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In the past few months, we have been joined by a number of fantastic new staff members! Meet the staff who have started with us since September 2023.

Ruby Cherian


Ruby Cherian joined LAJC in 2023 as an Equal Justice America Fellow. She works in the Civil Rights & Racial Justice Program. She received a B.S.A. in Biology and a B.A. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin. She received an M.A. in History and her law degree from the University of Virginia, where she was in The Law and Public Service Program. Prior to joining as a fellow, Ruby worked with LAJC as a student in the Civil Rights Clinic at UVA Law.

Elizabeth Hernandez-Lopez


Elizabeth (Ely) Hernandez Lopez is originally from Tepic, Nayarit Mexico and as of October 2023 is a member of LAJC as an ACA Navigator- Health Justice Paralegal. Elizabeth in 1991 obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Administration, as well as Community Advocate Certification and other certificates in Theology from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL. Elizabeth has always demonstrated a passion as a community advocate in her community helping Hispanic families and migrant farm worker groups by defending their equal rights as individuals. Elizabeth worked for the Independence, VA Public Schools for 17 years as a Language Instruction Education Program (ESL) in the Special Education office and at the same time advocating for the rights of students/parents by defending them from racial discrimination in the educational system and ensuring that students obtained a decent education.  Since 1999 Elizabeth and her husband Javier along with their two sons Miky and David have been living in Virginia where for the past 4 years, they have owned a Coffee Shop which is a community outreach center.

Elizabeth Schmelzel

Senior Attorney

Elizabeth Schmelzel was raised in southern Illinois and moved to Washington, DC for college. She lived abroad for most of her 20s, learning about the powers and control borders exert over human freedom. She earned a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics before attending University of Texas School of Law, where she focused on immigration and criminal defense. After law school, she completed a fellowship at Ayuda and then worked for four years at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, practicing detained removal defense. Since 2019, Elizabeth has also been an adjunct professor at George Mason Law School, teaching asylum and refugee law. Elizabeth enjoys swimming, dancing, running, and reading. Some of her favorite authors are Zadie Smith, Yann Martel, and Ocean Vuong.

Hank Bostwick

Senior Supervising Attorney

Hank has been advocating for kids and youth facing juvenile justice and education access issues since he started practicing law in 2003.  In 2008, after serving as a court-appointed juvenile defense attorney in Alabama, Hank joined the Virginia legal services community as an education law fellow at the Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley, where he successfully litigated and secured private school reimbursement and other services in the matter of D.B. et al. v. Bedford County School Board, 708 F. Supp. 2d 564 (W.D. Va. 2010)—a leading special education case in the Commonwealth, which is routinely cited as enduring precedent.  In Texas, where he is also licensed, Hank was the education and special education law team manager for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.  Recently, federal litigation in the Western District of Texas Hank filed on behalf of several limited English proficient (LEP) mothers of students with disabilities in the case of Garcia v. Morath, 1:21-CV-01011-RP (W.D. Tex. Aug. 29, 2022), brought about much needed changes to the Texas Administrative Code, thereby increasing the access of non-native speakers to language assistance services in the special education context, like interpreters and translated documents.  Hank most recently served as a senior attorney for the Southwest Virginia Legal Aid Society.  A former public school teacher, Hank brings almost two decades of experience to LAJC as a Senior Supervising Attorney for the Youth Justice Program, tackling barriers impacting local access to general and special education services and fostering state-wide advocacy to improve the quality of education for all Virginia’s K-12 students.

Gloria Aiten

Human Resources Associate

A first-generation immigrant and a proud Portland, Oregon native with a diverse background that has shaped me into the person I am today. My journey began in the National Guard, where I served for six years. I’ve also ventured into the realm of Human Resources, as an HR Admin Assistant and Manufacturing Administrator. I pursued higher education alongside my professional endeavors, earning a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. I’m excited to continue making a meaningful impact in the field of HR while carrying with me the unique perspective of a first-generation immigrant. I am eager to contribute my diverse experiences and unwavering passion for justice to support the center’s mission.

Catherine Cone

Legal Director, Housing & Consumer Justice Program

Catherine Cone is a social justice and civil rights attorney who started her career in public interest even before entering law school.  She worked at various nonprofits in Washington, D.C. and New York City and eventually centered on the legal sector as her entry to racial justice work. After graduating from law school, she clerked for the Honorable Anna Blackburne-Rigsby, current Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (DCCA), who served as an Associate Judge for the DCCA at the time, where she handled administrative, civil, criminal, and ethics issues that came before the court.  She then spent nearly nine years at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs supervising a team of attorneys, legal support staff, and an advocate, as well as managing an active docket of individual and class action fair housing cases brought in federal and state courts.  She later expanded her subject matter expertise to cover consumer protection and affirmative housing conditions issues.  In her work, Catherine constantly centered client communities of color, and as a result of her efforts and those of other staff, the Committee adopted a movement lawyering framework through which to advance its racial justice mission. She also ensured that the organization mirrored its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging internally as much as in its work.  

Catherine obtained her B.A. from Duke University and J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law.  While in law school, Catherine founded ADVANCE, a mentoring program for first-generation law students. 

Catherine also gave over a decade of service to the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia and is looking for a comparable Virginia bar association or organization of interest to join.  She resides in Falls Church with her dog and cat.

Ulysses Ramirez

Senior Supervising Organizer

Ulysses joined the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) in 2023 as a Senior Supervising Organizer for the Housing and Consumer Justice Program (HCJP) and the Workers Justice Program (WJP). He joins LAJC with a decade of experience working with communities in the United States and Mexico. While his curiosity for sociology started as a staff writer for a bilingual cultural newspaper while in college, Ulysses’ passion for justice comes from collaborating with communities in Northern Virginia, Arizona and Southern Mexico as a radio host.

He was pivotal in the development of the Role Models and Leaders Project, a NOVA program in collaboration with George Mason University (GMU). Ulysses worked with high school Juniors from underrepresented communities were given educational opportunities otherwise not available them. Ulysses came to later work in the Culmore community in NOVA as an organizer and lead a team to create the first ever Culmore Literacy Festival in 2009. Furthermore, in Guadalajara, Mexico his organizing efforts revolved around driver and pedestrian educational campaigns with the state’s Department of Transportation.

Ulysses holds a B.A. in Government and International Politics with a concentration in Comparative Politics and a Minor in Latin American Studies from George Mason University (GMU). He is proud to have completed the Emotional Intelligence Certificate from Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM), and outside of LAJC enjoys the competitive nature of poker tournaments, his favorite muralist is Jose Clemente Orozco, and his goal is to one day run for office.

Rohmah Javed

Legal Director, Immigrant Justice Program

Rohmah Javed is an immigration attorney and advocate whose passion for immigrant and social justice is rooted in her life experiences as the daughter and granddaughter of Pakistani immigrants. Prior to joining LAJC as Legal Director of the Immigrant Justice Program, Rohmah served as Managing Attorney of Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York. There, she co-managed a team of attorneys, advocates, and paralegals funded through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project to represent all indigent incarcerated New Yorkers facing deportation. She specializes in immigrant advocacy through federal litigation and has experience across various judicial levels, including district courts, Circuit Courts of Appeal and the United States Supreme Court. Alongside removal defense before the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Rohmah has litigated a range of immigration issues in federal court related to: criminal-immigration, asylum law, due process and detention, derivative citizenship, administrative law and constitutional violations.

Rohmah graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario with her Bachelors of Science. She later obtained her J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland Ohio, where she worked in the Civil Rights, Human Rights and Immigration Clinic. Outside professional life, Rohmah enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, acrylic painting and practicing yoga.

Amanda Shelton

Legal Assistant – Client Advocate

Amanda Shelton is a Richmond, VA native and a US Navy Veteran. While in the Navy, Amanda served as a Career Counselor and Training Officer. While serving in this capacity, Amanda developed a strong passion for helping others with professional and personal goals as well as a desire to advocate. After the military, Amanda worked for several government and private sectors where she trained, created corporate policies, and assisted attorneys with case management and legal matters. In the community, Amanda served on the Financial Empowerment Committee under the leadership of Madam Nichole Armstead, Treasurer of the City of Richmond. This committee was dedicated to the financial empowerment of minority men and women. Amanda was also named the 2018 Veterans Women in Action, a title awarded by the McGuire Veterans Administration for her tireless and selfless acts of service assisting and connecting homeless veterans with resources and aid.  Amanda holds a bachelor’s degree in business from ECPI University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. Amanda is extremely excited to join and be apart of the Legal Aid Justice team where she will continue to make a difference and advocate for those in her community.

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