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The Justice Collaborative Engagement Project is an independent, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization devoted to holding public officials accountable for reforming the justice system and building healthier and safer communities. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(4) project of Tides Advocacy. 


Kyle C. Barry, senior legal counsel, previously served as Senior Policy Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., where his advocacy focused on judicial nominations, voting rights, and economic equality. Kyle served as the director of justice programs at Alliance for Justice in Washington, D.C. A nationally recognized expert on civil rights issues, Kyle’s writing has appeared in The Nation, Politico, The Hill, and the Huffington Post among other outlets, and he has provided commentary on “Democracy Now!” and “The Roland Martin Show.” Kyle also has experience litigating both civil and criminal cases, and has authored or co-authored briefs filed in federal courts around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Kyle clerked for U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy and U.S. District Judge Christina Reiss in the District of Vermont. Kyle is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Yale Law School.

Alex Bassos, director of advocacy, was in public defense for 23 years before joining the Justice Collaborative. For 20 years he was at Metropolitan Public Defender in Portland, Oregon, where, among other things, he was the training director, the chief of specialty courts, the interim director of the office, and a line attorney. Most recently he ran Community Law, a model he founded to make the community healthier and safer through outcomes-focused representation across the social service, community health, and justice systems. He graduated from Indiana University Law School in 1995.

Nikki Baszynski, legal counsel, previously worked in the Appeals and Postconviction Section of the Ohio Public Defender. In 2015, Nikki founded the Ohio Public Defender’s Racial Justice Initiative, an agency-based team focused on identifying racially discriminatory practices and collaborating across departments to address them. Prior to joining Ohio Public Defender, Nikki represented juvenile trafficking victims in delinquency proceedings as the inaugural Greif Fellow in Juvenile Human Trafficking. Before law school, she served as a Teach For America corps member in the Bronx and a founding teacher of the Columbus Collegiate Academy. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 2006 and the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 2013.

Jessica Brand, legal director, previously worked at the Texas Defender Service in the capital trial project, where she consulted with trial teams in death penalty cases across Texas and conducted statewide trainings on understanding mental health, performing capital defense investigation, and preparing a case for life. Jessica was a staff attorney in the appellate division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. She also served as a member of the forensic practice group, and she continues to train lawyers across the country on litigating the admissibility of forensic evidence. Following law school, she clerked for Judge Michael McConnell on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2007, and summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004.

Lindsey Carlson, senior legal counsel, previously worked as an officer with Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, where for six years she directed strategic partnerships with key national and local organizations to advance state criminal and juvenile justice system reforms. Before joining Pew, Lindsey served as general counsel of the Pretrial Justice Institute. Lindsey also worked as a corporate associate with Fredrikson & Byron. She graduated cum laude from Indiana University Law School in 2007 and obtained her master of law degree from George Washington University Law School in 2010.

Gabriel Diaz, senior legal counsel, previously worked as a staff attorney and supervising attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS). At PDS, Gabe represented poor clients charged with serious felonies—including homicides—at trial, on appeal, and in other post-conviction matters. He was a member of the forensic practice group from 2011 until his departure. In early 2017, Gabe worked as an international fellow with the International Legal Foundation, supervising and training public defenders and office staff at the organization’s Tunisia office. Gabe graduated from New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar, and Columbia University.

Brooks Emanuel, legal counsel, previously worked as a Law Fellow at Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, where he challenged clients’ death sentences, death-in-prison sentences, and unconstitutional prison conditions; helped released clients with reentry; and researched and wrote about the history of racial injustice in the United States. He has co-written briefs for the United States Supreme Court and multiple state courts.  He obtained his JD from New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar. During law school, he interned at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and ACLU Capital Punishment Project and did clinical work at NYCLU and EJI. Before law school, he served as director of legislative services for the Georgia House Democratic Caucus under Stacey Abrams; he has also lobbied on behalf of progressive causes for two organizations and served in various leadership capacities on multiple political campaigns.

Matt Ferner, director of media strategy, previously worked as a senior reporter for HuffPost where for nearly a decade he wrote about politics, the criminal justice system, the drug war, police, prosecutors and mass incarceration around the nation. His reporting has been cited in legal briefs and academic research, has influenced policy, exposed misconduct and helped lead to investigations of government corruption. Matt obtained a BA from the University of Colorado Boulder and an MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Emily Galvin-Almanza, senior legal counsel, has been a public defender in both California and New York, most recently at The Bronx Defenders, where she spent the last five years as a criminal defense attorney.  There, she litigated trial cases and wrote about her work in The Atlantic and Slate, advocating for reform not just on the page but at the New York State Legislature and in testimony to the New York City Council.  Prior to joining The Bronx Defenders, Emily was with Stanford Law School's Three Strikes Project, where she fought for reforms to California's three strikes law and represented lifers seeking relief under the reformed law.  In addition to her work with The Justice Collaborative, Emily is also the CEO and Founder of Partners For Justice, a nonprofit that trains and places college graduates in public defenders' offices to fight the enmeshed penalties of justice-system involvement, obtain access to vital services, and make low-income community members' voices heard. Emily was a clerk to the Honorable Thelton Henderson in the Northern District of California, received her B.A. in English from Harvard University, and her J.D. from Stanford Law School.

Vaidya Gullapalli, senior legal counsel and curator of the Daily Appeal, spent several years as a human rights advocate, public defender, and journalist in the U.S. and India. Vaidya worked at the Bronx Defenders and Officer of the Appellate Defender in New York and has been a contributing writer for Solitary Watch. She graduated from Harvard Law School in 2008.  

Jullian Harris-Calvin, senior legal counsel, worked as a public defender at the Federal Defenders of New York and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS). As an assistant federal defender, she represented clients in the Southern District of New York. As a trial attorney at PDS, Jullian defended clients facing felony charges in D.C. Superior Court. She also advocated for clients in matters related to conditions of confinement at District of Columbia and Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities and provided legal services to adults returning to their communities after incarceration. Prior to law school, Jullian was director of administration for a Los Angeles councilman. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and UCLA School of Law, where she specialized in Critical Race Studies and Public Interest Law and Policy.

Matt Henry, lead technologist and legal counsel, previously worked as a public defender in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He graduated from the University of North Carolina School of Law in 2015. Before attending law school, Matt worked for several years as a web developer for startups, agencies, and large internet companies in Silicon Valley, New York, and North Carolina.

Summer Lacey, senior legal counsel, previously worked as a Deputy Federal Public Defender at the Los Angeles Office of the Federal Public Defender. Summer represented indigent clients accused of committing diverse federal crimes, mentored new attorneys, trained legal interns, and facilitated at a national training on impactful sentencing advocacy.  Before joining the Federal Public Defender’s Office, Summer began her legal career at Brooklyn Defender Services, where she advocated on behalf of clients facing felony and misdemeanor charges for three years. During law school, Summer worked on racial justice related litigation with the ACLU and advocated for children’s rights with DITSHWANELO, a human rights organization in Botswana.  Summer received a BA in Communications from UCLA and a JD from New York University School of Law.

Diane Lucas, senior legal counsel, previously served as an assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Diane handled matters in a wide range of areas, including criminal justice reform, equal access to education, immigration, consumer racial profiling, voting rights, and housing and employment discrimination. Before joining the attorney general’s office, Diane was a public defender at the Legal Aid Society in New York City. Diane clerked for the Honorable Bernice Donald in the Western District of Tennessee. Diane received a BA from New York University and JD from Harvard Law School.

Sarah Lustbader, senior legal counsel and curator of the Daily Appeal, previously worked as a senior program associate at the Vera Institute of Justice and as a criminal defense attorney at the Bronx Defenders. During her time as a public defender, Sarah conducted trainings on the intersection of neuroscience and criminal law, and wrote a white paper proposing a novel police body-camera policy regime. Sarah was an antitrust associate for the law firm Shearman & Sterling, LLP. She has testified before the New York State Assembly and has published op-ed pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Week. Her academic work has been published in Washington University Law Review (as co-author) and Fordham Urban Law Journal. She received a BA in International Relations from Stanford University and a JD from NYU School of Law, where she served on the NYU Law Review as Notes editor.

John Mathews II, senior legal counsel, previously worked as an assistant United States attorney in Puerto Rico for five years. John was a Litigation Associate at Latham & Watkins in Washington, D.C., and served as a voter protection outreach coordinator for Obama For America and regional lead for the Generation 44 Mid-Atlantic Finance Committee during the 2012 presidential campaign. He was also an inaugural member of the Young Lawyers Network for the D.C. Bar Foundation, the leading private funder of civil legal services for the city’s underserved. Following law school, John clerked for Judge Raymond Jackson in the Eastern District of Virginia. He graduated from UCLA in 2003 and from Harvard Law School in 2007.

Jordan McEntyre, senior legal counsel, worked as a public defender in New Orleans for 10 years. Jordan started as a staff attorney at Orleans Public Defenders, where he practiced client-directed advocacy and team-based defense, representing indigent clients on charges ranging from misdemeanors to homicide. He then worked at Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights as a staff attorney, supervising attorney, and special projects attorney, defending juveniles who were being prosecuted in juvenile and adult court. Jordan is a graduate of Carleton College and Stanford Law School.

Dawn Milam, legal counsel, graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where she was an editor for the North Carolina Law Review and an Honors Writing Scholar. Before her law career, Dawn was an educator in South Carolina public schools.

Ben Miller, senior legal counsel, worked as an appellate attorney at the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and then the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, representing clients appealing their convictions as well as worked with trial attorneys responding to various legal issues both before and during trials. Additionally, Ben has taught as an adjunct professor at American University Washington College of Law, University of Maryland School of Law, and University of Baltimore School of Law. Ben graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in journalism and earned a JD from American University Washington College of Law.

Jessica Russsell Murphy, operations manager, has 15 years of experience supporting nonprofit operations and administration.  She previously worked at the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, Institute of Current World Affairs, and the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. Jessica has a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College and a master’s degree from Loyola University Chicago.  

Daniel Nichanian, senior research and editorial fellow and editor of The Appeal: Political Report, previously worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. He has researched and written on democratic theory, political thought, criminal justice, and voting rights. His scholarship and his work have appeared in Philosophy & Rhetoric, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Democracy, FiveThirtyEight, NBC News, the New York Daily News, Syndicate Theology, Vox, and other publications. He received a BA from Yale University and a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago.

Josie Duffy Rice, senior strategist and senior reporter for The Appeal, received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her JD from Harvard Law School. Josie was previously a staff writer at Daily Kos, where she focused on prosecutorial accountability and criminal justice. Josie's writing on race, gender, culture, and politics has been featured in The New York Times, Slate, Gawker, Ebony, Daily Kos, Rewire, Interactive One, and Spook Mag, among others. She has also been featured in The Nation, New York Magazine, and Scalawag. She is a former staff attorney at the Center for Popular Democracy.

Jevhon Rivers, legal counsel, previously worked at People’s Action where she helped craft criminal justice policy for community organizations across the county. While in law school, Jevhon focused on criminal justice policy at the ACLU's Campaign for Smart Justice, the Opportunity Agenda, and the Harvard Criminal Justice Policy Program. Before law school, she was a teacher. Jevhon graduated from Amherst College in 2011 and from Harvard Law School in 2017.

Rob Smith, executive director, previously was an assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he taught criminal law and evidence. Smith earned his law degree from Harvard Law School and his bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. Smith’s scholarship has appeared in the New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Iowa Law Review, Boston University Law Review, Washington Law Review, Alabama Law Review, Hastings Law Journal, and Cardozo Law Review, among other journals, and in the online editions of the Yale Law Journal, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, and Harvard Law & Policy Review. He also has published shorter works in The Guardian, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Salon, and Slate. His work has been cited by courts including the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, New Yorker, Atlantic, Harper’s, Mother Jones, USA Today and the ABA Journal, among other outlets.

Trudy Strassburger, senior legal counsel, spent over a decade as a public defender. She started her career at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and transitioned to the Bronx Defenders where she was a staff attorney and later a team leader. Trudy later spent three and a half years as deputy director for a managed assigned counsel program in Travis County, Texas, where she instituted policies and training programs to improve the quality of indigent defense. She also started The Forensic Project after the closure of Austin’s DNA Lab. Trudy obtained her BA from Colorado College and her JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Jake Sussman, managing director, graduated from New York University School of Law, where he was a Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar. He then clerked for the Honorable Ellen B. Burns of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. Jake previously practiced law in North Carolina, where he handled criminal and capital cases in state and federal courts. Jake also litigated scores of civil rights cases, including the successful challenge to North Carolina’s ban against marriage equality. Jake has been an invited speaker on topics including the death penalty, working with experts, litigating civil rights actions, and First Amendment issues.

Amy Weber, senior legal counsel, previously provided litigation assistance to attorneys handling capital, juvenile life-without-parole, and nonviolent life-without-parole cases across the country. Prior to her work litigating these constitutional criminal issues, she spent nearly a decade as a trial, training, and appellate attorney at the public defender’s office in Miami, Florida, representing clients in all phases of Florida criminal proceedings. Amy has also served as a law clerk for Judge Janet C. Hall in the District of Connecticut and as a staff attorney in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. Amy obtained a BA from Cornell University and a JD from Yale Law School.

Keli Young, legal counsel, graduated from New York University School of Law in 2015. While at NYU, she served on the board of the Black Allied Law Students Association and as the director of the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition. As a member of the Immigrant Defense Clinic, she assisted immigration attorneys in Manhattan in defense of undocumented individuals facing removal because of criminal convictions, and as a member of the Criminal Defense and Reentry Clinic, she assisted criminal public defenders in Brooklyn. Keli clerked during law school for Legal Outreach Inc. and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Keli has also worked as a research consultant for the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in New York City, where she worked on policies to reduce the population on Rikers Island and racial disparity throughout the criminal justice system. Keli graduated cum laude from Tufts University with a degree in psychology.

Sara Yousuf, senior legal counsel, spent 13 years as an assistant public defender in Miami before joining The Justice Collaborative. As an Assistant Public Defender, Sara served as a line-attorney, a felony and juvenile trainer, and as a senior attorney. Sara also co-founded and chaired Engage Miami, a nonprofit dedicated to cultivating a generation of civically-engaged young people. Sara graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 2005.