GHLA Staff

We are a diverse and experienced group of lawyers and support staff who work to help our clients meet their basic human needs for shelter, safety, education, employment opportunities, and basic support.  We are skilled negotiators, litigators and policy advocacy leaders who are community-informed and focused on our mission. 



Kelsey Bannon Staff Attorney
Kelsey Bannon joined GHLA as a staff attorney in 2020. Prior to Kelsey’s work with GHLA she practiced fair housing law and represented clients facing housing discrimination in Massachusetts. Kelsey earned her J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 2018 where she was the Editor in Chief of the Connecticut Public Interest Law Journal. Kelsey graduated magna cum laude from Suffolk University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology.

Jamey Bell
Executive Director

Jamey Bell has been Executive Director since 2013, and has 40 years of experience as an attorney and policy advocate in the areas of health care access, education, child welfare, and family economic security.  She provides day-to-day oversight of the organization, including administrative, financial, advocacy, personnel, strategic planning, communications, and legislative issues. She serves on the CBA House of Delegates and Pro Bono Committee, the Judicial Branch Access to Justice Commission Libraries Work Group, the Advisory Board of the Connecticut Community Law Center, and the CT Dental Health Partnership’s Dental Policy Advisory Committee. She is also an Incorporator of the Hartford Public Library and a Fellow of the Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellows Program.  Previously, she was appointed by Governor Dannel Malloy to be the Child Advocate for the State of Connecticut in November, 2012. From 2008 to 2012, she was the Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children, where she worked on health, education, child welfare, and tax and budget issues, and led the organization’s legislative advocacy.  She was an attorney at GHLA for 26 years. During that time she was lead counsel in successful federal class action litigation to require the Connecticut Department of Social Services to provide adequate dental care to children in the Medicaid program.  Jamey Bell has a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan and a J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law.  

Michael Casasanta
Finance Director

Mike Casasanta joined GHLA in 2014.  Before that, Mike had his own accounting and financial planning practice, and worked in public accounting auditing non-profit organizations and financial institutions.  Mike is a graduate from the University of Hartford and has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration as well as a Master of Science in Professional Accounting.  Mike has been a Certified Public Accountant since 1988 and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants.  Mike has also been Certified Financial Planner™ since 2005.
Yetzael Clement

Yetzael Clement joined the GHLA team in 2017 providing administrative support to immigration, policy, litigation, and family work. He has over 10 years of experience in family law, child services, and customer service. He gained direct legal support experience working in his previous positions with the State of Delaware Family Court, Department of Social Services, and Division of Child Support Services. Yetzael is fluent in Spanish and English, and provides interpreting support for GHLA’s clients and staff. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Central Connecticut State University magna cum laude and is an enlisted member of the reserve component of the Air Force serving in the Connecticut Air National Guard.

Jill Davies
Deputy Director
Jill Davies started at GHLA in 1984 and has served as Deputy Director since 1988.  She directs Building Comprehensive Solutions to Domestic Violencea key initiative of the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, in collaboration with GHLA.  Her advocacy on behalf of family violence victims spans three decades.  One aspect of her work is the conception and continued development of the victim-defined approach to advocacy.   She has written and consulted extensively on issues of importance to family violence victims, including advocacy and safety planning, poverty, and legal issues.  The author of numerous articles and materials regarding violence against women and family violence, her writing encourages critical thinking and supports improved practice.  She is co-author of the book, Domestic Violence Advocacy: Complex Lives/Difficult Choices, Sage Publications (2014). 

Enelsa Diaz
Managing Attorney
Enelsa Díaz joined GHLA in 2007 and has been a managing attorney since 2012.  She is responsible for supervising GHLA’s Family Violence and Sexual Assault work, including the family law, immigration and SSI practice. She also manages the support staff for the entire office across practice areas. In addition to her management responsibilities, Enelsa represents victims of domestic violence or sexual assault in family law and immigration matters. She was on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence for six years and is a liaison to local domestic violence and sexual assault programs in the greater Hartford area regarding clients with legal needs.  She is frequently asked to speak and train other attorneys concerning domestic violence throughout the state.  Before joining GHLA, Enelsa worked in private practice in a small general practice firm where she focused mostly on litigation in the areas of family, housing, and criminal defense. Fluent in Spanish, Enelsa provides Spanish-speaking clients with the opportunity to speak to her directly about their legal issues.  She obtained her B.A. in Criminal Justice from The University of Hartford summa cum laude and her J.D. from Western New England University School of Law.
Thomas Freeman
Staff Attorney

Thomas joined GHLA as a staff attorney in 2022. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2022 where he held leadership roles in the Harvard Civil Rights – Civil Liberties Law Review, the Mississippi Delta Project, and the Consumer Protection Law Students Association. He was a member of the Consumer Protection and Predatory Lending Clinic and interned at the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice Antitrust Division. Thomas graduated from Bowdoin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Government & Legal Studies in 2017.

Chris Gelino
Staff Attorney
Chris joined GHLA as a staff attorney in the Housing Unit in 2022. Prior to joining the team, Chris worked in criminal courts across the state, first as a clerk and later as part of the Office of the Public Defender. Chris received his J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law, where he served as president of the Human Rights Law Association and held various positions with the Connecticut Law Review, Connecticut Moot Court Board, Student Bar Association, Negotiation & Dispute Resolution Society, and American Constitution Society. Chris received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Human Rights from the University of Connecticut and Master of Science in International Politics from SOAS, University of London. 

Clarissa Guerrero
Staff Attorney
Clarissa Guerrero is a J.D. (’20) and M.S.W. (’19) graduate from the University of South Carolina. She received her B.S. from Florida State University (’16) – Go Noles! Clarissa has extensive public interest experience, having interned with organizations including the ACLU-Virginia and the Lexington County South Carolina Public Defender, and serving as a judicial intern in the U.S. District Court, South Carolina. She was a Community Leadership Corps member of the Obama Foundation in 2018, working on a school-to-prison pipeline project, and worked with Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities in South Carolina. She has four years of experience working as a Guardian ad Litem for children in foster care through the CASA program. During law school she served as a student attorney for the Veterans Legal Clinic, the Co-President of the Pro Bono Program, and the Co-Chair of the Student Ambassador Program. She brings these skills to her Singer Fellowship project dedicated to identifying cases of children impacted by trauma, beginning with projects related to immigration and education. She also will help GHLA enhance our trauma-informed advocacy and continue to build sustainable community networks/resources for children in the Hartford area experiencing the effects of trauma.

Michael Haig
Staff Attorney
Michael Haig joined as a staff attorney in 2022. He primarily represents clients in family law and education matters. Michael graduated from Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law as a Legal Scholars Award recipient. While he was a student, he was a member of the Youth Advocacy Clinic where he represented children seeking special immigrant juvenile status. Michael’s passion for assisting underserved and underrepresented communities was recognized through Hofstra’s Public Service Award. He graduated Cum Laude from Binghamton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and history. Prior to attending law school, Michael spent three years as an educator teaching English and Social Studies for Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and Long River Middle School.
Veronica Halpine
Staff Attorney

Veronica Halpine has been a staff attorney at GHLA for 25 years.  She primarily represents GHLA clients in Social Security disability appeals.   She is a graduate of Connecticut College and the University of Connecticut School of Law. 

Brenda Hernandez
Brenda enjoys welcoming clients and visitors with a warm smile. She not only takes phone calls and refers them to the appropriate unit, she also processes intakes and performs other tasks as assigned. She has over 20 years of experience in customer service and working with low income families. She strongly believes in giving a helping hand to those in need. Previous employers include The Husky Program and Benecare.  One of her favorite quotations is “Don’t judge a person until you have walked a mile in his/her shoes”.  (Nelle Harper Lee)
Nancy Hronek
Staff Attorney

Nancy Hronek has been a staff attorney in GHLA’s Housing Unit since 1986.  Her practice primarily involves representing tenants in eviction defense and other landlord-tenant issues, as well as representing clients threatened with loss of their federal and state housing subsidies.  Nancy has a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a B.A. from Bowling Green State University.  Prior to joining GHLA, Nancy worked at the Connecticut ACLU.  Nancy is a member of the steering committee of the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs (CABHN).

Brittany Ignace
Staff Attorney
Brittany joined GHLA as a staff attorney in 2021 and currently practices in the housing unit. She earned her J.D. from Quinnipiac University School of Law in 2020 where she held leadership roles on the Health Law Journal, Public Interest Law Project, Women’s Law Society, and Health Law Society. She was a member of the Civil Justice Clinic and worked in several public interest internships, including an internship with New Haven Legal Assistance Association working on housing and prisoner re-entry cases. Brittany graduated from Sacred Heart University with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017.

Eric Ingellis
Staff Attorney
Eric joined GHLA as a Staff Attorney in 2022. Prior to working for GHLA he worked in the insurance and reinsurance industries, including spending time as a senior adjuster for liability policies for a major insurance carrier.  He earned his Law Degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law where he was a member of the Connecticut Law Review and the Mock Trial Society.  As a law student, he also spent time as a clerk for the Criminal Court in Hartford.

Luz Jones

Luz Jones supports the Housing Unit’s work, as well as the Family, Social Security Disability and Employment units.  She has been with GHLA since 2012, and has over a decade of experience as a paralegal and legal secretary.  Luz earned her B.A. in Science/Criminal Justice in 2020. Luz is fluent in Spanish and English, and provides interpreting support for GHLA’s clients.
Michael Kelley
Staff Attorney

Michael Kelley joined GHLA in 2021 and is a Staff Attorney in the Housing Unit, proud to be part of the state’s pilot program for a right to counsel for tenants in eviction proceedings. Prior to attending law school, Michael worked in a variety of industries, including in the non-profit, entertainment, and service sectors. A Hartford native, he enjoys spending his free time exploring the city’s parks and urban landscapes with his dog, Philip. Michael earned his J.D. at University of San Diego School of Law in 2019, and his B.A. at the College of Santa Fe in 2007.

Jin Kim
Staff Attorney

Jin works in the family law unit representing domestic violence victims in the areas of dissolution of marriage, custody, restraining orders and relocation.  She also represents victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in immigration matters which include Violence Against Women Act self–petitions and U visa petitions.  Prior to joining GHLA, she worked as an Administrative Law Judge at New York State Department of Labor – Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board in the Brooklyn office.  Jin received her B.A. and Master’s Degree with honors in International Studies from the Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea, and obtained her J.D. degree from New York Law School, where she was a John Marshall Harlan Scholar and an associate editor of the New York Law School Law Review.  She is admitted to practice in Connecticut and New York, and is a member of the Connecticut Bar Association and the Connecticut Asian Pacific American Bar Association.  Fluent in Korean, Jin is working hard to reach out to various immigrant communities to inform them of their legal rights and GHLA’s services.

Kate Martin
Staff Attorney
Kate joined GHLA’s Family Unit after working as part of the Right to Counsel Program in GHLA’s Housing Unit.  As a family attorney, Kate represents survivors of domestic violence in the areas of dissolution of marriage, custody and restraining order applications.  Previously, Kate worked in the field of child protection for 13 years.  Kate has worked at the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian, CASA-NYC and Child Advocates of SW CT representing and advocating for abused and/or neglected foster children in all stages of child welfare proceedings.  Kate has also been active in the gun violence prevention movement, lobbying for stronger gun safety laws in CT and working with community partners to advocate for programs and resources that protect people from gun violence. She is a graduate of Boston College and the University Of Connecticut School Of Law where she served on the Public Interest Law Journal and clerked for Honorable Alfred V. Covello at the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Ramona Mercado-Espionoza
Staff Attorney
Ramona represents clients in family law matters. Throughout her career, Ramona has demonstrated a strong commitment to achieving equal justice for poor people though legal services. She began her career as a Public Defender at Hartford Geographical Area Court 14 representing indigent persons. Later Ramona opened a private firm in Hartford, practicing personal injury, real estate and family law. Before coming to GHLA as a staff attorney, Ramona served for nine years as a member of GHLA’s Board of Directors. Ramona received her J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1986.

Brian Moore
IT Administrator
Brian has more than 20 years of IT experience and has worked across a broad spectrum of industries, including finance, manufacturing, non-profit, and government. He plays an essential role in GHLA’s leveraging of technology - from strategic planning and implementation to staff training, support and reporting - to support GHLA’s mission. Brian also serves on the Connecticut Bar Foundation’s Website Advisory Board. Brian has the following Certifications: A+ Certified Computer Technician, N+ Certified Network Technician, and Microsoft Certified Professional.
Maria Morelli-Wolfe
Staff Attorney

Maria Morelli-Wolfe has been a staff attorney at GHLA since 1997.  During her early years at GHLA, Maria practiced disability, family, employment, housing, and child protection law.  For the past 10 years, Maria’s work has focused on education, representing families of children with disabilities to enforce their rights to a free appropriate public education and related services, compensatory educational services, and due process in school discipline.  Maria obtained her J.D., cum laude, from The Washington College of Law at American University, where she served as Editor in Chief of the Journal of International Law & Policy.  Prior to law school, Maria was a full-time volunteer for a year in East Harlem, New York in a small social service and home health care agency.  She obtained her B.A. from Yale University.

Lucy Potter
Staff Attorney

Lucy Potter has been a staff attorney at GHLA since 1984. She has practiced in every area since that time, but came to focus on public benefits and child support enforcement.  While much of her work is representing clients in administrative forums, she has also been involved in federal litigation to reform access to the Department of Social Services, seeking timely processing of food stamps and timely distribution of child support collections. In state court she successfully argued several child support cases at the Appellate and Supreme Courts. At the legislature, she has advocated extensively around child support and public benefits issues, and helped shape Connecticut reforms to protect low income people and reunited families in the child support system.  She has also served on five Child Support Guideline Commissions.  She is a graduate of Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Ryan Powell
Staff Attorney

Ryan V. Powell joined GHLA as a Staff Attorney in 2020.  Prior to joining GHLA, Ryan focused his practice on defending insurers, employers, and third-party administrators against workers’ compensation claims. Ryan received his bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Connecticut before going on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University’s School of Law. As a law student, he worked with the Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative to provide transactional-based legal services to non-profit organizations. He also served as an intern in the Anti-Trust Division of the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General.

Shirley Pripstein
Staff Attorney
Shirley Pripstein practiced family law at GHLA from 1980 to 2018.  She was appointed as a family law special master in Hartford Superior Court at the program’s inception in 1986, and has served in that capacity in the judicial districts of Hartford, New Britain, and Tolland.  She has also served as a special master at the Regional Family Trial Docket in Middletown.  Shirley has served on the executive committee of the Family Law Section of the CBA since 1991, is a past president of the section, and continues to be active on the section’s legislative subcommittee.  Currently at GHLA Shirley is doing advance directives for seniors and assisting crime victims with filing for compensation from the Office of Victim’s Services.    Shirley holds a B.S in Health, Physical Education and Recreation from Temple University, a Master’s in Public Health from Yale University School of Medicine and a J.D. from the University of Connecticut School of Law.

Michael Ravelo
Attorney Licensed in FL, NY, and
DC only

Michael Ravelo joined GHLA in 2021, working primarily in Immigration law. Michael is an experienced civil litigator with 12 years of experience; before coming to GHLA, Michael worked for two years with North East NJ Legal Services in their Housing and Immigration Units. Michael also brings 10 years of corporate legal experience focusing on the litigation's discovery and trial preparation phases. Michael received his Bachelor's in Criminal Justice from St. Johns University in 2003. Michael received his JD from St. Thomas University School of Law in 2010, where he participated in the Immigration Clinic, and his passion for advocating for the Immigrant community began.
Edna Rodriguez

Edna Rodriguez has been a secretary at GHLA since 2000.  She provides support for education unit attorneys in a full range of activities including intake and eligibility determinations, closing cases, managing weekly unit meetings, maintaining electronic files, scheduling, and preparing routine correspondence.  Edna also maintains the short calendars and coordinates service of subpoenas and domestic violence shelter referrals.  Edna is bilingual (Spanish and English) and provides interpretation in attorney and client communications.  Prior to joining GHLA, Edna worked at a local private firm and as a paralegal in the legal department of a national insurance company.

Rafael Rodriguez-Cruz
Staff Attorney
Rafael Rodriguez Cruz has been a staff attorney at GHLA since 1997. He focuses on children’s advocacy, representing clients in the areas of education and Social Security/SSI benefits.  He also conducts community outreach, currently working in the towns of Bristol and East Hartford. He is fully bilingual (English/Spanish). Rafael is one of the co-chairs of the East Hartford Community Partners Group, a coalition of human services agencies in the city of East Hartford.  

Jessymar Rosario-Acosta
Jessymar joined the GHLA team in 2015. She is a Hartford native and is committed to helping underprivileged people. She has experience working with the disadvantaged community through her previous positions with the City of Hartford, the Hartford Public Library, and the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA).  She then worked in a products liability defense law firm in Puerto Rico for almost 10 years.  She obtained a B.S. in Human Development & Family Studies from the University of CT in 2002.  She was a co-chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at GHLA from 2017 to 2020.  She is fluent in English and Spanish and provides interpreting support for GHLA clients as well as preparing translations of a variety of documents.  

Giovanna Shay
Litigation and Advocacy Director

As GHLA's Litigation and Advocacy Director, Giovanna Shay supports GHLA's attorneys in all practice areas. Giovanna served as a staff attorney at the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and as a Robert M. Cover Fellow at the Yale Legal Services Organization, where she helped to supervise students in the Complex Federal Litigation Clinic and in the inaugural year of Yale's Supreme Court Clinic.  Earlier in her career, she was a Soros Justice Fellow at the ACLU National Prison Project and law clerk to then-Senior Justice Ellen Ash Peters at the Connecticut Supreme Court.  Immediately before joining GHLA in 2014, Giovanna was a tenured Professor of Law at Western New England University School of Law, where she taught courses including Professional Responsibility and Domestic Violence, and her research focused on over-incarceration.  She is a graduate of Pomona College and Yale Law School.
Kayla Steefel
Staff Attorney

Staff Attorney Kayla Steefel joined GHLA in 2022 and is a recently admitted member of the Connecticut bar. As a law student, Kayla interned at the Victim's Rights Center of Connecticut and the Office of the Federal Public Defender. She received her law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from the University of New Haven.

Kathy Tracy
Executive Administrative Assistant

Kathy Tracy has been an Executive Administrative Assistant at GHLA since 2008.  Kathy provides administrative support for the GHLA Foundation including scheduling, processing payments, generating mailings and acknowledgements, and maintaining donor lists.  She also supports human resources and provides backup assistance with financial procedures and payroll.  She assists the executive and administrative management teams in a myriad of tasks including preparing for board and other meetings, and maintaining an extensive ongoing “tickler” system for internal operations and grant applications and reporting.  Prior to working at GHLA, Kathy worked for a large corporation for 22 years, holding many different positions, most recently Administrative Assistant.

Staff Attorney

Prior to joining GHLA, Johannes represented tenants in New York City at a private law firm and at The Legal Aid Society in its Harlem office.  Johannes is a graduate of Reed College and Boston College Law School.
Linda Woods

Linda has been a bookkeeper and/or financial administrator for over 30 years, working with various nonprofit organizations from the Amistad House to the Village for Families and Children.  She joined GHLA in 1998 and prepares and maintains the payroll and other financial records at GHLA.

Thomas Zeffiro
Staff Attorney

Thomas “Tom” Zeffiro first joined GHLA in 2021 as a Community Justice Fellow, and stayed on as a staff attorney in 2022. Tom attended Western New England University School of Law, where he earned his J.D., also in 2022. Prior to pursuing a career in law, Tom graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.A. in psychology, and worked closely with adults with mental disabilities.