Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Esq.
Kimberly Thomas Rapp is the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (Lawyers’ Committee). To this esteemed position, she brings a background in the public, private and non-profit sectors, which uniquely positions her to lead the Lawyers’ Committee in pursuit of its mission to advance and protect the civil rights of marginalized communities through the rule of law.
Under Kimberly’s leadership, the Lawyers’ Committee has invigorated its core programs and forged new ground in civil rights advocacy. Recognizing that equal access to economic opportunity is a critical component of any movement for equality and justice, Kimberly restored economic justice as one of the organization’s primary practice areas and expanded legal services under the program to empower minority and low-income communities to build and sustain economic security. She has also re-established educational equity as a legal priority advancing litigation and advocating for practice and policy changes that expand access to quality education for students of color. In the first two years of her tenure, Lawyers’ Committee secured major legal victories to improve school conditions and discipline decisions, ensure equal contracting opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, and increase the fair representation of asylum applicants in immigration proceedings. Additionally, the organization is at the leading edge of a vital new thread of civil rights advocacy addressing the civil implications of inequities in the criminal justice system.
Prior to her appointment as Executive Director, Kimberly served as Lead Deputy Counsel for the Santa Clara County Counsel. She was responsible for providing legal representation and counsel to the County’s Equal Opportunity Division, Social Services Agency, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and other departments on a broad range of legal matters, including civil rights, employment, labor, healthcare, complex transactions, and other issues. She also served as legal counsel to the Santa Clara County Office of Education and school districts.
Before her public service, Kimberly was the Director of Law and Public Policy for the Equal Justice Society. She was responsible for developing and implementing programmatic initiatives to restore constitutional safeguards against discrimination. Her work included coordinating U.S. Supreme Court litigation strategies among legal practitioners, professors, communications professionals and social scientists around the country. She worked in collaboration with the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association on initiatives to explore and address the impact of bias in school communities to narrow the achievement gap. Kimberly has also served as an advocate for children with special needs and an education law practitioner. In the private sector, she conducted workplace investigations and worked with corporations and agencies to address issues of discrimination and harassment.
Kimberly has been a keynote speaker, trainer, facilitator and panelist on diverse civil rights issues for the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, California Teachers Association, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Stanford Law School, the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, among others. She has authored numerous articles and she is a San Francisco Bay Area native. Kimberly received her B.A., with Honors, from the University of California, Berkeley, and is a graduate of Stanford Law School.
Elisa Della-Piana, esq.
Elisa Della-Piana joins the Lawyers’ Committee as Legal Director from her seven year tenure at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). Elisa was the Director of Programs at EBCLC since 2013, and supervised all of their five major program areas: Immigration, Education, Defense and Justice for Youth, Housing, Economic Security and Opportunity, and Health & Welfare. She also led litigation to vindicate the rights of low-income clients and much of EBCLC’s policy work, including co-authoring, with the Lawyers’ Committee and others, the report Not Just a Ferguson Problem: How Traffic Courts Drive Inequality in California, and assisted with the passage of five bills co-sponsored in 2015 in the California Legislature. Prior to directing all programs, she directed the Neighborhood Justice Clinic, EBCLC’s satellite office in Berkeley, and supervised the General Legal Clinic, the Consumer Law Clinic, and homeless rights work.
Elisa is a graduate of UC Berkeley Law School, where her best experiences were interning at the Coalition on Homelessness, the East Bay Community Law Center, and the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office. After graduation, she clerked for Judge David F. Levi, Eastern District of California, and Judge Betty B. Fletcher, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Elisa then spent four years with the Lawyers’ Committee, with funding from a Bingham McCutcheon Equal Justice Works Fellowship and a Soros Justice Fellowship. As a fellow, she supported impact litigation, including the successful class action suit Kincaid v. City of Fresno, provided individual representation to low-income clients, and worked on policy issues and other legal matters through the Homeless Rights Project.
DAVID SALNIKER, ESQ.
David Salniker brings an extensive background in nonprofit management and civil rights law to the Lawyers’ Committee. Most recently, David served as the Director of Administration and Finance for the Equal Justice Society (EJS). He assisted in the formation of EJS as an independent 501 (c)(3) and served on its senior management team for over ten years.
From 1996 to 2003, David served as the Executive Director of the Tides Center, a unique organization promoting social change by providing fiscal sponsorship to over 350 projects located in 40 different states and six countries. As Executive Director of the Tides Center, he also served as a member of the executive council responsible for the planning and oversight of the entire Tides family of organizations, including the Tides Foundation, Groundspring, the Thoreau Center and the Community Clinics Initiative.
David was initially a practicing attorney specializing in civil rights and employment law. He is one of the original members of the National Lawyers Guild Affirmative Action Committee formed in 1978. For many years, David served as the Guild’s representative to the Northern California Coalition for Civil Rights. He was a member of the steering committee of ‘No on 209′ – a campaign committee seeking to oppose a ballot initiative to end affirmative action in California.
David is a former treasurer of the ACLU of Northern California and currently serves as Treasurer of Friends of Port Chicago National Memorial.
David has a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt) and a Masters of Law (in Labor Law) from New York University School of Law.
Keith Wurster, ESQ.
Senior Litigation Attorney and Director of Pro Bono and Strategic Partnerships
Keith Wurster is responsible for developing and managing LCCR’s pro bono programs, strategic partnerships, and special projects. Keith oversees, develops and manages the relationships vital to the continued success of LCCR’c programs, including relationships with law firms, corporations, law schools, bar associations, and other social justice organizations. He is responsible for developing and updating training material and protocols for volunteers working with LCCR. In addition, he serves as a mentor and supervisor to junior attorneys and volunteers involved in litigation and policy advocacy for LCCR.
Keith previously worked for Baker & McKenzie, where he practiced complex commercial litigation before state and federal trial and appellate courts. While also with Baker & McKenzie he served as pro bono counsel, overseeing the pro bono program and supervising and representing clients in special education, immigration, juvenile justice, guardianships, and other social and economic justice matters. Keith has worked closely with a number of public interest organizations to advise on selection and pursuit of impact cases. In addition, he served as the Vice-President of the Board of Directors for the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County.
Keith is a California native, who before embarking on his legal career served both in the U.S. Army and the California Army National Guard. He received an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles where he graduated cum laude with College Honors, and a JD from the University of Southern California.
DEBORAH ESCOBEDO, ESQ.
Senior Attorney, Racial Justice
Deborah Escobedo has joined LCCR’s Racial Justice team as a Senior Attorney with primary responsibility for leading the organization’s educational equity initiatives and overseeing our direct services education clinic. Deborah comes to the Lawyers’ Committee with an extensive and accomplished background in Education Law.
During the past year, Deborah was a partner at Garcia Hernández Sawhney, LLP where she worked with the firm’s school district and nonprofit organization clients. Formerly, she served for 10 years as an attorney for the Youth Law Center (YLC) where she worked to protect the rights of foster care and juvenile justice youth. She also served as a consultant for the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative and trained detention staff around the country on improving educational services for detained youth.
Prior to YLC, Deborah was involved in broad range of litigation, administrative and legislative advocacy on educational equity issues, with a focus on the rights of English Learner (EL) and immigrant students. She participated in litigation challenging statewide anti-immigrant initiatives, including Proposition 187 (Pedro A. v. Dawson) and Proposition 227 (Angel V. v. Davis), and she served as lead counsel in Pazmiño v. Cal. Board of Ed., one of the first successful cases brought under “No Child Left Behind,” which challenged the exclusion of EL students from participation in a federally funded reading program.
Deborah is the recipient of the National Hispanic Bar Association Award of Excellence in Public Service; the San Francisco Minority Bar Coalition Unity Award; and the California La Raza Lawyers Association Cruz Reynoso Community Service Award.
Sushil jacob, ESQ.
Senior Attorney, Economic Justice
As Senior Staff Attorney for Economic Justice, Sushil Jacob is responsible for developing the organization’s strategy to promote laws and policies that will advance democracy and civil rights in the economy. He also oversees the Legal Services for Entrepreneurs program and its staff.
Prior to joining the Lawyers’ Committee, Sushil co-founded the Tuttle Law Group, where he represented cooperative and democratic enterprises of all types, including worker cooperatives, employee-owned trusts and cooperative conversions. After obtaining his J.D. from Berkeley Law in 2011, Sushil worked at the East Bay Community Law Center, where he founded the community economic development clinic, which assisted clients in launching green, worker-owned cooperatives. Prior to attending law school, Sushil worked in India on community economic development projects, including Just Change, a cooperative of small farmers and indigenous peoples groups in South India. Sushil serves on the board of the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union and the Sustainable Economies Law Center.
Program Administrative Assistant
Carlos Mojica provides administrative support to our Legal Services for Entrepreneurs (LSE) Program, which promotes financial independence among low-income individuals and financial stability in economically distressed communities. Carlos also supports the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights’ (LCCR) extensive pro bono attorney volunteer program.
For the LSE program, Carlos interviews the clients, assists them with paperwork, and matches them with volunteer attorneys who can address their legal problems. He also arranges workshops on small business topics and manages logistics for our mobile clinics that offer one-to-one legal advice on-site to small businesses in vulnerable areas.
Carlos is a 2015 graduate of Yale University. While a student at Yale, Carlos tutored children to help them improve their literacy skills and academic performance. He also was actively involved with Unidad Latina en Acción, a grassroots organization that uses direct action and legal challenges to help workers recover unpaid wages and helps families counter injustices in the immigration and criminal justice system.
After graduation, Carlos worked as a case manager for a large immigration law firm in Los Angeles, where he was the primary point of contact for more than 500 clients on matters related to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services and Immigration Court.
Jaime Pensabene joined the Lawyers’ Committee in April 2016. He supports the Executive Assistant. Prior to joining Lawyers’ Committee, Jaime worked for PENSCO Trust Company in several administrative, operational, and client interfacing capacities. A native San Franciscan, Jaime earned his Bachelor of Arts in both Latin American Studies and Spanish at the University of San Diego.
Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Fellow
Jude Pond began a two-year tenure as LCCR’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Fellow in September 2016. Awarded to an attorney who has practiced for a minimum of two years and has demonstrated a commitment to civil rights, the fellowship is designed to enhance the fellow’s understanding of civil rights law and prepare the fellow for a career promoting social justice.
With a focus on LCCR’s core commitment to advancing racial justice, Jude engages in litigation and advocates for policies that address the systemic inequalities that affect communities of color. Jude also represents clients through LCCR’s Second Chance Legal Clinic. These clients are eligible to reduce or dismiss previous criminal convictions, which can present obstacles to employment, education, housing, public benefits, and other opportunities that enable clients to contribute to the economic and civil lives of their communities.
A 2014 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, Jude brings to the fellowship a solid background in and passion for promoting justice. As an attorney advisor with the U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, Jude updated the judges at the San Francisco Immigration Court on current case law and prepared in-depth written materials for monthly training sessions on complex areas of immigration law. Jude also helped to draft decisions on a number of issues, including eligibility for relief from removal and the effects of state criminal convictions in immigration proceedings—a highly technical, yet unsettled, area of law.
During law school, Jude worked at the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section assessing complaints about conditions of confinement and researching the Department’s ability to use Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to address the unconstitutionality of racially disparate arrest and probation practices in Meridian, Mississippi. Additionally, while interning at the Southern Center for Human Rights, Jude interviewed detainees about jail conditions, advocated for an inmate before the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, researched the existence and effects of debtors’ prisons, and drafted model legislation regarding treatment of prisoners with intellectual disabilities.
Jude is currently applying these advanced analytical skills to documenting California municipal traffic courts’ ability to pay policies and adverse outcomes for people who cannot afford to pay traffic fines and fees. Separately, Jude is collaborating with partner organizations to investigate racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk policing practices in the Bay Area.
Prior to law school, Jude worked with several nonprofit organizations that defend incarcerated people’s rights to libraries and educational materials, nutritious meals, and safe living conditions. In addition, as an undergraduate student at Stanford University, Jude tutored individuals in jail through the Stanford Beyond Bars program.
Immigrant Justice Program Legal Assistant
Gabriela Reardon is Legal Assistant to the Immigrant Justice Program. She coordinates and helps conduct screening and intake interviews that enable LCCR’s legal staff to determine whether clients meet the basic criteria required to seek asylum or other legal immigration status and whether the cases will be handled by LCCR attorneys or referred to our pro bono volunteer attorneys or to another organization. Gabriela matches clients with volunteer attorneys and puts together teams that include mentor attorneys (for new or less experienced volunteers) and volunteer interpreters, when needed.
For clients who are represented by an LCCR attorney, Gabriela completes required paperwork, obtains client signatures, and, in some cases, accompanies them to immigration interviews. She also edits and translates case evidence as needed.
Gabriela has extensive experience working with immigrant communities as a bilingual educator in Oakland public schools and as an immigration reporter before that.
She holds a Master of Arts degree in journalism and Latin American and Caribbean Studies from New York University. Her graduate research focused on immigration and asylum based on gang persecution in Central American culture. She is an honors graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she studied sociology and Latin American and Iberian studies.