MEET THE TEAM
Jill Habig / Founder and President
Jill Habig is an attorney and political strategist with experience in political campaigns, policy advocacy, affirmative litigation, and public law.
Before founding PRP, Jill was the Deputy Campaign Manager and Policy Director for Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate, and served as policy director for her transition team. Prior to joining the campaign, she served as Special Counsel to then-Attorney General Harris, advising the Attorney General on key legal issues and policy initiatives. Her work emphasized consumer fraud, health, education, human trafficking, and civil rights, including issues related to gender and LGBT rights. In 2015, she led the creation and launch of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Children’s Justice and managed its work, including civil rights investigations of school districts, child welfare departments, and juvenile justice systems.
Jill was previously a Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and served on the Affirmative Litigation Task Force at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, where she worked on the landmark trial challenging Proposition 8. She was a law clerk for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Jill earned her J.D. from Yale Law School and her B.A. from Georgetown University.
Joanna Pearl / Chief Operating Officer
Joanna Pearl is Public Rights Project’s Legal Director. Joanna is an experienced attorney with a background in policy, enforcement, and litigation in both government and the private sector.
Joanna was a founding member of the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Enforcement, having served on the team tasked with creating the new federal agency in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. She went on to be Chief of Staff for the Enforcement Office at the CFPB for six years under three Enforcement Directors. Joanna also served as Acting Principal Deputy Enforcement Director in 2016.
In these roles, she managed the development and execution of the CFPB’s enforcement strategy, investigations, and litigation. She advised on matters related to payday and short-term lending, mortgages, credit cards, credit reporting and furnishing, debt collection and debt relief, student lending, auto lending, deposit products, and payments processing and systems. During Joanna’s tenure, the CFPB obtained nearly 12 billion dollars in relief for more than 25 million consumers who were victims of illegal, predatory practices. Joanna also oversaw all operational aspects of the CFPB’s Enforcement Office, including recruitment, workforce planning, and budget creation and administration.
Before joining the CFPB, Joanna was an Associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in Washington, DC, where she focused on commercial litigation and employment counseling and defense. Joanna began her career in state government, serving as Legislative Assistant and Chief of Staff to Representative Jay R. Kaufman in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives. She is a graduate of Yale College and Harvard Law School.
Jenny Montoya Tansey / Policy Director
Jenny Montoya Tansey is an attorney, researcher, and civic technologist who has worked to develop and implement policy from positions in government and the nonprofit sector.
Previously, Jenny was the Director of Safety and Justice at Code for America, where she was responsible for launching and leading the organization’s work in criminal justice. She and her team built and scaled technology tools that help make it much easier for people reclassify or dismiss old criminal convictions and to stay in compliance with their conditions of release from jail.
Prior to this position, Jenny was the Research Director at Californians for Safety and Justice, where she conducted policy and public opinion research about crime victims, health coverage for justice populations, and pretrial reform. At CSJ, she also successfully developed and advocated for two new pieces of state legislation that improved access to health care for Californians cycling in and out of jail.
LiJia Gong / Interim Legal Director
LiJia Gong is an attorney with a background in litigation, public policy and political strategy.
LiJia developed her litigation experience as an associate at Frankfurt Kurnit, Klein & Selz and Davis Polk & Wardwell. She has represented clients in nearly all phases of litigation in cases before state and federal courts. In her broad practice, she has worked on matters that range from antitrust and white collar criminal defense to intellectual property and complex commercial litigation.
Prior to joining PRP, LiJia worked on the 2018 campaign to re-elect Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. LiJia served as a law clerk for Judge Kiyo Matsumoto of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York and as a law fellow for Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
LiJia has an expertise and interest in leveraging data and statistics to further litigation and policy goals, which she first developed as a research assistant at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. In that role, LiJia worked on economic models that forecasted spending in residential and nonresidential sectors of the U.S. economy.
LiJia earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University.
Ben Chida / Co-Founder
Ben Chida is an attorney, policy advisor, and former teacher. He is currently an associate at Boies Schiller and Flexner. Before joining the firm, Ben served as a legal and policy advisor in the Office of the California Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, where he spearheaded multiple initiatives related to children’s policy, technology, data, and privacy. He also clerked for Hon. Robert L. Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Hon. David O. Carter of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Ben holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and served as a Teach for America fellow in New York.
Nicolette Del Palacio / Community Organizer
Nicolette Del Palacio is a passionate community grassroots organizer with experience in millennial voter outreach and engagement in the state of Arizona. Prior to Public Rights Project, Nicolette was a Regional Organizing Director for NextGen America, leading a team of organizers to educate, register and mobilize thousands of young eligible voters in Maricopa County during the 2018 Midterm Elections. In a similar capacity, she managed a voter registration program for Mi Familia Vota to ensure that Latino voters are included in the political process and have a voice in all aspects of government and policymaking. Nicolette is a graduate of Arizona State University with degrees in Political Science and Psychology.
Kennedy Reese / Program Associate
Kennedy holds a Bachelor of Science in Policy, Planning, and Development and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Southern California. She has experience in program administration, community organizing and government service.
Prior to her time at Public Rights Project, Kennedy interned for the Office of Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and worked on various campaigns, including the 2018 gubernatorial campaign of then-Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the 2016 U.S. Senate campaign of then-Attorney General Kamala Harris and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of LA County PAC to elect progressive candidates. In 2017, Kennedy was selected as a Leonard D. Schaeffer Fellow and served in the Office of Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer, analyzing bills in the Public Safety Committee.
A passionate political and community organizer, Kennedy worked for the University of Southern California’s Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs to facilitate connections between the university and organizations from across different sectors to create public service opportunities for students.
Sophia TonNu / Legal Fellow
Sophia is an attorney with a background in public policy, public health, and consumer protection.
Her consumer litigation work involved a summer stint at Public Justice, and work at the California Department of Justice, the City of Oakland, the Public Good Law Center, and Berkeley Law's Environmental Law Clinic. She worked on a variety of matters, including: a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to arbitration clauses in trucking contracts, fraud in for-profit education and pharmaceutical marketing, and climate change mitigation. She was also an extern at ChangeLab Solutions working on state and federal preemption of tobacco enforcement.
Her past advocacy work included hepatitis C pricing and regulation of clinical trials as a student fellow at Yale’s Global Health Justice Partnership and Treatment Action Group (TAG). She also worked on campaigns at the non-profit Universities Allied for Essential Medicine and at Public Citizen on intellectual property provisions in international trade law and federal prescription drug pricing & competition policy.
Sophia graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a J.D., from Yale University with a M.P.H in health policy and from Rice University with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Chemistry, with a focus in medicinal chemistry.
MEET OUR INTERNS
Alison Levy / Legal Intern
Alison Levy is a third-year law student at Washington University School of Law. She currently serves as an Executive Articles Editor for the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy. During her 2L year, Alison was the Vice President of the Community Development, Housing & Real Estate Law Society (CHRELS), a student organization committed to promoting housing justice and engaging with how the law shapes urban policy. She also externed for Smith NMTC Associates, LLC, where she facilitated transactions for New Markets Tax Credit-financed affordable for-sale housing across the country. Actively involved in WashU Law's OUTLaw chapter, Alison served as a Committee Member during her 1L year and helped to plan and execute the 2018 Midwest LGBTQ+ Rights Conference.
This past summer, Alison worked on commercial real estate transactions and refinancing in her capacity as Real Estate Summer Fellow at Seyfarth Shaw. During her 1L Summer, Alison was a Summer Law Clerk at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Alison received her Bachelor’s in Anthropology cum laude, Master’s in Education, and Single Subject Social Studies teaching credential from Mills College in Oakland, California.
Deisy Amezcua Tarelo / Undergraduate Intern
Deisy Amezcua Tarelo is a senior at UC Berkeley, studying Political Science and Chicano Studies, and is particularly interested in the intersection of immigration and criminal law, or “crimmigration.” As a member of UC Berkeley’s Latinx Pre-Law Society, Deisy organized a week-long visit to Ivy League law schools in order to encourage more low-income students of color to pursue a law degree.
Passionate about social justice, Deisy was a DreamSF Fellow at San Francisco-based nonprofit OneJustice, where she worked with clients and staff attorneys to bring immigration and expungement legal services to rural areas of Northern California.
In the summer of 2019, Deisy was a Summer Haas Leader through UC Berkeley’s Public Service Center, where she worked with the Oakland Peace Center (OPC) to organize community events and increase the visibility of the organization’s services. This coming year, Deisy hopes to learn more about public interest law and Public Rights Project’s work with local communities.
Heather Gerken: Dean, Yale Law School
Brian Nelson: General Counsel, LA2028 Olympic Committee; former General Counsel, California Department of Justice (DOJ); former U.S. DOJ attorney
Danielle Gray: Partner, O’Melveny & Myers; former Assistant to President Obama & Cabinet Secretary
Kelly Dermody: Partner, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP
Lenore Anderson: Founder & President, Alliance for Safety & Justice; former prosecutor
Jenny Montoya Tansey: Former Director of Safety & Justice, Code for America
Bram Elias: Clinical Professor & director of immigration practice, University of Iowa College of Law
Dennis Herrera: City Attorney, San Francisco
Karen Dunn: Partner, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP; former Associate Counsel to President Obama & federal prosecutor
David Vladeck: Professor, Georgetown Law; former Director, Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection
Travis LeBlanc: Partner, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP; former Enforcement Chief, Federal Communications Commission
Eli Savit: Senior Advisor and Counsel to the Mayor, City of Detroit
Kathleen Morris: Professor of local government law, Golden Gate University Law School; co-founder, Yale Law School/San Francisco Affirmative Litigation Project
Peter Harvey: Partner, Patterson Belknap Webb & Taylor LLP; former Attorney General, New Jersey; former federal prosecutor
Swati Mylavarapu: Founder, Incite.org; Co-Founder, The Arena
Melissa Murray: Professor & former Interim Dean, Berkeley Law School; Visiting Professor, New York University School of Law
Christy Lopez: Professor, Georgetown Law; former Deputy Chief, U.S. DOJ Civil Rights Division
Julian Mortenson: Professor of constitutional law, University of Michigan Law School
Erin Bernstein: Senior Deputy City Attorney, City of Oakland
Stella Burch Elias: Professor of immigration law, University of Iowa College of Law
Program + Development Consultants
The Ambassadors Circle is a collective on a mission to inspire and equip our tribes to #DoMoreGood.
LT Hilton, Ambassador
Latanya (LT) Hilton has been a champion for social good and underserved communities for more than 15 years. Through her roles in fund development and executive leadership, she has raised over $20 million to support education and nonprofit organizations. She is a Founding Ambassador with The Ambassadors Circle, a collective on a mission to inspire and equip their tribes to #DoMoreGood, and the former Vice President of Development and Strategic Partnerships for the San Francisco-based Center for Youth Wellness. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from Santa Clara University.
J. Hilton, Ambassador
J. Hilton loves to build, whether as a social entrepreneur, community organizer or corporate citizen. Throughout his career, Hilton has led diverse teams for globally recognized brands such as Pandora and Yahoo. He currently works as a Founding Ambassador of The Ambassadors Circle and a Principal of Seven International. Hilton graduated from Santa Clara University where as a student he founded a community oriented media network that produced a culturally forward magazine and hosted innovative live experiences throughout the region.