Staff

Sima Atri
Staff Attorney
Shannon Besch
Paralegal & Civil Advocate
Sergio Buchanan
Donor Relations Associate
Lee Camp
Staff Attorney
Andrew Cook
Staff Attorney
Martha Ferdinand
Staff Attorney
Alisha Frazier
Executive Assistant
Ira Gifford
Paralegal & Civil Advocate
Z Gorley
Communications Director
Jacqueline Kutnik-Bauder
Systemic Litigation Managing Attorney
Jacki Langum
Director of Advocacy
Claire Lucas
Public Interest Fellow
Sharon Lyons
Intake Coordinator & Receptionist
Boo McLoughlin
Director of Development
Theresa Nash
Paralegal & Civil Advocate
Mykael Ornbaun
Grant & Program Associate
Symone Palmer
Digital Media Associate
Blake Strode
Executive Director
Ericka Thomas
Operations Lead
Jack Waldron
Staff Attorney
William Waller
Senior Staff Attorney
Qiana Williams
Paralegal & Civil Advocate
Erich Vieth
Consulting Attorney
Michael-John Voss
Co-Founder, Dir. of Special Projects

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Sima Atri

Staff Attorney

Where are you from?

Montreal, Canada

Why did you join ArchCity Defenders?

I joined ACD in September 2017 for its commitment to the radical dismantling and revisioning of oppressive legal systems, paired with its commitment to supporting individuals subjected to these systems.

What is your background (work and education)?

I came to social justice work through anti-war protest and community work in Toronto. I studied peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto and then attended Harvard Law School committed to human rights and community based lawyering. I’ve worked with public interest organizations in New York, Boston, Burma, Miami, and New Orleans prior to coming to ACD.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I primarily work on our civil rights cases, but also represent individual clients in municipal courts and in bond hearings in immigration court. I support organizing work ACD is involved in with our organizing and community partners.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Radical, fearless, tirelessly committed, caring, innovative

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Getting Aaron out of jail to be reunited with his family through our civil rights suit challenging the cash bail system in St. Louis and our commitment to him and his family. 

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I love sunsets, community dinners, and spontaneous dance parties.

Shannon Besch

Paralegal & Civil Advocate

Where are you from?

Born and raised in St. Louis

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I joined ACD in March of 2018. After interning in the summer of 2017, I knew I wanted to work at ACD. The holistic approach enables us to work with our clients on a lot of the issues they are facing. Even if we can’t directly help them, we can help empower them and reduce the barriers their legal issues have put in the way.

What is your Background?

Prior to ACD, I worked all service industry jobs, most recently as the Assistant Manager of Rise Coffee. I am pursuing my BA currently, but hold an associates degree in legal studies

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I am a paralegal

How would you describe ACD?

Zealous

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Any time a nolle comes in the mail for a client.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

Sergio Buchanan

Donor Relations Associate

Where are you from?
    St. Louis.
When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?
    About a week ago! Seriously though, May 2019.
    I joined for a couple of different reasons. I wanted to get out of the field I was working in at the time, since there was no room for professional growth or development. This position at ACD would allow me to  explore a new career path while also committing my time to ending and interrupting systems that target poor and working class people of color.
What is your background (work and education)?
    I graduated from Wash U in 2014 with a degree in Communications and Journalism. My professional  background is too much to explain. I’ve done a lot…from youth development, comprehensive sex education, retail all the way to teaching yoga.
What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?
   Donor Relations Associate.
What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?
   I haven’t quite found the words yet. I will say that I feel very fortunate to be apart of a team that supports our clients through their legal hurdles and  the other burdens that may come up in their lives. I think its a genuine revolutionary approach  to working with and for the community.
Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?
    I just got here, so I haven’t made any client memories yet lol.
Fun/personal fact you want to share.
    I love random, pop culture references, especially movie and TV quotes. Very few people ever get them when I say them, and Im okay with that.

Lee Camp

Staff Attorney

Andrew Cook

Staff Attorney

Where are you from?

Oklahoma City, OK

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

Joined ACD in May 2014 as an Intern; was hired in September 2015 as a Staff Attorney. Wanted to work systemically to both serve clients and challenge the systems that oppress them.

What is your Background?

Went to University of Oklahoma Law School and Washington University in St. Louis…. Had legal internships at the St. Louis County PD office, Places for People, Oklahoma Innocence Project, have been working at ArchCity Defenders ever since.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Direct services with focus on municipal and criminal matters

How would you describe ACD?

Passionate, caring, and radical.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Spending time with a client during her assault trial.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I was a pole vaulter in high school and had to participate in two cross country meets. I came in dead last in both.

Martha Ferdinand

Staff Attorney

Where are you from?

All over, including substantial time in Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, Montana, Illinois, and Boston.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I joined ArchCity in April 2015, because they were a small group of young, courageous attorneys tackling massive, systemic problems at the heart of injustices plaguing the St. Louis region.

What is your background (work and education)?

BA from Washington University in St. Louis, and later in life, an MPH and J.D. from Saint Louis University. My civil law experience includes four years as a staff attorney at Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance in East Saint Louis, and two years in private practice. In 2017, I was appointed by the Supreme Court of Illinois to serve on the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission’s hearing board, hearing disciplinary cases brought against Illinois attorneys.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

At ArchCity, I work as a direct representation attorney handling a mix of civil, criminal, and quasi-criminal matters for clients who would not otherwise have access to justice.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

negotiating a settlement for a client in an employment harassment and discrimination matter.

Fun personal fact

 

Alisha Frazier

Executive Assistant

Where are you from?

St. Louis, Missouri

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

July 2016. I have lived in north county for 20+ years and have witnessed how the police have targeted black people and impacted their ability to work, drive, and provide for their families. I heard about ArchCity Defenders after Ferguson from a relative who collaborates with us on local organizing efforts.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Executive Assistant

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Amazing

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?
Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I love karaoke and cooking.

Ira Gifford

Paralegal & Civil Advocate

Where are you from?

All over.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I joined ArchCity Defenders beginning with an internship in the Spring of 2017. During that internship, I was exposed to impact litigation. I really wanted to be a part of that work and continued on from internship, to part-time, then to full-time.

What is your background (work and education)?

I have worked a variety of retail and restaurant positions prior to going back to college. I have now completed my associate and will graduate from Webster University with my bachelor’s in December 2019.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I assist with the impact litigation on a variety of levels from emotional support to drafting documents.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Family, Caring, Fearless, Outgoing, Loving — I could go on.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

 

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I still watch cartoons and play video games

Z Gorley

Communications Director

Where are you from?

Cincinnati, OH

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

Joined ACD in August 2016. Believe in ACD’s commitment to challenging state violence, racial injustice and the criminalization of poor people.

What is your background (work and education)?

Studied American Studies and Social Work at Saint Louis University. Prior to joining ACD, I did community organizing, development, and media advocacy work.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Through social media, news media, & alternative media (podcasts/film, etc) I help people get to know about ACD, what we do, who we are, and why.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Genuine, tireless, dedicated to our clients, and radical.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

It’s hard to pick one. In general– seeing clients get back on their feet after they’ve been knocked down (often by the legal system). Whether they’re getting into housing, getting their story out and being heard, or just having less stress in their life.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I used to read the dictionary and study words for fun. Also used to study/speak Arabic, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.

Jacqueline Kutnik-Bauder

Systemic Litigation Managing Attorney

Where are you from?

Born in New York, live in Hawaii for three years, but primarily grew up in San Diego.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

January. I wanted to get back to my advocacy roots.

What is your background (work and education)?

Education: MSW and JD from Washington University in St. Louis; BA from University of California at Davis; I also have taken PhD level courses at SLU in the American Studies program.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I am the Managing Attorney for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Dedicated, fighters, disruptive.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Watching two clients get released on their own recognizance after being denied a bail hearing for over twenty days each.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I’ve been a certified Zumba instructor for over 12 years.

Jacki Langum

Director of Advocacy

Where are you from?

Southwest Missouri & Southeast Iowa

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

January 2017. I joined ACD because I previously felt limited in my ability to challenge and change conditions created by the systems that criminalize poverty. I wanted more tools and a different approach to dismantle those systems of power.

What is your background (work and education)?

BA, Political Science, BA, Religious Studies, BJ, News-Editorial Sequence, magna cum laude, from the University of Missouri-Columbia in May 2003

Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri School of Law in May 2006

Staff Attorney in the Housing Law Program at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri from August 2006 – January 2017.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Director of Advocacy.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Tireless. Fearless. Selfless.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

All of them. Spending time with clients is what keeps me going.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I’m a certified yoga teacher.

Claire Lucas

Public Interest Fellow

Where are you from?

University City, MO

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

Joined in January 2019 as a public service law fellow. I’ve been obsessed with the work of ArchCity since I first heard of it a couple years ago and am thrilled to have made this fellowship a reality. I’m inspired by the focus on community and movement lawyering.

What is your background (work and education)?

I went to Mizzou for undergrad, Indiana University for a Masters in critical human geography. After graduate school, I worked at an urban planning and community development firm in St. Louis trying to increase access to affordable housing throughout the nation. My law school days were spent 10 minutes from the beach at the University of California-Irvine. During law school, I focused on environmental justice and civil rights broadly, and wrote extensively on administrative law, including federal Indian law and immigration law.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

My role at ArchCity is still developing. The majority of my first month was spent researching and theorizing around ArchCity’s existing civil litigation.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Real. Collaborative. Passionate. Justice-seeking.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Every moment spent speaking with incarcerated individuals is a favorite moment. The grace they show in the face of a system and series of events that has led to them being locked up is amazing and inspires me to work even harder and more vigorously.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I decided I wanted to be a lawyer after working on The Good Wife.

Sharon Lyons

Intake Coordinator & Receptionist

Where are you from?
Born and raised in St. Louis
When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?
I joined Arch City in April 2019 because I wanted to work for an organization that provided direct services to African Americans in need.
What is your background (work and education)?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Business and Administration and spent 11 years working for the federal government and 14 years working for a mental health nonprofit.
What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?
At Arch City I process phone calls and intake applications for services.
What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?
I would describe Arch City as laid back environment but with an intense desire for justice.
Fun/personal fact you want to share
I have good personal memories of Florida beaches. I spent many summers in Florida as a kid and my son got married 13 years ago on a Florida beach.

Boo McLoughlin

Director of Development

Where are you from?

I was born in St. Louis and have lived here most of my life.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

May 2018.

What is your background (work and education)?

I attended the University of Virginia, majoring in English and Art History, then moved to New York City, where I worked for five years for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as the Director of Foundation Development, raising funds for the organization’s civil rights advocacy in the federal courts and in Congress. I have raised funds and developed programming for non-profits for 26 years. Before joining ACD’s staff, I was the Executive Director of Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design (CA) for 11+ years. CA is a 55-year-old arts organization serving 50,000 people annually with art classes and national exhibitions featuring craft techniques.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

My role as Director of Development at ACD is to raise funds to support the organization’s legal, community, and media advocacy programming on behalf of thousands of St. Louisans who are criminalized for their poverty and race.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

ArchCity Defenders is courageous, intrepid, determined, and powerful.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

We have a client who has been jailed repeatedly for the crime of being homeless and for crimes he did not commit. He is a great storyteller – open-hearted and philosophical despite the injustices he has endured. We told his story to our community of supporters and they responded with outrage and generous contributions to fund ArchCity’s work.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I was struck by lightning when I was 22 on a lake in Illinois. Ever since, I have been fairly fearless and I am convinced that some sort of radioactivity in my system is a menace to technology. Electronic systems break down at my touch.

Theresa Nash

Paralegal & Civil Advocate

Where are you from?

St. Louis City

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

2012. I joined ACD because I was touched by the passion Thomas, Michael-John, and John had to start a legal firm to help the poor and oppressed.

What is your background (work and education)?

I received my certificate in secretarial studies in 1987 and began a career in the legal field in 1997.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Paralegal for three attorneys.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Compassionate, fierce, committed and life-changing.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Being here for as long as I have, I have many memories of the people we have assisted throughout the years.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I collect anything “Lucy”.

Mykael Ornbaun

Grant & Program Associate

Where are you from?

Northern California

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

Joined ACD in July 2017 because I align with this agency’s holistic and radical work.

What is your background (work and education)?

I attended the University of California, Berkeley and the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. I have a background in mental health, financial coaching, immigration, and somatic healing practices.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I help raise money and work with clients.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Courageous, client-centered, and collaborative.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Anytime someone moves into their new home after many years without one.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

Ask me sometime.

Symone Palmer

Digital Media Associate

Where are you from?

St. Louis, MO

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I joined in April 2019. I applied to ArchCity because I admired the community-focused work the team does. The team’s holistic approach has had such a significant impact in strengthening the voices of folks that have historically been silenced and oppressed. Now I have the opportunity to help continue the fight against our corrupt legal system, right here in my hometown.

What is your background (work and education)?

I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in May 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a minor focus on Design. I have been running my own freelance business, Designs By Monie, for over 5 years, serving purpose-driven clients such as local organizations, community causes, school districts, and startups.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I serve as the new Digital Media Associate, growing our communications department from one to two! The primary goal of the communications team is to effectively translate information about the issues ACD combats in order to educate and empower our audience to move toward advocacy. In my role, I support this goal by creating visual content and supportive materials for our communications through print, web, and social media.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Relentless, bold, empowering

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

I’m fairly new so I’m still getting to know the extensive history of ACD’s legal battles and feats, but I am especially proud of the team’s defense for the St. Louisans involved in the police kettling case following the Stokley verdict protests.

Fun/personal fact you want to share

I tend to keep myself busy with learning new things. Right now, I’m teaching myself how to DJ with my new controller and I’m also learning how to code with the intent to apply my skills to web development and design.

Blake Strode

Executive Director

Where are you from?

I am from St. Louis, Missouri.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I joined ArchCity Defenders in the fall of 2015. I discovered ACD in the wake of the Ferguson Uprising as a third-year law student, which is when I learned that they were one of the only legal organizations representing poor people in municipalities like Ferguson throughout the region. I wanted to join ACD to be part of a place that was helping clients to fight back against the criminalization of poor people and black people in St. Louis.

What is your background (work and education)?

I left St. Louis in 2005 to attend the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. I studied international economics and Spanish, and played four years of tennis for the Razorbacks. After college, I spent three years traveling around the world and competing in tournaments as a professional tennis player. I then attended Harvard Law School and graduated in 2015. During my time as a law student, I interned at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and in the office of U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin. I also worked as a student attorney in the Post-Foreclosure Eviction Defense Clinic at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School. I joined ArchCity Defenders as a Skadden Fellow and helped to establish the Civil Rights Litigation Unit to bring systemic litigation challenging debtors’ prisons, unlawful bail practices, police misconduct, and more.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

As the Executive Director of ArchCity Defenders, I have many responsibilities, including managing our growing and talented staff; exploring new opportunities for advocacy and systemic litigation; communicating the work and mission of ACD to students, supporters, fellow advocates, and media; and working with the Board and leadership to set strategic direction for the organization. But mostly, I am responsible for making sure that the dedicated team at ACD has everything it needs to provide the best holistic advocacy possible for our clients.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

I would describe ArchCity Defenders as bold, fearless, client-centered, and holistic.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

My best days on this job are when I get to watch our clients, many of whom have survived years of targeting and abuse, stand up in front of audiences, testify publicly to panels and commissions, and write essays in their own voices that help to build consciousness, change minds, and shift narratives on the critical issues impacting their and their families’ lives.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I’m a Cubs fan in Cardinals land. I know more about the Golden Girls than you do.

Ericka Thomas

Operations Lead

Where are you from?

Pevely, Missouri

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

April 2018. I was drawn to ArchCity Defenders because of their belief that justice and equity are rights afforded to everyone rather than a privilege for those who can afford to buy it. Through direct representation, impact litigation, advocacy, and respect for their clients, ArchCity Defenders is making a positive impact on our region by fighting for those who are criminalized for being poor and working to change the systems that support systemic and institutionalized racism. The work ArchCity does is inspiring and I’m excited to join in their fight.

What is your background (work and education)?

I earned my Master’s in Public Policy Administration and Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management & Leadership from the University of Missouri- St. Louis. For over a decade, I have provided development, program management, and strategic planning support to nonprofits throughout St. Louis. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector I worked in commercial insurance, building and managing databases and providing training and job support across the country. I am a Sue Shear Fellow and FOCUS St. Louis Emerging Leader Alumni.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

My role as Operation Lead provides the opportunity to contribute to the work our attorney’s and staff do. My responsibilities include the management of our financial books and records, handling HR administrative functions, and ensuring we stay in compliance with State and Federal requirements.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Compassionate. Intrepid. Constant. Vigilant.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I have three spoiled dogs, Little Bit, Dude, and Sierra. They can do exactly as they please because they know who’s in charge.

Jack Waldron

Staff Attorney

Where are you from?

Omaha, Nebraska

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I taught high school in St. Louis and in the summer of 2013, when I was thinking about law school, I volunteered with ACD. I loved the work and after that I knew that it was what I wanted to do. I was fortunate to be able to join ACD once I graduated in from law school.

What is your background (work and education)?

Bachelors Degree in Art History, Criticism and Conversation from Fordham University in 2008 and a JD from the St. Louis University School of Law in 2017.

In between – worked as a case manager at The Center for Community Alternatives, as a math teacher in New Orleans, and as an English teacher in St. Louis.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Civil Rights/ Systemic Litigation

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Scrappy and client-centered.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Some of my favorite memories at ACD are driving through clients’ neighborhoods with them and learning, both good and bad, how these neighborhoods and the greater St. Louis region has shaped their lives. I’m constantly inspired by our clients’ optimism and hope despite tremendously difficult lived experiences.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I was the intramural ping pong champion of my high school.

Editor’s Note: Jack was also the winner of ACD’s inaugural staff-intern ping pong tournament in the summer of 2018.

William Waller

Senior Staff Attorney

Where are you from?

Milwaukee, WI

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

Spring 2015; to practice holistic criminal defense in the context of movement lawyering and impact litigation.

What is your background (work and education)?

JD and MSW from Washington University in St. Louis; previously an Assistant Public Defender in the St. Louis City Trial Office

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

Senior Staff Attorney; directly represent clients, primarily in criminal and municipal contexts

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Radical, unbowed.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Moving a client into a new apartment while also getting the eviction action against her dismissed.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

N/A

Qiana Williams

Paralegal & Civil Advocate

Erich Vieth

Consulting Attorney

Where are you from?

St. Louis, MO. I have lived here all my life.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

I had worked as co-counsel with ACD on several class actions. I realized that something admirable and special was taking place here and wanted to be part of it on a regular basis.

What is your background (work and education)?

Undergrad degrees in Philosophy and Psychology. Graduate school study in Cognitive Science. Law School at St. Louis University School of Law (1981).

Mostly Private Practice attorney since 1981 (several law firms, including Simon Law Firm, from 2004 – 2013); Assistance Attorney General for the State of Missouri from 1986-1990. Currently, run proprietorship, Erich Vieth – Attorney at Law; Since 2012, Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law (Civil Trial Practice and Judicial Externship courses); Adjunct Professor at Bahcesehir University, Istanbul, Turkey.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

I am a contract attorney working part-time at ACD. I assist with litigation by helping to strategize, drafting filings, researching and working to serve as a resource for the various attorneys on staff.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Dedicated, passionate, energized to serve the mission of ACD.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Generally, helping clients understand the complex litigation in which they are involved.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

I have two wonderful daughters, aged 18 and 20. I have long worked as a musician and still do this occasionally. I am an exhibiting photographer – my favorite types of photos are portraits and Urban Exploration.

Michael-John Voss

Co-Founder, Dir. of Special Projects

Where are you from?

All over.

When did you join ArchCity Defenders? Why?

2009. Because it needed to exist.

What is your background (work and education)?

Undergrad at the University of Illinois at Urbana -Champaign for Photography and Art History, focusing on Asian Art History. Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana -Champaign. Former Public Librarian at Chicago Public Library. Graduated in 2009 from St. Louis University School of Law.

What do you do at ArchCity Defenders?

A bit of everything.

What words would you use to describe ArchCity Defenders?

Persistent, innovative, radical, woke.

Favorite client memory/win you’ve had?

Sharing a bottle of champagne with a client and the team to celebrate her getting her licensure back after a decade of fighting.

Fun/personal fact you want to share.

Father of twins who are as old as this organization!