National Center for Youth Law



Peter B. Edelman is a professor at Georgetown University Law School and a leading expert on poverty and social welfare law. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg, and worked closely with Senator Robert Kennedy. Professor Edelman served for a time as the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services in the administration of President Clinton.

Vice President

Christopher Wu is Senior Director, Judicial Engagement Team, at Casey Family Programs. Prior to this, he was Supervising Attorney for the California Judicial Council Center for Children and the Courts, and Executive Director of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care. Before joining the Judicial Council, he provided direct representation for child clients, and also served as Managing Attorney and Executive Director, during ten years at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco.


Brian C. Rocca is a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP and serves as co-managing partner of the San Francisco Office. He focuses on antitrust and complex commercial litigation. Brian has been recognized as leading antitrust lawyer by Chambers USA each year since 2013, and as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine each year since 2009. In the antitrust field, Brian works on high-stakes litigation in both civil and criminal contexts, and in a wide range of industries. Brian is lead outside counsel to a prominent trade association. He also handles class actions, contract disputes, fraud and other competition matters.


James D. Weill began his public interest career in 1969 at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. From there he went to the Children’s Defense Fund where he served from 1982 to 1997, as Program Director and then as General Counsel. He is now the President of the Food Research & Action Center in Washington, D.C.


Mary Bissell is an attorney, child and family policy expert and founding partner of ChildFocus.  She is also an Adjunct Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.   Mary has worked as a legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator John D. Rockefeller and was formerly a Fellow at the New America Foundation, a non-partisan public policy institute that brings new voices and ideas to America’s public discourse.  She also served as a senior staff attorney and lobbyist at the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) where she focused on poverty, child welfare, substance abuse, domestic violence, and mental health policy issues. Mary began her career as the Equal Justice Works/Crowell & Moring Fellow at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia where she started the nation’s first legal services program exclusively for grandparents and other relative caregivers.

Alexander L. Brainerd is a member of the panel of Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. (JAMS) in its San Francisco office. He has been a trial lawyer, specializing in commercial litigation and intellectual property. He was formerly partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP in San Francisco, California, and the managing partner of Bronson, Bronson & McKinnon in San Francisco. He has extensive experience providing pro bono legal services, including representing minors in juvenile delinquency proceedings in San Francisco.

David E. Brown is a senior fellow with the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group of the Annie E Casey Foundation, where he helps manage the foundation’s juvenile justice system reform work. Prior to joining the Casey Foundation, David served in executive level management positions within two District of Columbia youth serving agencies. Between 2005 and 2011, he was the associate director for the Office of Youth Programs at the Department of Employment Services (DOES) and the deputy director of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS). At DYRS, he was responsible for the residential and community-based programs and services for the nearly 1,000 committed and detained youth in the Department’s care and custody. Before joining DYRS, David served as executive director of the National Youth Employment Coalition and as a senior policy analyst with the National Governors’ Association, both located in Washington, DC. Earlier in his career, David benefited from a range of youth policy, administrative, and program experiences within both public and nonprofit youth-serving organizations at the state and local levels. He earned a Masters in Public Administration from Baruch College, which he attended as a National Urban Fellow.

Thomas Ehrlich is a visiting professor at Stanford University School of Education. He was the first president of the Legal Services Corporation and the first director of the International Cooperation Agency, reporting to President Jimmy Carter. He has served as president of Indiana University, provost of the University of Pennsylvania, and dean of Stanford Law School. He was also a senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He is author, co-author, or editor of 15 books, most recently, “Civic Work, Civic Lessons: Two Generations Reflect on Public Service,” (Rowman & Littlefield/UPA, 2013) about why and how all people, and particularly young people, should engage in public service.

Sophie Fanelli is Chief of Programs at the Stuart Foundation where she is responsible for leading the foundation’s investments to advance whole child education in California and Washington State. Sophie first joined the Stuart Foundation as Senior Program Officer for Education in October 2012. Previously, she served as Director of Research & Policy at the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access (IDEA) at UCLA where she oversaw public policy and legislative efforts focused on education equity and access, student and parent engagement, and school transformation. She also worked at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California where she concentrated on a range of social and racial justice issues including advancing education equity, LGBTQ issues, immigrants’ rights, and advocacy for the homeless. Sophie was trained as a lawyer in France, Italy and at the University of Texas in Austin where she focused on criminal justice issues.

Laura K. Lin is a litigator in the San Francisco office of Munger, Tolles & Olson. Ms. Lin’s practice encompasses a range of business litigation matters, including contractual disputes, antitrust litigation, and False Claims Act litigation. She also has experience in various internal corporate investigations, including multiple investigations involving purported legal ethics violations. Ms. Lin serves on the advisory board of OneJustice, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization that supports more than 100 other legal nonprofit organizations including the National Center for Youth Law. Ms. Lin also volunteers with First Graduate, a San Francisco nonprofit aimed at helping students be the first person in their family to graduate from college, and various other community outreach programs focused on increasing access to educational and professional opportunities. Ms. Lin is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law. She clerked for Judge J. Michael Seabright of the U.S. District Court in Hawaii and Judge Richard C. Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Jack W. Londen is a partner in the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster LLP. Jack is a trial lawyer with 34 years of experience in patent litigation and other areas of complex commercial litigation in federal and state courts at the trial court and appellate levels. He has also handled many commercial arbitration matters arising from merger and acquisition transactions. In addition, he has led significant cases involving public education, civil rights, and other public interest matters. He has received awards for his public interest work from organizations including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, State Bar of California, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Center for Youth Law. Jack is also the President of the Consortium for the National Equal Justice Library.

Walter P. “Pat” Loughlin is a litigation partner in the New York office of K&L Gates LLP. He is a member of his firm’s Pro Bono Committee and coordinates pro bono matters in the New York office. A 1972 graduate of UCLA (magna cum laude; Phi Beta Kappa), Pat received his JD from Yale Law School where he was Note Editor of the Yale Law Journal. After clerking for two federal judges, Pat was appointed Assistant United States Attorney, and Chief Appellate Attorney, in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He served as Associate Independent Counsel in the Iran-Contra prosecutions and was director of the London Office of the Vera Institute of Justice. Pat is co-author of Modern Federal Jury Instructions, a standard reference work for federal trial practitioners, and has taught criminal law, civil procedure, evidence, criminal procedure, and legal ethics at Columbia, Rutgers, Fordham, and Cardozo Law Schools. He currently teaches a seminar at Columbia Law School on the Interplay of Civil and Criminal Law. Pat is a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award from the Association of the Bar of the City of New York for his work in obtaining the release of a client from death row in Texas.

Mary E. McCutcheon is a partner at the San Francisco law firm of Farella, Braun & Martel. Her private practice specializes in insurance issues. She has cocounselled several pro bono cases involving Medicaid benefits for low-income children with the National Center for Youth Law. She served as President of NCYL’s Board from 1997 to 2003.

Ryan J. Smith is the Executive Director of The Education Trust–West, a research and advocacy organization focused on educational justice. Prior to joining The Education Trust–West, Ryan was the Director of Education Programs and Policy for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles where he was responsible for the education program and policy efforts for the organization. Ryan also worked for former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools. And before that served as the Director of the Los Angeles Parents Union and managed Public Affairs for Green Dot Public Schools.

Jory Steele is the Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Stanford Law School. Previously, she was Director of Pro Bono & Externships and Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. Prior to joining Stanford Law, Jory was both the Managing Attorney and Director of Education Equity at the ACLU of Northern California, where she engaged in litigation, policy advocacy, and legislation. In the education context, one of her primary areas of focus was challenging discriminatory discipline and student harassment based on race, gender and sexual orientation. There her litigation included co-counseling with NCYL for the successful student discrimination case Jessica K. v. Eureka City Schools District. Prior to working at the ACLU of Northern California, Jory was an attorney at the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center for almost six years, where she litigated racial and sexual discrimination cases. She also externed for the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York. She has received a number of fellowships including a Skadden Fellowship and Fulbright Fellowship.

Jesse Hahnel is Executive Director of the National Center for Youth Law. Jesse previously served as Founder and Director of FosterEd, a nationally recognized initiative that improves the educational outcomes of students in foster care. Jesse has served as a public school teacher in Washington DC and New York City, as Senior Analyst at the KIPP Foundation, and as an attorney representing at-risk children and youth. He is a recipient of the prestigious Skadden and Mind Trust fellowships. He is father to two wonderful children and husband to an amazing wife.