Staff Photo

LACLJ Staff at our Celebrating Survivors Gala

Leadership Team

Executive Director

Carmen McDonald, Esq

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Carmen has nearly twenty years of experience serving low-income individuals in family and immigration law. In March 2023, the Board appointed her as Executive Director.

In her previous role as Director of Legal Services, Carmen oversaw LACLJ’s domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking projects and LACLJ’s pro bono program, which pairs attorneys with survivors of domestic violence seeking representation at their restraining order hearings. Driven by her passion to help others, she has led representation for hundreds of domestic violence survivors in family court and immigration proceedings and overseen precedent-setting appeals.

Prior to working at LACLJ, Carmen was an attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County where she represented survivors of domestic violence in family law and immigration matters, and worked in the Shriver Access to Justice Project assisting tenants with unlawful detainer proceedings. Carmen also previously worked at Break the Cycle where she represented teen survivors of domestic violence in family law matters. Prior to becoming an attorney, Carmen interned at the YWCA of San Diego County assisting survivors of domestic violence in family law matters and at the Gay and Lesbian Center of San Diego County assisting clients living with HIV/AIDS with accessing benefits.

Carmen’s parents emigrated from Cuba and taught her the importance of fairness, justice, and the rule of law. She was raised with an understanding of how critical access to justice is.

Carmen received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Central Florida with a minor in Women’s Studies before graduating from California Western School of Law.

Carmen is active in numerous Los Angeles County bar committees including the Family Law Executive Committee, the Access to Justice Committee, and the Judicial Appointments Committee. Carmen previously served as Trustee for the San Fernando Valley Bar Association. Carmen was awarded the 2020 Los Angeles Domestic Violence Council Betty Fisher award for her service to survivors of domestic violence.

Director of Legal Services

Jimena Vasquez, Esq.

Jimena Vasquez oversees all aspects of the delivery of legal services to clients at LACLJ. Jimena has been practicing family law for the past 16 years.

Prior to her position at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, Jimena worked at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, representing victims of domestic violence in their family law and immigration matters.  Jimena has also worked at Neighborhood Legal Services, Break the Cycle and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).  Jimena was the former Vice Chair of the Board of the Legal Aid Association of California and former board member of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association.

Jimena received her Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 2001 and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and History from the University of California, Berkeley in 1998.  She is married and is a proud mom of two.

Director of Grants & Contracts

Gladys La Torre, Esq.

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Gladys La Torre is Director of Grants & Contracts of the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (LACLJ).  For nearly 20 years at LACLJ, she has held leadership positions, including Director of Legal Services and Managing Attorney.

Gladys has a long-standing commitment to serving underprivileged immigrant survivors of domestic violence living in the Los Angeles community.  She began her career as a legal advocate supporting attorneys in their work and educating the monolingual Spanish communities of Los Angeles on their rights as domestic violence survivors.  As an attorney at LACLJ, Gladys continued serving domestic violence survivors by representing them in family law matters and retraining orders.  She also worked closely with court personnel, including Judicial Officers and Court Administrators to develop and enhance LACLJ partnership projects with the Los Angeles Superior Court. In 2008, she partnered with the Los Angeles Superior Court to develop an educational component to their Case Flow Management System, a process developed to help self-represented litigants complete their pending family law case. Gladys received her J.D from Western State University, College of Law and her B.S in Business and Finance from California State University, Los Angeles.

Director of Development

Marissa Marasigan, MSW

Marissa Marasigan is the Director of Development at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (LACLJ). With over 10 years of experience in fundraising, Marissa leads LACLJ’s individual, corporate and private foundation giving, as well as its fundraising events and communications.

Prior to joining LACLJ, she was the Director of Development & Strategic Initiatives at St. Barnabas Senior Services, where she led fundraising, events, communications and program development. In this role, she helped to launch Los Angeles’ only technology and aging conference – Aging Into the Future. Marissa also participated in AARP’s Latino Caregiver Project, joining the Latino Caregiver Coalition and co-chairing the Outreach and Education Committee targeting Latino family caregivers in Supervisorial District 1.

She has participated in various training programs including Executive Service Corps’ Developing Development Program, the SCAN Foundation’s Linkage Lab Academy and USC’s MSW Field Instructor Certification. Prior to this work, she volunteered at a domestic violence shelter in San Francisco, working their 24-hour hotline and earning her 40-hour domestic violence counselor certificate.

Marissa graduated with a B.S. in Social Welfare and Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her Master of Social Work with a concentration in Community Organization, Planning and Administration from the University of Southern California.

Director of Finance

Jane Byun

Jane Byun Headshot

Jane Byun is the Director of Finance at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (LACLJ) and oversees the financial operations of the agency.

Jane’s first job after college was at Aseltine School, a non-public school in San Diego, and it was here that she developed an interest in non-profit accounting and for working for non-profit organizations whose mission and values aligned with her own. After working in the private sector honing her accounting skills, including most recently, at a public accounting firm, Jane returned to her first love of non-profit work when she joined LACLJ in 2016.

Jane firmly believes a society is only as good as how it treats its most vulnerable, and as an immigrant herself, is passionate about LACLJ’s work to secure justice for vulnerable populations.

Jane graduated with a B.A. in Political Science – International Relations with a minor in International Migration Studies. She completed the UCSD Extension Accounting Certificate and is now pursuing her C.P.A. license.

Directing Attorney

Michelle Carey, Esq.

Michelle represents undocumented youth and survivors of interpersonal violence in immigration matters and supervises staff in the Immigration program.

Michelle received her B.A. from Cornell University in English and Women’s Studies and her J.D. and M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA. While at UCLA School of Law, Michelle completed the Epstein Public Interest Program in Law and Policy and graduated with a concentration in Critical Race Studies. Before attending law school, she taught 9th and 12th grade English at Locke High School in Watts.

In her previous work as a Staff Attorney at the Immigration Center for Women and Children, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, Neighborhood Legal Services, and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Michelle represented hundreds of low income, undocumented survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other violent crimes in their immigration matters. Michelle is also Adjunct Faculty at the USC Price School of Public Policy where she teaches an undergraduate course on immigration policy and at the USC School of Social Work where she teaches a graduate course on domestic violence. Michelle speaks Spanish.

Directing Manager of Trauma-Informed Services & Education

Sylvia M. Gribbell, LCSW

Sylvia Gribbell Headshot

Sylvia received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2001, and a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in children and families with a sub-concentration in public child welfare from the University of Southern California in 2005.

For the past 7 years, she has served as a field instructor for BSW and MSW students placed at LACLJ as part of the Community Advocate Program serving survivors of interpersonal violence, sexual assault and human trafficking who are seeking holistic legal services through a transdisciplinary legal and social work model.

Sylvia has over 15 years of experience working with children, adolescents, and their families addressing depression, anxiety, and trauma providing bilingual services in outpatient and school-based settings.  She is licensed in California as a licensed clinical social worker.  Sylvia maintains a private practice and has received trainings and certification in mindfulness, art therapy, play therapy, and sand tray.  In addition, she has received training through the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health in evidence-based practices, Managing and Adapting Practices (MAP), and is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT).

She serves as a field instructor for several MSW programs in Southern California, is a guest lecturer on disability rights, trauma, and domestic violence, and provides training for parents of and professionals working with individuals with special needs. In addition, she supervises associate clinical social workers in legal, multidisciplinary and non-traditional settings.

Pro Bono Manager

Amanda Jancu, Esq.

Amanda Headshot

Amanda Jancu is the Pro Bono Manager for the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice. She has provided legal services to low-income survivors of domestic violence for over ten years.

Prior to coming to LACLJ, Amanda worked at 1736 Family Crisis Center and Prototypes, providing representation and pro per assistance in various family law matters.  She also engages in policy advocacy and has testified in legislative committees in support of legislation that empowers and promotes justice for survivors.  Amanda was awarded the New York Life Foundation’s Love Takes Action Award in 2020 in recognition of her dedication and advocacy in supporting survivors of abuse.  She also serves as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, a statewide coalition in the domestic violence field, and chairs the Nominating Committee for the Board.

Amanda received her Juris Doctor, cum laude, for UC Hastings in 2011 and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a minor in Physics from California State University, Los Angeles.