Board of Directors

Nicholas G. McClary, Executive Director of Beacon Behavioral Health
Monica T. Parsons, Princeton University
Christina J. Vassiliou Harvey, Esq., Lomurro, Munson, Comer, Brown & Schottland, LLC

Our Team

Melissa A. Gertz, Esq.

Melissa A. Gertz

was born and raised in the small farming town of Ringoes, New Jersey. Two decades later she found herself embarking on one of her lifelong callings – to become an agent for progressive justice. The law, it turns out, would become her weapon of choice. Melissa was drawn to civil rights law and Rutgers School of Law–Newark by the inspiration of the legendary, late professor and "people's lawyer", Arthur Kinoy. During her time at law school and upon graduation, she received the Charles J. Stamler Award, the Eli Jarmel Memorial Prize, and the Eric Neisser Public Interest Program's Pro Bono Award, all for her dedication and contributions toward public interest law and the law school community. As a recipient of the Equal Justice America Legal Services Fellowship and the Haywood Burns Fellowship, Melissa was able to experience firsthand the power of collaborative, interdisciplinary approaches to legal advocacy, working with veteran activists and organizers, first at the Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice in Detroit, and then at the Mississippi Workers' Center for Human Rights in Greenville. In 2004, in an effort to raise funds for public interest scholarships, Melissa created a quilt commemorating the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and honoring the legacy of community lawyering at Rutgers-Newark. The quilt raised $5,000 and now hangs in the school’s lobby.

Since admittance to the bar in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in Fall 2005 until January of 2009, she worked as a Staff Attorney at the Community Health Law Project, representing indigent, disabled people in a variety of civil matters in Central New Jersey. Melissa founded, and now serves as Executive Director of, the Community Justice Center. She has been accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of General Counsel and admitted to appear in VA courts. She is a member of the Mercer County Bar Association, the New Jersey State Bar Association and its Section on Military and Veterans Affairs, the American Bar Association, and the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives. Her article, From Aspiring to Inspiring, was published in the January 2010 issue of the American Bar Association's The Young Lawyer. She was also awarded with the 2010 Young Lawyer Service to the Community Award by the New Jersey State Bar Association at its Annual Convention in Atlantic City.

Many returning veterans in New Jersey have experienced combat-related Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), often to such a degree that immediate employment is not feasible without first addressing the medical concerns. A victim of TBI and PTSD herself, Melissa knows firsthand the complications that come from these illnesses, having survived a near-fatal car accident in 2004. Among the many injuries, her head was crushed, and her vision and face destroyed, with her mental health and brain function in question. Countless surgeries and rehabilitative therapies later, she emerged, but not without an acute understanding of what it is like to be disabled, and to be forced to fight endlessly for her entitlements while incredibly ill, medicated, and just trying to get better. Her personal battles allow her insight that sets her apart—and give the clients of the Community Justice Center both hope and trust. In her, they find a type of support and understanding difficult to find elsewhere. Melissa’s story, Racing the Sunset, was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries in June 2014.

No matter where she is, or where she goes, Melissa remains actively committed to progressive social change, and to Robert F. Kennedy’s belief that “if you can’t make waves, make ripples.” While her work took a backseat following her car accident, she is back again. No longer content to make ripples, she is ready to make waves. You can learn more about her here.

C. Patterson McKenna, Esq., of Counsel

C. Patterson McKenna
photo by Tyler Gates

grew up in Long Hill Township, New Jersey. Having lost his sight at the age of five, he spent his days at the local public elementary school learning to read Braille, while his classmates were learning print.  Pat’s loss of sight, however, never translated into a loss of vision.  He dreamed of a career working in and on behalf of the environment.  His lifelong passion for the outdoors, endangered wildlife, and the collecting of rocks and minerals led to a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Geology at Lafayette College. Pat then pursued a Masters Degree in Environmental Science at Rutgers University, specializing in Pollution Remediation and Prevention.

His vision then took an unexpected turn.  He took his first Environmental Law course, and was in awe of the many ways in which a legal education could further his pursuit of environmental endeavors.  He was hooked, and shortly thereafter, found himself at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark, never losing his focus on environmental law.

But then, another unexpected turn.  Pat was introduced to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Just as his single Master’s Environmental Law class inspired his application to law school, so too did this introduction inspire another twist.  Intrigued by the potential of both mediation and arbitration, Pat pursued ADR and earned a Certification in Conflict Management.  Since 2003, he has been working either as mediator or arbitrator for the ADR Unit of NJ Consumer Affairs. He has also participated in mediated family and employee discrimination conflicts.

Pat has remained active in the visually impaired community. Working in conjunction with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, he has given presentations on the many challenges that blindness can pose to those in pursuit of higher education.  He often volunteers his time helping visually impaired college-bound high school students face the challenges of college independence.  Pat’s path has come full circle, and he is finally ready for his vision to become reality—to use both the law and his knowledge of alternative dispute resolutions in pursuit of his environmental endeavors.

Nebojsa "Vic" Zlatanovic, Esq.

Nebojsa "Vic" Zlatanovic

was born and raised in Passaic County, New Jersey and graduated from Rutgers, The State University in 2002. A week after graduating from Rutgers, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and he was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, a unit with a rich and storied history. As a paratrooper of "The Herd" he was stationed in Italy and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

After leaving active duty, he attended Seton Hall School of Law, graduating in 2009. He was named Outstanding Clinical Student of the Year for his work in the Juvenile Justice Clinic. Vic is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and is accredited to represent veterans before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Vic is active in the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, serving on the public service team that promoted Project Salute: Young Lawyers Serving Veterans in 2011-2012 and was appointed to continue to serve on the public service team for the 2012-2013 term. He's a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims Bar Association, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Rachel Marlowe, Esq.

Rachel Marlowe

was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, grew up in West Orange before moving with her family to beautiful Morris County. Rachel attended Ramapo College with the original goal of becoming an actor. While there, she realized she had to do more to help people, inspiring her to change her major to psychology instead. Through the excellent program at the Cahill Center, Rachel was fortunate enough to get an internship at the North Jersey Developmental Center, inspiring her passion for working with special needs individuals and eventually leading her to the Alpine Learning Group. At Alpine, Rachel once again realized that she needed to do more, inspiring her to return to school at Widener Commonwealth Law School, where she graduated in 2015. After interning with the Community Justice Center in both Summer 2014 and Spring 2015, Rachel now overseas program services in Middlesex, Morris, and Somerset Counties. Rachel also works with young children with autism as a therapist at Erica Tober ABA Consulting.

Thakoon Tangtrakul

Thakoon Tangtrakul
photo by Tyler Gates

was born in Bangkok, Thailand, where his parents exposed him to computer classes for children at an early age. His family emigrated to Readington, New Jersey during the Spring of 1987. There, his family invested in the first generation of home personal computers, giving him lots of time at home to learn. Throughout high school, Thakoon's interest and talent with computers and technology grew and led him to attend The Chubb Institute. In 1999, he earned a diploma from its Computer Networking and Data Communications program.

From 2000 to 2003, Thakoon joined the Computer Systems and Method's IT consultant team as a Network Engineer and Support Specialist. His clients included local businesses and schools where he provided installation, technical support and staff training. Since then, Thakoon has been working as a freelance technician providing support on every aspect of personal and business computing ranging from private instructions to mid size businesses. In 2008, he founded InnoTech Support Solutions LLC. Outside the IT field, Thakoon also served as volunteer instructor for the New Jersey Motorcycle Safety Foundation in 2002 and billiard instructor from 2003 to 2006.

Thakoon has been with the Community Justice Center since its inception, designing and overseeing the needs and ongoing maintenance of its technology infrastructure.

Past Members

Lisa A. Turowsky ~ March 2009 - August 2013

Lisa A. Turowsky
photo by Tyler Gates

grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.  In 1983, Lisa graduated from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to practice in Massachusetts later that year.  She practiced law until 1987, focusing on plaintiff’s employment discrimination litigation and consumer protection.

In addition to her interest in the law as an instrument of fairness, Lisa has had a lifelong interest in psychology and women’s issues.  After moving to southern Vermont in 1987, she had the opportunity to work in a cutting-edge program for survivors of abuse.  As a result Lisa applied to and was accepted by a master’s degree program in clinical social work.  Family responsibilities intervened, however, and she was unable to pursue this goal.  Back at work after a hiatus, Lisa became engaged in fund-raising and development for social service and environmental non-profits.  She earned a certificate in grant writing in 2001, shortly before relocating to New Jersey where she has been an active member of Women in Development in central New Jersey.

Education and experience in the law and mental health eventually came together when Lisa took a position as Staff Advocate for the Community Health Law Project.  Her primary responsibility was to assist clients who are disabled due to mental illness with their claims for Social Security and other entitlements.  This work has reignited Lisa’s interest in the law as an agent of social change.  She recently joined the National Lawyers Guild as a legal worker.  Lisa carries her passion for the environment, engendered by 15 years of life in rural Vermont, to urban New Jersey and looks forward to becoming active in the Environmental Justice Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.

Carrie Ann Ploppert, Esq. ~ September 2013 – December 2016

Carrie Ann Young

was born and raised in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, Johnstown campus in 2006 with a B.A. in Business Management and a concentration in Business Marketing. Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to pursue a marketing research career. After four years of working in the market research field in New York City, she wanted a change.

She attended Widener University School of Law-Delaware, graduating in 2013 with an eye on serving the disadvantaged. While in law school, she was named the DuPont Public Interest Fellow from E.I. DuPont Nemours & Co., Inc. for her public interest service. She also received the Leadership Recognition Award twice, once as the auction co-chair for the Public Interest Law Alliance and a second time as its President. Carrie Ann was also a member of two clinics during law school: the Veterans Law Clinic and HELP: MLP, a Medical-Legal Partnership at Crozer Chester Medical Center aiding low-income parents.

Carrie Ann has been admitted to both New Jersey and Pennsylvania bars and has received accreditation to appear before the Department of Veterans Affairs. Her passion for public interest law has led her to the Community Justice Center where her ambition has driven her in helping those in need while working to make an meaningful difference in social justice. During her work at the Community Justice Center, she has been fully trained in numerous crises that come with addiction, post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, She has also participated in and completed the Institute of Family Professionals’ series course Enhancing Trauma Awareness. This course has instilled in Carrie Ann a better understanding of trauma and its impact, which has led to more effective strategies in handling sensitive issues. She hopes to spread the knowledge and understanding she gained through this training and looks forward to continuing to educate herself on this important topic. You can read her article Enhancing Trauma Awareness Enhances Lives of Our Clients here.

Interns

Siobhan A. Nolan, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, '12

Siobhan A. Nolan

was born and raised in Aberdeen, New Jersey. She attended Tulane University for her first two years of college, where she witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and its effects on the community. Through university groups, she was able to participate in projects devoted to rebuilding the city of New Orleans. In particular, she volunteered at the New Orleans Legal Assistance Center, where she developed a strong sense of interest in working with disadvantaged groups. While attending her final two years of college at Fordham University, Siobhan continued her activities within the community by tutoring underprivileged elementary and middle school students in New York City.

Siobhan currently attends Rutgers School of Law-Newark, where she is active in the Public Interest Law Foundation and Human Rights Forum. She is a member of the Equal Justice Works Summer Corp program, which selects law students who devote their summers to non-profit organizations dedicated to serving low-income and underserved communities. Siobhan was drawn to the Community Justice Center because of its core values and commitment towards social justice and community empowerment.

Raymond Baldino, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, '13

Raymond Baldino

grew up in Oakland, New Jersey. He holds both Master's and Bachelor's degrees in English, and works as a college writing instructor, teaching freshman composition and expository writing classes in the English Department of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. He completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers University, where he pursued his love of learning languages, writing, and literature. After graduation, he kept that same passion alive by working as a reporter for weekly newspapers in his native Bergen County. In his work, he became familiar with the stories of those that society does not always hear. Later, the journalist's desire to understand how the world works drove Ray to law school at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. He joined the Community Justice Center, intrigued by the possibility of a form of advocacy that prized storytelling over adversarial confrontation, and more importantly, in the interest of helping others.

See what he's doing now.

Eric J. Marin, Rutgers School of Law-Camden, '14

Eric J. Marin

was born in Queens, New York and grew up in Boca Raton, Florida. He received his bachelor's degree from Florida Atlantic University in interdisciplinary social sciences with minors in biology and political science. His studies in college created the desire to attend law school -- the social science aspect led him to law, and the hard science of biology led him to want to deal with real world issues rather than the dry, theoretical aspects of academia. While attending law school at Rutgers School of Law-Camden, Eric jumped at the chance to do pro bono work to help those who suffered domestic violence obtain final restraining orders against their abusers. At first he volunteered for the pro bono work to learn more about the law through hands-on experience, in a setting more akin to a laboratory than a classroom. However, that pro bono work sparked in Eric a true interest in helping those with limited access to services, which in turn, drew him to the Community Justice Center.

Michael A. Camadeco, Widener University School of Law, '17

Michael A. Camadeco

was born and raised in New City, New York. Michael received his bachelor's degree from Metropolitan State University of Denver in both Criminology and Political Science. While attending MSU Denver, he was captain of the Men’s Lacrosse Team. Upon graduation Michael returned to New York where he began working for a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of the developmentally disabled. Inspired by his work at the non-profit, Michael decided to pursue his dream of becoming an advocate for those unable to advocate for themselves.

Michael is currently enrolled at Widener University School of Law in Delaware, where he is active in a number of organizations including The American Association for Justice and Phi Alpha Delta. In Fall 2014, Michael was awarded 1st place and Best Overall in The American Association for Justice’s annual mock trial competition. In addition, he was selected to participate on the Phi Alpha Delta mock trial team. Michael was drawn to the Community Justice Center because of the Center’s commitment to work with individuals with disabilities and the positive community impact created by the Center.

Adriaan van Stolk

Adriaan van Stolk

was born and raised in Hunterdon County. He attended Rutgers University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Economics. His desire to help aid and advocate for those who are mentally ill, intellectually or developmentally disabled, and those with spectrum disorders arose through having afflicted family members, as well as from volunteering with Getting Together, an emotional wellness group based in Flemington, NJ, and The Arc Mercer, based in Ewing, NJ. Adriaan hopes to combine his interests and background, and pursue law school, with a focus on public health and public policy.