Christopher Jones

executive director

Christopher has more than twenty five years experience in civil legal aid. He began his legal services career in Central Florida where he developed an innovative medical-legal partnership. Christopher joined Florida Institutional Legal Services, Inc. in 1996 and was its Executive Director until the organization merged with Florida Legal Services, Inc. He has experience in a broad range of civil legal aid, including civil rights and class action litigation, much of it focused on disability and mental health rights. Christopher earned B.A. degrees in Psychology and Political Science, graduating Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers University. Christopher obtained his J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley where he was awarded a Berkeley Law Foundation Fellowship. He is admitted to practice before The Florida Bar, the United States District Courts for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Florida, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Christopher is a member of the Administrative Law, Appellate Practice, Criminal Law, and Public Interest Law Sections of The Florida Bar and is a member of the Executive Council of the Public Interest Law Section.

Robert Dwyer

DIRECTOR, IMMIGRANT AND MIGRANT RIGHTS PROJECT

For over twenty five years Bob has practiced as a legal services attorney in the areas of civil rights, bankruptcy, mortgage foreclosure, consumer, landlord-tenant, family, social security disability and veterans’ law in state and federal courts. Prior to his work with FILS, he was the managing attorney of Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, Inc., in Kissimmee and an attorney for Greater Orlando Area Legal Services in Orlando. He received his J.D. from Ohio Northern University and his B.A. from the State University of New York, College at Geneseo. He is a member of the New York and Florida Bars, United States District Courts for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Florida. He is a member of the Public Interest Law Section of The Florida Bar. He has spoken in his areas of expertise - federal civil rights litigation and mortgage foreclosure law - in numerous legal services trainings and seminars.

Erika Recek

Director of Survivor Advocacy

Since graduating from the University of Florida in 2007, Erika has spent most of her legal career working in public interest law, ensuring that individuals in vulnerable situations have a voice in the judicial process. She started her career working for Legal Services of Northern Virginia, helping survivors of domestic violence with their legal issues related to protection orders, family law related matters, housing and consumer law issues. Upon her return to Florida, she continued her career with Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, where she handled family law and housing law matters, and assisted with the management of a multi-county legal helpline. Erika joined Florida Legal Services in 2018 and continues to assist survivors of domestic violence while also engaging in systemic impact advocacy for vulnerable populations.  Erika is a member of The Florida Bar, Virginia bar, and the U.S. Middle District of Florida.

Reina Saco

equal justice works fellow

Reina is a 2017 Equal Justice Work Fellow sponsored by The Florida Bar Foundation. Her project focuses on housing advocacy for migrant and seasonal workers. She received two B.A.s from the University of South Florida, an M.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She graduated from UF’s Levin College of Law with a J.D. and a Certificate of International and Comparative Law. She has been a frequent volunteer of the Eighth Judicial Circuit Bar Association’s Ask-A-Lawyer project to help low-income and homeless communities. Her work and research have focused on human rights, domestic violence, and international law.

Kati Isabel Gonzalez Paez

Prisoner Rights Paralegal

Kati Isabel Gonzalez-Paez is originally from Venezuela, and has joined FLS as an Prisoners Rights Paralegal. Her project focuses on Prison Litigation including but not limited to Prisoner Mental Health Issues, Juvenile Solitary Confinement and Institutional Sexual Violence. She earned a Law degree in 2012 from Central University of Venezuela, then in 2017 she completed a Paralegal education at Capital University-Columbus Ohio and she is currently a L.L.M Candidate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Isabel has worked in her home country as a voluntary attorney with a non-profit organization (Foro Penal Venezolano) providing legal assistance and representation to arbitrarily detained people and political prisoners. 

Andrea Costello

DIRECTOR, FLORIDA INSTITUTIONAL LEGAL SERVICES PROJECT

Andrea Costello is an experienced civil rights litigator and advocate.  She has litigated significant impact cases at the state and national levels in the areas of juvenile justice reform, racial profiling, reproductive justice, police misconduct, disability rights, access to healthcare, and the rights of political demonstrators.  During her career, she has worked at national civil rights organizations, including the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City and the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund in Washington, D.C. Andrea has also been an organizer for women’s rights and social justice struggles for over 25 years and has a deep commitment to creatively using the law to support communities and grassroots movements working for social change.  She received a J.D. from the City University of New York Law School at Queens College in 1998 and received the school’s inaugural Distinguished Graduate Award. She is a member of The Florida Bar, the U.S. Middle, Northern and Southern Districts of Florida, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the New York Bar, the U.S. Southern District of New York, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the District of Columbia Bar and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Mary Rose Whitehouse

ATTORNEY

Mary Rose grew up in the country outside of Tallahassee and earned her undergraduate degree with honors in Political Science from The Florida State University. She received her J.D. from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. She joined FLS in 2017 after working a summer as a law clerk with the organization in 2016 on the Domestic Violence Hotline. In law school, Mary Rose was a board member on Loyola’s Journal of Public Interest Law, for which she wrote an award-winning article about prison reform. Additionally, she was one of the first law clerks for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services’ Medical-Legal Partnership. Mary Rose also participated in her school’s Immigration Law Clinic, where she helped organize Know Your Rights workshops and represented indigent clients in immigration court and at the appellate level. She is a member of The Florida Bar.

Joseph Cordova

equal justice works fellow

Joe is a 2018 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by the Florida Bar Foundation. His work will focus on serving migrant workers and immigrant communities living in northeast Volusia and south Putnam counties with legal advocacy, community development and direct legal services. He has a bachelor's degree from DePaul University, a M.A. from the University of Colorado in Public Policy, and a J.D. from the University of Florida, Levin College of Law. He has over a decade's experience working with vulnerable populations performing community development services and was the 2018 Helen Gibel Blechman Memorial Community Service Award recipient at this year's Levin College of Law award ceremony.

Noelia Wiegand

Public Interest Paralegal

Noelia is an admitted member of The Florida Bar as a Registered Paralegal for the State of Florida, and has joined FLS as a Public Interest Paralegal. She is originally from Mendoza, Argentina, and was raised in Boca Raton, Florida. She earned her AA degree in Legal Studies from Palm Beach State College, subsequently attended Florida Atlantic University, and completed her studies in Biology, with a minor in Spanish, at the University of Central Florida. She also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Legal Studies from the University of North Alabama. Noelia volunteered her time to The Progeria Research Foundation project as an interpreter and translator in their outreach to families in different countries with the mission to discover the cause, treatments and cure for progeria.

Michelle Pimentel

Intake Assistant

Michelle is a graduate of the University of Central Florida. She is a social justice advocate and Massachusetts native, who joined FLS in 2018 as an intake assistant. She works with clients seeking assistance from our Institutional Legal Services, Immigrant and Migrant Rights, and other advocacy projects.

Suzanne Edmunds

Director of grants management

Currently in administration, Suzanne has a twenty-five year history in public interest law. She started her legal career as an assistant public defender in Florida’s Fifth Judicial Circuit, representing indigent defendants in juvenile, misdemeanor and felony courts. She then spent over ten years as a legal services staff attorney at Withlacoochee Area Legal Services (WALS) and Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF), practicing in the areas of family law, consumer, housing, fair housing, and public benefits. During that time, she also managed the CLSMF Ocala office and supervised the program’s housing and fair housing units. In 2009, she moved into administration at Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida, where she managed the grants and compliance departments and helped administer the program’s case management system. She holds both a Bachelor of Arts in English and a J.D. from the University of Florida. She is a member of The Florida Bar, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.

Jennifer Painter

Attorney

Following law school in 2013, Jennifer began her career as an assistant public defender for Florida's Second Judicial Circuit as an appellate attorney. There, she represented clients in their post-conviction proceedings before the appellate court, successfully achieving reversals of convictions for several clients. Following her time in appeals, Jennifer transitioned to the trial division as an assistant public defender. She has experience litigating hundreds of cases before the court for clients facing misdemeanor and felony charges. Immediately prior to joining FLS, Jennifer was a staff attorney for the Florida House of Representative's Judiciary committee. As a staff attorney, she helped draft and implement the nation's largest comprehensive criminal justice data collection initiative. As a result, the new law will help make the state's criminal justice system transparent to the public and assist in creating data driven criminal justice reformation and expose inequitable trends such as sentencing disparity and lack of inmate reentry services.  Jennifer earned her B.A. from Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA., and her law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School in Nashville, TN. She is a member of The Florida Bar.

Delmarie Alicea

Equal Justice Works DISASTER recovery legal Fellow

Delmarie Alicea has ten years of experience in the housing and financial industries which she acquired working for Fortune 500 companies. Lured by issues of justice, she made a career change and began working as a litigation paralegal for a large national firm. She later obtained a BA in Legal Studies from UCF with a certificate in litigation and advocacy. Delmarie recently earned a JD from Barry University Law, graduating in the top quartile of her class. While at Barry she helped create the Barry Law ACLU Chapter, for which she served as the secretary, and also represented immigrants at the Barry Law Immigration Legal Clinic. Delmarie has worked as a fair housing advocate for Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida and joins Florida Legal Services as an Equal Justice Works disaster relief fellow. She is originally from Puerto Rico and speaks Spanish fluently.

Veronica Robleto

Immigrant Rights Paralegal

Veronica has been a lifelong advocate for social justice with a strong background in community organizing around issues of social, racial, and economic justice.  She grew up in Palm Beach County and earned a B.F.A. from the State University of New York at Purchase. Prior to joining the FLS team, she worked at the University of Florida, Levin College of Law at the Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Clinic (IPVAC) and helped create the Immigration Clinic that grew out of IPVAC.  While at the clinic, Veronica became a Board of Immigration Appeals Accredited Representative which authorized her give legal advice as it pertains to immigration law and to represent clients in affirmative immigration matters. At FLS she coordinates the Immigrant Family Safety Project which focuses on preventing family separation and providing direct immigration representation to victims of crime.     

Brianna Jones

administrative assistant

Brianna is a graduate of the University of Florida. For more than five years, she volunteered her time as an intern on the Florida Institutional Legal Services project, streamlining the intake and records retention processes. She is now a full-time and integral part of the operations and administrative team.