Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellow
International Attorney / Transitional Justice Program Director
Carolyn Patty Blum
Senior Legal Advisor
Mytili Bala joins CJA as a Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Fellow. Ms. Bala rejoins the human rights community after four years in private practice at Irell & Manella LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, where she represented clients in civil litigation in federal and state court. Ms. Bala graduated from Yale Law School in 2009. During law school, Ms. Bala participated in the Community Lawyering Clinic, where she worked with a community organization in New Haven to address local housing and employment concerns. She also participated in the Temporary Restraining Order Project and served as Senior Editor of the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. Ms. Bala interned with an NGO in southern India as part of the EU-funded National Project on Preventing Torture in India. Ms. Bala received a B.A. in Economics with Honors from the University of Chicago in 2005. She is admitted to practice in California and Illinois and is fluent in Tamil and proficient in Spanish.
Almudena Bernabeu, International Attorney & Transitional Justice Program Director, is licensed to practice law in Spain and joined CJA in 2003. Ms. Bernabeu is responsible for bringing numerous investigations to CJA and for having made possible more than 10 successful cases for the organization. Ms. Bernabeu also led CJA to join the case filed in Spain on behalf of survivors of the Guatemalan Genocide as private prosecutor. Ms. Bernabeu led CJA's work in Spain in the Guatemala Genocide Case that made CJA a key player in the recent Genocide trial in Guatemala against Efrain Rios Montt. That trial was the first time in history that a head of state was sentenced for Genocide in a national court. Ms. Bernabeu also was responsible for filing a landmark case against senior Salvadoran officials for the massacre of Jesuit priests in 1989, making CJA internationally known for its work on Universal Jurisdiction in Europe. Most recently, Ms. Bernabeu has developed CJA’s Transitional Justice (TJ) Program. The TJ program has secured CJA’s substantial involvement in national human rights prosecutions, mainly in Latin America. Ms. Bernabeu’s approach to investigation and litigation has enabled CJA to be part of many national initiatives and to play a significant role in human rights accountability in Latin America and around the world. Ms. Bernabeu holds a LLM degree from the University Of Valencia School Of Law, where she specialized in Public International Law. Trained in Spanish and U.S. law, she is a member of the Valencia and Madrid Bar Associations and the American Bar Association.
Ms. Bernabeu has worked in human rights and international law for over sixteen years. She has published many articles on human rights litigation in national courts and its effectiveness in the struggle against impunity and in international criminal and civil accountability in Common Law systems. She has also written on reforming Spanish asylum law and, most recently, on the criminal legal reform ongoing in Spain. She has lectured extensively at universities in several countries including at Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Salamanca, Madrid and Berkeley. She has also participated in numerous conferences throughout Europe, Latin America, and the United States and has designed and conducted numerous trainings for lawyers and government prosecutors. Ms. Bernabeu is vice-president of the Spanish Association for Human Rights, and serves as an adviser at the Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University. She is a member, among others, of the board of the Peruvian Institute of Forensic Anthropology and the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation. These forensic groups provide evidence for the investigation and prosecution of human rights violations. In 2011, Ms. Bernabeu’s work in Guatemala was featured in the documentary Granito: How to Nail a Director that debuted at Sundance Film Festival. In 2012, Ms. Bernabeu won the Katharine & George Alexander Law Prize and the Yo Dona Magazine prize for her exemplary professional career. She also was included as one of Time magazine's 200 most influential people. In July 2013, Almudena was awarded the SCEVOLA award for ethics and professional excellence by the Spanish National Council of Barristers in Madrid and the Human Rights Hero award by the Program for Torture Victims in Los Angeles. At the close of 2013, Ms. Bernabeu was named by the Spanish newspaper El Pais as one of the top 13 most influential leaders in the Spanish and Latin American world in 2013. Ms. Bernabeu currently serves as a co-chair of the International Human Rights Committee at the San Francisco Bar Association.
Carolyn Patty Blum, Senior Legal Advisor, was a key member of the legal team in CJA's El Salvador and Chile cases and is now working as a consultant for CJA. She is a Clinical Professor of Law Emeritus at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. She founded the law school's International Human Rights Law Clinic which she directed from 1998-2002. She has been involved in a range of human rights policy and legal issues, including trafficking in women, the rights of migrant workers, and the protection of women and gay refugees. She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford, Masters of International Law Program and Adjunct Professor at Columbia University Law School. Ms. Blum also consults with a range of other NGOs, including the International Center for Transitional Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights on their Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative.
Scott Gilmore, Staff Attorney, rejoins CJA after graduating from the George Washington University Law School (J.D., Order of the Coif). Before law school, he worked on communications and policy analysis for CJA. Mr. Gilmore summered with the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, as a law clerk in the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP). At HRSP, he worked on the extraterritorial prosecution of human rights abuses and complex transnational crimes. He interned for the Hon. Reggie Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia; the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law; and the ABA Center for Human Rights. He was also a musician in the Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra and Black Ox Orkestar, and a writer and performer in Le Petit Théâtre de l'Absolu, a Franco-American theater company performing original work on armed conflict and historical memory. He holds a B.A. in English and Jewish studies from McGill University and speaks fluent French. Mr. Gilmore is admitted to practice in California.Cassandra Kildow, Writer/Researcher, joined CJA after receiving a B.A. in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Yale University, where she focused on Arabic and Islamic studies. As a computer technician manager at Yale, Ms. Kildow resolved students' hardware and software computer issues. Ms. Kildow also interned at the Swiss Consulate General in Chicago, implementing cultural outreach projects and editing the periodical MOSAIC. Additionally, as an undergraduate she was an active member of the Yale Multifaith Council and Yale Children's Theater. Ms. Kildow is working for CJA part-time while she attends Stanford Law School.
Danielle Knutson, Development Officer, comes to CJA after graduating from the University of South Dakota in 2011, where she double majored in Political Science and International Studies and minored in French Studies. While in college, Ms. Knutson served as Amnesty International’s Student Activist Coordinator for South Dakota and North Dakota, where she worked with local groups to increase fundraising, membership, and outreach. Ms. Knutson also interned with United States Senator Tim Johnson, assisting staff with constituent communications and casework. After moving to the Bay Area, Ms. Knutson worked as a Volunteer Infrastructure Program Fellow for the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, where she increased the capacity and efficiency of the agency’s volunteer program.
Pamela Merchant, Executive Director, is an attorney with 25 years of experience in the conduct and management of complex state and federal litigation. She joined CJA in October 2005 and has overseen a period of significant growth – both programmatically and financially. Under her leadership, CJA has grown from an organization devoted solely to human rights litigation in the U.S. to one that also engages in human rights litigation in foreign jurisdictions, such as Spain and Cambodia. CJA now represents over 200 clients from 21 countries and has tripled its operating budget. Ms. Merchant has testified before Congress on accountability for human rights abusers and other human rights issues. Ms. Merchant received degrees from Georgetown University and Boston College School of Law and has served in leadership positions on ten different nonprofit boards.
Kathy Roberts, Legal Director, brings to CJA a background in civil litigation, civil rights, and social theory. Her work focuses on investigating and litigating impact cases on behalf of survivors of torture and other severe human rights abuses. Prior to joining CJA, Ms. Roberts led multiple class action and Unfair Competition Act cases on behalf of workers deprived of their basic labor rights, including the right to minimum wages and overtime. She has also worked as a deputy public defender. In addition, Ms. Roberts teaches international human rights law part-time at the University of San Francisco and serves on the Boards of Trustees for the Playwrights Foundation and Just Theater. She received her BA with honors from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1992, her PhD in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2001, and her JD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2004. Ms. Roberts is admitted to practice in California, and she speaks Spanish.
Nushin Sarkarati, Staff Attorney, is a U.S. lawyer who works on CJA's ATS/TVPA litigation in federal court, and is the civil party lawyer on CJA's case before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, where she represents Cambodian survivors of Khmer Rouge atrocities in their claims for reparations against the senior leaders on trial in Phnom Penh. Nushin also runs CJA’s outreach program to the Cambodian diaspora in the U.S. Before joining CJA, Ms. Sarkarati graduated from U.C. Davis School of Law and interned with the U.N. Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Chambers of Judge Illston at the Northern District Court of California. In addition, Nushin spent a year externing at the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Sacramento, where she successfully argued and won a motion to suppress evidence under the fourth amendment, and worked at the U.C. Davis Prison Law Clinic, where she won a motion for writ of habeas corpus attesting the means of her client’s confinement. Ms. Sarkarati was also a legal intern at CJA. Prior to law school, Ms. Sarkarati worked with several non-profit organizations, including Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa. She received her B.A. in Philosophy from U.C. Berkeley with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. Ms. Sarkarati is fluent in Farsi and is admitted to practice law in California and Cambodia.
Susana Solis, Office Manager, joined CJA after working for ten years at La Raza Centro Legal, a non-profit organization in San Francisco dedicated to providing free legal services and advocacy to the Latino, immigrant and low-income community in the Bay Area on issues related to immigration and workers’ rights. At La Raza, Ms. Solis worked in a progression of jobs in administration, office management, finance and ultimately fundraising. She also served for seven years as an activist for CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting the Salvadoran people's struggle for self-determination and social and economic justice. Ms. Solis is fluent in Spanish.