Public Law Center is a dedicated team of legal professionals that has provided pro-bono legal services to low-income residents of Orange County since 1981, providing legal assistance and coordinating the pro-bono services of over 1,500 attorneys throughout Orange County.
Program, Administrative & Development Staff
Kenneth W. Babcock, Executive Director And General Counsel
In his 16 years as head of the Public Law Center, Ken has significantly expanded PLC to provide pro bono legal assistance to more Orange County low-income residents. Ken is responsible for PLC’s overall leadership, direction and financial health. In addition to his role with PLC, Ken is heavily involved in bench and bar activities. As a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice from 2006 to 2012, he served as vice-chair of the Commission (2009-11) and co-chair of the Commission’s Funding Committee (2007-12).
Ken has received numerous awards for his work, including the Dorsey Award from the American Bar Association’s Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division (2010); Attorney of the Year Award from the Hispanic Bar Association of Orange County (2009), and the Bernard E. Witkin Amicus Curiae Award from the Judicial Council of California (2008). In 2003 and again in 2008, he was named by the Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in California.
Prior to joining PLC in September 2000, Ken was the Director of Litigation & Advocacy at Public Counsel in Los Angeles and the Directing Attorney of Public Counsel’s Consumer Law Project. Before joining Public Counsel, he was a litigator in a large law firm and then a small law firm. Ken is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of California, Davis School of Law.
Jorge A. Alvarado, Director of Litigation, Training and Advocacy
Jorge serves as PLC’s first-ever Director of Litigation, Training and Advocacy. He immigrated at the age of four from San Jose, Costa Rica to Los Angeles, California. Jorge attended Drake University Law School attaining a Juris Doctorate in 1982. After admission to the California Bar, he settled in Ventura County and began providing legal services to the poor and disenfranchised. In 2000, Jorge became the Assistant Public Defender for Riverside County.
He later relocated again to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2009 to become the Managing Attorney at New Mexico Legal Aid, Inc. In 2013, Jorge was appointed the first Chief Public Defender for the State of New Mexico, providing executive leadership for the largest law firm in New Mexico with approximately 226 lawyers and contracting with approximately 160 private attorneys. He was most recently the Legal Director at Enlace Comunitario, a non-profit in Albuquerque providing comprehensive assistance to survivors of domestic violence.
Leigh Ferrin, Directing Attorney & Pro Bono Director
Practice Areas: Consumer Law, Operation Veterans Re-Entry
As head of PLC’s Consumer Law and Bankruptcy Unit, Leigh provides direct legal services to low-income clients in need of assistance with debt collection defense, student loan disputes, identity theft, foreclosure prevention, bankruptcy and other consumer-related issues. She also provides support to volunteer attorneys assisting PLC clients with these cases. Leigh supervises three of PLC’s courthouse-based self-help clinics, one at the Federal District Court and two at the Bankruptcy Court, all in Santa Ana.
Leigh is a member of the Orange County Bar Association Commercial Law & Bankruptcy Section, the Orange County Bankruptcy Forum, the Orange County Federal Bar Association and the National Association of Consumer Advocates. She also serves on the Collaborative Council of the Orange County Housing Opportunities Collaborative. Prior to her position as Lead Attorney, Leigh was a Staff Attorney and an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow at PLC.
After graduating from Pomona College, Leigh received her J.D. in 2008 from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. Leigh’s article, “Pencil Me In: The Use of Title IX and Section 1983 to Obtain Equal Treatment in High School Athletics Scheduling” was published in American University’s The Modern American in 2007.
Ugochi Anaebere-Nicholson, Directing Attorney
Practice Areas: Housing and Homelessness Prevention
Ugochi serves as the Directing Attorney for the Housing and Homelessness Prevention Unit PLC. Before joining PLC, Ugochi served as Managing Attorney for the Indio Branch Office of Inland Counties Legal Services where she supervised advocates and support staff, and represented low-income residents of Coachella Valley. There she maintained a portfolio in a wide variety of areas, including, housing (eviction defense), public benefits, family, and immigration law (U-Visa and VAWA).
Ugochi was also a legal aid attorney in Los Angeles with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County’s Housing and Consumer Law Team and she directed pro bono legal services in the Central Valley at Central California Legal Services. Ugochi earned her Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in Political Science from UCLA, and her Juris Doctor Degree from Southwestern Law School.
Sarah Efthymiou, Senior Lead Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Community Organizations Legal Assistance Project (COLAP)
Sarah provides pro bono legal services to nonprofit organizations and groups that want to form new charitable organizations. She helps build the capacity of organizations that serve PLC’s clients and Orange County’s low-income and underrepresented communities in general. Additionally, she teaches seminars on how to start a nonprofit organization and collaborates with community nonprofit technical assistance providers to hold a number of other legal education seminars. Sarah is a graduate of University of Redlands and Syracuse University College of Law. Prior to joining PLC, she was in private practice, with a focus on business and corporate law.
Jacquelyn Santos, Lead staff Attorney – Immigration
Practice Area: Immigration Law
Jacquelyn is the lead staff attorney of the Immigration Unit at the Public Law Center. She leads a team of three lawyers and three non-lawyer professionals to provide high quality legal services to a wide range of immigrants, including legal permanent residents, unaccompanied minors, and domestic violence survivors. Jacquelyn has a passion for protecting families as well as fighting for the best interests of her clients. Her primary practice area is representation of unaccompanied minors. Prior to joining the Public Law Center Jacquelyn gained experience in the areas of children’s rights, guardianships, family law and immigration and performed pro bono work for the Alliance for Children’s Rights. Jacquelyn received her B.A. from U.C. Irvine and her J.D. from Drake University School of Law where she graduated with High Honors. Jacquelyn is also a member of the Honorable Society of the Blackstone Inn of Court.
Manohar Sukumar, Lead Staff Attorney
Practice Area: Health Law
Manohar is the Lead Staff Attorney for the Health Unit at PLC. Before PLC, he worked more than four years as a Staff Attorney at the Health Consumer Action Center of Legal Aid Society of Orange County. There, Manohar worked on a Blue Shield Foundation grant project to make policy recommendations to the Orange County Health Care Agency regarding the Low Income Health Project (Medical Services Initiative). He also conducted outreach to educate community stakeholders about the Affordable Care Act. At PLC, Manohar continues to do consumer advocacy on health care benefits eligibility and service-related issues for indigent clients, and also works extensively with AIDS patients and with medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) through various hospitals. He holds an undergraduate degree from UCLA, a Master of Public Health in Community Health Education from Cal State Long Beach, and a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School.
Emma Elizabeth Gonzalez, Senior Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Consumer Law
Emma Elizabeth focuses on the areas of consumer law and self-help clinics. She staffs the Federal Pro Se Clinic in Santa Ana and assists with Public Law Center’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy Reaffirmation and Guardianship Clinics for unrepresented individuals. Prior to joining PLC, Elizabeth practiced labor and employment litigation at Loeb & Loeb LLP. Before attending law school, Elizabeth spent five years working in development at the ACLU of Southern California and Manhattan Theatre Club, and two years working as a community organizer with Cornerstone Theater Company. Elizabeth graduated from the University of Southern California, where she was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band and from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.
Fernando Acuna, Jr., Staff Attorney
Practice Area: Family Law, Immigration Law
Fernando is a staff attorney in both the Family Law and Immigration Units of PLC. He was most recently the Deputy Public Administrator in the Orange County Office of the District Attorney, where he handled a wide portfolio of matters. Fernando has also worked for the Ayco Company, a Goldman Sachs Company. Fernando is a graduate of Whittier Law School and Cal State Fullerton. He also previously served as a Sheriff Special Officer and Police Cadet in the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Santa Ana Police Department, respectively.
Jonathan Gibson, Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Housing and Homelessness Prevention
Jonathan works in PLC’s Health and Veterans Units, focusing largely on housing issues. Before coming to PLC, Jonathan worked at the Disability Rights Legal Center, representing clients in litigation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jonathan also worked in the Sargent Shriver eviction defense program at Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance where he helped tenants avoid homelessness and unsafe living conditions. While attending Georgetown University Law Center, Jonathan participated in a citywide eviction defense clinic with D.C. Law Students in Court and was Executive Articles Editor for the Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy. During law school summers, Jonathan clerked with PLC and Inner City Law Center. He is a graduate of Chapman University.
Kari Gibson, Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Consumer Law
Kari works in the Consumer Law Unit, providing direct services in the areas of bankruptcy, debt collection defense, student loan discharge, and contract disputes. Kari also staffs the Federal Pro Se, Bankruptcy, and Bankruptcy Reaffirmation Clinics. Kari graduated from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. While in law school, she worked in the chambers of the Honorable Josephine Staton (C.D. Cal.). She was also an extern at the ACLU-Southern California and Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and was a legal fellow at the USC Annenberg Center on Communication & Policy. Prior to law school, Kari got her Masters in Applied Linguistics from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she received an award for scholarly excellence for her thesis entitled “English Only Court Cases Involving the U.S. Workplace: the myths of language use and the homogenization of bilingual workers’ identities”. For ten years, she taught composition and English at schools such as University of California Irvine, California State University at Long Beach, and University of Hawaii. Kari’s undergraduate degree was from the USC School of Cinema-Television, and she worked in the entertainment industry in such places as Sony Pictures Entertainment, Rolling Stone magazine, and the South by Southwest Music Festival.
Karina Gutierrez, Staff Attorney
Practice Area: Immigration Law
Karina is a staff attorney with the immigration unit at PLC where she handles a wide range of immigration petitions on behalf of immigrants seeking to gain legal status or naturalize. During law school, Karina served as the Associate Editor of the Golden Gate Environmental Law Journal and interned with Catholic Charities of the East Bay and Women’s Employment Rights Clinic in the Bay Area. She also regularly volunteered with the Asian Pacific Islander Outreach legal clinic. Prior to joining PLC, Karina clerked with a private solo-immigration attorney. Karina obtained her J.D. from Golden Gate University and her undergraduate degree from State University of Fullerton where she double majored in psychology and political science.
Michelle Kim Kotval, Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Housing & Homelessness Prevention Unit
Michelle works in the Public Law Center’s Housing and Homelessness Prevention Unit. Michelle works with a team of attorneys and support staff to protect the rights of tenants in Orange County. During law school, Michelle externed for Judge Harry Pregerson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She also interned with Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), working on environmental matters affecting low-income communities. Before law school, Michelle worked with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. Michelle earned her J.D. from UC Berkeley School of Law and her B.A. from the University of Southern California.
Petra Mitsuko Moreno, Staff Attorney
Practice Area: Health Law
Petra is a staff attorney in the Health Law unit, providing legal services to low-income Orange County residents facing health-related legal issues. Through the Medical-Legal Partnership model and the AIDS Legal Assistance Project, Petra advocates on behalf of a very vulnerable population. Petra’s interest in health law began while completing an externship at the Cancer Legal Resource Center in Los Angeles, where she assisted cancer patients who were encountering legal obstacles surrounding their cancer diagnoses. During law school, Petra clerked in the probate department of the Los Angeles Superior Court, serving as judicial extern to the Honorable Roy L. Paul. Prior to joining PLC, Petra worked for a private practice on estate planning and probate matters, during which she also volunteered at PLC’s guardianship clinic. Petra earned her B.A. from UCLA and her J.D. from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.
Ayami Nieves, Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Family Law
Ayami works in the PLC’s Family Law Unit. A large part of her work is devoted to four legal clinics: Domestic Violence Assistance Program (DVAP), Guardianship, La Habra’s Family Resource Center, and the Melinda Hoag Smith Center for Healthy Living. During law school, Ayami worked in Whittier Law School’s Children’s Rights Clinic, gaining experience on guardianships, limited conservatorships, and immigration cases. After law school, Ayami was a volunteer and fellow with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County. A Santa Ana native, Ayami received her JD degree in from Whittier Law School and a BA from the UC San Diego.
Tessa Riggio, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow
Practice Areas: Operation Veterans Re-Entry
Tessa is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow in the Veterans Unit. Tessa practices in general civil law issues that impact low-income veteran clients, with a focus on securing VA disability benefits and obtaining discharge upgrades for clients. Tessa graduated with her B.A. from the UC Davis and earned her JD from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.
Josie Roberto, Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Immigration Law
Josie works in the Immigration Unit where she assists low-income immigrants in filing for various forms of immigration relief, with a focus on assisting victims of domestic violence, serious crimes and human trafficking, unaccompanied minors, and immigrants who wish to apply for citizenship. Prior to joining PLC as a Staff Attorney, Josie practiced Elder Abuse litigation. During law school, Josie interned at PLC, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Law Firm of Higbee & Associates. Josie was also a clinical student at the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic for two years. Josie earned her J.D. from Loyola Law School and her B.A. from Cal State Fullerton.
Solange Rousset, Staff Attorney
Practice Areas: Health Law, Immigration Law
Solange is a staff attorney working in both the Health Law and Immigration Law Units. Her practice includes direct representation, clinic based assistance to self-represented litigants. Previously, she worked in PLC’s Health and Family Law units as a UCI Public Interest Legal Fellow. Solange is a graduate of University of California, Irvine School of Law and The University of Tulsa.
Diana Spix, Staff Attorney
Practice Area: Immigration Law
Diana works in the Immigration Law unit, providing pro bono legal services to the immigrant community. She has a passion for combating unmet legal needs and advocating for immigrant rights. Diana graduated from California Western School of Law in 2015. She earned her B.A. from the University of California San Diego in 2012, where she majored in ethnic studies and was a member of the UCSD Women’s Rugby Team.
Ryan Ueda, Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Veterans Legal Corps Fellow
Practice Area: Operation Veterans Re-Entry
Ryan is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Veterans Legal Corps Fellow assisting veterans with civil legal issues in the Veterans Unit. During law school, Ryan volunteered with PLC in the Bankruptcy Clinic. Prior to joining PLC, Ryan worked as a Civil Rights Fellow in the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Ryan has undergraduate degrees from the UC Irvine and Cal State LA, and is a graduate of the UC Irvine School of Law.
Practice Areas: Mobilehome Law and Housing & Homelessness Prevention Unit
Richard works in the Public Law Center’s Housing and Homelessness Prevention Unit and works with PLC’s Consumer Unit on mobilehome issues. Richard represents low-income tenants in eviction defense cases, provides legal assistance to mobilehome owners, advocates on behalf of homeless and low-income individuals for improved housing policies and assistance in local municipalities, and provides legal assistance in a variety of other housing issues. Richard also works with local pro bono attorneys on impact cases addressing a wide range of issues including land use, affordable housing, habitability, discrimination, and other housing-related matters. Before law school, Richard was a junior high math teacher. Richard graduated from J. Reuben Clark Law School and has a B.A. from Utah State University.
Catherine Ogilvie, Director of Operations
Prior to joining PLC as its first-ever Director of Operations, Catherine spent two decades in senior leadership positions in Orange County non-profits and corporations. As a member of PLC’s senior leadership and management team, Catherine is in charge of the organization’s operations, finances, facilities and human resources.
Previously, Catherine served for seven years as the Director of Operations for the Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center Foundation. While with the Foundation, Catherine received the Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center Leadership Award for four straight years beginning in 2009. She also has management experience in legal services and worldwide legal for Quest Software Inc. and Ingram Micro Inc. Catherine received her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University and her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business from Pepperdine University.
Jazmina Castillo, Project Coordinator
Jazmina works in the Health Law Unit at PLC focusing on its Medical-Legal Partnerships and AIDS Legal Assistance Project. She is in charge of the Unit’s project administration, information collection, data management and coordination of legal services related to health. In addition to providing direct support to clients addressing those social determinants of health, Jazmina interface with community-based non-profit organizations, government agencies and other providers of services to those living with HIV/AIDS in order to keep abreast of community needs; contributing to the success of our AIDS Legal Assistance Project, and making the Medical-Legal Partnership model possible.
Prior to joining PLC, Jazmina worked as a Research Assistant at the “University of California Los Angeles”, in the UCLA Survey Research Center, where she specialized in interviewing clients for multicultural HIV/AIDS Projects. Her experience also includes serving as Bookkeeper at “Women Organizing Resources Knowledge and Services” (W.O.R.K.S.), an affordable housing and community development nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, and as a Childcare Coordinator and Social Advocate at “House of Ruth”, a Shelter for Homeless Women and Children in Los Angeles. Jazmina earned her Degree in Psychology at the National University of Colombia, School of Human Sciences. She also holds certifications in Business Administration and Law.
Aimee Dau, Bookkeeper
Aimee joined the PLC in July 2016 as bookkeeper. Aimee is responsible for the processing of grants, and operating disbursements. She manages the day-to-day accounting and financial reporting activities while collaborating with all levels within PLC to ensure timely and accurate financial information is provided to both internal and external clients.
April Feary Schley, Special Events Manager
April brings more than 10 years of extensive experience in special event and volunteer management, fundraising, and donor relations to the Public Law Center. She has planned hundreds of events for a wide variety of organizations including the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum, Disneyland, the U.S. Army, and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. April received a Bachelor’s Degree from Pepperdine University. She primarily focuses her time on the annual Volunteers for Justice Dinner, working closely with the Silent Auction committee.
Evelyn Fuentes, Senior Administrative Assistant/Intake Specialist
A resident of Orange County, Evelyn was born in the City of Orange, but was raised primarily in Mexico and Los Angeles County. She graduated from Saddleback High School. Currently, she attends Santa Ana College. In December 2004, Evelyn began volunteering at PLC through the Service Learning Center at Santa Ana College. Evelyn was awarded the Presidential Award in May 2005 and also received a grant for contributing over a hundred hours of community service.
Rosa Hernandez, VOCA Project Coordinator
Rosa is the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Project Coordinator. She strives to ensure that victims of crime receive holistic legal services at PLC and connects clients with additional services provided by community partner organizations. Rosa graduated from UC Berkeley, is an alumna of the Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellowship, and is a U.S. Department of Justice Accredited Immigration Law Practitioner. Prior to joining PLC, Rosa worked with San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County workers unions to organize undocumented workers against wage theft and for just immigration reform.
Grace Landa, Executive Assistant
Grace Landa joined PLC in May 2013, and is the executive assistant to Ken Babcock. A seasoned professional with over 20 years increasingly complex administrative experience in several different industries including legal, medical and homebuilding, she is able to tailor her skills to best meet the ever changing needs of her position at PLC. A long time Orange County resident, Grace is grateful to have the opportunity to work with a team so committed to serving the most vulnerable of Orange County residents. Grace and her husband live in South Orange County, enjoying most of her free time with family and friends, traveling, and spending time with her two rescue dogs: Lucy and Dezi.
Erika Magallanes, Receptionist
Erika is the receptionist at Public Law Center. She was born and raised in Orange County. Erila graduated from Saddleback High School and received a Seal of Biliteracy on her high school diploma. She also received a certificate for Medical Billing and Coding from Taller San Jose. Erika hopes to continue her education and helping low income individuals.
Jacob Ramsay, Database Manager
Jacob’s core responsibilities include tracking donor data and maintaining the integrity of the client database. He uses information gathered from the client database to prepare annual reports for the State Bar of California. In addition to these tasks, Jacob also assists the Development Department in managing and recording donor information for special events. Jacob received a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Information Systems from Cal Poly Pomona.
Fara Rodriguez, Administrative Assistant
Fara Rodriguez is an administrative assistant to the Immigration Unit at PLC. She is glad to be helping her community, especially those who have less visibility. She feels empowered and accomplished when able to help provide necessary resources and information to people in Santa Ana and throughout Orange County. By working closely with lawyers and paralegals, she helps make legal services more accessible to Latinx communities. Fara is fluent in Spanish, a skill that helps break down language barriers and makes clients feel more comfortable and represented. Fara particularly enjoys devoting her time to meeting with clients at different events such as DACA clinics which facilitate the process of applying for DACA.
Liliana Rosas, Paralegal
Liliana is a certified Paralegal for the Immigration Unit. Even before she completed her Paralegal certificate, Liliana volunteered with the Immigration Unit at PLC. Liliana is fluent in Spanish and she has experience interviewing and working with minors, especially those who have experienced trauma. Liliana has experience assisting in drafting petitions for special immigrant juvenile status, adjustments of status applications, asylum applications, requests for employment authorizations, requests for fee waivers, naturalization applications and more.
Roxana Rosas, Project Coordinator
Roxana is responsible for providing legal assistance to Orange County’s low income community with immigration issues, particularly with victims of domestic violence. Roxana first worked with PLC as a volunteer, earning the Wiley W. Manuel certificate for pro bono legal services. Roxana continues to strive towards her educational goals by continuing her studies in pre law.
Diana Santa Cruz, Paralegal
Diana is a paralegal for PLC’s Housing Unit. She graduated from UC Riverside with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and International Affairs and went on to receive her Paralegal Certificate from Santa Ana College. With 10 years of experience as a paralegal, Diana has worked on issues such as: mobile home residency law, human resources, immigration and corporate law.
Lillian Villegas, Paralegal
Lilian is a member of PLC’s Consumer Law Unit, where she works to help low-income residents of Orange County gain equal access to justice in areas such as debt collection defense, student loan repayment and bankruptcies. Lilian received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego in 2014. Beginning in her undergraduate career, Lilian has remained committed to advocating for individuals with limited resources through her work in several organizations, including JusticeCorps in San Diego, CA, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement in Washington D.C. and Inland Empire Latino Lawyers Association in Riverside, CA.