Mona Tawatao, Chair
Mona Tawatao was elected as Chair in 2016. She is a senior litigator in health law at the Western Center on Law & Poverty (WCLP). Prior to joining WCLP, she served as regional counsel with Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC) since October 1999. In this capacity, Mona coordinated LSNC’s major land use and housing advocacy in its 23 county service area and has litigated a number of cases that preserved and improved existing affordable housing or led to the development of new housing units for lower income households. Before LSNC, Mona worked for nine years at San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Legal Services (NLS) as a staff attorney and directing attorney where she focused on affordable housing development, tenants’ rights, land use cases and school finance cases. From 1988 to 1990, she clerked for the Honorable Consuelo B. Marshall in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Mona received her J.D. from UCLA School of Law in 1986. Mona received a Legal Aid Association of California Award of Merit in 2005 and a Reginald Heber Smith Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association in 2007. Mona is a visiting professor at UC Davis School of Law and also serves on the board of the Equal Justice Society and the Advisory Editorial Board of the Clearinghouse Review.
Elizabeth S. Bluestein, President
Elizabeth Bluestein joined PILP’s board in 2013 and was elected as President in 2016. She is the Vice President and General Counsel of Public Counsel. She oversees and coordinates the work of Public Counsel’s legal programs and oversees Public Counsel’s legal and ethics compliance. Prior to 2009, Elizabeth was the Directing Attorney of Public Counsel’s Community Development Project, which builds strong foundations for healthy, vibrant and economically stable communities by supporting nonprofits that assist lower income people and neighborhoods and incorporating policy, litigation and land use tools to support the development and preservation of affordable housing for lower income persons. Elizabeth is an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School where she teaches a non-profit tax and transaction clinic. She is also currently serving as the Chair of the California State Bar Association’s Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services. She received her J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley and her B.A. from Harvard University.
Irma Herrera, Vice-Chair
Irma Herrera joined PILP’s board in 2010. She currently works as a journalist covering legal and social justice issues at San Francisco based New America Media. Her thirty-year career as a civil rights lawyer included serving as the Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates for 15 years. She served as a staff attorney at Washington State’s Evergreen Legal Services and with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. She is the recipient of various awards including the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, awarded to women lawyers of distinction.
William N. Hebert, Treasurer
William Hebert is a partner in the San Francisco office of Calvo & Clark. Mr. Hebert represents clients in business litigation, including class action defense, business torts (such as antitrust, trade secret litigation, and interference with economic advantage), patent and trademark infringement, false advertising and California’s Unfair Competition Law. Mr. Hebert has published numerous articles in the areas of antitrust and business torts, and he is contributing co-author of California Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law (Lexis Nexis, 2010), published by the California State Bar Section on Antitrust and Unfair Competition, for which he contributed chapters on the subjects of expert witnesses, injunctions, treble damages and void contracts. Mr. Hebert was elected to serve as President of the State Bar of California for the 2010-2011 term. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Legal Aid Society and a member of the Board of Trustees of Prospect Sierra School, where he chairs the Development Committee. He received his J.D. for the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law in 1988 and an A.B. from Stanford University in 1983 (with distinction).
Robert G. White, Secretary
Robert White joined PILP’s board in 2013. He is Director of Alumni Career Services at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall). Prior to Boalt Hall, Robert was a corporate attorney, first at the law firm Jackson Tufts Cole & Black, LLP and later as Senior Counsel in the Wells Fargo Bank Law Department Technology Group. He subsequently held the position of Manager, Corporate Services Training at Robert Half International. Beginning in 2009 Robert developed and maintains an ongoing consulting practice including organizational development, career workshop facilitation, and professional coaching. He is a graduate of Morehouse College (BA in English), the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK (BA in African & Caribbean Studies, Marshall Scholar) Stanford Law School (JD), and Golden Gate University (MA in Industrial/Organizational Psychology).
Dan is one of the original PILP Board Members and served as Chair from 2011 until 2016. After working in Mississippi in the summer of 1964 with the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, Dan devoted his volunteer work and career as a public interest attorney, advocate and consultant to Civil Rights work and to helping low income people and their advocates in their pursuit of social and economic justice. Dan was a legal services attorney from 1968 to 1995 including 22 years with the National Housing Law Project where his work focused on developing and preserving housing for very low and low income households.
Miye Goishi is one of the original PILP Board Members. She joined the Hastings faculty in 1992 after 11 years of practice in the San Francisco Bay Area public interest community. She specialized in housing work at both Legal Aid of Marin and Contra Costa Legal Services Foundation. In 2008 she became the Director of the Civil Justice Clinic. She serves on the Board of Directors of two public interest organizations, the Child Care Law Center and the Public Interest Law Project. Professor Goishi grew up in the East Bay community of Livermore and always knew she would return to the Bay Area after school to take advantage of its temperate climate and progressive politics.
Mike Rawson, Director
Mike has dedicated his career as a lawyer to advocate on behalf of lower income persons in need of affordable housing. He began at the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, where he established the California Affordable Housing Law Project. In 1996, he and co-director Steve Ronfeldt founded The Public Interest Law Project to provide litigation and other advocacy support for California legal services and public interest law offices. Mike focuses on state and federal land use, community redevelopment, fair housing and tenant-landlord law. He has litigated many cases with legal services programs and has drafted many California land use and tenant-landlord statutes. His litigation includes suits addressing the adequacy of local housing elements, displacement of lower income families and discriminatory housing practices. Mike also has authored many articles, book chapters and manuals on these issues.
Deborah Collins, Managing Attorney
Deborah has been with PILP since 2002, and was a Staff Attorney and Managing Attorney of the Solano County office of Legal Services of Northern California for ten years prior to that. She specializes in state and federal laws related to the development and preservation of housing that is affordable to the lower income community including state land use, planning and redevelopment laws, subsidized housing, relocation assistance issues, and fair housing laws. She has also participated in administrative and legislative advocacy regarding local, state, and national housing policies and co-authored the 2001 and 2002 subsidized housing chapter of the California Eviction Defense Manual published by the Continuing Education of the Bar.
Craig Castellanet, Staff Attorney
Craig joined the California Affordable Housing Law Project of PILP in 2003 to enforce housing laws in local land use and redevelopment practices around the state. Since 1994, he has worked in California, Hawai`i and at the national level, on affordable housing issues ranging from state housing element law, public housing residents’ right to organize and secure decent and safe housing, eviction defense, criminalization of homelessness, preservation of affordable housing at risk of conversion to market rate, and redevelopment laws. He previously practiced at Legal Services of Northern California, the Legal Aid Society of Hawai`i, and at the National Housing Law Project.
Lauren Hansen, Staff Attorney
Lauren joined PILP in 2012 as its first Attorney Fellow, where she split her time evenly between the housing and public benefits units. In August 2014, she was promoted to Staff Attorney in the public benefits unit. Prior to joining PILP, Lauren worked at Legal Services of Northern California for three years in its Ukiah office doing housing, public benefits, and health law. Lauren graduated from UCLA in 2004, and then worked as a legal assistant at Arnold & Porter LLP in Washington D.C. She went to law school at the University of Iowa College of Law, where she worked as a research assistant and helped develop the Citizen Lawyer Program, a program that helps students find both legal and non-legal volunteer opportunities. She spent her summer after her first year in law school doing welfare rights advocacy with the East Bay Community Law Center. After her second year, she worked at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest doing impact litigation in health, disability rights, environmental justice, and police misconduct.
Valerie Feldman, Staff Attorney
Valerie recently joined PILP’s staff after focusing on land use and housing issues at Legal Services of Northern California’s Sacramento office for more than a decade. Valerie has pursued advocacy and litigation in multiple areas, including the preservation of federally subsidized housing, promoting and defending inclusionary zoning, housing element enforcement, fair housing, redevelopment law, the rights of public housing tenants, SRO residents, and tenants in condominium conversion properties. Valerie graduated from UC Davis School of Law in 2000 and now teaches an elective course there on housing law. She has served on the boards of the Legal Aid Association of California and Housing California, and currently serves on the board of the Sacramento Housing Alliance.
Noah Kirshbaum-Ray, Legal Assistant
Noah joined PILP as its Legal Assistant in 2013, where he provides litigation and program assistance for both the housing and public benefits units. He also provides research and technical support for the attorneys and staff. Prior to joining PILP, he worked as a legal and administrative assistant for non-profits and law firms in Washington, DC, Seattle, WA and Oakland, CA. Noah received his B.A. in Sociology from Oberlin College.
Linda Hill, Office Manager
Linda joined PILP in 2013 as its Office Manager. She has an extensive accounting and tax background, and has worked with various organizations ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. She is a strong supporter of civil rights, social action and poverty alleviation causes. She’s received certificates of recognition from the Alameda County Community Food Bank for her organization of holiday food drives.
Steve Ronfeldt, Retired Co-Founder
Steve retired from PILP in December 2014, although he has not stopped fighting on behalf of low-income persons. Throughout his career he has specialized in this type of major litigation, focusing on public benefits issues, including disability rights, disaster relief, Medi-Cal and Medicaid, general assistance, and skilled nursing care. He has also litigated numerous cases involving public housing, freeway relocation, and employment discrimination and has negotiated many community reinvestment agreements with banks, anti-patient dumping agreements with hospitals, and affirmative action agreements with public agencies and corporations. He began his poverty law practice as a Reginald Heber Smith Fellow and served as Litigation Director of the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, an attorney with the National Housing Law Project, and Senior Lecturer on Poverty Law and Federal Court Practice at King Hall School of Law, University of California at Davis. He was a founder of the California Reinvestment Coalition and the East Bay Community Law Center.
Judy Gold (1952 – 2016)
Judy’s work at PILP centered on improving public benefits programs for indigent people. Before joining PILP in 2008, she had practiced law for nearly 30 years. She was a shareholder at Heller Ehrman LLP, where she specialized in complex, multiparty commercial litigation and consumer class action litigation. She also handled prisoners’ rights cases as well as class actions and other impact cases relating to civil rights and public benefits programs including General Assistance, SSI, and AFDC. She was a pro bono coordinator for the firm for many years, supervising several of its litigation programs that served indigent defendants in unlawful detainer actions, debt collections, and other matters. Judy earned her B.A. and M.A,. both with distinction, from Stanford University. She earned her J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law in 1980, externed for Justice Mathew Tobriner of the California Supreme Court, and was a law clerk for Judge Robert F. Peckham, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.