Check out the Plenaries for the 2022 NLADA Annual Conference!

Meeting of the Members

Wednesday, October 26, 2022
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.


Our world has shifted dramatically over the last three years due to COVID-19, the racial reckoning following the death of George Floyd, and other social and political realities. As a result, the equal justice community is presented with opportunities, as well as challenges, for developing responses to these shifts in our work and communities. In order to advance true justice and equity, our future work must be done in collaboration with members of the directly impacted communities.

NLADA’s Annual Meeting of Members provides an opportunity for the leaders of the Association to report to its members on programs, activities and the overall health of the Association. Equally important, the Meeting of Members provides a forum for engaging members on various issues as we evaluate how to best support their work in the shifting equal justice environment. The program will open with remarks from Rhodia Thomas, NLADA Board of Directors Immediate Past Chairperson, April Frazier Camara, NLADA President & CEO, and Jo-Ann Wallace, NLADA Insurance Program President & CEO. The Meeting of Members will also feature Leonor Cortez, Soummer Crawford, Eddie Ellis, Marquita Wise Jones, Liza E.L. Merrill, Rosita Stanley and LaShung Willis in conversation with April Frazier Camara on the topic of “Strengthening Client Services.”

Opening Plenary

Thursday, October 27, 2022
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.


Join us to welcome our featured speaker Rachel Rossi, Director of the Department of Justice’s Office of Access to Justice.  Ms. Rossi’s remarks will be followed by a panel discussion led by Radhika Singh who will  be joined by Liana Alston, Soummer Crawford, Heather Pinckney and Don Saunders for an engaging discussion on the topic of “Courageous Leadership: How Do We Meet the Present Day Challenges of Social Justice?”   

Joint Caucus Facing the Challenges in Civil Legal Aid and Public Defense

Thursday, October 27, 2022
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.


This year NLADA’s Civil, Client/Community Advocate and Defender communities will come together during a joint caucus designed to explore critical issues impacting the future delivery of legal services for those who cannot afford counsel. The panel will discuss a myriad of challenges facing the equal justice community during a time when the need for civil legal services and public defense is growing exponentially. Jayme Cassidy will be joined by Helen Griffiths, Tina Luongo, Nikole Nelson and DarKenya Waller for this timely and important caucus.

Learn more about our featured speakers  

Rachel Rossi

President Joseph R. Biden and Attorney General B. Merrick Garland announced the appointment of Rachel Rossi as Director of the Office for Access to Justice in May 2022.

Prior to her appointment, Director Rossi served as Deputy Associate Attorney General in the Office of the Associate Attorney General, Vanita Gupta. In that role, she also served as the inaugural Anti-Hate Coordinator for the Justice Department.

Director Rossi began her career as a public defender in Los Angeles for almost a decade. She practiced in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender’s Office, and the Federal Public Defender’s Office for the Central District of California, where she vigorously defended hundreds of low-income clients in state and federal courts.

Director Rossi then served as Counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Richard J. Durbin (Illinois), where she was the lead staffer on the First Step Act, a major U.S. federal criminal justice reform bill signed into law in 2018 that created comprehensive sentencing and prison reforms. She then transitioned to the role of Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, working for then Crime Subcommittee Chair Karen Bass (CA-37).

In 2020, Director Rossi was the first former public defender to run for the nonpartisan seat of District Attorney of Los Angeles County, where she was only five points shy of qualifying for the runoff election, receiving almost half a million votes. She then served as the Legal Director for the REFORM Alliance, where she launched the development of a litigation program for direct representation in criminal cases and in civil litigation matters surrounding issues of probation, parole, supervised release, and community supervision.

Director Rossi received her law degree from Pepperdine University School of Law, where she won the International Moot Court Competition, in Grays Inn, London, and served as Student Articles Editor for the Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal. She received the Pepperdine University School of Law Larry D. Kimmons Racial and Social Justice Award, was named one of the National Bar Association’s Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers, and was recognized as an Influential Capitol Hill Staffer by Lawyers of Color. Director Rossi grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of immigrant parents born in the Dominican Republic and Greece.

Director Rossi will deliver Keynote remarks during the opening plenary.

Don Saunders

Don is a nationally recognized leader of America’s civil justice community who is presently serving as NLADA’s Senior Policy Counsel. In his previous role as the head of NLADA’s Civil Legal Services he spearheaded the civil division for more than 20 years, building the organization’s expert training and technical assistance capacity and advocating with Congress, the Legal Services Corporation, federal agencies, and four Presidential administrations on a wide array of issues relating to the effective delivery of civil legal services. Prior to joining NLADA in 1990, Don was Executive Director at the North Carolina Legal Services Resource Center in Raleigh, NC. He received his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.


Heather N. Pinckney

As the director of PDS, Heather N. Pinckney provides defense and related legal and non-legal services to people charged with crimes in the local District of Columbia courts who cannot afford to hire an attorney.

Heather is an experienced litigator specializing in criminal defense, civil litigation, family law, wrongful death, and civil rights cases. On June 21, 2022, the PDS Board of Trustees appointed her as the next Director of PDS.

Prior to returning to PDS, she served as a managing partner at the law firm of Harden & Pinckney and as the executive director of the Black Public Defender Association. She also currently serves as an adjunct professor at The George Washington University Law School, where she teaches a seminar entitled “The Role of the Public Defender.”

Heather is currently a board member of Rising for Justice and JusticeAid. She has also served as the co-chair of the D.C. Bar Criminal Law and Individual Rights Section Steering Committee and chair of the PDS Board of Trustees.

Before entering private practice, Heather served as the deputy chief of the Trial Division for PDS – widely recognized as the premier public defender office in the country. As deputy trial chief, Heather assisted in the management and day-to-day operations of the trial division and supervised attorneys litigating criminal cases in the D.C. Superior Court. Prior to becoming deputy trial chief, Heather served as a staff attorney at PDS, for eight years, representing juvenile and adult indigent clients on criminal matters ranging from misdemeanors to homicides. She was also tasked with hiring the best and brightest attorneys at PDS and served as the Chair of the PDS Hiring Committee.

Heather teaches litigation skills at programs all around the country including Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Wisconsin. She has also served as a guest lecturer at Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop, Howard University School of Law, NYU School of Law, American University School of Law, and David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC).  Heather also serves as a faculty member for Gideon’s Promise, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the National Criminal Defense College.

Heather is a native Washingtonian and received her Juris Doctorate from George Washington University Law School. She is admitted to practice before the District of Columbia Superior Court and the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Jeffery Robinson

Jeffery Robinson is the Founder & CEO of The Who We Are Project. Until April 2021, Robinson was an ACLU deputy legal director and the director of the ACLU Trone Center for Justice and Equality, which houses the organization’s work on criminal justice, racial justice, and reform issues. Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 1981, Jeff has three decades of experience working on these issues. For seven years, he represented indigent clients in state court at The Defender Association and then in federal court at the Federal Public Defender’s Office, both in Seattle. In 1988, Jeff began a 27-year private practice at the Seattle firm of Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender, where he represented a broad range of clients in local, state, and federal courts on charges ranging from shoplifting to securities fraud and first degree murder. He has tried over 200 criminal cases to verdict and has tried more than a dozen civil cases representing plaintiffs suing corporate and government entities. Jeff was one of the original members of the John Adams Project and worked on the behalf of one of five men held at Guantanamo Bay charged with carrying out the 9/11 attacks.

In addition to being a nationally recognized trial attorney, Jeff is also a respected teacher of trial advocacy. He is a faculty member of the National Criminal Defense College in Macon, Georgia, and has lectured on trial skills all over the United States. He has also spoken nationally to diverse audiences on the role of race in the criminal justice system. He is past president of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a life member and past member of the board of directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Jeff is also an elected fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

Jeffery Robinson will deliver recorded remarks during the annual awards ceremony.