Violeta grew up in a low-income neighborhood in San Diego County, about 15 miles from the U.S./Mexico Border. At an early age, she went through many personal obstacles that ultimately led her to be passionate about criminal justice reform. She is a Latina, first-generation college student and now, a J.D. Candidate. She also has two sons of her own, ten and two-years old.
After graduating, Kat moved to Oakland, a community that she loves because of its’ tolerance, diversity, and passion for the arts. She went into sales at a large tech company to pay the notoriously high bay area rent, and soon developed a unique approach to consultative, honest salesmanship. She has given lectures to budding salespeople called “Empathy is Your Secret Weapon”, which won her an accolade award from General Assembly.
Kat is passionate about prisoners rights advocacy and impacting reforms in our prison system. Because she has loved ones who are incarcerated, she understands the impact that a prison sentence has on communities, families, and the individual. She hopes to someday help enact changes that will lead to more positive rehabilitation and re-entry into society for people who
have served time incarcerated. She truly believes that people contain multitudes far beyond their mistakes. She is very happy to be part of a team that shares this core belief.
At an early age, Elaine began developing her interest in the legal field when she was forced to adapt to the outcomes and challenges of a close family member’s prison sentencing. Having to take on adult responsibilities at an early age, she began questioning the justice system. This interest grew deeper during her sophomore year in high school where she joined the speech and debate team, enrolled in Political Science college courses, and attended court cases at her local court house. While attending UC Davis, she volunteered at an internship that allowed her to publish online articles for Yolo County court cases. Elaine’s ultimate goal is to utilize both her educational background and personal experience to become a criminal defense attorney. As a criminal defense attorney, Elaine aspires to give back the community the security in the justice system as well as the voice that they deserve.
Chelsie D’Malta Thurmond
Chelsie D’Malta Thurmond transplanted to California from New Orleans, Louisiana over a decade ago. Chelsie graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and minors in Psychology and Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. Upon graduation, she was awarded the “Spirit of Public Sociology” Award and was also inducted into USD’s prestigious Alcala 100 Club, nominated by university staff and administration as an outstanding key leader in the USD community. During her undergraduate career, Chelsie coordinated a volunteer program at the local juvenile hall. It is through her experiences she fostered with incarcerated youth where she discovered her passion for criminal defense and advocating for those in need of a strong ally as they face the taxing reality of the criminal justice system.
After Chelsie graduated from the University of San Diego, she went on to attend the University of San Francisco School of Law. Chelsie participated in USF’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Clinic and clerked at the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, in the former Hayward Branch Office, as well as the Juvenile Unit in San Leandro. She also worked as a criminal defense law clerk assisting in the defense of several high profile cases. While awaiting her bar results, Chelsie volunteered at the Santa Clara Office of the Public Defender’s Juvenile Team.
Most recently, Chelsie worked as a Deputy Public Defender for the Mendocino County Office of the Public Defender, where she proved to be an excellent trial attorney. In her time there, Chelsie handled a broad spectrum of cases. She was often recognized by judges, colleagues, and courtroom staff for her diligence, compassion, and dedication to clients.
Maria became interested in law when she realized how confusing and unjust the immigration and criminal court system were. She wants her work to help everyday people navigate the criminal justice system especially in the community of Oakland that she grew up in. She recognized that there are so many people who are unaware of the daily impact the criminal and immigration courts have on our community and wants to bring awareness, knowledge, and a desire for change to their consciousness. Maria has successfully participated in the Youth Law Academy through El Centro Legal de la Raza and was a committed member of the mock trial team. Her commitment to public and social justice is what fuels her success in school and at work. She is intent on making and impact one day and person at a time.
Ebony’s hobbies include traveling, dancing, reading and serving as a coordinator for youth activities at her church. She has a passion for helping youth and young adults, meeting new people, and experiencing life. Her future goal is to create a non-profit organization that is geared towards feeding and clothing the houseless.
Jo-Anna Nieves, Esq.
When you are charged with a criminal offense, you need a strong, experienced, and committed advocate. It’s a role that Jo-Anna Nieves has assumed many times, with great success. As a criminal defense attorney who began her post-bar legal career at the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Nieves has a rare perspective that she uses to support, advise, and defend the firm’s clients. “I love criminal law. It’s captivating and I’m passionate about it,” she says. She is committed to mounting the best possible defense for what she calls “hard working, family oriented, successful professional people who aren’t career criminals…. Some are falsely accused, others make a bad call like driving home after a couple glasses of wine at a work event.