Staff Biographies

 


Erin Kemple
Executive Director
Ms. Kemple has worked with people of color and low-income communities for nearly three decades. In 1985, she was admitted to legal practice in Massachusetts, where she specialized in representing low income individuals and families with housing and benefits complaints. She spent 14 years as founder, legal director and executive director of the Housing Discrimination Project, a private fair housing organization serving all of central and western Massachusetts. Since 2003, Ms. Kemple has served as Executive Director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center. While at the Center, she has advised state and local officials regarding the implementation of fair housing plans to overcome those impediments. Ms. Kemple is a 1985 graduate of Suffolk University Law School and a 1981 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross.

María Cristina Cuerda
Fair Housing Specialist
Ms. Cuerda coordinates our testing program, works directly with clients who believe they have been the victim of housing discrimination, and conducts education and outreach regarding fair housing laws.  She is particularly interested in using fair housing law and community organizing to overcome barriers people with criminal records face when looking for housing.  Before joining the Center, Ms. Cuerda worked as a legal services advocate for 20 years concentrating on issues facing undocumented immigrants, farm workers, and people receiving public benefits.  At Western Massachusetts Legal Services, she ran a project providing legal assistance to residents of the North End neighborhood of Springfield, the poorest census tract in the state of Massachusetts.   A San Francisco native, Ms. Cuerda is a graduate of Smith College.

James Dresser
Fair Housing Specialist
Mr. Dresser joined the Center in 2014. He runs fair housing tests, works directly with clients who believe they have been the victim of housing discrimination, conducts outreach and education regarding fair housing laws. Prior to joining the Center, Mr. Dresser worked in Los Angeles with the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights in Los Angeles CHIRLA, an immigrants’ rights organization. While with CHIRLA, Mr. Dresser conducted labor tests and analyzed data to investigate issues dealing with national origin discrimination by employers.

Jeff Gentes
Managing Attorney, Fair Lending and Foreclosure Prevention Project
Mr. Gentes manages the Center’s work on the fair lending and foreclosure prevention aspects of housing discrimination. He is a member of the state’s Bench-Bar Foreclosure Committee, a Visiting Clinical Lecturer at Yale Law School, and a registered lobbyist. Prior to joining the Center, Mr. Gentes worked at the firm of Proskauer Rose LLP, for Pfizer, and with the Homeowner Defense Project of Staten Island Legal Services. Mr. Gentes was raised in Lebanon, Connecticut. He received his B.A. from the University of Connecticut and his J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Pamela Heller
Staff Attorneyrenters rights, landlord rights, fair housing, eviction, fair housing laws, stop foreclosure
Ms. Heller joined the Center as a foreclosure prevention staff attorney in 2011. Prior to coming to the Center, she worked as a law clerk to the Honorable Ellen Ash Peters and to the Honorable William J. Sullivan at the Connecticut Appellate Court and as a legal research clerk at the Connecticut Superior Court.Ms. Heller has taught as an adjunct faculty member at Elms College in Massachusetts and at the University of St. Joseph in Connecticut. She received a B.A. with honors in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity from Stanford University, a MSW with a concentration in policy from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, and a J.D. with honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Shannon Houston
Communications and Development Coordinator
Ms. Houston joined the Center staff in 2015.  Prior to joining the Center, she served as the Assistant Director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford, where she managed all of the organization’s development and communications work.  Previously, she coordinated the statewide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance / Earned Income Tax Credit outreach program at the Connecticut Association for Human Services. Ms. Houston received a B.A. in Writing from Ithaca College and a MSW with a concentration in community organization from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.

Salmun Kazerounian
Staff Attorney
Mr. Kazerounian works with the Center’s fair housing enforcement team to represent the victims of housing discrimination in administrative actions and in state and federal court. He received his B.A. from the University of Connecticut and his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law, where he was a Gates Public Service Law Scholar. Prior to joining the Center’s staff in 2012, Mr. Kazerounian was a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands, where he specialized in representing rural low-income individuals and community organizations in civil cases.

Greg Kirschner
Legal Director
Mr. Kirschner litigates and manages the prosecution of fair housing cases filed with administrative agencies and in state and federal court. He received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in History from the George Washington University. Representative reported decisions include Laflamme v. New Horizons, Inc., 605 F. Supp. 2d 378 (D. Conn. 2009); Gashi v. Grubb & Ellis, et al., 801 F.Supp.2d 12, 16 (D. Conn. 2011); Parris v. Pappas, 844 F.Supp.2d 271, 278 (D. Conn. 2012); Francia v. Mt. Vernon Fire Insurance Co., 2012 WL 1088544 (March 6, 2012 ) (53 Conn. L. Rptr. 687) .

Jessica Labrencis
Staff Attorney
Ms. Labrencis joined the Center as a fair housing enforcement staff attorney in 2014. Prior to joining the Center, Ms. Labrencis was an associate attorney at a law firm in San Diego where she represented employees in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and wage and hour cases. She received her B.A. in English from Stonehill College, and her J.D. magna cum laude from California Western School of Law, where she was a member of the Public Service Honors Society.

David Lavery
Staff Attorney
Mr. Lavery joined the Center’s fair lending and foreclosure prevention program in 2016. Previously, he worked as an associate attorney at small law firms in New York and Connecticut defending homeowners in foreclosure. Mr. Lavery received his B.A. in Economics and Finance from Muhlenberg College and his J.D. from Syracuse University cum laude.

Loretta Martina
Foreclosure Prevention Paralegal
Ms. Martina joined the Center in July 2012 as a paralegal specializing in foreclosure prevention. She is a recent graduate of the University of Hartford, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree summa cum laude in Paralegal Studies. As a paralegal student, she participated in the Foreclosure Prevention Clinics co-sponsored by the university and the Center. Ms. Martina is a member of the Central Connecticut Paralegal Association and sits on the American Bar Association Advisory Board for the University of Hartford’s Paralegal Studies Program.

Loraine Martinez
Staff Attorney
Ms. Martinez came to the Center as a foreclosure prevention staff attorney in 2012. Before joining the Center, she served as an attorney advisor for the Social Security Administration, Office of Appellate Operations in Washington, D.C. Ms. Martinez received a B.S. with honors in Management and International Business from the University of Connecticut and a J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law. While in law school, she interned with the Community Law Center in Baltimore.

Letty Ortiz
Administrative Assistant
For more than a decade at the Center, Ms. Ortiz has been responsible for completing intakes and assisting the fair housing and fair lending staff with their cases, including provision of translation services. She also helps staff schedule education and outreach events.

Sarah White
Staff Attorney
Ms. White joined the Center’s fair lending and foreclosure prevention program in 2012. Previously, she was a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands. Ms. White received her B.A. from Hendrix College and her M.A. and J.D. from the University of Washington. She was the recipient of the National Lawyers Guild’s C. B. King award in 2010 for her social justice efforts.

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