago, IL. She worked for the Connecticut ALCU from 1982-1987, and at Georgia Legal Services in the Douglasville office.

Shelley graduated from Boston College Law School and is a member of the Bar of the State of Connecticut and a member of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Laura has been with the organization since 2000. Before she was the Finance Director, she worked as Bookkeeper and Assistant Controller/Office Manager. She is a Southern Connecticut State University graduate and has been working in accounting since 1989. She is married and the mother of two. Laura enjoys gardening, reading and photography.

Carolyn  joined LAA in 2002 and is responsible for keeping the office running smoothly. She is a former secretary for the criminal, housing and family units. She also worked for the Office of the State’s Attorney in New Haven and attended Stone School of Business. Carolyn and her husband are very proud parents of their three children.

Maureen Abell practices immigration law at NHLAA, focusing mainly on removal defense. She joined the organization in 2019 after working as a family and immigration law attorney for St. Cloud Area Legal Services in Minnesota, STEPS to End Family Violence in New York City, and the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in North Carolina. Maureen received her J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in New York City in 2007. 

During Maureen’s time in law school, she served as a legal intern with Equality Now in Kenya to identify and address family law codes that did not comply with countries’ international treaty obligations and also interned with the Brooklyn DA Sex Crimes Bureau. After graduating she worked as a law fellow for the Global Justice Center in New York City where she focused on gender-based crimes and international human rights law. While living in New York, she also volunteered with the City University of New York’s Citizenship Now! Program assisting people filing pro se citizenship applications.

Vicki Acker has been balancing LAA’s books since 2007. She is a former small business owner and attended the Stone School of Business. Vicki makes cupcakes that look and taste like they came from a specialty bakery. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Don, her daughter, Bethany, and her grandchildren.

Tahlisa Brougham is an NYU Public Interest Fellow in NHLAA’s Family Law Unit. She serves domestic violence survivors in their restraining order, divorce, and custody matters. She also intends to use her fellowship time to complete an advocacy project focused on the needs of criminalized domestic violence survivors.

Tahlisa is a 2015 graduate of Bryn Mawr College and a 2022 graduate of New York University School of Law. While in law school, Tahlisa participated in the NYU Reproductive Justice Clinic and Racial Justice Clinic, and she had summer internships with DNA-People’s Legal Services and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Tahlisa is admitted to practice law in Connecticut.

Julia Chamberlain joined NHLAA in 2023 as a Development Associate. She works primarily with donations, donor outreach, and general fundraising and community building. Her work is informed by the conviction that equal access to housing is a human right necessary for the creation and maintenance of any free society. She majored in English Literature at Southern Connecticut State University, where she performed paid research on topics ranging from unhoused voices in literature to Medieval English poetics.

She is a proud transgender woman and hopes to use her work with NHLAA to make the Elm City a more equitable and joyous environment for the LGBT+ community. Julia is a New Haven native and can be found wandering the stacks at Grey Matter Books, consuming prodigious quantities of caffeine, and journaling in Edgewood Park. She loves vegetarian cooking, the Gawain Poet, and her tuxedo cat, Sophie.

Amy Eppler-Epstein has been an attorney with NHLAA since graduating law school in 1986. She works primarily with tenants in our housing unit, but she has also worked on domestic violence family law, immigration, and currently co-teaches the NHLAA-Yale Law School Reentry Clinic.

Amy has represented tenant organizations, has successfully litigated a discrimination case in federal court for a non-profit developer who was being blocked from developing housing for people with disabilities, and has helped influence state and federal law to protect the rights of tenants after foreclosure. She also wrote and successfully lobbied for legislation to encourage tenants in bringing fair housing litigation by exempting such awards or settlements from state liens.

Amy has argued three times before the CT Supreme Court, attempting to establish a state constitutional right to shelter, and successfully arguing that tenants cannot be put out by banks after foreclosure unless they are named in the foreclosure or eviction case. She is currently on the boards of HOME Inc., Columbus House Shelter, and the Grants Committee of the Guilford Fund for the Education. She volunteers with the Community Dining Room and Habitat for Humanity, and over the years has been a volunteer with Domestic Violence Services, Mutual Housing, and the girl scouts.

Amy speaks competent Spanish, and loves her job at New Haven Legal Assistance. She can’t think of anywhere else she would rather work!

Tyrese Ford joined NHLAA in January 2022 as a staff attorney in the Housing Unit. He graduated cum laude from Southern Connecticut State University with a B.A. in 2017 and received his J.D. from Howard University School of Law (“HUSL”) in 2020. While attending HUSL, Tyrese represented indigent persons charged with misdemeanor crimes in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, as part of HUSL’s Criminal Justice Clinic. He was also a proud member of the Charles Hamilton Houston Moot Court Team. Prior to joining NHLAA, Tyrese served as a family clerk for the Honorable Judge Price-Boreland. In his spare time, Tyrese enjoys watching anime and spending time with his family.

Kate Geruntho Frank, writes self-help booklets in plain language so that people who can’t afford a lawyer can have access to justice through self-advocacy. She also manages CTLawHelp.org, a self-help website that provides low-income people with free civil legal information. Kate and the statewide website project are housed at LAA and supported by grants from the Connecticut Bar Foundation and the Legal Services Corporation. Kate has worked for newspaper and magazine websites (including the New Haven Register and Fine Gardening magazine) since 2000. In her spare time, Kate enjoys spending time with her two sons, knitting, yoga, and gardening.

Joanne Gibau assists clients in the areas of Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) and Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits. Her first priority is to represent “O” income and “O” SNAP benefits clients who have been improperly denied or discontinued from TFA cash assistance, SAGA cash assistance and SNAP.

Joanne also represents clients in TFA cash assistance cases where a medical or mental health exemption from the TFA time limit has been denied or discontinued, and she represents clients in SAGA cash assistance cases when their “unemployability” status has been denied or discontinued. Joanne is the LAA contact person for Raymond v. Rowland disabled class members for whom DSS has not afforded reasonable accommodations, such as scheduling a medical or mental health appointment and obtaining a report, to show that class members meet disability criteria for DSS benefits.

In the area of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, Joanne represents disabled child and adult recipients of TFA cash assistance who have been improperly denied SSI. Joanne received her B.A. from Boston College in 1980 and her J.D. from George Washington University Law School in 1983. She is a member of the Bar of the State of Connecticut and a member of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Ben Haldeman is a staff attorney at the New Haven Legal Assistance Association (NHLAA), which he joined as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow in 2017. He is also a Visiting Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law School, where he has co-taught a clinic on removal defense since 2020. He practices primarily immigration defense, with a focus on Connecticut residents in removal proceedings, and especially those detained by ICE. He is committed to advancing immigrant rights in Connecticut and to incorporating principles of community lawyering in his work at NHLAA.

Prior to NHLAA, he clerked for Justice Richard Palmer of the Connecticut Supreme Court, and before that, he was an English teacher at Punahou School in Honolulu, HI, School Year Abroad in Ichinomiya, Japan, and the Loomis Chaffee School, in Windsor, CT. He received his J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2016 and a B.A. in Religion from Williams College in 2005. He has coached wrestling since 2006, and he is currently an assistant wrestling coach at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.

Richard Hine joined NHLAA in 2023 as a staff attorney in the housing unit as part of the Right to Counsel Program. Before joining NHLAA, Richard worked in a private immigration practice in Seattle, WA. He represented clients in removal defense in immigration court, and before the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Richard earned his B.A. from the University of Vermont and his J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he received the Certificate in Human Rights. Richard is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and served as the Programs Chair of its Washington State chapter.

He is a member of the Bar of the State of Washington and a member of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In his spare time, Richard enjoys hiking with his dogs, attending concerts, and trying new restaurants with his wife.

Cat Itaya runs the Federal Pro Se Legal Assistance Program, providing free, limited-scope legal services to pro se civil litigants in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Before coming to LAA to start this program, Cat ran a similar program in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She has served as a law clerk to the Honorable Guido Calabresi in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Honorable Raymond J. Dearie in the Eastern District of New York, and the Honorable Mark G. Mastroianni in the District of Massachusetts. She graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 2010. Cat is admitted to practice in New York and Connecticut.

Amanda Klay joined New Haven Legal Assistance as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow in September 2023. She earned her law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law where she was a member of the Civil Justice Clinic and externed at two Connecticut Immigration Coalition member organizations.

Prior to law school, Amanda served as Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs to Governor Ned Lamont. She previously worked at Yale School of Management and continues to serve as an Associate Fellow at Yale College as college advisor to first-generation and low-income students. Amanda is thrilled to carry the vision of universal representation forward at New Haven Legal Assistance Association where she will provide free legal counsel to clients seeking immigration relief.

Camille Lavache joined the family law unit with NHLAA in 2022 after receiving her J.D. from Quinnipiac University School of Law’s part-time evening program. Prior to going to law school, Camille worked as a paralegal with the Inmates’ Legal Aid Program, which existed through contract with the Connecticut Department of Corrections to help incarcerated individuals gain equal access to the courts. She also held positions as a civil, family, and office clerk at the New Haven Superior Court where she worked full-time while attending law school.

During law school, Camille participated in the Veteran’s Law Clinic, managed by the Connecticut Veteran’s Legal Center, where she drafted and submitted briefs on behalf of wrongfully discharged veterans to help them obtain their benefits. Camille also served as President of the Quinnipiac Black Law Students Association and was a member of the Multicultural, Diversity & Inclusion Committee where she was involved in facilitating faculty and staff with diversity issues, race relations and bringing awareness with respect to the Black Lives Matter movement. Camille was nominated as the Northeast Regional Black Law Students Association Black Excellence Member of the month as a result of her efforts.

Upon graduating law school, Camille was the recipient of the George W. Crawford Black Bar Association Award for overcoming significant cultural obstacles while exhibiting a record of leadership in diversity issues and demonstrating substantial and distinctive multicultural contributions to the legal profession.

In her spare time, Camille enjoys spending time with her family and friends and her dog, Munchkin. She also loves dancing, reading and listening to music.

Emily Leen joined LAA in September, 2023, and is a Herbert & Nell Singer Fellow in the education unit. Her fellowship project is focused on protecting the right to access special education services for justice-involved youth with disabilities, including currently incarcerated students and students supervised by juvenile probation. Emily received a B.A. in International Studies from Boston College in 2018.

After graduating from college, Emily joined Teach for America and was a high school English Language Arts teacher for two years in North Miami, FL. During that time, Emily also earned a M.Ed. in Education and Social Change at the University of Miami, graduating in 2020. She then went on to complete her J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2023, along with a Law and Public Policy Certificate.

While in law school, Emily participated in the Child Advocacy Clinic through the Center for Children’s Advocacy, as well as the Criminal Defense Clinic.

Emily speaks conversational Polish and, when not at work, she loves running and trying new restaurants.

Caitlin Maloney is a Community Organizer in the Community and Economic Justice Unit. Through her work, Caitlin assists in building partnerships between neighborhood groups and individuals for the purposes of empowering the community to work toward equitable economic development opportunities. Prior to NHLAA, Caitlin worked at the YMCA fundraising for health and education initiatives. Her focus has been to advocate and connect with others around social, economic, gender and racial justice issues.

Caitlin co-founded a New Haven County based grassroots organization, which empowers mothers to work on issues at the local, state and national level, and is also the co-founder of West Haven Progressive Action Network. Caitlin loves spending time in nature with her two daughters and exploring new restaurants with her husband, Ryan.

Ben Martin joined LAA in 2018 after working in IT at a regional accounting firm for 9 years. He got his Bachelor’s degree at Albertus Magnus College (Go Falcons!) and his Masters at SCSU. When he’s not at work, Ben spends his time with his wife and two children and reading altogether too many books recommended on the podcasts to which he listens.

Amy Marx joined LAA in 2002. Her work in the housing unit includes representing tenants in state housing court eviction cases; representing public housing tenant groups who live in buildings facing demolition; representing tenants with federal and state housing subsidies at administrative hearings; and representing tenants in federal court. Amy is also a national leader in assisting tenants living in foreclosed properties. Before she came to LAA, Amy was a staff attorney with Connecticut Legal Services in the benefits unit.

Amy received her J.D. from Yale Law School and clerked for the Honorable Kimba M. Wood at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Amy is admitted to practice in Connecticut. She serves on the Executive Committee of the ROOF Project, a collaborative project of city leaders dealing with the regional foreclosure crisis. She is a board member of New Haven Youth Tennis and Education and the Calvin Hill Daycare Center. Her hobbies include raising backyard chickens.

Ellen Messali is a staff attorney at New Haven Legal Assistance and began working in the family law unit, doing family and immigration work, in August, 2016.

Prior to coming to NHLAA, Ellen worked as the staff attorney for the Survivor Services Program at the International Institute of Connecticut for nearly four years. There, she represented torture survivors in their applications for asylum, and other humanitarian relief, and also represented survivors with U Visa and VAWA Petitions.

Before beginning her work at the International Institute of Connecticut, Ms. Messali served as a civil clerk at Waterbury Superior Court for the Honorable Wilson Trombley, and as a family clerk at Milford Superior Court for the Honorable Robert Malone. She holds a BS in Legal Studies and Political Science from Roger Williams University, and a Juris Doctor and Human Rights Certificate from University of Connecticut School of Law. Ellen enjoys yoga and tap dancing and is working on speaking both French and Spanish conversationally.

Anthony Nanni practices housing law at NHLAA. He joined in July 2022 after graduating from Syracuse University College of Law. Prior to joining LAA, Anthony participated in New York’s Pro Bono Scholar Program. He worked at Hiscock Legal Aid Society in Syracuse, New York, where he represented clients at the New York Department of Labor and Syracuse City Housing Court. Anthony also received a Master’s Degree on Race and Gender in the Antebellum South from the University of Connecticut and graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Hartford with a bachelor’s degree in American History.

Jeanette “Jae” Olaya is currently a bilingual office assistant at NHLAA since 2023. She has a BA in Psychology from Ashford University and a Masters in Psychology from University of Phoenix. Prior to joining the NHLAA team she did property management work for thirty years and she enjoys traveling, building miniature homes and thrifting on the weekends and taking hikes with her dog, Kiko.

Rachel A. Scotch, Esq. is an alum of Yale College (BA, 2003) and Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, MA (JD, 2008). She also proudly passed through several of the New Haven area’s other fine institutions of higher learning along the way, including South Central Community College (now Gateway)(AS, 1991), Paier College of Art, and Southern Connecticut State University. Rachel is admitted to practice law in both Connecticut (2016) and Massachusetts (2008).

Prior to joining NHLAA as a Right to Counsel Housing Attorney in October of 2022, Rachel spent most of her legal career zealously defending clients as a public defender with the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) in Massachusetts. In that capacity, she represented people who could not afford attorneys and were facing criminal prosecution, as well as involuntary mental health and civil commitments. She holds a certificate from the renowned National Criminal Defense College and worked in the nationally recognized Criminal Defense Training Unit of CPCS as a training attorney.

Rachel has taken over 20 trials to verdict, and has worked on appeals in Massachusetts’ highest courts. In 2010 she co-authored the appellant’s brief in Commonwealth v. Porter P., 456 Mass. 254 (2010), a case which established the right to privacy for residents of transitional living spaces in Massachusetts.

For many years, Rachel fought alongside her colleagues in CPCS to gain the right to collectively bargain, and from 2019-2022 she was honored to serve them as president of the MassDefenders, the union of administrative professionals, investigators, social service advocates, attorneys, paralegals, IT and HR core staff at CPCS.

Prior to going to law school, Rachel spent time with the Yale Child Study Center as an IICAPS (Intensive In-Home Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Services) mental health counselor. She sings in the alto section of the Trinity on the Green Parish choir, is an avid baker, and will happily tell you all about the 10+ seasons she spent working for her beloved Boston Red Sox as a game day employee.

Rachel Slajda joined NHLAA in 2023 as a staff attorney in the housing unit, where she represents tenants in eviction proceedings as part of the Right to Counsel program. Previously she worked as a journalist at MSNBC, Law360, and elsewhere. She attended Northeastern University for her bachelor’s degree and City University of New York School of Law for her law degree. She is licensed to practice in Connecticut.

Natalie Smith joined LAA in September 2023. Her fellowship is sponsored by Lisa Foster and Alan Bersin. Working in collaboration with public defenders and social service providers, Natalie’s fellowship project offers holistic civil-legal representation and self-advocacy tools to community members who have been involved in the criminal-legal system. Natalie received a joint-degree BA in Sociology and Visual Arts from Harvard College, and her JD from Yale Law School. During law school, Natalie participated in LAA’s Reentry Clinic and Immigrant Rights Clinic. She is the proud auntie of two nieces, enjoys hiking and painting, and loves spending time with her human and animal friends.

Reilly Stevens is the Grants Manager for NHLAA. Reilly has a Bachelor’s degree in the interdisciplinary field of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Connecticut. This background allowed Reilly to hone her skills in research and writing, and familiarized her with different social issues. There are many misconceptions surrounding the field of gender and sexuality studies, and Reilly is dedicated to creating spaces to critically engage with oppressive systems and structures in all areas of her work.

Reilly’s work experience prior to joining NHLAA is in the field of education. Firstly, as an Environmental Educator at her high school alma mater, New Haven Ecology Project (NHEP or Common Ground), as well as two years as a Classroom Assistant at Elm City Montessori School. Reilly is a New Haven native, and has a deep love for the people and culture here, as well as for the community of organizers, activists, educators, and non-profit organizations that are here working hard to empower the people of New Haven.

She feels proud to be working for NHLAA and supporting the organization in its mission to equalize access to high-quality legal aid.

Ingrid Swanson is one of four attorneys in LAA’s juvenile matters unit. JMU attorneys are court-appointed to represent children and parents in child protection proceedings before the Juvenile Court. The JMU evolved from LAA’s former child protection model project, and the unit strives to continue providing high quality representation to children and parents involved with DCF (the Department of Children and Families), through comprehensive legal, administrative, educational, and clinical advocacy. Ingrid graduated from Dartmouth College and went on to teach elementary school in Charlotte, North Carolina, through Teach For America. She then attended UConn Law School, and received a Skadden Fellowship which enabled her to begin working at LAA three years ago. Ingrid is admitted to practice law in Connecticut. She enjoys cooking, running, traveling, and spending time with family and her adorable dog, Roxy.

Nhi Tran joined LAA in October, 2010, and is currently a staff attorney in the education unit. Since her time at LAA, she has represented clients facing eviction and children in child protection cases. She graduated from New York University School of Law in 2005, where she participated in the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic. After graduation, Nhi was hired as an AmeriCorps Access to Justice Fellow at the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii and subsequently, as a staff attorney. There, she specialized in issues concerning public housing and Section 8 and spearheaded a partnership with the Hawaii Public Housing Authority to construct an implementation plan to ensure the Authority’s compliance with the Violence Against Women Act. Nhi relocated to Connecticut in 2008 and became the lead attorney in the Immigrants and Refugees New Arrivals Advocacy Project at the Center for Children’s Advocacy. Nhi is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and speaks Vietnamese and Italian.

Maria Velez, Paralegal is currently a secretary in LAA’s housing unit. She has also served a paralegal helping undocumented individuals work through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) application process. She previously worked for Attorney Sharyn D’Urso and is a Stone Academy graduate. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, going shopping, reading, singing, and helping others.

In her role as secretary, Jamie Wallack provides support for elder consumer and probate cases, employment issues, and benefits matters involving the Department of Social Services and the Social Security Administration. She also assists with developmental work and fundraising events. Prior to working at LAA, Jamie worked at Zeldes, Needle & Cooper in Bridgeport, Senie, Stock & LaChance in Westport, and Hurwitz, Sagarin, Slossberg & Knuff in Milford. Jamie holds a B.A. in studio art from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She loves working for LAA because it gives her the opportunity to help the people of New Haven, where she was born.

Natasha White represents children in the juvenile matters unit and has also worked in the benefits unit. She joined LAA in 2001 after graduating from Brigham Young University/J. Reuben Clark Law School. She is admitted to practice law in Connecticut.

Sinclair Williams joined NHLAA in September of 2021 as a Singer Fellow in both the Housing Unit and the Community and Economic Justice unit. His legal career began with an internship as an investigator at the DC Public Defender Society. He graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in 2017 and received his J.D. from Stanford Law School (“SLS”) in 2021. While attending SLS, Sinclair represented indigent persons charged with misdemeanor crimes in Santa Clara County, as part of SLS’s Criminal Defense Clinic. He was also Community Action Chair of the Stanford Black Law Students Association. In his spare time, Sinclair enjoys basketball, visiting his family in Virginia, and eating all the glorious food New Haven has to offer.

Yoni Zamir joined NHLAA in 2014 as a staff attorney in the housing unit, where he represents clients in a wide range of housing matters, including eviction proceedings and preserving access to affordable housing. Before joining NHLAA, Yoni served as a Fellow with Hofstra University School of Law’s Law Reform Advocacy Clinic, and previously, as Counsel to a Member of Congress and to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Prior to working in Congress, Yoni was a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of New York. Originally from Chicago, Yoni earned his B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law, where he received the Excellence in Housing Clinic Award. Yoni is a proud AmeriCorps alumnus. He is admitted to practice in Connecticut, New York, and the District of Columbia.