Sean Garcia-Leys is a civil rights attorney and public safety advocate who works to end law enforcement’s counterproductive gang suppression strategies.
He has successfully fought gang injunctions in LA, Orange, and Ventura counties; was instrumental in reducing the number of people in the CalGang database from 200,000 to 60,000 and ending LAPD’s participation in CalGang; and has testified as a gang expert in immigration court where he has successfully helped stop deportations.
His research has been published by Oxford University Press, in white papers by the UC Irvine Law School and the Urban Peace Institute that are widely cited in academic publications, and he is a frequent source for the news media regarding gang policing.
He is the recipient of the 2017 Chicano Hero award from Chicanxs Unidxs and the 2018 Equal Justice award from the ACLU of Southern California.
Before becoming an attorney, Sean worked as a high school teacher in Watts and East LA, and as a labor organizer. In addition to his work with the PJLC, Sean s is also a Commissioner of the Los Angeles County Probation Oversight Commission.
Ameena Mirza Qazi's work focuses on police misconduct, First Amendment and policing, and open government issues.
Ameena has extensive experience as an attorney and community advocate in Southern California. As Executive Director of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Ameena worked on protecting our rights to political protest and dissident speech, as well as movement building after the Presidential Election in November 2016.
Formerly the Deputy Executive Director and Staff Attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations—Greater Los Angeles Area Chapter (CAIR-LA), the largest American Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, cases she worked on include co-counseling a wrongful death action and §1983 claim against LAPD that resulted in a $1.7million verdict (Chaudhry v. LAPD), and co-counseling a class action lawsuit with the ACLU of Southern California and Hadsell, Stormer and Renick, LLP against the FBI for unlawful surveillance of the Southern California Muslim community.
A member of the California State Bar, Ameena graduated with Cum Laude honors from Wayne State University School of Law, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a BA in Political Science. She has also proudly served on the boards of the ACLU of Southern California, the Public Law Center, and the National Lawyers Guild Orange County.
Brittany Emsais provides legal services to people maturing out of gang involvement or who are wrongly targeted by law enforcement for gang suppression policing.
Brittany is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. As a student, she worked on legal matters including direct criminal law representation, appeals, re-entry work, policy matters, and ongoing civil suits.
Brittany has also worked as a summer law clerk at the ACLU of Southern California and a pro-bono intern for the Ohio Public Defender’s Office. At the ACLU, she worked on issues related to the Los Angeles Sheriff Department deputy gangs. At the Ohio Public Defender’s Office, she worked on appellate cases and improving access to justice by supporting low-income clients in need of fee waivers.
Vanessa Cerda is an organizer and dedicated resident of Santa Ana, known for her influential work and strong commitment to her community. She actively strives to empower the working-class residents of Santa Ana, aiming to break through the intergenerational barriers that may hinder their progress and success. With her positive work ethic and determination, Vanessa Cerda works tirelessly to create opportunities for individuals to overcome the obstacles they may face and achieve upward mobility. Her efforts have made her a respected figure within the community, as she continues to impact the lives of many in Santa Ana.
Vanessa Cerda is actively involved in building and maintaining coalitions in Orange County, California. One of her primary advocacy goals is the full implementation of the Racial Justice Act to address systemic racial disparities within the criminal justice system. Additionally, Vanessa organizes an advisory committee that guides the work of the PJLC’s. This committee is composed of community members who are most affected by the issues at hand. Through their
collective expertise and lived experiences, the advisory committee helps shape the PJLC's strategies and initiatives, with a specific focus on fostering a harmonious culture among the most impacted individuals in the community, particularly those who face the greatest challenges.
Ed Dumbrique is studying to become a lawyer through an apprenticeship with the PJLC. Mr. Dumbrique began his legal studies during the 24 years he spent in prison, convicted of a crime he did not commit. As a jailhouse lawyer, Ed successfully litigated Title XV and civil rights cases against the state, including Dumbrique v. Brunner, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105791, in which he sought relief for prison guards' retaliation against him for his participation in a hunger strike protesting solitary confinement.
Now, free and fully exonerated, Ed works to ensure that children and their families are treated equitably and fairly within the juvenile justice system. He travels and speaks on his experience as someone wrongfully convicted and sent to adult prison at age 15. He has spoken to high school students and youth in juvenile halls and camps, sharing his story and encouraging them to cherish their lives and futures.
Patrick Palma grew up in Venice, California surrounded by gangs, surfers, skaters, artists, and musicians in a culture that promoted free thinking and inclusion. After college, Mr. Palma embarked on a life-long career of public service within Los Angeles County government. He is currently a Senior Network Systems Administrator, and has served on numerous LA County strategic planning committees and interdepartmental technology initiatives where he has provided consultation, analysis, and management of enterprise-level integrated solutions.
Belinda Escobosa is principal counsel of Escobosa Law. Belinda has established herself as one of the nation’s foremost lawyers and advocates for social justice by representing and amplifying the voices of the most marginalized communities. Belinda’s achievements in impact litigation have led to: changes to the electoral systems in Anaheim and Fullerton, CA; the restoration of rights for immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, the incarcerated, and other marginalized communities; and the near erasure of the use of gang injunctions in the state of California.
Keiko Elizabeth is an artist, documentary filmmaker, and educator. Her current project is a feature documentary about the legacy of the Japanese American incarceration over 3 generations of her family. Prior to her artistic career, she worked as a teacher at an arts-based school for system-impacted youth transitioning out of juvenile hall. She was an organizer with Teachers 4 Social Justice, working to interrupt the school to prison pipeline and pursue alternatives to the youth carceral system.
Laura Hernandez is an abolitionist, organizer, and advocate for system impacted people. She spent over 15 years incarcerated in state prison and immigration detention. She is the Coordinator for the Orange County Rapid Response Network (OCRRN). There, Laura works alongside a team of volunteers to support families struggling with immigration and criminal legal issues. She encourages families to take action and change the outcome of their cases from time served to time saved.
Jody Vallejo is Associate Professor of Sociology and American Studies and Ethnicity at USC. She is also Associate Director of USC Equity Research Institute and Co-Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology. She also co-edits (with Blanca Ramirez), the USC Equity Research Institute Blog. Her research areas include immigration, immigrant integration, race/ethnicity, and inequality, poverty, and mobility.