Our Staff

The LatinoJustice PRLDEF staff is dedicated to the work of protecting the rights of Latinos. Interested in joining our staff as an intern? Click here.

Juan Cartagena
President and General Counsel

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan is an Associate Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF, focusing on working with low-wage Latina immigrant workers as part of the LAW (Latinas at Work) initiative. Natasha has worked on gender and racial justice issues, including access to reproductive health, sexual violence and violence against women in conflict zones. Prior to joining LatinoJustice, she was a Staff Attorney in the International Women's Human Rights Clinic at CUNY School of Law. She clerked for the Hon. Ronald L. Ellis in the Southern District of New York and was an Ella Baker Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Natasha graduated from CUNY School of Law.

Natasha is President-Elect of the National Lawyers Guild, the nation's largest and oldest progressive bar association, and Co-Chairs its Subcommittee on Puerto Rico. She has advocated before international human rights bodies and has filed petitions and amicus briefs before regional and international entities, including filing a merits petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on human rights violations in the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico by the United States government. Natasha has authored several articles on gender and human rights and is barred in the states of New York and New Jersey.

Jackson Chin is a Senior Counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF where he focuses on impact litigation, advocacy and community education related to civil rights, voting rights, and immigrant rights. On language and employment discrimination matters, he has obtained over $550,000 in settlement amounts for groups of Latino workers.

Before joining LatinoJustice PRLDEF in 2000, he defended mostly indigent clients in immigration courts and directed Safe Horizon’s Immigration Law Project as its Supervising Attorney. He has also held attorney positions at Legal Aid Society of New York (juvenile rights/family law), Center for Immigrants Rights (immigrant rights), Chinese Staff & Workers Association /Chinatown Immigrant Rights Project (immigrant rights /labor law / organizing), and New York City Commission On Human Rights(Title VII /City Human Rights law).

Jackson is a native-born first generation New Yorker and product of Chinese immigrant parents who toiled in the city’s low wage garment and restaurant industries. He is proficient in several Chinese dialects, French and conversational Spanish. He attended the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, The City College of New York (CUNY) and Bronx Science, and did a graduate fellowship at Washington University at St. Louis.

Joanna Cuevas Ingram joined LatinoJustice PRLDEF  as an Associate Counsel in September of 2014. A recognized civil rights scholar, Joanna brings over a decade of successful community-based organizing, program and policy advocacy experience to LJP. Prior to joining LJP, Joanna served as an Equal Justice Works Voting Rights Fellow and an Attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR). At LCCR, Joanna engaged in voting rights impact litigation and community-based redistricting, testified before the California State Legislature and the National Commission on Voting Rights, produced a key 50-page report on Voting Rights Barriers & Discrimination in Twenty-First Century California in response to Shelby County v. Holder, and provided essential Know Your Rights workshops for communities throughout California. Joanna has made numerous presentations on voting rights protections, including as a guest lecturer at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis and U.C. Hastings law school.   Her legal scholarship is published in the Harvard Latino Law Review, North Carolina Law Review and Daily Journal; and her work has been featured in Immigration Prof Blog, the L.A. Times, Sacramento Bee and San José Mercury News.

Originally from Oakland, California, Joanna received her J.D. from U.C. Davis School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the U.C. Davis Journal of International Law & Policy, and where she assisted clients with immigration and naturalization at the U.C. Davis Immigration Law Clinic and El Consulado General de México in Sacramento, California. Joanna was also a 2011 U.C. Human Rights Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York, and is a graduate of Occidental College in Los Angeles. She enjoys cooking traditional cocina Panameña with her husband, listening to Rubén Blades, and playing a good game of soccer on the weekends.

Lydiette Diaz is the Executive Assistant to the President and General Counsel. A native of Puerto Rico, Lydiette has always had a profound interest in the Latino community and the Latino experience within and beyond the borders of the United States. She received her BA from Rutgers University, where she double majored in Political Science and Hispanic Caribbean Studies.

Lydiette also has a MA from the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University. Her concentrations included Latin America, Human Rights and International Law, and her master’s research project focused on the effects of conditional cash transfer programs in Mexico and Brazil.

Lydiette previously worked as an Assistant to the Dean of International Programs and Special Projects at Seton Hall University’s School of Law. Additionally, Lydiette has worked as a paralegal and as an intern at the International Institute of New Jersey, where she witnessed first-hand the challenges of immigrants in the United States. These experiences led her to LatinoJustice PRLDEF where she hopes to further the mission of protecting the rights of all Latinos.

John Garcia is the Director of Communications and Redistricting Manager for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Before joining LatinoJustice, John was a VP, Content and Programming, for NBC Television Stations, Interactive. He also served as an Integration Leader for NBC/Telemundo and as an Executive Producer for WNBC. John also served as the Executive Producer of NewsChannel4.Com and for MSNBC on the Internet.

John joined NBC from New York University, where he served as Director of Digital Journalism in the Department of Journalism. Before that, he was a reporter for the New York Daily News, Miami Herald, Miami News, Gannet Westchester Newspapers, and several other newspapers and magazines.

John is a native of New York City’s Lower East Side and a graduate of Hunter College. He is the author of Hispanic Magazine, a book about magazine publishing, and is a former National Racquetball Champion.

Marisabel Kanioros-Abbas is the Legal Assistant for LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She assists the Associate General Counsel andthe Legal Division attorneys. In her support role, she provides administrative support, drafts document translations and interprets for staff and clients. She screens and provides intake and referral to public inquiries received at LatinoJustice. These issues relate to Latino callers in need of advice and information regarding job discrimination, housing, immigration and social services. She also is involved with supervision and training of high school volunteers.

Marisabel has worked for 15 years in the community, including prior employment at Catholic Charities of New York, Community Services-Administrative Services, as a Unit Support Supervisor Manager and for Safe Horizon as an Office Manager for the Domestic Violence Unit, Immigration Unit, Hotline Immigration, Refugee, and Education Unit. She is an active member of Bolivian Charities, Inc. and Club La Paz, which are Bolivian-American organizations that help people in need. She organizes an annual Christmas toy drive to benefit indigenous children in Bolivia.

Alan Levine , a civil rights and constitutional lawyer, began his legal career on Wall Street, from which he took a leave of absence during the Freedom Summer of 1964 to represent civil rights activists in Alabama and Mississippi. That fall he resigned from his law firm to continue doing civil rights work in the south, then returned to NYC where he worked as a New York Civil Liberties Union staff lawyer for the next 13 years. During that time, he directed NYCLU's students' rights project, co-authored the book, The Rights of Students, and litigated cases, including in the US Supreme Court, involving a broad range of civil rights and civil liberties issues. He was also an active participant in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville struggle for community control of the schools. He has taught constitutional litigation at NYC law schools and for five years directed Hofstra Law School's Constitutional Law Clinic. 

During two years when he lived in Costa Rica, he worked with an indigenous rights organization to establish the right of Costa Rican Indians to choose traditional forms of self-government.

For more than ten years, Levine has been special counsel to LatinoJusticePRLDEF, for which he has successfully fought efforts of local communities to keep day laborers from gathering in public places to solicit employment.

Levine has also been active in the fight against Islamophobia. In a National Law Journal article, he described the harms to the New York Muslim community resulting from the NYPD’s surveillance program, and questioned its constitutionality. In the fall of 2007, when Mayor Bloomberg, bowing to anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice, forced Debbie Almontaser to resign as principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, he undertook a three-year legal battle, leading to an Equal Employment Opportunities Commission determination that, in forcing Debbie's resignation, City officials -- in the EEOC's words -- had “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel, and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on the DOE as an employer.”

Levine also contributes to Beyond the Pale radio show on WBAI.

Foster Maer is the Senior Litigation Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. He joined the Legal Division in 1996 and has represented Latinos and others in federal court actions challenging: ordinances passed in Hazleton, PA and Riverside, NJ, requiring documentation of immigration status to rent a home or obtain a job; lengthy delays in the naturalization process depriving people of the ability to vote in the 2008 elections; the manner in which I.C.E conducted home raids looking for undocumented immigrants; and discriminatory police actions targeting Latino day laborers in Mamaroneck, NY, and Freehold, NJ.

Prior to joining LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Mr. Maer had almost 20 years of legal experience representing the needs of low-income communities as Director of Legal Work at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A; as staff attorney at Legal Aid Society in Queens and New York and at Connecticut Legal Services in Bridgeport. Mr. Maer was class counsel for Jiggetts v. Perales, a successful challenge to the adequacy of the New York State's grant for shelter and housing for public assistance households with children, and McCain v. Koch, a successful challenge to New York City's failure to provide adequate emergency housing to homeless families. He is graduate of Harvard College and obtained his J.D. from Northeastern University.

Maritza Maldonado is the Education Associate at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She is the administrative assistant to the Education Director. Maritza began working at LatinoJustice in 1987, and as the organization’s longest tenured employee, has become its unofficial historian.

She first joined the staff as the receptionist, where her kind, nurturing demeanor with our constituents and students became an invaluable asset. Her willingness to help her coworkers and learn new skills resulted in her also taking on the role of Assistant to the Office Manager in 1994. Maritza’s consistent support of the LatinoJustice Legal Education Programs, finally led to her being hired by the Director as department’s Associate in the year 2000, and transitioned into a full-time administrative role.

Prior to joining LatinoJustice, Maritza was employed at the Henry Street Settlement working with Senior Citizens. Thereafter, she became a stay-at-home mom to her son. While at home, she attended Boricua College studying Human Resources until the birth of her second child, her only daughter. She has successfully raised four children, three boys and one girl, and is a loving grandmother of six.

Diana DeJesus-Medina is the Director of Development at LatinoJustice. Diana has more than 15 years of nonprofit organizational and fund development experience. As a development officer for such diverse organizations as the YWCA of Brooklyn, the American Folk Art Museum and the NYC Board of Education, Diana has provided guidance and support for board and staff to increase donation revenue from foundations, corporations and individuals, as well as through event sponsorships. She has organized volunteers, training conferences and special events.

During her tenure with Family Promise, a national nonprofit that establishes and supports local affiliates across the country to shelter and serve homeless families with children, Diana led local affiliate board and staff in organizational development and strategic planning, and provided training on board and fund development. As a volunteer, Diana supports and raises funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and for a homeless shelter in her New Jersey community.

David Mehr is the Developlment Consultant at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. David Mehr brings years of philanthropic fundraising and management experience to Semple Bixel Associates, Inc. and clients. His commitment to service began in 1984 when he was a counselor at Maine’s legendary Camp Chewonki. Still committed to serving others, Mr. Mehr assists non-profits in navigating the challenging and rewarding paths to philanthropic growth and long-term sustainability.

Mr. Mehr graduated from Williston-Northampton School in Easthampton, Massachusetts. He received a B.A. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a M.A. in Communications Industries Management from Emerson College in Boston.

Silvia Orna is the Director of Human Resources and Operations at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Silvia oversees office-wide activities in the areas of project planning and scheduling, budget planning and administration as well as new systems design and implementation. As the Human Resources Director, Silvia develops and implements human resources guidelines in the areas of policy, benefits and organizational development.

Silvia’s work experience includes the Latin American Corporation for Development and The Document Company Xerox International in Ecuador. She has an MA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from New York University. She graduated Magna Cum Laude form San Francisco de Quito University in Ecuador with a degree in Psychology. Silvia has an International Bachelor Degree in Physics and Mathematics from the IB Association, Geneva Switzerland. She is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management and the Metropolitan New York Association of Applied Psychology in the United States.

She was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador and has lived in NYC since 2000. She is fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese. She is an active practitioner of Capoeira Angola, loves to travel and sometimes dances tango.

Martha Pardo joined LatinoJustice PRLDEF in July 2014 as the Associate Counsel for LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Southeast Regional Office in Orlando, FL. Martha’s work focuses on civil and voting rights. Martha serves as the primary contact for the Southeast Regional Office and leads LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s efforts in the region.

For most of her legal career, Martha has advocated for low-income individuals’ rights primarily in housing and public benefits. Martha worked at Legal Services and Legal Aid organizations in both North and South Florida before relocating to the Orlando area to join LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s legal team. Martha is a member of the Florida Bar and was recently appointed to serve on the Bar’s Student Education/Admissions to the Bar Committee.

She is a Florida Certified Circuit Civil Mediator. Martha received her Juris Doctor degree from Florida Coastal School of Law and her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Florida International University.

Sonji Patrick is the Director of Education Programs at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She has been with LatinoJustice for 12 years working solely on pipeline initiatives. As the current director, Sonji works to cultivate the next generation of community leaders by promoting diversity in the legal profession. She manages all pre-law programming and will oversee the new Cesar A. Perales Leadership Institute.

Programs include the LSAT Prep Course, LAWbound®, JD Prep Institute, LSAT-to-JD workshop series, one-on-one counseling services and a new high school scholars program launched this year (2011). Sonji also executes the organization’s signature event, LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Annual Law Day. Sonji makes regular presentations at NY area colleges, addressing pre-law groups and student organizations on law school admissions. She serves on the New York State Bar Association, Diversity Committee as part of their Youth Law Day planning group. She has contributed to pre-law guides, and written articles for the CLEO Edge and the NYSBA Pro Bono Newsletter. Sonji is also a member of the Northeast Association Pre-Law Advisors and Pre-Law Advisors National Council.

Jose Luis Perez is the Deputy General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. Jose is LatinoJustice’s Litigation Director and oversees the Legal Division, recognized nationally for its law reform impact litigation that has profoundly improved the way Latinos are treated in our society. He also works very closely with LJP’s Communications & Community Engagement and the Education Divisions on the organization’s many innovative pipeline pre-law and leadership programs. Jose has mentored countless high school, college and law students of color over the years.

Jose is entering his 30th year as a public interest lawyer. He began his legal career as a prosecutor with the Queens County District Attorney’s Office and the NYC Housing Authority’s Anti-Narcotics Strike Force. He worked for over ten years at the NYC Legal Aid Society, initially as a staff attorney in the Juvenile Rights Division representing children in Family Court child protective, foster care, delinquency and PINS proceedings; and was subsequently appointed a supervising attorney in LAS’ Civil Division in the Brooklyn and Harlem Neighborhood Offices overseeing the housing and family law practices. He spent a year at Hofstra Law School’s Community Legal Assistance program supervising student attorneys in the Housing Rights and Disabilities Law Clinics while teaching lawyering and litigation skills. He also served as an Assistant Attorney General, Deputy Chief, and Acting Chief of the NYS Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds & Protection Bureau before joining LatinoJustice. Jose helped to create the OAG’s groundbreaking initiative to protect Hispanic and other immigrant consumers, specializing in investigating immigration services and notario fraud cases.

Jose is a 1985 graduate of St. John’s University School of Law where he created the “Spanish Street Law” community education program as a student. He continues to be involved with the award-winning Street Law en Espanol program as it is now called, working with NYC Metro-area LALSA student groups conduct Spanish-language know your rights workshops at local parishes, public libraries and community groups.

Cal Soto is a 2014 Ford Foundation Public Interest Fellowship recipient, and Joined LatinoJustice PRLDEF in September, 2014. He helms the Rights Restoration Project at LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Southeast Regional Office in Orlando, Florida.

Cal graduated from the Yale Law School in May, 2014, where he focused on criminal justice reform and legislative advocacy. As a member of the Legislative Advocacy Clinic he developed legislative proposals to assist recovering addicts and formerly incarcerated individuals, and partnered with the Center for Children’s Advocacy in the CT State Legislature to advocate for changes on behalf of students in the care and custody of the state. He also co-lead the Green Haven Prison Project. He spent his summers working with Make the Road New York representing indigent Latino clients in New York Housing Court and with the Public Defender Service of Washington, D.C., in their trial division.

Cal graduated cum laude from Harvard College in 2009 with a B.A. in Social Studies and Spanish.

Rights Restoration Project:
Many Latino former offenders in Florida continue to be partial citizens because they have not had their cases heard by Florida’s clemency board. The Rights Restoration Project will represent those previously convicted of felonies in their clemency hearings enabling them to participate in democratic processes that promote accountability in the justice system.

Christine Rickoff Tirado is the Development Manager at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She has over a decade of experience in not-for-profit fundraising. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from New York University, Christine worked in editorial and marketing positions at several publishing firms including Matthew Bender and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She served as an editor in acquisitions and development and at W.H. Freeman and Company where she managed the Scientific American Reader Series and at Saunders College Publishing in Philadelphia.

Christine moved from publishing to not-for-profit Development beginning as a grant writer at Harlem United Community Aids Center. She served as Development Associate at Aaron Davis Hall –the theater on the campus of City College– where she managed annual fund appeals and individual donor cultivation in addition to grant writing for program and general operating support. Christine served as Senior Development Associate and Communications Manager at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service where she managed events including the gala silent auction and journal book, wrote grants and produced annual reports and newsletters. A lifelong avid reader, Christine has served as a literacy volunteer with the New York Public Library.

Rhadaisis Rodriguez has been LatinoJustice's Chief Administrative Assistant and receptionist for 10 years. Rhady's responsibilities include providing valuable support to the all of the LatinoJustice staff.

Rhady graduated with honors from the University of Dominican Republic in 1994 in Executive Secretary Management, and from Hostos Community College, where she obtained an AA in Secretarial Sciences. “Being the administrative assistant at LatinoJustice PRLDEF represent a tremendous responsibility for me. Welcoming the staff and visitors every day with professionalism and courtesy is my goal.”

Rosanna Rosado is the Chief Financial Officer of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She brings 15 years of fiscal and operations management within the nonprofit community; positioning organizations for solid financial footing, optimizing their operations; devising systems and controls to improve business processes; securing scope, adequacy and integrity of their fiscal and internal controls; securing budgetary compliance and organizational objectives. A longtime advocate for social and racial justice, as a former community organizer working with marginalized communities.

Rosanna obtained an MBA from Iona Hagan School of Business in Management & Finance, with a Certificate in International Business and an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the College of New Rochelle.

Nancy Trasande joined LatinoJustice PRLDEF as Senior Counsel in April of 2012. In that capacity, she has served as lead trial counsel in several matters directed at improving the political and working conditions of Latino communities within the United States, involving voting rights, police misconduct, and employment related litigation. Most notably, Nancy spearheaded a Section 2 Voting Rights Act trial, Rios-Andino v. Orange County, advocating for the creation of a Hispanic-majority county commission district in Orange County, Florida.

Prior to joining LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Nancy served as a Research and Writing Specialist to the Federal Defenders of the Middle District of Georgia, Inc. and taught Advanced Legal Writing as an Adjunct Professor at Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law in Macon, Georgia. Nancy was also a Global Litigation Associate with Howrey LLP in both its Washington, DC and New York, NY offices. As a law student, she interned for the Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Court Judge for the District of Columbia and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Nancy received her law degree from Rutgers University School of Law-Newark. She is also a graduate of Harvard University where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Comparative Literature.

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