William N. Hebert, President
Bill joined PILP’s Board in 2009 and the following year he was elected President of the State Bar of California for the 2010-2011 term. During his legal career, he devoted substantial time to pro bono activities on behalf of the working poor. He co-counseled with Legal Aid at Work to represent Black shipyard workers in a race discrimination case against a shipbuilder in Mississippi and more recently he has been working to protect the rights of noncitizens from civil arrest by ICE in California courthouses. Bill received his J.D. from the University of California Berkeley School of Law in 1988 and an A.B. from Stanford University in 1983.
Irma Herrera, Vice-Chair
Irma Herrera joined PILP’s Board in 2010. A Bay Area civil rights lawyer for more than three decades, she is now a playwright and solo performer. Her one-woman show, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name? was described by a reviewer as “creative, clever, and critical . . . addresses themes of identity, courage, and prejudice in ways that are relevant to America today.” Her play has been used as a component of DEI training at law firms and law schools. Prior to becoming a playwright, Irma worked as a journalist covering legal and social justice issues at San Francisco based New America Media. As a civil rights lawyer, she served as the Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates advancing the rights of women and girls for 15 years. She represented farmworkers in Washington Yakima Valley and was an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). She is the recipient of various awards including the American Bar Association’s Margaret Brent Award, awarded to women lawyers of distinction. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the van Löben Sels/Rembe Rock Foundation which funds legal advocacy organizations. She is a member of the East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association.
Maeve Elise Brown, Treasurer/Secretary
Maeve Elise Brown joined PILP’s Board in 2018. She is the Executive Director and a founder of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), a unique, California statewide non-profit law office with a broad, economic justice/anti-discrimination mission. She applies her creative, outside-the-box thinking to her management and guidance of HERA’s operations and growth. A graduate of UCLA Law School, Ms. Brown’s experience as a public interest attorney includes litigation and administrative advocacy on behalf of tenants and homeowners, public benefits advocacy, community organizing, fair housing advocacy, community workshops, and trainings and technical assistance for professionals across a range of topics. Ms. Brown has organized and opened a community development credit union, and has designed and taught a course on mortgage lending and homeownership at UC Berkeley School of Law. For 5 years, she served on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) which she chaired in her final year. She has worked on local, state and federal policy initiatives and has driven critically important policy forward, including most recently, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights legislation for which she was the primary drafter. She has published various articles on affordable housing issues, authored a chapter in the American Bar Association’s Legal Guide to Affordable Housing Development (first edition and updated), is bilingual in Spanish and conversant in Japanese, Farsi, French, Italian and German.
Elizabeth S. Bluestein
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.
Dan Pearlman 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. He 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. She 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.
Tim Iglesias joined PILP’s Board in 2015. He is a Professor of Law at the University of San Francisco School of Law where he teaches Property Law, Land Use Law, Housing Discrimination, Eviction Lawyering, Community Property and Contemplative Lawyering. Prior to teaching, he worked for six years at the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California assisting non-profit developers obtain local government approvals for affordable housing developments in the face of community opposition. His scholarship focuses on land use law and housing law and policy, especially affordable housing and fair housing. He is currently working on a book applying social constructionism to housing law and policy. In 2015, Governor Brown appointed him to serve on California’s Fair Employment and Housing Council (https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/fehcouncil/). He was reappointed by Governor Newsom in 2019. He has served on the Council’s housing subcommittee drafting regulations to implement California’s anti-discrimination laws. Tim is a former member of the Jesuit order. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola Marymount University (magna cum laude), another bachelor’s degree and an honorary master’s from Oxford University, and his J.D. from Stanford Law School with distinction.
Armen Nercessian joined PILP’s Board in 2019. Armen is a senior litigation associate at Fenwick & West LLP. He regularly counsels and represents technology and gaming clients on a variety of copyright, trademark, and trade secret suits, as well as complex consumer class actions. Armen also maintains an active pro bono docket. In 2017, together with Stanford Community Law Clinic, the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, and PILP, he defeated an attempt by the California Apartment Association and institutional landlords to block implementation of the City of Mountain View’s ballot measure on rent stabilization. He has also participated in Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative and helped a veteran receive benefits from the VA in partnership with Swords to Plowshares. He received a J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2012 (Order of Barristers) and graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Drama from Tufts University in 2005 (Tau Beta Pi, Eta Kappa Nu). While in law school, he was a member of the Moot Court Board and served as a law clerk for the Orleans Public Defenders office.
Michael Rawson, Director
Mike co-founded The Public Interest Law Project in 1996 with colleague Steve Ronfeldt to provide impact litigation and advocacy support for California legal services offices after Congress prohibited federally funded legal services programs from bringing class actions, representing undocumented people and engaging in legislative advocacy. He chose law in order to work towards a society that provides permanently affordable housing to all, particularly lower income persons and people of color, long victims of exclusionary and racist land use practices and the inherent inequity of the housing market. Before law school, Mike was a community organizer, organizing tenants and co-founding the California Housing Action & Information Network (CHAIN). He began his legal advocacy at the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County becoming a directing attorney and then founding the California Affordable Housing Law Project. The Institute for Policy Studies appointed him to its Working Group on Housing, which drafted The Right to Housing—A Blueprint for Housing the Nation. Mike concentrates on state and federal land use, affordable housing, fair housing and anti-discrimination law. He has litigated over 85 impact cases with local legal services attorneys, drafted many of California’s affordable housing land use laws, and written practice manuals and policy analysis in these areas. He is the principal author of PILP’s California Housing Element Manual and Discrimination in Land Use, Planning, and Development Approval (ch. 2 of California Fair Housing and Public Accommodations (Rutter Grp, 2020). Mike is the recipient of the National Housing Law Project’s David B. Bryson Award, the California Rural Housing Coalition Advocate of the Year Award, and two California Lawyer of the Year awards.
Charles Garzón, Administrative Director
Charles joined PILP in 2020 as our Administrative Director. He comes to us with many years of experience working with public policy and advocacy organizations. He has been associated with a progressive policy think-tank and legal defense fund located in New York City. And most recent, he was connected with an organization dealing with emerging technologies in the Biotech field in the Bay Area. He holds a Bachelor’s in Politics and Sociology as well as a Master’s degree in Political Science with emphasis in international relations.
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, after starting her career at Legal Services of Northern California doing housing, public benefits, and health law. At PILP she has worked on a variety of cases including housing element, redevelopment, fair housing, General Assistance/Relief, CalWORKs, and CalFresh. She currently focuses on increasing access to public benefits and economic stability in PILP’s public benefits unit. Lauren has a B.A. from UCLA and a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law. She is admitted to practice in California and Washington, D.C.
Valerie Feldman, Staff Attorney
Valerie recently joined PILP’s staff in 2016 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.
Melissa A. Morris, Staff Attorney
Melissa joined PILP in January 2018 and splits her time between PILP’s public benefits and housing practices. Prior to joining PILP, she worked for 12 years at the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, where her practice included direct client representation, impact litigation, and policy advocacy regarding housing, public benefits, voting rights, consumer issues, and the rights of people with disabilities in institutional settings. Much of her work at the Law Foundation focused on preventing the displacement of low-income tenants and communities of color from Silicon Valley; this work included representing individuals, families, and resident groups at risk of displacement in court and administrative proceedings, advocating for state and local policies to designed to prevent displacement and increase the supply of affordable housing, and working with community groups and low-income tenants to build political power among the people most affected by Silicon Valley’s housing crisis. Melissa began her legal career in 2004 as a Borchard Foundation Center on Law & Aging Fellow at Legal Aid of Marin, where she represented low-income and senior residents of Marin County in housing, domestic violence, elder abuse, and consumer matters.
Noah Kirshbaum-Ray, Legal Assistant
Noah (he/him) joined PILP as its Legal Assistant in 2013, 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 is involved with causes such as Operation Christmas Child (Shoe Box Program), Shoe Box project for (Homeless Women), various Senior Center programs. She has received certificates of recognition from the Alameda County Community Food Bank for her organization of holiday food drives.
Deborah Collins, Retired
Deborah retired from PILP in 2017. Before joining the staff as Managing Attorney in 2002, she was a Staff Attorney and Managing Attorney of the Solano County office of Legal Services of Northern California for ten years. She specialized 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.
Steve Ronfeldt, PILP Co-Founder (1942 – 2018)
Steve retired from PILP in December 2014, although he never stopped fighting on behalf of low-income persons. Throughout his career he 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 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.