Big Changes to EJS Legal Team and Board

The Equal Justice Society has some dynamic additions to our staff and board and one regretful departure.

Legal Director Allison Elgart has joined the California Attorney General’s Office; Lisa Holder has been appointed Interim Legal Director; we’ve selected Yoana Tchoukleva as our new Judge Constance Baker Motley Legal Fellow; and Kelly Dermody and Sheila Warren have joined our Board of Directors.  

Farewell to Allison Elgart 

The Equal Justice Society bids a sad farewell to Allison Elgart, our Legal Director since October 2011. Allison has been appointed as a Deputy Attorney General in the Civil Rights Enforcement Section of the State of California Department of Justice. Allison’s last day with us was November 9, 2018. 

In her seven years with EJS, Allison played an instrumental role in advancing our legal and litigation agenda. She helped lead our lawsuit against the Antioch Unified School District after the district reneged on an agreement to reduce school discipline and special education disparities harming African American students. Allison was also key in our groundbreaking settlement with the Kern High School District to stop years of discriminatory discipline practices that deprived African American and Latino students of their right to an education. 

Allison co-authored numerous amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on behalf of social psychologists, sociologists, and legal scholars. She co-authored “Lessons from Mt. Holly: Leading Scholars Demonstrate Need for Disparate Impact Standard to Combat Implicit Bias” in the Hastings Race & Poverty Law Journal, “The School to Prison Pipeline: How Implicit Bias Colors Discipline” in the Washington Journal of Education Law and Policy, and “The Promise of Diversity in Remedying the Harms of Identity-Related Threats and Racial Isolation” in the recently published volume, Affirmative Action and Racial Equity:  Considering the Evidence in Fisher to Forge the Path Ahead.  

She was also a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School and teaches a course entitled “Strategic Litigation for Racial Justice” and in 2013 was named to The Recorder‘s “50 California Lawyers on the Fast Track” list, which recognizes 50 attorneys whose early accomplishments indicate they will be tomorrow’s top lawyers and leaders.“ 

All of us at EJS are so grateful for Allison’s countless contributions to our ambitious legal agenda,” said Eva Paterson, EJS President. “Her departure is a great loss for us, but we’re thrilled she will continue to be active in the movement as a member of our progressive state Attorney General’s team.”

Lisa Holder Appointed Interim Legal Director

Eva Paterson has appointed Lisa Holder as EJS Interim Legal Director. Lisa has been part of our legal team as a consulting attorney and/or co-counsel since 2016, helping us with our Kern High School District litigation and our ongoing cases in Los Angeles. 

Lisa has been a criminal trial attorney since 2000 and expanded her practice to include civil rights litigation in 2005, developing expertise in cases involving employment discrimination, police misconduct, and international human rights violations. She is a nationally recognized, award-winning trial attorney named as a “Super Lawyer” by Los Angeles Magazine for four consecutive years.  She teaches the Civil Rights Clinic at UCLA Law School and is an adjunct professor at Occidental College.

Lisa served on the Board of Directors for the Southern California ACLU for four years and is currently Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Child Care Law Center.  She graduated from New York University School of Law in 2000, after obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree at Wesleyan University.

Yoana Tchoukleva Selected as New Judge Motley Civil Rights Fellow

Yoana Tchouklevais is joining EJS as our 2018-2020 Judge Constance Baker Motley Civil Rights Fellow – a fellowship honoring the first African American woman to serve on the federal bench.

The Motley Fellowship is currently funded by a generous gift from Elizabeth J. Cabraser. EJS established the Fellowship in 2006 to nurture the talents of a new generation of progressive lawyers to transform anti-discrimination law and policy. 

Yoana is an attorney, activist, and restorative justice organizer devoted to supporting the efforts of local communities of color to find collective healing from the wounds of the past and collective liberation from the oppressive forces of the present. She is a graduate of Berkeley Law and was previously a litigation fellow with ACLU of Northern California and a clerk for U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson of the Northern District of California. 

Born and raised in Bulgaria, Yoana immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 15. During her college and post-college years, she worked on a number of survivor-led international human rights projects. She started a bakery with widows and orphans from the genocide in Rwanda, helped build a memorial in Northern Uganda, and advocated for Rohingya refugee children in Malaysia. She received a B.A. from the University of Chicago, as well as an award for her writings challenging the NGO industrial complex in post-genocide Rwanda.  

Seeking to understand how the unaddressed legacies of slavery and settler colonialism continue to cause human rights violations here in the US, Yoana decided to pursue a law degree at UC Berkeley School of Law. There she co-founded two legal projects, chaired a number of student organizations, including the Restorative Justice Committee and the National Lawyers’ Guild Bay Area Student Chapter, and served as an editor on the California Law Review. The Post-Conviction Advocacy Project, one of the projects she founded, trains law students to represent lifers in parole hearings and has helped dozens of lifers regain their freedom after decades behind bars. 

As a barred attorney, Yoana set out to implement California’s Fair Sentencing for Youth Act and ensure that individuals sentenced to juvenile life without parole had access to counsel and a chance at re-sentencing. Yoana has received a number of awards, including the 2012 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, the 2015 Rights and Leadership Award, and the 2016 Unsung Hero Award.  

Kelly Dermody, Sheila Warren Join EJS Board of Directors

EJS is also proud to announce the addition of two new members to our board of directors.

Kelly Dermody is Managing Partner of the San Francisco office and chair of the employment practice group at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, LLP.  Kelly represents employees and consumers in class, collective, and #metoo actions. Kelly currently serves as lead class counsel in five gender discrimination class actions against Fortune 100 firms.  Kelly is a leader in non-profit organizations devoted to serving the public interest, improving access to justice, and ensuring that the rights of historically disenfranchised persons are protected. In 2012, Kelly served as President of the Bar Association of San Francisco. She has been inducted as a Fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and has served on the governing Council of the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section.  In 2016, Kelly was named a “Giant Slayer” by The Recorder legal press.  Kelly is a graduate of Harvard College and Berkeley Law School.

Sheila Warren is Head of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology at the World Economic Forum. She began her career as a Wall Street attorney before turning to philanthropy and nonprofit tech over a decade ago. She has represented banks, philanthropists, and progressive nonprofits, and she most recently served as the VP of Strategic Alliances and General Counsel of TechSoup, the global social enterprise that has connected civil society organizations around the world with over $9B in donated tech-based resources. Sheila previously designed and launched NGOsource, a groundbreaking service focused on international grantmaking, and created a blockchain-backed registry for non-profit organizations around the world. Sheila is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. She currently serves on the boards of the ACLU of Northern California and TechSoup.