Lam Nguyen Ho - Executive Director & Founder

Lam Nguyen Ho is the Executive Director of CALA (Community Activism Law Alliance), which he founded with a Harvard Law School Public Service Venture Fund seed grant.  He is currently an Echoing Green Global Fellow and will serve as a 2016-2017 Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow. 
Prior to founding CALA, he was a staff attorney at Equip for Equality, where he defended the civil rights of people with disabilities. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2008, Lam joined Chicago’s Legal Assistance Foundation (LAF) through a Skadden Foundation Public Interest Fellowship. During his time at LAF, he established and ran 10 community-based clinics providing free legal services to youth and their families on the west side of Chicago. He experienced firsthand the challenges of community lawyering and civil legal services, and was inspired to innovatively confront these challenges through the creation of CALA. 
Lam has received awards for his public service work including the 13th Annual NALP/PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award; the Gary Bellow Public Service Award; the Maria, Gabriella, & Robert Skirnick Public Interest Fellowship; the HLS Dean’s Award for Community Leadership; the Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award; the Beinecke Scholarship; the Point Foundation Scholarship; the Sonnenschein Scholars Summer Public Interest Fellowship; the Lenn Thrower ’83 Memorial Fellowship for Research in Queer Studies; and the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Volunteer Award.
At Harvard Law School, he was President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau—the oldest student-run legal services organization in the country; was an editor for the Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review; and completed over 3000 hours of pro bono legal services. He also worked as a research and teaching assistant to Professor Lucie White, helping Professor White to create a new, community-lawyering focused curriculum for Harvard's Poverty Law course. He holds additional graduate degrees from Brown University, where he completed its 4-year combined M.A./A.B. program, and the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar and Sub-Dean of Wadham College. He was previously Chairperson of the HIV/AIDS Response Review Panel for the State of Illinois. He serves on the Advisory Committee for the Law Project, which provides pro bono transactional legal services needed to strengthen Chicago communities.

 

Deanne Medina - Director of Legal Services

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Deanne Medina comes to CALA with 16 years of federal and state litigation experience, including jury trials and appeals.
Prior to working for CALA, Deanne worked as a Supervising Attorney at LAF and before that was in private practice.  While at LAF, Deanne ran the William J. Hibbler Pro Se Assistance Program, providing help to hundreds of pro se litigants in the areas of employment, police brutality, foreclosure defense, and contract disputes, among other areas.  She later supervised the newly formed Home and Community Ombudsman Project for suburban Cook and Lake Counties while at LAF.  
In private practice, Deanne and her former law partner were able to obtain a $4.2 million dollar verdict in a single plaintiff national origin and religious discrimination case against a large auto manufacturing company in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District.  She and her former partner also secured a $400,000 verdict in a sexual harassment case, also in the Northern District.  They also hold the first plaintiff’s side victory under the Illinois Victim’s Economic Safety and Security Act (which pertains to victims of domestic violence) which was heard at the Illinois Department of Labor.  Deanne has also settled hundreds of cases to her client’s satisfaction.  
Deanne received her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago and her B.A. from Muskingum College in New Concord, OH.  
Deanne is licensed in Illinois, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of Illinois and in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Deanne is also a member of the Northern District Trial Bar.  She is an active member of both the national and Illinois chapters of the National Employment Lawyers Association, is a former member of the U.S. District Court’s Pro Bono Advisory Committee and has been a mentor attorney with the Chicago Bar Association. 
In her free time, Deanne enjoys advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities as well as musical theater, reading, cooking, hanging out with her family and her dog and walking.  

Antonio Gutierrez- Director of Programs & Operations

Antonio Gutierrez is a queer latinx immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico. Antonio has lived in Chicago for 16 years after immigrating to the United States to reunite with family members. Antonio is a graduate from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Architecture (B.Arch.). 

After graduation in 2012, Antonio joined the immigrant rights movement as an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), an undocumented-led organization formed in 2009. Since 2012 Antonio has collectively organized rallies such as the national coming out of the shadows rally, fundraising events, mass marches, national retreats, and civil disobediences.

Antonio currently volunteers as a tenant organizer with the Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU), as a member of the steering committee of Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD), and a board member of the steering committee for the Right to the City National Alliance. 

Perla Tirado - Supervising Attorney

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A native of Chicago, Perla Tirado is a graduate of Boston College in Massachusetts with a B.A. in Philosophy and Theology and a concentration in Faith, Peace, and Justice Studies. After graduating from College in 1998, Perla decided to volunteer for one year as a teacher for the Archdiocese of Boston. 

Upon her return to Chicago, she began working at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a residential facility, as a youth advocate and a case manager with youth who were considered “at risk.” As part of a life-long dream she held, Perla enrolled in law school and went on to graduate from DePaul University College of Law, in Chicago, where she obtained her Juris Doctor and a certificate in International Human Rights Law. While she was in law school, Perla travelled several times to Chiapas, Mexico as a human rights advocate and worked with several NGO’s in the region who serviced the indigenous population of Chiapas. In her second year of law school, Perla was chosen as a Sullivan Fellow for the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul. Perla also interned at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, where she was able to assist lawyers and judges in all aspects of cases pending before the Court. Lastly, Perla interned at the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender where, under a special license, she represented clients charged with felony cases, under the supervision of practicing attorneys. 

Perla was later hired as an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County and worked primarily in the Traffic Unit and Domestic Violence Division. A few years later, Perla would go on to open her own law office and focused her work primarily in Criminal Defense and Traffic Law. Finding that several of her clients were faced with severe immigration consequences as a result of their criminal arrests, Perla began working Immigration Law and now also helps families stay together by filing family-based petitions, Waivers, DACA petitions, VAWA and U Visas, and also represents clients in court facing deportation.

Perla is passionate about advocating for the rights of her clients and serving as their voice in a court system that is very difficult to navigate. She believes that everyone deserves to be treated with fairness and dignity no matter what charges they are facing in court or what their legal status may be. She is passionate about social justice issues and believes that with compassion, hard work, and creativity, it is possible to change the world for the better. Perla Tirado - Staff Attorney

Bindhu Vijayan - Supervising Attorney

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Bindhu joined CALA as Senior Immigration Attorney in November of 2017. Bindhu comes to CALA with over a decade of experience in the area of immigration law.  Bindhu’s experiences span across both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.  After law school, she joined private practices specializing in immigration law.  She gained invaluable experience in family-based immigration matters, citizenship and naturalization, employment matters, as well as defending individuals in removal or deportation proceedings before the Immigration Courts throughout the United States.  During law school, Bindhu was affiliated with her law school’s Poverty Law Clinic and interned with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, New York Legal Assistance Group, and Legal Services of New York  - Legal Support Unit. 

Bindhu obtained a Juris Doctor from New York Law School in 2006 and Bachelor of Science from Loyola University of Chicago in 2003.   She was a NYLS Public Interest Fellow, Joseph Solomon Public Service Fellow, was a recipient of the Dean’s Merit Scholarship and Alumni Association Scholarship, and president of the South Asian Law Students Association at NYLS. 

Aaron Wenzloff - Supervising Attorney

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Aaron Wenzloff joined CALA as a staff attorney in July of 2018 after almost a decade of experience representing poor, marginalized, and vulnerable individuals and families in a wide-range of civil legal matters. Most recently, Aaron was the Robert M. Cover Clinical Teaching Fellow and Clinical Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic, where he taught and supervised law students representing disabled veterans, veterans of color, and LGBT veterans, as well as veterans’ advocacy organizations in matters related to disability benefits, discharge upgrades, FOIA litigation, class-action suits, appeals, and state and federal legislative advocacy. Before that, Aaron was a staff attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance Association, where he provided legal representation to low-income victims of domestic violence on family, custody, and restraining order matters. Prior to his time at NHLAA, Aaron was a staff attorney and Skadden Fellow at Connecticut Legal Services in Bridgeport, where he represented low-income tenants in eviction and foreclosure matters. Aaron obtained a J.D. from the University of Michigan in 2010 and a Bachelor of Business Administration, also from the University of Michigan in 2006.

Alejandra Flores - Executive and Operations Administrative Assistant

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Alejandra Flores has spent years during her high school career volunteering at women shelters,  after school tutoring programs, environmental awareness programs, and in 2012 she volunteered for CPS Calmeca Academy of Fine Arts and Dual Language for their annual art shows. Last year Alejandra volunteered as an ESL tutor for Erie Neighborhood House. Alejandra is currently Assistant Editor for Image Impact International, a non profit organization that focuses on first generation college students. Alejandra also spends time on the weekends volunteering for All Star Projects Chicago taking part in the process of operations. She is a part time college student working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. During her free time she enjoy spending time with her partner, visiting new restaurants and neighborhoods,  and being involved in events throughout her community. Alejandra is excited to be a part of Community Activism Law Alliance as Executive and Operations Administrative Assistant, and she looks forward to working to better communities around the Chicagoland area.

Hanan Van Dril – Staff Attorney

Hanan comes to CALA after three years in private practice, where she litigated civil rights cases in federal and state court.  Hanan graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2014 (J.D., magna cum laude) and from the University of California at Berkeley in 2009 (B.A. in English Literature). Prior to law school, Hanan spent two years as an elementary and language arts teacher in San Jose, CA.  During law school, Hanan served as an Editor of her school’s Law Review and as a Teaching Assistant for Legal Writing and Criminal Law. In the spring of 2013, Hanan served as a legal extern for the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. Hanan received the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship in summer of 2013 for her work at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. During law school, Hanan also worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and as a 711 clerk for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. As an attorney and a 711 clerk, Hanan has conducted numerous bench and jury trials and appeals.  Hanan is a Palestinian-American First-Generation immigrant and a native Arabic speaker.

Hannah Shevrin - Intake Coordinator

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Hannah Shevrin is grateful to be a part of CALA this year! Hannah comes to CALA with a variety of experience in community justice work, primarily sexual violence prevention activism and social justice programming for adolescents. She is passionate about enacting social change through community building and empowerment, and she is so excited to be a part of a team that is dedicated to doing such work with authenticity and compassion. Hannah graduated from Tufts University with a BA in Sociology. She is a 2018-2019 Chicago Avodah Service Corps Member.

Jesse Cordero - Lead Volunteer and Language Coordinator

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Jesse Cordero was born in Poncitlan Jalisco, Mexico and came to Chicago in 1973 when he was 7 years old. He was raised in Little Village, where he graduated from Harrison High School.  He attended the College of Automation, where he studied computer science. After graduation, he worked at Sinai Hospital as a computer operator.  From 1985-1997, he was also enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserves, from which he received an honorable discharge. He and his brother started a well-received Mexican restaurant called El Sombrero in Chicago Heights. In 2004, he obtained his commercial driver’s license and has been driving trucks since. He returned to Little Village in 2010, where he has been an active community member. Since April 2014, Jesse has been an active, invaluable member of CALA’s Enlace Community Activism-Law Clinic team. He is very excited to be a part of CALA to help his community access legal services that otherwise most residents could not afford, and is very appreciative for CALA’s contributions to Little Village. He is very happy to volunteer as much of his time as possible to this great cause.

Jessica Hernandez – Of Counsel

Jessica Hernández was born and raised in the borderland area of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. As a first-generation American, daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, Jessica has a unique insight in the plight and struggles of the immigrant community. 

With a deep personal commitment to the community, she is dedicated to helping improve the lives of others both through providing legal services and volunteering with charitable organizations.

Before joining CALA, Jessica practiced in private firms based in El Paso, Texas and in Chicago where she practiced heavily in the fields of immigration and family law. Jessica earned her law degree from The Ohio State University and holds a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice from the University of Texas, El Paso. She has lived and traveled abroad extensively, and enjoys working with people of different cultures. As a law student, she studied comparative international law at University of Oxford in Oxford, England as well as human rights in Heredia, Costa Rica.

Juliet Gilbert - Staff Attorney

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Juliet comes to CALA after many years of practicing law as an immigration attorney.  She directed and taught in the political asylum and immigration clinics at Southern Methodist University School of Law and later joined the clinical faculty at the University of Colorado School of Law where she taught in the civil legal aid and immigration clinics.

Juliet began her legal career as a staff attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (LAF) working in two neighborhood offices. She has worked in the Consumer Protection Division of the Illinois and Texas Attorney General offices and in legal aid programs in Michigan and Texas.

Juliet is a native of Chicago and grew up in the Cabrini Green housing project.

Karen Schweickart - General Counsel

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Karen Schweickart has served as legal advisor to top firms in the private sector for the past fifteen years.  She started her legal career at Kirkland & Ellis where she practiced for five years before moving in-house to Citadel LLC.  She worked at Citadel for nine years, rising to Deputy General Counsel, before leaving to be Senior Vice President and Head of Legal at Outcome Health.  She has a passion for problem-solving and helping organizations address legal issues in an efficient, ethical and practical manner. Karen is also deeply committed to empowering communities and advancing social change.   She serves on the board of Urban Initiatives, a non-profit which serves 17,000 children in Chicago’s low-income public schools. She was also selected to be a 2017 fellow with Leadership Greater Chicago, Chicago’s premier civic leadership organization.   Karen graduated with a B.A. in History from University of California Berkeley, Phi Beta Kappa and received her J.D. from the University of Chicago with honors where she was a Meacham Scholar and served on the Law Review.

Kevin Cruz - Staff Attorney

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Kevin graduated from the John Marshall Law School and passed the Illinois State Bar Exam in 2013. While in Law School, Kevin excelled in Trial Advocacy, and Fair Housing Law.  Kevin also served as President of the Asian-Pacific-American Law Students Association, and Vice President of the Fair Housing Law Association. After law school, Kevin became the Clinical Attorney Fellow and Supervising Attorney at The John Marshall Law School Fair Housing Legal Clinic, teaching more than seventy law student interns about Fair Housing laws, Fair Lending laws, and Civil Litigation, while reaching out to community organizations across the Chicagoland area. Kevin then moved on to private practice, specializing in Family Law, Consumer Protection, and Real Estate Transactions, gaining trial and litigation experience in these areas of law.

In his spare time, Kevin enjoys cooking, racing and restoring vintage and modern automobiles and motorcycles, and spending time with his wife, Jenifer, and dog, Chewie.

Matthew Holloway - Staff Attorney

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Matthew is returning to CALA after graduating from the University of Chicago Law School. While at the University of Chicago, Matthew worked with the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Project. Through this project, they were able to assist in the representation of juvenile criminal defendants, adult transfer defendants, and juvenile life without parole defendants. Additionally, Matthew helped represent a civil plaintiff in a police brutality case against the Chicago Police Department. Matthew was also a Summer ’17 intern for CALA where they assisted in administering CALA’s workshops and representing immigration defendants. Originally from Houston, Matthew received a BA from Rice University in The Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality in 2015. While an undergraduate, Matthew worked with LGBTQ workplace and community organizers on coalition building strategies to pursue changes in solidarity with other organizers seeking similar goals.

Saul Brand Padilla - Program Administrator

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Saul Brand Padilla was born in Mexico City and came to America when he was ten. He moved to Aurora, Illinois where he has lived until now. Saul is excited to join CALA as the Program Administrator where he is eager to expand his knowledge in legal aid and immigration law. His goal is to get his degree in nonprofit management, so he can continue to assist individuals who are negatively impacted by unjust systems.

In his freetime, Saul is a big fan of Rupaul's Drag Race. Also, Saul is very close with his family and can been seen spending the weekends back at home. Saul loves to travel and looks forward to one day visiting Italy and Spain.

 

Will Bloom- Staff Attorney

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Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Will graduated from Yale Law School in 2017, and from Northwestern University with a B.A. in American Studies in 2013 (magna cum laude).  While in law school, he worked in the Workers and Immigrants Rights Advocacy Clinic, representing individuals in civil and immigration court and working with workers' centers, unions and immigrants' rights organizations in policy, advocacy, and strategic matters.  He was a cofounder of Yale Law School's chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild and co-president of the Yale Law School Chapter of the American Constitution Society.

Wally Hilke - STAFF ATTORNEY

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Wally joined CALA as a Justice Catalyst Fellow in August 2018. Wally works with Chicago community organizations to challenge police misconduct through legal representation in police misconduct complaints and collaboration with grassroots organizers. As a law student, Wally led a student coalition supporting an activist campaign for a civilian review board in New Haven; coordinated a symposium of formerly incarcerated women organized by the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls; and organized legal observing actions, National Week Against Mass Incarceration events, and restorative justice workshops through his school's National Lawyers Guild chapter. He also served on his law school's Title IX Committee, where he successfully advocated for equity-based student evaluations of law professors. Wally is a graduate of the University of Chicago and Yale Law School.