National Police Accountability Project
National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) is a 501(c)(3) organization and a project of the National Lawyers Guild, which was founded in 1937 as the first racially integrated national bar association. In 1999, NPAP was created as a non-profit to protect the human and civil rights of individuals in their encounters with law enforcement and detention facility personnel. The central mission of NPAP is to promote the accountability of law enforcement officers and their employers for violations of the Constitution and the laws of the United States.
With hundreds of members and growing, we continue to effect change in the flawed legal system and fight to put an end to police brutality of all forms. NPAP does not provide legal representation to victims of law enforcement misconduct. If you are looking for an attorney, please visit our Attorney Referral Listing and feel free to contact us if you require additional referrals.
Rachel Pickens is the Executive Director of the National Police Accountability Project. In this role, she continues to expand programming and membership while identifying new ways NPAP can lead the discussion of police accountability. She joined the organization in 2019. Prior to joining NPAP, Rachel worked in the environmental justice sector in New Orleans, focusing mainly on community resilience and water management. She worked in the Lower 9th Ward and was a founding member of the Water Collaborative of Greater New Orleans. In 2018, she lived in Brisbane, Australia.
Rachel received her JD from Loyola University New Orleans and her BA in Art History from Boston University.
She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Lauren is the Legal Director of the National Police Accountability Project. Prior to joining NPAP, Lauren was the Legal Director of the ACLU Kansas.
Before her time with the ACLU, Lauren served as Assistant General Counsel at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) where she provided legal support to the union's Fight for $15 campaign. She has represented low-income workers in employment and civil rights litigation, including voting rights cases in Alabama and North Carolina.
Lauren received her law degree from Duke University. While in law school, Lauren held summer positions at the Texas Civil Rights Project and Equal Rights Advocates. She also participated in the school's Guantanamo Defense Clinic.
Lauren is Kansas native from Hutchinson and attended the University of Kansas for her undergraduate degree. At KU, Lauren was a two-time Division I All-American in Track and Field. She resides in Kansas City with her husband, Jack and dog, Dover.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane is NPAP's Programs and Operations Manager. She previously worked for Court Watch NOLA, providing legal observations and broader organizational support. She graduated from Stanford University in June 2019, where she was a pre-medical student and studied Comparative Literature.
She can be contacted at email@example.com.
Anna is NPAP’s Office Coordinator. She previously interned at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, where she worked on projects involving data analysis, sustainable energy technologies, and environmental protection and education. She recently graduated from Louisiana State University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s in Natural Resource Ecology and Management.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julia Yoo is a nationally known civil rights attorney, based in San Diego, California. She is the president of the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP), the country’s largest civil rights attorneys’ organization. She is the first woman and the first person of color to lead the organization.
A partner in the law firm of Iredale and Yoo, APC, Ms. Yoo has devoted her career to protecting the rights of people whose voices might otherwise go unheard. Right out of law school, she founded a nonprofit and litigated on behalf of women prisoners raped by Colorado corrections officers. In just three years, Ms. Yoo successfully settled lawsuits and exacted over a million dollars on behalf of prisoners – litigation that had far reaching effects on policy as the state’s correctional system moved to reduce sexual assault and improve medical care for female inmates.
Twenty-two years later, nearly her entire practice is dedicated to arguing for the rights of individuals infringed upon by the police and the government – entities that often devote enormous resources to prolonged legal battles. Ms. Yoo has represented more than 100 plaintiffs in civil rights matters, including Daniel Chong in his famous case against the Drug Enforcement Agency. A substantial part of her work is performed pro bono.
Ms. Yoo has co-authored three briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court, and nearly a dozen amicus briefs in appellate courts across the country, addressing the rights of mentally ill, homeless, and disabled people killed in encounters with police and of immigrants and noncitizens mistreated by federal agents. Particularly of note, Ms. Yoo wrote a brief that led to a landmark Ninth Circuit Court decision on the police use of the taser and filed an amicus brief in the Tenth Circuit on the rights of individuals to film police interactions.
Teaching law students, speaking nationally at conferences and frequently in the press, Ms. Yoo is a sought-after expert on police violence, the treatment of prisoners, and the role of drug treatment, incarceration alternatives, and reintegration services for people leaving prison. In her role with NPAP coordinating nationwide appeals against officers, she is also an expert in the role of qualified immunity, which shields police from monetary damages. Ms. Yoo is the recipient of the 2016 American Constitution Society’s Roberto Alvarez award and the 2020 Consumer Attorneys of California’s Robert E. Cartwright award.
Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Ms. Yoo is a cum laude graduate of Wellesley College and received her J.D. at the University of Colorado School of Law.
Michael Avery is a Professor Emeritus at Suffolk University Law School, where he taught Constitutional Law and Evidence. A graduate of Yale College (1966) and Yale Law School (1970), he practiced as a trial lawyer specializing in police misconduct litigation and criminal defense. Prof. Avery has argued cases in the United States Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits and has tried dozens of such cases in the federal and state trial courts. He is a co-author of Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation, The Federalist Society: How Conservatives Took the Law Back from Liberals, and recently authored a novel, The Cooperating Witness.
Jon Feinberg focuses his practice on civil rights litigation and criminal defense. He is an experienced trial lawyer and appellate litigator, having successfully tried cases and argued appeals in both state and federal court. He specializes in cases involving wrongful convictions and prosecutions of innocent persons, the excessive use of force by police and correctional officers, the unconstitutional denial of medical care to prisoners, and the unlawful incarceration of persons in immigration custody. Mr. Feinberg regularly consults for and co-counsels with local public interest organizations, including the ACLU.
Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann is a partner at Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, a small law firm in New York focusing on wrongful conviction, police brutality, and other serious civil rights suits. Anna’s work at all stages of litigation—from filing of a complaint to trial and appeal—has helped secure more than a dozen significant verdicts and settlements around the country, including the largest wrongful conviction jury verdict ever awarded.
Paul Hughes co-chairs the Supreme Court and appellate practice at McDermott Will & Emery LLP. He is also a Visiting Clinical Lecturer in Law at the Yale Law School, where he co-directs Yale’s Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic. Paul has argued 8 cases at the US Supreme Court, before en banc panels of the Fifth, Tenth, and Eleventh Circuits, and before panels of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, D.C., and Federal Circuits.
Howard Friedman has a private practice in Boston, Massachusetts. His practice emphasizes plaintiff’s civil rights litigation, particularly claims alleging police misconduct, police brutality, false arrest, wrongful conviction, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and the right to record police officers. Mr. Friedman is a frequent lecturer on police misconduct and civil rights issues. He is the author or co-author of numerous articles on these issues including a chapter on intentional torts for “ATLA’s Litigating Tort Cases,” published by Thomson West. He has also represented plaintiffs in several class actions alleging unconstitutional strip searches at jails or police stations.
Samuel Paz is a native of Los Angeles. In 1971, Paz graduated with honors from UCLA. He received a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Southern California Law School in 1974. Since then, he has practiced law specializing in litigation of civil rights claims, earning numerous victories in cases involving injuries or death caused by police misconduct. In the 36 years he has been a lawyer, Mr. Paz has a recipient of approximately 30 honors for his legal work. Those honors include ACLU’s highest award, the 2003 Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate award; the University of Southern California Law School’s 2002 Inspirational Alumnus award presented by La Raza Law Students.
Cynthia Anderson Barker began her work as an organizer, first in El Salvador as a staff member with the Lutheran Social Services and later in Los Angeles through Proyecto Pastoral, a project she helped found. It was through her organizing work that she became interested in utilizing the law toward progressive social aims and ultimately enrolled in Loyola Law School. While at Loyola she headed the school’s National Lawyers Guild chapter and, after graduation, remained a member of the guild and started work as an associate at the Working Peoples Law Center in Echo Park. Since then Cynthia has started her own law practice and specializes in lawsuits aimed at ending police misconduct and challenging inhumane conditions in prisons and jails.
She has successfully litigated cases challenging law enforcement for targeting immigrant drivers and impounding their vehicles for 30 days. Most recently she has engaged in public policy advocacy, as well as criminal defense and litigation on behalf of Los Angeles street vendors whose due process rights were violated when their property was confiscated and destroyed by law enforcement.
John L. Burris is best known for his work in the area of Plaintiff’s Civil Rights. For over 30 years the Law Offices of John L. Burris has represented plaintiffs in high-profile civil rights cases including Rodney King, rapper Tupac Shakur, and Oscar Grant who was killed by a BART police officer (The award-winning film “Fruitvale Station” is based on Oscar Grant). He is a founding Board member of the National Lawyers Guild’s National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) and a Board member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights-San Francisco.
Ben Elson is a partner at The People’s Law Office, a law partnership established in 1969 after the murders of Black Panther activists Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. Throughout its forty-five year history, the office has confronted police brutality, torture, and prosecutorial misconduct; represented political activists; advocated for prisoners; fought against the death penalty; and provided legal support to Puerto Rican and other political prisoners. Elson’s practice focuses on representing victims of police and other governmental misconduct in civil rights cases, including people who have been wrongfully convicted, subjected to police brutality, and denied medical attention.
Paul Hoffman is a long-time civil rights lawyer from Los Angeles. He practices with the law firm of Schonbrun Seplow Harris Hoffman and Zeldes LLP. He is the Director of the Civil Rights Litigation Clinic at the University of California at Irvine School of Law where he also teaches Constitutional Law. He is the former Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. He has also taught at Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley and several other law schools.
David A. Robinson was born on November 5, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. David worked for the Detroit Police Department both as an officer and an attorney. David served the Detroit Police Department for 13 years, as legal advisor to the department. He also defended officers in civil litigation. As part of his responsibilities, he was required to teach the legal section to recruits in the Detroit Metropolitan Police Academy. During these same years, David obtained a part-time teaching position at Wayne State University Criminal Justice Department.
David has litigated in the area of police misconduct for both defense and plaintiffs. He has taken, to settlement or verdict, hundreds of police misconduct matters involving the gamut of wrongful arrests to wrongful deaths at the hands of police officers. He has litigated cases in federal court and circuit courts in the tri-county areas. David associated with Johnny Cochran, Barry Scheck, and Peter Neufeld (of O.J. Simpson fame), in the wrongful conviction case of Eddie Joe Lloyd, which resulted in a settlement of $4,000,000. This case also resulted in an agreement whereby the City of Detroit conceded that all interrogations and interviews of suspects in serious offenses will be recorded, including police chase cases, accident cases and other police shooting cases not
resulting in death.
In addition, David has litigated cases involving the death of pre-trial detainees in Detroit jails which resulted in six and seven figure settlements. The Detroit Jailhouse litigation was instrumental in the closure of the 8th and 9th floors of the DPD lockups. David has also represented citizens who were wrongfully held as witnesses by DPD homicide. Theses cases were brought under federal civil rights statutes and demonstrated the abject failure of the DPD homicide section to honor the Constitutional rights of Detroit citizens. These cases have resulted in settlements, the most egregious among them was one that involved the wrongful arrest and detention of more than 40 citizens in the investigation of a single homicide.
Erin Russ Scherzer is Executive Director of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, LLP. She is responsible for the firm's operations, recruiting, and human resources. Prior to joining NSB, Erin worked as the Executive Director of the Office of Career Services at Seton Hall University School of Law. Erin began her legal career as a Business Law Associate in the New York office of Goodwin Procter LLP, where she represented private equity funds and lenders and provided pro bono legal assistance to individuals and non-profit organizations.
Erin serves as Co-Chair of the Maplewood Community Board on Police (MCBoP), which is the first civilian police board in a New Jersey suburban municipality. Erin was one of the community leaders who advocated for the creation of a civilian police board and then worked together with municipal officials to research and develop the actual board. Some of Erin's contributions to the MCBoP includes developing the operational foundation of the board, regularly reviewing Use of Force incidents, and advocating to create a social worker role to address behavioral health calls instead of law enforcement.
Carol Sobel is a solo practitioner in Santa Monica, California. Prior to going into private practice, she spent 20 years working in various positions for the ACLU, including as Senior Staff Attorney for the last seven years she was there. She has been involved in numerous significant cases in federal and state courts. Carol serves as local counsel for the Center for Constitutional Rights in Humanitarian Law Project v. Ashcroft and served on the Rampart Blue Ribbon Panel. Since 2002, she was named as one of Los Angeles’ Super Lawyers for Civil Rights. Attorney Carol Sobel is a graduate of the Peoples College of Law.
Paul Wright is the editor and co-founder of Prison Legal News, the longest publishing independent prisoner rights magazine in US history. He is also the former National Lawyers Guild Jailhouse Lawyer national co-vice president (1995-2008). Paul was imprisoned for 17 years in Washington State until his release from prison in 2003. During and since his incarceration, he has successfully litigated a wide variety of censorship and public records issues against prison systems around the country both pro se, as a plaintiff, on behalf of other prisoners and on behalf of Prison Legal News.
Karen Blum is a Professor Emerita and Research Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School where she taught for forty-three years in the areas of Federal Courts, Police Misconduct Litigation, and Civil Procedure. She received her B.A. from Wells College, a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School, and an LL. M. from Harvard Law School. Professor Blum has been a regular faculty participant in Section 1983 Civil Rights Programs and Institutes throughout the United States. Since 1990, she has served as a faculty member for workshops sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center for Federal District Court and Federal Magistrate Judges. She has authored numerous articles in the Section 1983 area, including a piece entitled Qualified Immunity: Time to Change the Message, 93 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1887 (2018). She is co-author, along with Michael Avery, David Rudovsky, and Jennifer Laurin of the treatise POLICE MISCONDUCT: LAW AND LITIGATION.
Raised in Lakeview, Long Island, Fred Brewington is a respected lawyer and community advocate with a distinguished legal career. After working at a number of prestigious firms and law offices, including a clerkship at the Office of the Legal Counsel of the United States Senate, Fred Brewington began a private practice on Long Island. With his expertise in civil rights litigation, Fred has successfully challenged the ‘at large’ voting system in the Town of Hempstead and worked on preventing future unconstitutional and discriminatory purging of voters from the voting role.
Erwin Chemerinsky became the 13th Dean of Berkeley Law on July 1, 2017, when he joined the faculty as the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law.
Prior to assuming this position, from 2008-2017, he was the founding Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, at University of California, Irvine School of Law, with a joint appointment in Political Science. Before that he was the Alston and Bird Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke University from 2004-2008, and from 1983-2004 was a professor at the University of Southern California Law School, including as the Sydney M. Irmas Professor of Public Interest Law, Legal Ethics, and Political Science. He also has taught at DePaul College of Law and UCLA Law School.
He is the author of twelve books, including leading casebooks and treatises about constitutional law, criminal procedure, and federal jurisdiction. His most recent books are The Religion Clauses: The Case for Separating Church and State (with Howard Gillman) (Oxford University Press 2020), and We the People: A Progressive Reading of the Constitution for the Twenty-First Century (Picador Macmillan 2018).
He also is the author of more than 250 law review articles. He is a contributing writer for the Opinion section of the Los Angeles Times, and writes regular columns for the Sacramento Bee, the ABA Journal and the Daily Journal, and frequent op-eds in newspapers across the country. He frequently argues appellate cases, including in the United States Supreme Court.
In 2016, he was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2017, National Jurist magazine again named Dean Chemerinsky as the most influential person in legal education in the United States.
Alphonse A. Gerhardstein is a partner in the Cincinnati law firm of Gerhardstein & Branch Co., LPA. Mr. Gerhardstein has been an attorney for over 40 years and focuses his practice on civil rights including police misconduct, race, sex, sexual orientation and disability discrimination in housing and employment, prisoner rights, voting rights and reproductive health issues. He was lead counsel in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case in which the United States Supreme Court established marriage equality for same sex couples in all 50 states. The journey to that landmark decision is chronicled in the book, “Love Wins” (Harper Collins, 2016).
Gerhardstein has also served as lead counsel on numerous civil rights class actions including one that reformed Ohio’s juvenile prisons and another that resulted in Cincinnati’s Collaborative Agreement which has been repeatedly cited as a national model for police reform. He is currently working with numerous clients through litigation and model policy advocacy to reform taser policies in law enforcement agencies across the region. He was co-counsel for the Sam DuBose family and secured a settlement of $5 million, an apology, a memorial on campus and participation in police reforms following the shooting of Sam DuBose by University of Cincinnati Police. Gerhardstein recently served as lead counsel in the resolution of a civil rights case against the Boone County KY Sheriff for the shooting death of Samantha Ramsey. Settlement included $3.5 million and a large number of department reforms.
Mr. Gerhardstein is the Founder of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center www.ohiojpc.org and a past Board Member of the Ohio Association for Justice. He is a frequent lecturer to professional and general audiences on civil rights topics, including appearances on CBS, NBC, and NPR news programs. Mr. Gerhardstein earned his B.A. degree from Beloit College and his J.D. degree from and was a Root Tilden Scholar at New York University. Mr. Gerhardstein and his partner Jennifer Branch litigate causes not just cases and they pursue reforms in all of their practice areas. See firm website at www.gbfirm.com
David graduated from the American University Washington College of Law in 1970 where he was the first president of the law school's National Lawyers Guild (NLG) chapter. He worked for one year with the Lawyers Guild's Military Law Office in Japan and Okinawa. Upon return to the United States, he helped found the NLG Military Law Task Force. For the past twenty-five years, Gespass has maintained a general practice in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the past president of the National Lawyers Guild and has previously served as the NLG southern regional vice-president. He also served for four years on the editorial board of the Guild Practitioner, the Guild's theoretical journal, from 2004 to 2009 in the position of editor-in-chief. He has been a member of the NPAP Advisory Board since its founding in 1999.
Terry, of the firm Friedman & Gilbert, has been in private law practice since 1973, specializing in criminal defense and civil rights litigation. In the 1970's, he represented American Indians in the aftermath of the Wounded Knee confrontation in South Dakota, and numerous anti-war and civil rights activists. Over the years, Gilbert has handled a variety of government misconduct cases involving police abuse, violations of free speech, prisoners’ rights, and victims of all forms of discrimination.
Catherine (“Kate”) Kowalewski is a Senior Manager at CBIZ Brinig Taylor Zimmer (“CBIZ”), where she is an expert in financial and economic damages analysis, fraud investigations and litigation support. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a member of the State Bar of California. In addition, she is a Certified Fraud Examiner and has been awarded the Certified in Financial Forensics Credential by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Prior to joining BTZ, Kate was a partner at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, the nation’s largest plaintiff’s side class action firm. Leveraging her unique background as a securities attorney, forensic accountant and fraud investigator, she investigated hundreds of potential fraud claims and played a key role in the litigation of highly complex accounting scandals within some of America's largest corporations.
Ms. Kowalewski earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting from Ohio University in 1994 and her Masters degree in Business Administration from Limburgs Universitair Centrum (currently known as Hasselt University) in Diepenbeek, Belgium in 1995. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Diego in 2001, where she served as Lead Articles Editor of the San Diego Law Review.
Jonathan is a partner in the law firm of Beldock, Levine & Hoffman, LLP. His area of practice is civil rights with a focus on police and governmental misconduct, employment discrimination, First Amendment advocacy and international human rights. He has successfully litigated significant cases both on behalf of individuals and as class counsel in cases involving systemic misconduct in police departments in New York and throughout the country. He practices in both federal and state courts, at both the trial and appellate levels. Moore has served as an adjunct professor of law at CUNY School of Law in New York, teaching a course on government misconduct. He has also lectured on excessive force litigation for the Practising Law Institute. Since 1973, Moore has been a member of the National Lawyers Guild. He was a Founding Editor of the Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Report and has contributed articles to that publication as well as the Civil Rights Litigation and Attorneys Fees Annual Handbook. To learn more, see www.blhny.com.
David Rudovsky is a founding partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, & Feinberg LLP. He specializes in civil rights, civil liberties, and criminal defense litigation. Since 1987, he has been a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School where he teaches courses in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Evidence, and Civil Rights. Rudovsky has argued two civil liberties cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, Forsyth v. Mitchell (government wiretapping) and City of Canton v. Harris (municipal liability of failure to properly train police). He has written several books regarding criminal procedure and civil liberties: Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation; The Law of Arrest, Search and Seizure in Pennsylvania; Criminal Law in Pennsylvania; Law and Commentary; and The Rights of Prisoners. He has also published scholarly articles on government immunity, racial profiling, and the criminal justice system. In 1986, Rudovsky received a MacArthur Fellowship for work in criminal justice and civil liberties. To learn more, see www.krlawphila.com.
Joanna Schwartz is a graduate of Brown University and Yale Law School. She is Assistant Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law. Before joining the faculty at UCLA, Schwartz clerked for Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York and Judge Harry Pregerson of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She was then associated with Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, in New York City, where she specialized in police misconduct, prisoners’ rights, and First Amendment litigation. Schwartz’s research focuses on the role of lawsuits in organizational decision making, with a focus on law enforcement agencies.
Flint Taylor is a graduate of Brown University and Northwestern Law School. He is a longtime National Lawyers Guild member and a founding partner of the People's Law Office in Chicago, an office which has been dedicated to litigating civil rights, police violence, and government misconduct cases for thirty years. Among the landmark cases that Taylor has litigated are the Fred Hampton Black Panther case; the Greensboro, North Carolina case against the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis; the Ford Heights Four case in which four innocent men received a record $36 million settlement for their wrongful conviction and imprisonment; and a series of cases arising from torture by Chicago police officials. Taylor successfully argued the cases of Cleavinger v. Saxner and Buckley v. Fitzsimmons before the United States Supreme Court. He is presently counsel for a seven year-old boy who was falsely accused of murder by the Chicago Police; death row inmate Aaron Patterson, who was convicted on the basis of a false confession which was tortured from him; and former death row inmate Ronald Jones. Taylor is also a founding editor of the Police Misconduct and Civil Rights Law Reporter. To learn more, see www.peopleslawoffice.com.