Board of Directors

Marsha Levick, President
Marsha Levick is the Legal Director of the Juvenile Law Center, a public interest law firm which advances the rights and well-being of children in jeopardy. Ms. Levick co founded JLC in 1975 and served as its first executive director until 1982. In 1982, Ms. Levick left JLC to become the Legal Director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City and, from 1986 1988, Ms. Levick served as Executive Director of NOW LDEF. Ms. Levick worked in private practice from 1989-1995. In 1995, Ms. Levick returned to JLC, where she now manages JLC’s litigation and appellate docket, which focus mainly on the rights of children in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. Nationally, Ms. Levick worked with the American Bar Association’s special taskforce to develop standards for the prosecution of juveniles in the adult criminal justice system, and currently serves on the management committee of the National Juvenile Defender Center, a joint project of the ABA Juvenile Justice Center, the Juvenile Law Center, and the Youth Law Center. Ms. Levick is a member of the adjunct faculty of both Temple University Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, where she co-teaches a course on juvenile justice. Ms. Levick is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University School of Law.

David Burks
David Burks has spent the majority of his career to help improve the lives of at-risk youth.  Working with such organizations as KIPP, Lighthouse Academies, Upward Bound, Urban League and Tulane University, David has enhanced operational, financial and professional development effectiveness.   This in turn has provided families opportunities they never felt they had.  In 2012, he was named Tulsa’s Young Professional Diversity Crew Member of the Year after spearheading and designing the 2012 Diversity and Dialogue Event: Decoding the Language of Race in Politics.  Today, he continues his service in the Greater New Orleans area as the Chief Operating Officer of Dash Advantage, a business consulting services to non-profits and small businesses founded after Hurricane Katrina.  David earned his BS in Management from Case Western Reserve University and studied in the MBA program at Tulane University.

Rhonda Brownstein
Rhonda Brownstein is the Executive Director of the Education Law Center in Pennsylvania, a statewide legal advocacy group whose mission is to ensure that the most at-risk children have access to quality public schools. Previously, Rhonda was the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, where she spent fifteen years as a litigator and the last eight as legal director. At the Center, Rhonda was lead and co-counsel in class action constitutional and civil rights cases in the state and federal courts, and, along with her Center colleagues, co-counseled cases against neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan organizations. Rhonda was also a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, where she supervised students in the Civil Litigation and Civil Rights Clinics. Rhonda has also been a legal aid attorney in Alabama and Pennsylvania, representing poor people and low-wage workers in employment, housing, consumer, and domestic violence cases. A Philadelphia native, Rhonda received her law degree in 1986 from Temple University Law School.

Donald R. Cravins, Sr.
Donald R. Cravins, Sr. is currently serving his second term as Mayor of the great City of Opelousas, Louisiana.  His sense of caring for others, the elderly, the under-educated, anyone who could not help or speak for themselves was apparent throughout this fifteen years of distinguished and honorable service in the Louisiana State Legislature as State Senator of District 24.

Mayor Cravins became the leading voice on juvenile justice reform in the LA Senate as the chair of the Judicial B Committee, which had oversight of the Louisiana corrections system.  In 2001, he co-authored sweeping legislation which resulted in closure of the infamous Tallulah Prison in Tallulah, LA.  Also, in 2003, he co-authored and helped pass the most sweeping Juvenile Justice Reform measures in the state’s history.  The legislation changes the focus from incarceration to community-based programs which provide counseling and treatment.

In addition, he was named “Conservationist of the Year” in 1995 for his leadership in protecting our environment and natural resources.  He was named in 2001 to serve as a prestigious “Toll Fellow” by the National Council of State Legislatures.  This honor is bestowed on a select group of government leaders who demonstrate extraordinary leadership, commitment and compassion.

Bishop Joe Doss
Joe Morris Doss served parishes in Louisiana and California as an Episcopal priest, and the Diocese of New Jersey as Bishop. An attorney with a background in civil rights, he enjoys a national reputation in and out of the church, primarily as an advocate for justice, and in particular as a champion of minorities, women, and children. Bishop Doss is also granted special recognition in the church as a liturgist, ecumenist, and leader for church reform. He is the author of five books, including an acclaimed work of theology, “The Songs of the Mothers”, a popular memoir about a rescue mission to Cuba entitled “Let the Bastards Go”, and a successful play about a man he defended on death row appeals, who was executed on October 30, 1984. He is presently organizing At the Threshold (AtT), projected as an international and ecumenical effort to foster reform of the church. Bishop Doss personally testifies that he has found most “professional” satisfaction in his skills as a parish priest.

Vanita Gupta
Vanita Gupta is Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. She is also Director of the organization’s newly-formed Center for Justice, which addresses systemic problems in the U.S. criminal justice system, including the treatment of prisoners, the death penalty, and the policies of over-incarceration that have led the United States to imprison more people than any other country in the world. In addition, Vanita is an adjunct clinical professor at NYU School of Law, where she teaches and oversees a racial justice litigation clinic.

 

From 2006-2010, Vanita was a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, where she won a landmark settlement on behalf of immigrant children detained in a converted medium security, privately-run prison in Texas. Prior to joining the ACLU, Vanita was at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where she successfully led the effort to overturn the wrongful drug convictions of 38 defendants in Tulia, Texas, and served on the legal team that won freedom for renowned prison journalist Wilbert Rideau in his fourth retrial after he had already spent 44 years in prison.

 

Vanita has won numerous awards for her advocacy and has been quoted extensively in national and international media on racial justice and criminal justice issues. She has served as a consultant for the Open Society Institute on various international human rights projects in Central Europe and Africa. She serves on the board of OSI Roma Initiatives and Working Films, Inc., as well as on the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch US Programs. Vanita is a graduate of Yale University and New York University School of Law.

Stephen Hanlon
Stephen Hanlon has a long history of handling public interest and civil rights cases. In 1989, he founded the Community Services Team (CST) at Holland & Knight and for the next 23 years he served as the Partner in Charge of the CST, which during Mr. Hanlon’s tenure was the largest full-time private practice pro bono department in the nation. In 1997, Holland & Knight received the ABA Pro Bono Publico Award. The American Lawyer described Holland & Knight as a “pro bono champion.” In 2006, Mr. Hanlon received the Chesterfield Smith Award from Holland & Knight, the firm’s highest individual recognition given to a firm partner. Since his retirement from Holland & Knight at the end of 2012, Mr. Hanlon has confined his practice to assisting public defenders with excessive caseloads.

Jana Lipman
Jana Lipman is an Associate History in the History Department at Tulane University. She teaches classes in U.S. History, Labor and Migration, and U.S. Foreign Policy. She is the author of Guantánamo: A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution, which was the Co-Winner of the 2009 Taft Prize in Labor History, and she has also published scholarly articles on Vietnamese, Cuban, and Haitian refugees. In addition to her academic work, Jana has been active in public history, advising the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, which seeks to initiate dialogue and debate about the history of U.S. intervention in Cuba, U.S. immigration policies, U.S. detention policies, and human rights in the contemporary moment. She also has a long commitment to civil rights and social justice. Jana has worked for the NYCLU (the ACLU of New York), organized graduate student workers (GESO), and served as a US Peace Corps volunteer in the Eastern Caribbean. She also currently serves on the Executive Board of the Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA). Jana Lipman received a PhD in US History from Yale University in 2006 and graduated with a BA from Brown University in 1996. She has lived in New Orleans since 2008.

Wilbert Rideau
Wilbert Rideau was sentenced to death for murder in 1961 by an all-white, all-male jury in a trial called “kangaroo court proceedings” by the United States Supreme Court, which threw out the conviction. All-white male juries twice again sentenced him to death. Pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, that sentence was amended to life imprisonment in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, then widely acknowledged to be “the bloodiest prison in the nation.”

In 1976, Wilbert became editor of The Angolite, the prisoner-produced newsmagazine, and was the first prisoner in American penal history to win freedom from censorship. Over the next quarter century, he won many of the nation’s highest journalism awards, including the prestigious George Polk Award, for his outstanding contributions to public understanding of the criminal justice and prison systems. In 1979, he became the first prisoner ever to receive the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award for an investigative exposé, “Conversations with the Dead,” that resulted in the release of a number of long-term inmates “lost” in the Louisiana prison system. In 1984, he was selected to participate in an unprecedented nationally televised dialogue with Chief Justice Warren Burger of the Supreme Court on ABC-TV’s Nightline.

In March 1993, Life magazine called him “The Most Rehabilitated Prisoner in America.” That same year, he ventured into broadcast journalism, producing award-winning reports for national radio and television. In 1996, he became the only prisoner ever to receive the Louisiana Bar Association’s highest journalistic honor for a documentary film he co-produced, Final Judgment: The Execution of Antonio James. In 1998, he co-directed a documentary, The Farm: Angola, USA, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. He is the co-editor of The Wall Is Strong: Corrections in Louisiana, a textbook now in its fourth edition; Life Sentences, an anthology of articles from The Angolite; and In the Place of Justice: A Story of Punishment and Deliverance, his autobiography.

For two decades, as Louisiana’s most prominent prisoner, he traveled throughout the state, lecturing about journalism and criminal justice at universities and talking to court probationers and troubled youths at the request of judges and school authorities. In 2000, Wilbert won a new trial because of the systematic exclusion of blacks from the grand jury that indicted him in 1961. On January 15, 2005, a racially-mixed jury convicted him of manslaughter, a crime for which he had already served 23 years more than the maximum sentence. He was released immediately. Wilbert was given the 2005 Champion of Justice Award by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and also honored by the Southern Center for Human Rights with its Human Rights Award for 2005. A 2007 Soros Justice Media Fellow, he is now a consultant, specializing in capital client communications and problems.

 

Board of Directors