National Center for Youth Law



Peter B. Edelman

is the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law and Public Policy at Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches constitutional law and poverty law and is faculty director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. 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.

Mr. Edelman’s current book is Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America, for which he received the 38th Annual RFK Book Award. Previously he wrote So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America, and prior to that he wrote Searching for America’s Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope. His article in the Atlantic Monthly, entitled “The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done,” received the Harry Chapin Media Award.

Vice President

Christopher Wu is Principal Court Management Consultant – Child and Family Initiatives at the National Center for State Courts. Previously, he was Senior Director on the Judicial Engagement Team at Casey Family Programs. Chris also served as Supervising Attorney at the California Judicial Council Center for Families, Children and the Courts and Executive Director of the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care. Early in his legal career, 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. Chris has a long history of engagement with NCYL beginning with a clerkship during law school.


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.


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.


David E. Brown is a senior associate 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 an adjunct 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 14 books, a former trustee of three colleges/universities, and holder of five honorary degrees, as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Sophie Fanelli is the President of 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 Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School and Professor of Law at Jindal Global Law School in Haryana, India. He was formerly a partner at Latham & Watkins and K&L Gates. Before entering private law firm practice, Pat was Chief Appellate Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. He previously served as Associate Independent Counsel in the Iran-Contra prosecutions and as Director of the London office of the Vera Institute of Justice. Pat is a board member of Brooklyn Laboratory School, a charter school in New York City, and the Fund for Modern Courts, which works to promote greater fairness and efficiency in state courts. Pat is a graduate of UCLA (BA magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa), Yale University (MA Political Science), and Yale Law School, where he was Note Editor of the Yale Law Journal. Pat is a recipient of the Thurgood Marshall Award from the New York City Bar Association in recognition of having obtained the release of a pro bono 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.


Brian C. Rocca is managing partner of the 135-lawyer office of Morgan Lewis & Bockius in San Francisco. He focuses on antitrust and complex commercial litigation. Brian has been recognized as a leading antitrust lawyer by Chambers USA each year since 2013 and was named by the Daily Journal as a “Top 40” lawyer under 40 in California in 2017. He has proudly served on NCYL’s Board since 2013.


Ryan J. Smith is the Chief External Officer, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Prior to joining the Partnership, Ryan was the Executive Director of the Education Trust-West and Vice President of Strategic Advocacy for the Education Trust, an education and civil rights organization dedicated to closing opportunity gaps. At The Education Trust-West, he worked on producing actionable, accessible research and advocacy tools that reached state policymakers and on-the-ground community advocates and education leaders alike. Ryan also led the team’s development and production of Black Minds Matter: Supporting the Educational Success of Black Students in California, and The Majority Report: Supporting the Educational Success of Latino Students in California. Before Ed Trust, Ryan served as the Director of Education Programs and Policy for United Way of Greater Los Angeles, where he was responsible for education programs and policy efforts for the organization. After launching the Partnership’s Family and Community Engagement Team and founding the Parent College Program, Ryan returned as the Partnership’s Chief External Officer. In this role, he is responsible for strategic and operational oversight of the organization’s development, communications, policy and advocacy, and family and community engagement initiatives. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from UCLA, and he is also pursuing a Doctorate of Education (EdD) from UCLA. Ryan also served as an Annie E. Casey Children and Family Fellow and a Coro Fellow in Public Affairs.

The Partnership for Los Angeles Schools’ mission is to transform schools and revolutionize school systems to empower all students with a high-quality education. The Partnership is a nonprofit, “in-district” partner to Los Angeles Unified School District, approved to manage 18 of the district’s highest-need schools. The Partnership serves 14,000 students in Boyle Heights, South Los Angeles and Watts, providing hands-on management, instructional guidance and support to families and communities.


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.