Lisa Foster is a retired judge and the former Director of the Office for Access to Justice at the United States Department of Justice. As a California Superior Court Judge in San Diego, where she served for ten years, Lisa presided over criminal, family and civil cases and served as the Presiding Judge of the Court’s appellate division. Her on-the-ground experience gives Lisa a unique perspective and keen understanding of the judiciary and court administration. Lisa retired from the bench and joined the Justice Department in 2015 where she led the Department’s efforts to address fines and fees. Her collaborative work across multiple Department components resulted in two DOJ convenings, millions of dollars in funding, and the development of critical advocacy tools. With Vanita Gupta, then head of the Civil Rights Division, Lisa wrote a ten-page “Dear Colleague” to every Chief Justice and state court administrator, addressing the legal framework that governs the enforcement of fines and fees and warning that many collection practices may violate the federal Constitution and/or statutes. She and former Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason co-authored an Advisory to juvenile courts throughout the country on the civil rights implications of imposing fines and fees in juvenile justice proceedings. Since leaving DOJ in January 2017, Lisa has traveled extensively in the United States and Canada speaking about fines and fees and other issues related to poverty and justice and working with state and local courts to address these issues.
Lisa began her legal career as a staff attorney at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles, after serving as a law clerk to United States District Court Judge Marianna Pfaelzer in the Southern District of California. She later became a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Executive Director of California Common Cause, and was Of Counsel to the law firm of Phillips & Cohen, representing whistleblowers under the federal and California False Claims Acts. Lisa also taught courses in sex discrimination, federal courts and election law as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law.
Lisa received a B.A. in American Studies from Stanford University and a J.D., magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School.
Joanna Weiss was the Director of Criminal Justice at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Joanna created and managed the Foundation’s fines and fees portfolio, garnering millions of dollars of support for 20 research, litigation and technical assistance projects to address the negative impacts of fines and fees in the justice system. She helped develop projects to measure the scope and impacts of both adult and juvenile fines and fees across the country, the fiscal impacts of various practices for collecting fines and fees and to study the use of alternative practices including means-adjusted fines and community service. Joanna also worked with litigators to expand their efforts to pursue broader statewide reform strategies and to create a community of practice where litigation strategies, successes and failures could be shared. Joanna also helped develop the program at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program to pilot fines and fees reforms in five states. She is a member of the National Task Force on Fines and Fees, the ABA’s Taskforce to address fines and fees, and is working with Fair and Just Prosecution to help develop an agenda for fines and fees reform by prosecutors. She has spoken extensively at meetings and conferences to educate policymakers on the problem and potential solutions to fines and fees.
Prior to her work at the Foundation, Joanna had a varied career in New York City government, where she held legal, operational and policy positions. Joanna worked in the Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator in the Mayor’s Office improving efficiency, transparency and fairness in administrative courts. She helped develop and implement a code of ethical conduct for the city’s administrative judges to ensure fairness in the courts and to implement protections and improved access to justice for self-represented litigants. She also served as the chief program officer for the city’s Business Integrity Commission and oversaw the implementation of the city’s first agency-wide cloud-based data management system. Prior to that, she worked in the Office of the Mayor as the executive director of the New Business Acceleration Team, a group dedicated to simplifying and accelerating the process of opening a new business in New York City. Joanna began her career in the New York City Law Department and served as a senior counsel representing the city in 9/11-related litigation and policy decisions.
Joanna holds a J.D. from the George Washington University Law School, an M.A. from the George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs, and a B.A. in political science from Bryn Mawr College.
Jonathan Ben-Menachem is a Policy and Communications Associate at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. In order to create and maintain a user-friendly Clearinghouse for activists, legislators, and other justice system stakeholders, he curates and analyzes research, litigation, pilot projects, legislative reforms, and media related to fines and fees in the justice system. He also assists the Co-Directors with research related to fines and fees in select states, curates and disseminates the FFJC newsletter, and prepares public-facing written materials.
Prior to joining the FFJC, Jonathan was a Communications Associate at the National Network for Safe Communities. There, he developed accessible and engaging communications strategies for the National Network’s portfolio, including the Intimate Partner Violence Intervention and the DOJ-funded National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. He also wrote translational materials on innovations in public safety and police-community reconciliation, coordinated media inquiries and outreach, and managed the National Network’s social media channels.
Jonathan has also worked in the private sector as a journalist, marketer, and curator. At an editorial marketing firm called L&T Co., he managed freelance writers and worked with clients to showcase powerful brand narratives. While pursuing his undergraduate education, he co-founded a music and culture blog called No Smoking Media, which supported his concert booking efforts.
Jonathan holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Comparative Literature from New York University.
Jarienn James is a Lewis Steel Racial Justice Fellow at New York Law School. She performs a host of legal research and advocacy work furthering the initiatives of the Racial Justice Project and the Fines and Fees Justice Center. Jarienn is an alumna of the New York Law School’s Two-Year J.D. Program. She was admitted to the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department in 2017. Jarienn read for her LL.B at the University of Guyana and an LL.M at Brooklyn Law School. Her primary interests are the elimination of excessive fines and fees in the justice system as well as access to justice and children’s rights. Jarienn is a former intern of the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice in Brooklyn, Advocates for Children of New York, and a former fellow at the NYC Department of Education’s Special Education Unit.
Founder and President, Alliance for Safety and Justice
Professor of Law
Georgetown University Law Center
Senior Vice President
Audience Development and Partnerships
Fox News and Fox Business
Alexes Harris, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Presidential Term Professor
University of Washington
Director of Criminal Justice
Laura and John Arnold Foundation
Founder and Executive Director
Fair and Just Prosecution
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Institute for Justice
Clinic Professor of Law
Faculty Director of Policy Advocacy Clinic
UC Berkeley Law School
President and CEO
National Legal Aid and Defender Association