Sarah R. Guidry, Executive Director, is a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Ms. Guidry has worked in the public interest arena most of her career. She has served as an adjunct professor in Trial Simulation and Appellate Litigation. She was previously the East Texas Regional Managing Attorney for Disability Rights Texas where she represented disabled persons in various discrimination matters. In her position there she also provided representation to persons denied health care in the Harris County Jail, TYC facilities, and other facilities housing persons with mental disabilities. Ms. Guidry previously held positions with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS). At DFPS, Ms. Guidry was the supervising attorney of the statewide Special Litigation Unit which handled the most complex cases in the agency, both in jury trials and on appeal. She was also a Special Projects Attorney and in that role created statewide standardized training and best practice materials for social workers, prosecutors and judges, as well as providing legislative analysis to bills that would potentially impact agency litigation. Ms. Guidry began her work in the public interest arena as a legal aid staff attorney and subsequently Supervising Attorney at Coastal Bend Legal Services. She has authored numerous CLE articles as well as authored several chapters for SBOT Family Law Expert Witness Manual.
Jeanetta Taylor Washington, serves Senior Administrative Assistant. In this capacity she is the Institute’s first point of contact for internal and external constituencies and plays a key role in its daily operations. Prior to joining ECI, Ms. Washington served as Senior Administrator for the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Office of Career Services where she assisted in maintaining resource materials, performed duties related to the On-Campus Interview and Reciprocity programs, and oversaw the details of numerous off-campus career events. A native Houstonian, Ms. Washington developed her professional skills, in part through completion of courses at Massey Business College and Houston Community College.
Zahra Buck Whitfield currently serves as the Associate Director for the Earl Carl Institute’s Center for Government Law. In this role, Whitfield oversees the Institute’s policy and legislative outreach efforts targeted to improve outcomes for people of color. In particular, Mrs. Whitfield serves as ECI’s liaison with elected officials, agencies, and like-minded organizations. Mrs. Whitfield possesses over 13 years of experience in the federal government affairs and public policy arenas as a former congressional staffer, lawyer, campaign staffer, and lobbyist. She also served on Capitol Hill as a professional staffer on the United States House Homeland Security Committee and as a legislative staffer for United States Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS). In recent years, Mrs. Whitfield was the founder and CEO of Buck Group Government Strategies, a government relations firm in Washington, DC. Mrs. Whitfield holds a Psychology degree from Jackson State University and a Juris Doctorate from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University. She has written numerous articles related to legislative and governmental policies.
Whitney C. Kubik joined the Earl Carl Institute as the Associate Director of the Center for Criminal Justice in 2019. In her role at ECI, Ms. Kubik supervises the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Innocence Project (TMSLIP). Prior to joining the Earl Carl Institute, she worked in private practice as a criminal defense attorney. Her practice focused on providing competent and zealous defense regardless of her client’s income. Prior to earning her law degree, Ms. Kubik began her career in criminal justice writing policies and procedures for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Huntsville, Texas. Based on her experience working in the Texas prison system, she is passionate about criminal justice reform and that led her to a career in criminal defense. She graduated Cum Laude from South Texas College of Law, and she holds a master’s degree in Criminal Justice Leadership and Management from Sam Houston State University. She is a graduate of Gideon’s Promise, a national organization that trains lawyers in criminal defense, with a focus on public defenders. She is a member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association and the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association. She is admitted to practice in Texas and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.
Kelley L. Austin currently serves as the Managing Attorney for the Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy’s Opal Mitchell Lee Property Preservation Project. In this capacity, she oversees the property clinic which provides free legal services to low income Texans who are facing potential land loss by helping economically disadvantaged communities to retain and grow wealth. She earned her Juris Doctorate, Cum Laude, from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University where she was a member of the James Douglas Board of Advocates and Phi Alpha Delta National Law Fraternity. She earned her Bachelor of Art Pre-law, from Southwest Texas State University. She has served as an adjunct professor in First Year Property and in Real Estate Transactions at Thurgood Marshall School of Law. She has worked extensively in matters involving toxic torts, product liability, property disputes, bankruptcy and debt reorganization, and various other areas of civil litigation. She has served as court appointed counsel for the Harris County Tax and Probate courts, Fort Bend County Criminal Courts and Texas Board of Pardons and Parole. She previously served on the City of Sugar Land’s Land Use Advisory Council which was responsible for the creation of the City of Sugar Land’s current land use plan. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Sugar Land Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.
Lisa Nelsen joined the Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy in October 2019 as a Staff Attorney for the Opal Mitchell Lee Property Preservation Project (OMLPPP). She provides representation in estate planning, probate, and property issues. Prior to joining OMLPPP, Attorney Nelsen worked in private practice focusing on probate, estate planning, and elder law. She has a life-long passion in public service and has volunteered with Houston Volunteer Lawyers and the Houston Bar Association in pro bono and community outreach. As co-chair of the Elder Law Committee, Ms. Nelsen updated and rewrote the Elder Law Handbook. Ms. Nelsen is a native Houstonian. She has a BA Degree in English from Trinity University and a JD from Mitchell-Hamline School of Law in Minnesota. Prior to law school, Ms. Nelsen was a technical writer, but her passion was volunteering with social justice organizations. Her experience at those organizations inspired her to attend law school in order to better serve her community.
Richard Amagwula currently serves as a Staff Attorney for the Opal Mitchell Lee Property Preservation Project (OMLPPP) at the Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy, Inc. In his role as a Staff Attorney for OMLPPP Richard provides advice and counsel to clients in landlord-tenant disputes, property tax issues, non-profit formation/governance, as well as various other property issues. Richard is a member of the State Bar of Texas. Richard earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Prairie View A&M University in 2015, his Doctor of Jurisprudence from Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 2018, and his Masters in Law in Real Property Development from the University of Miami in 2019. During his time at Thurgood Marshall School of Law Richard was a part of numerous organizations such as Law Review and the Student Bar Association. Richard is also currently an active member of the Houston Young Lawyers Association.
Yvonne M. London is the Earl Carl Institute for Legal & Social Policy, Inc. Staff Attorney for the Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) which provides legal representation to children who are in multiple systems including the criminal justice system, disparate educational systems, the mental health system and foster care system. Prior to joining ECI, Yvonne was an Agency Attorney for the City of New York, working for the Administration for Children’s Services in the area of child protective law and juvenile justice. She also worked as an Agency Attorney for the New York City Department of Education’s Special Education Unit handling cases under the IDEA as well as Section 504. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science from Rutgers University. She went on to earn her Doctor of Jurisprudence from Wayne State University. Yvonne is a member of the State Bar of Texas and the State Bar of New York.
Desiree Mendoza, Juvenile Justice Project (JJP) Paralegal, is a graduate of Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. Ms. Mendoza went on to get her Paralegal Certification at Center for Advanced Legal Studies in Houston, Texas. She has been a Paralegal working in the areas of Juvenile Law, Criminal Law, Family, Probate, Tax, and Guardianship. She previously worked as an after-school site leader for a- risk youth in low income communities. Her duties included working with children after school to lead a program that to help them be better assets to their communities. Ms. Mendoza joined the Earl Carl Institute, where her current duties include assisting attorneys in representing youth who are going through the juvenile justice system and creating dependable legal services for these youth no matter their socio-economic status or ability to pay.
Gloria Suarez serves as Community Engagement Specialist for the Institute. Ms. Suarez’s role is to promote the Institute’s profile through public relations and community outreach. Ms. Suarez is a native Houstonian. She graduated from Channelview High School in 2004. She attended San Jacinto College Central Campus and the Center for Advanced Legal Studies where she graduated with her Associates of Applied Science and Paralegal Certificate. Ms. Suarez’s passion has always been to help others in her community. She previously worked at the NAACP Houston Branch as a legal program paralegal/coordinator. Ms. Suarez enjoys working to help communities of color and other traditionally disenfranchised populations. It is her passion to help people who need assistance with their legal problems.
Tabitha Parker is the paralegal for the Thurgood Marshall School of Law Innocence Project (TMSLIP); she holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from University of Houston Downtown and a Paralegal Certificate from the Center for Advanced Legal Studies. Tabitha aspires to earn a Doctorate in Jurisprudence because she is very passionate about prison reform and post-conviction work and has goals of helping those who have been wrongfully incarcerated. Her ultimate goal is to right as many wrongs as she can and to one day fight to change the legislation that allows these miscarriages of justice to happen.