Young people make up some of the best lawyers and legal minds in Philadelphia. So for the third year in a row, Billy Penn is highlighting the city’s next great stars in law, from prosecutors to litigators to defenders to social justice advocates.
Welcome to the June 2017 edition of Who’s Next. Every month, Billy Penn publishes an installment of this up-and-comer series, presented by the Knight Foundation, focusing on a different industry or field. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve featured more than 400 of the city’s leaders under the age of 40, from teachers to artists to musicians to chefs.
Now, meet 16 young people who are the next great attorneys in Philadelphia (presented in alphabetical order).
Honorees’ hair and makeup by House of Clarity.
Amal Munas Bass joined the Women’s Law Project as a staff attorney in 2006 and now works in a variety of areas, including pregnancy/caretaking discrimination in employment, Title IX athletic equity and sexual harassment, and domestic and sexual violence. Her legal work includes providing representation and assistance to many individuals who have experienced discrimination, as well as advocating for better policies for women and families on the local, state and national levels. She has testified on pending legislation before Philadelphia City Council and the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Bass is a leading voice in advocating to improve women’s health, safety and economic security in Pennsylvania through her work in the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, of which she has been the chair since 2016. In addition, she was a lead author on the WLP’s landmark publication, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, which was released in May 2012. Outside of her work at the Women’s Law Project, Bass has been the local Judge of Elections for her precinct since 2008, and was the co-president of the parents’ association at her children’s preschool last year.
Since October 2010, Christopher M. Casazza has been an immigration attorney at the Law Offices of David E. Piver. His practice includes all aspects of immigration law, including removal/deportation defense, the consequences of criminal convictions on immigration status, asylum/refugee law, federal litigation/appeals and family and employment-based immigration. He represents foreign nationals in federal litigation, including matters before the US Department of Justice and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. He has extensive trial experience as lead counsel there and and the federal appellate courts, including an oral argument before the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. In addition, he handles employment-based visas for athletes, professionals and artists, and represents people who reside all over the United States and the world. Prior to becoming an attorney, Casazza was a legal intern at the same firm he's at today. He's also active in the American Immigration Lawyers Association's Philadelphia Chapter and currently serves as the AILA Philadelphia Chapter EOIR co-liaison. As the person who nominated Casazza put it: "The work he does has never been more important or more difficult than it is now."
John J. Coyle is assistant general counsel at the School District of Philadelphia, where he represents the District and its personnel in various types of litigation in both state and federal court, including torts, civil rights, IDEA, Rehabilitation Act, and ADA claims. He also provides oversight to large class action matters and advises the executive team and internal leadership on a variety of issues, ranging from crisis response to policy. From 2012 to 2017, Coyle was a Deputy City Solicitor in the Civil Rights Unit at the city Law Department. In that role, he defended the City of Philadelphia and its employees against civil rights claims in more than 30 bench and jury trials in both federal and state court. He was lead trial counsel in a number of high-profile matters, including Ori Feibush v. Kenyatta Johnson, and provided legal counsel and policy advice to city departments and leaders, including Mayors Michael Nutter and Jim Kenney, city solicitors, managing directors, police and prison commissioners and more. Coyle was the 2016 co-chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association City-wide Expungement Clinic Executive Committee, sat on the bar's Young Lawyers Division, served as a Philadelphia Bar Association Instructor and holds a number of other professional affiliations.
Teleicia J.R. Dambreville is an associate in Obermayer’s Labor Relations and Employment Law Department and has spent her entire career at that firm. She handles a wide variety of employment law matters and routinely counsels management in all aspects of labor and employment law. She's also experienced in defending single plaintiff discrimination cases, conducting investigations into employee grievances and counseling management on the best practices for developing various employment policies. In addition, Dambreville routinely represents employers in unfair labor practice proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board and counsels clients on compliance with the National Labor Relations Act. Dambreville is a pro bono attorney with Philadelphia VIP and a member of The Barristers' Association of Philadelphia. She also regularly lectures on diversity and inclusion in the workplace and has contributed to The Legal Intelligencer on the importance of racial and gender diversity in the legal profession.
Patrick Fitzgerald is an attorney at Kline and Specter, where he's worked on two of the major firm's most high-profile cases. He served as co-counsel in civil cases brought by passengers injured and families of those who died in the Amtrak 188 derailment, and, per his firm, he played a role in establishing the $265 million settlement program, which is among the largest in railway history. Fitzgerald also was co-counsel on a case brought against a security company by the families of two women killed at a Kraft Foods plant in Northeast Philly. He was named a 2017 Rising Star by Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and is an alum of Penn Law, where he graduated cum laude. Before joining Kline & Specter, PC, Fitzgerald was an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C., where he represented corporate clients. He's also a member of the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice and the American Association for Justice.
Jessica Itzkowitz practices in litigation and employment matters at Royer Cooper Cohen Braunfeld where she helps businesses (large, small and startup) empower their ambitions and achieve their goals using entrepreneurial and unconventional solutions. She's a former law clerk to the Honorable Frank Palumbo and was previously an associate attorney at Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott. Itzkowitz is a member of the board of the Anti-Defamation League's Next Generation Leadership initiative. She also prioritizes her Point Breeze community, serving on the boards of both Neighbors Investing in Childs Elementary (the neighborhood's public school) and East Point Breeze Neighbors, where she co-chairs the Outreach Committee.
As a law clerk to the Honorable Lillian Harris Ransom at the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, Tianna Kalogerakis reviews briefs in connection with the appeals of criminal and civil cases and conducts legal research to suggest an outcome supported by the relevant jurisprudence. Kalogerakis is the 2017-18 president-elect of the Barristers' Association of Philadelphia, a group dedicated to addressing the professional needs and development of black lawyers in Philly. Last year, Kalogerakis was the vice president of administration, and served as the liaison to the Young Lawyers' Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association for two years. She's also the president of the board of galaei, a queer latino social justice organization based in Philadelphia. Kalogerakis has been an executive committee member of the Young Lawyers' Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association since 2015 and participates in the Temple Law Alumni Association's Women's Leadership Initiative.
Not long after graduating from Drexel Law in 2009, Mike Lee co-founded the Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity. As managing attorney for its keystone effort, the Criminal Record Expungement Project, Lee has developed an innovative legal services delivery model to provide service and compassion to neighborhoods most impacted by criminal records. As PLSE's executive director, Lee has trained other legal aid organizations in this model, as well as training pro bono attorneys. He's organized hundreds of community education events, and has successfully argued over 6,000 expungement and redaction petitions across Pennsylvania. Through the organization, Lee also sues employers who illegally use criminal record information to deny employment. For the last two years, he's served on Lt. Gov. Michael Stack's Pardon of Pardons advisory council to help modernize the pardon process in Pennsylvania. Lee currently serves as the campaign chair for Larry Krasner, the Democratic nominee for District Attorney. In addition, Lee's an adjunct professor at Temple University and serves as the co-chair of the Minority Bar Committee of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.
Brian McGinnis is an attorney at Fox Rothschild LLP, where he advises businesses on a wide range of employment law issues, including the adoption of policies and practices designed to avoid lawsuits and how to respond when a suit is filed. His litigation experience includes representing employers in federal court, state court, administrative agency proceedings and arbitration. He has experience counseling employers on issues involving LGBT employees in the workplace, including how to deal with potential legal situations and follow best practices. He has a particular interest in legal issues affecting the LGBT community, and has written scholarship on state efforts to prohibit sexual orientation “conversion therapy.” Prior to practicing law, McGinnis worked in government and politics and for issue-oriented nonprofits and public interest campaigns. For nearly seven years, he served as communications director to New Jersey General Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt. McGinnis is a veteran of a number of political campaigns at the statewide, legislative, county and local levels. In 2016, he was appointed to the Democratic National Committee's LGBT Advisory Board, which complements the party's existing national organizing structure with a body of LGBT Democrats from all 50 states. He's also an elected Democratic County committeeman representing the Collingswood Borough.
As senior counsel at Chamberlain Hrdlicka, Matthew Olesh works as a business litigator in both state and federal courts with an emphasis in high-profile cases. He specializes in professional liability cases, attorney ethical issues and disciplinary proceedings. He represented the City of Philadelphia on the sweetened beverages tax case with other attorneys from his firm. But he was nominated largely for his other work -- Olesh is highly involved in pro bono jobs, such as handling custody and other cases for legal nonprofit Philadelphia VIP and prisoner's civil rights cases for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's Prisoner Civil Rights Panel. In addition, he is the current chair of the Young Lawyers Division of the Philadelphia Bar Association and sits on the board of directors at the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. He's a trustee on the Philadelphia Bar Foundation board, the co-chair of Philadelphia VIP's Recruitment and Retention Committee, co-founder and director of the Friends of Chester A. Arthur School Education Foundation and a committeeperson in the 30th ward. And through Olesh's work on the Philadelphia Bar Association's Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention, he spearheaded an effort to disrupt the Democratic City Committee on Election Day.
Philadelphia native Anna Oppenheim is an associate attorney with The NCHERM Group, where she advises colleges and universities on ongoing misconduct investigations and often serves as an external investigator for issues of sexual misconduct, as well as employment matters, retaliation and harassment. She's also responsible for drafting policies and best practices for educational institutions on a wide range of matters, in addition to assisting with policy implementation. Before joining NCHERM, Oppenheim worked as a civil rights attorney at a boutique plaintiff’s employment discrimination firm in Center City, where she focused on advising current employees on issues involving sexual harassment. She also served as an investigator for the Office of the Inspector General in Philadelphia, where she specialized in cases involving sexual misconduct by government employees. While Oppenheim is a member of several groups like the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Association of Title IX Administrators, she said she's currently most focused "on making sure my young daughter knows she breathes fire."
Julia Simon-Mishel is a staff attorney at Philadelphia Legal Assistance, where she represents low-wage workers in unemployment compensation and wage theft cases. Unemployment compensation benefits, she says, are a vital safety net that prevent workers who have lived paycheck-to-paycheck from falling into the cycle of poverty as they search for a new job. Simon-Mishel started at PLA in 2014 as a Skadden Fellow and has represented more than 400 clients. She chairs the Pennsylvania State Working Group on Unemployment Compensation and has testified by invitation before the Pennsylvania legislature on issues affecting her clients. She also serves as the supervising attorney for the Employment Advocacy Project, a pro bono project of 30 students from area law schools who represent clients in UC administrative hearings. Prior to joining PLA, she clerked for the Honorable Norma L. Shapiro of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Simon-Mishel also coaches a local high school in the Pennsylvania Bar Association/ Young Lawyers’ Division Mock Trial Competition.
Litigator John Stapleton is a shareholder at Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller who focuses his practice on complex business disputes. He has litigated some of the highest profile cases in the Philadelphia region in recent years, including representing the City of Philadelphia in its defense of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax and representing the plaintiffs in Whitewood v. Wolf, which brought marriage equality to Pennsylvania in 2014. Stapleton's clients include financial institutions, real estate companies, retailers and governmental entities, and he's also a published author and frequent lecturer on legal issues and litigation tactics, including how to take and defend depositions. He sits on the Legal Advisory Committee of the ACLU of Pennsylvania and was the chair of the Southern New Jersey Advisory Board to Devereux. This year, he was named a “Distinguished Advocate” by the Support Center for Child Advocates and a “40 Under 40” by the Philadelphia Business Journal. Prior to Hangley Aronchick, Stapleton was an associate Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP in New York and served as a law clerk for the Honorable Edward Rafeedie in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.
As a staff attorney at the ACLU, Molly Tack-Hooper works to address a wide range of civil liberties problems -- including in the areas of immigrants' rights, criminal justice reform, LGBT rights, and freedom of speech, to name just a few -- through litigation, advocacy and public education. She regularly partners with Philadelphia's other legal service providers and community organizations and with members of the private bar to amplify the ACLU's impact, and has become one of the most visible civil rights advocates in Philly. She's especially well-known for her work in the immigrant community, and was among a team of lawyers who worked to free travelers detained at the Philadelphia Airport the weekend the travel ban was announced. She has also been a leading voice in the effort to reform civil asset forfeiture in Philadelphia and statewide. Tack-Hooper started at the ACLU of Pennsylvania as a volunteer legal fellow in 2010-11 and returned in 2013 as a staff attorney. She's an active member of the Philadelphia Bar Association, serving as chair of the Public Interest Section in 2017. If you've seen her speaking at a press conference, rally, or other program in the past six months, she was most likely wearing her youngest son, Finn, who was born in December. Tack-Hooper says "the Trump administration did not allow me to have the relaxing maternity leave I had hoped for."
Andrew Wellbrock is an assistant district attorney and serves as the assistant director of the city's Conviction Review Unit, meaning he's part of a team that reviews claims from convicted individuals who profess "actual innocence" and works to identify wrongful convictions. The Conviction Review Unit -- which was expanded earlier this year -- evaluates cases to correct errors where they exist, including, according to Wellbrock, "systemic change where appropriate." A prosecutor for nine years (since graduating law school), he has been assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, the Gun Violence task force, the Juvenile Unit and the Municipal Court Unit. Wellbrock is also on the executive committee of the Temple American Inn of Court, which is a group of attorneys committed to ethics and civility in the legal profession that also includes a mentoring component for law students and community service.
Afia Yunus is the principal attorney and founder of Yunus Law, a firm with offices in Philadelphia and Chicago that focuses exclusively on US immigration and nationality law. She represents clients from all over the country and abroad in employment-based immigration, family-based immigration and removal defense before the US Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals. She's used her experience to consult with affected parties, particularly since the election of President Donald Trump (whose immigration-related executive orders placed responsibilities squarely on the shoulders of attorneys like Yunus), waiving her consultation fee for any "travel ban" inquiries. She's conducted workshops, livestreamed seminars on Facebook and spoken at mosques and synagogues. Yunus is involved in supporting her local refugee community through a partnership with the Catholic Charities of Camden and with Islamic Circle of North America Relief. She's also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Association of Muslim Lawyers and the Illinois State Bar Association.