This year’s conference includes a special focus on Racial Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion Programming. Workshops that will address this overarching theme include [RJ] after the session title.

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Plenary Session [clear filter]
Wednesday, October 31

5:30pm CDT

Annual Meeting of Members - A Discussion on Racial Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion
At the Meeting of the Members, NLADA will release its Racial Justice Action Plan, which builds on past statements and efforts by NLADA and its community to advance racial justice, diversity, and inclusion within its ranks and for the community it serves. The action plan commits NLADA and its members to: (1) speak with clarity about poverty and racial equity; (2) improve our internal governance to reflect the racial equity we seek to secure in our communities; and (3) support a purpose-driven practice that employs strategic advocacy to advance racial justice in our communities. The panel discussion will provide examples across all of these strategies. The session will conclude with an interactive discussion around implicit bias tests. We encourage participants to take the Harvard Implicit Association Test on Race, which you can find here, in advance of the session. (You will not be asked to report your results to anyone.)

avatar for Maha Jweied

Maha Jweied

National Legal Aid & Defender Association, Senior Fellow
Maha Jweied is senior fellow with the National Legal Aid & Defender Association. Until January 2018, she served as the acting director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Access to Justice, the primary office in the Executive Branch championing indigent defense and civil... Read More →


Te’iva Johnson Bell

Assistant Public Defender, Public Defender Office of Harris County (TX)
Te’iva Johnson Bell, assistant public defender, joined the Felony Trial Division of the Public Defender Office of Harris County in September 2011. Mrs. Bell has been licensed to practice law since May 2005. Before joining the PDO, Mrs. Bell worked as a criminal defense attorney... Read More →

Tracy Figueroa

Attorney - Disaster Assistance Group Coordinator, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Tracy Figueroa obtained her law degree from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and served as a law clerk to Judge Hayden W. Head, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Corpus Christi Division.  She joined Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in 2002... Read More →
avatar for Regina Kelly

Regina Kelly

NLADA Board of Directors, Client Advocate, Hearne, TX
A mother of four by age 24, Regina Kelly worked multiple jobs to support her family and provide a safe environment in the midst of the tough neighborhood in which they lived. Despite her efforts, she became entangled in an ironic twist of fate when she was arrested at work right before... Read More →
avatar for Kimberly Merchant

Kimberly Merchant

Director of Racial Justice Institute, Shriver Center on Poverty Law
Kimberly Merchant is the first-ever racial justice network director, where she leads and provides strategic oversight for the Racial Justice Institute of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and its expanding advocacy network. Merchant has more than 20 years of experience... Read More →

Wednesday October 31, 2018 5:30pm - 7:00pm CDT
Galleria Ballroom I-II Westin Galleria, 3rd Level
Thursday, November 1

8:30am CDT

Opening Plenary Session
Join us for a keynote address from Harris County, Texas, Commissioner Rodney Ellis. During his career in public service, Commissioner Ellis has worked hard to ensure that children have equal access to a quality education, regardless of where they reside. He also has spearheaded legislation to provide employees with a safe workplace, access to affordable health care, and a living wage. In criminal justice, he has fought for reforms that guarantee equal treatment for everyone under the law. It’s his cardinal belief that guilt and innocence must never be dependent on one’s income, gender, race, or ethnicity.

We will also hear from NLADA Board Member and Chair of the NLADA Corporate Advisory Committee Max Laun. Max is the vice president and general counsel of Arconic, and he will address the value of public-private partnerships.

We will also present the NLADA Award for Justice through Philanthropy to The Kresge Foundation. The Kresge Foundation’s longtime and unwavering support for innovative solutions, like the Justice for All Project, collaborative models like medical-legal partnerships and the Holistic Legal Assistance Network, and critical infrastructure like the Legal Services Corporation and the Shriver Center’s Legal Impact Network, have been vital in securing access to justice for so many individuals and communities. Moreover, Kresge’s strong support for NLADA’s Civil Legal Aid Initiative, which builds collaborations between civil legal aid and providers of critical services like housing and health care and helps these collaborations access federal funding, has resulted in partnerships across the country. These partnerships provide a continuum of services that help stabilize people’s lives so that they may begin to find pathways out of poverty. They have also resulted in the allocation of millions of federal dollars to support the partnerships. Ariel Simon will accept the award on behalf of the Kresge Foundation.


Max Laun

Vice President & General Counsel, Arconic
As vice president and general counsel, Max Laun oversees the day-to-day operations of Arconic’s legal activities worldwide. Previously, he was assistant general counsel, mergers and acquisitions. Max began his career as an attorney in Alcoa’s legal group in Pittsburgh more than... Read More →

Rhodia Thomas

MidPenn Legal Services, Executive Director
Ms. Thomas serves as executive director of MidPenn Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm that provides civil legal services to low-income individuals and families and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in 18 counties in Central-Pennsylvania. She graduated magna cum laude... Read More →
avatar for Jo-Ann Wallace

Jo-Ann Wallace

President & CEO, National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Before becoming head of NLADA, Jo-Ann Wallace was the organization’s senior vice president for programs, responsible for oversight of both the civil legal aid and public defense program agendas. From 1994 to 2000, she served as director of the Public Defender Service for the District... Read More →

Thursday November 1, 2018 8:30am - 10:00am CDT
Galleria Ballroom Westin Galleria, 3rd Level