Jodi Siegel, Executive Director - ↑ top
Ms. Siegel has been an attorney with Southern Legal Counsel since 1985, and became its Executive Director in July 2004. A predominant portion of Ms. Siegel’s responsibilities at SLC is in representing individuals with disabilities in a variety of forums. She has litigated class and individual actions involving federal constitutional and statutory actions under the Federal Civil Rights Act, the Federal Rehabilitation Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. She also has presented extensively to various groups on special education and other issues.
Ms. Siegel is an Adjunct Professor for Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center where she teaches a Masters Level course in Special Education Law. She has been the Director of SLC’s Education Advocacy Project since 1999, which is funded by The Florida Bar Foundation to provide state support and train, support, mentor and co-counsel legal service/aid lawyers and advocates to increase and improve special education advocacy. She is a Past Chair of the Board of Directors and Past Treasurer of the national organization The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), whose mission is to improve the quality and quantity of legal assistance for parents of children with disabilities. She coordinated the 2003 and 2004 national conferences for COPAA, and has been active on the Conference Design team since then. She is a Past Chair of The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section.
Ms. Siegel is a member of The Florida Bar, the U.S. Middle, Northern and Southern Districts of Florida, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. She received her B.A. in 1982 from New College (Honors College of University of South Florida), Sarasota, Florida; and a J.D. in 1985 from the University of Florida College of Law, Gainesville, Florida. She was the Senior Research Editor for one semester and Senior Student Works Editor for two semesters with the University of Florida Law Review.
Neil H. Chonin - ↑ top
Mr. Chonin joined SLC in Spring 2006 and is SLC’s Litigation Director. He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law where he teaches Trial Advocacy. He brings a wealth of trial experience to SLC's staff, having been a trial lawyer for almost 50 years litigating numerous civil rights cases. He is a board certified civil trial advocate. Mr. Chonin has been a frequent lecturer and trainer of lawyers in trial advocacy. He was awarded the Tobias Simon award in 1984 and in 1983 was awarded Florida's 11th Circuit Pro Bono award. He was selected as the Dade County ACLU Man of the Year in 1994. He served on Legal Services of Greater Miami's board of directors and is a past president of that organization. He helped establish Florida's 11th circuit's public interest law bank. He also served as a Chair of the Third District Court of Appeals’ nominating commission. He obtained his law and undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida. He is a member of The Florida Bar; the Middle, Southern and Northern Districts of Florida; the Fifth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals; and the United States Supreme Court.
Kirsten Clanton - ↑ top
Ms. Clanton joined Southern Legal Counsel in 2007 and directs SLC’s Homeless Advocacy Project, a statewide project to protect and defend the civil and human rights of homeless individuals and their advocates. She is a member of The Florida Bar, and the bars of the U.S. Middle, Southern and Northern District Courts of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She is the Immediate Past Chair of the Public Interest Law Section (PILS) of The Florida Bar and is a past chair of the PILS Committee on Homelessness. Prior to joining SLC, she worked as an associate at a private law firm specializing in immigration and nationality law.
Ms. Clanton received her J.D. with honors (2005); M.A. in Latin American Studies (2005); and B.A. in Spanish with honors (2001), all from the University of Florida. In 2009, she received the Outstanding Young Alumnus Award from the University of Florida Alumni Association. While in law school, she served as the Executive Research Editor for the Florida Journal of International Law. Ms. Clanton also interned at the Carter Center, a non-profit organization headed by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, where she worked in the Americas Program and served as a member of the Center's election-monitoring mission to Venezuela in August 2004.
Alice K. Nelson - ↑ top
Ms. Nelson has practiced with Southern Legal Counsel since 1988 and was Executive Director from 1988 to 2004. She was awarded a Fulbright grant to be a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ankara Law School to teach a 2009-2010 graduate seminar on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. She also was an Adjunct Professor for a 2009 course at Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad Law Center where she taught a Masters Level course in Contemporary Issues in Education Law.
Ms. Nelson is the Past Chair for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), and has previously chaired COPAA’s Amicus Committee. She has been Lead Trainer for Advanced Attorney Skills Trainings since 2004 for COPAA’s national annual conferences. She is a member of The Florida Bar Public Interest Law Section and served as chair of The Florida Bar's Disability Law Committee from 1983-85. For eight years prior to coming to SLC, she was in private practice specializing in plaintiffs' employment law, special education issues, guardianship, and general civil rights. At SLC, she has litigated on behalf of adults with developmental disabilities and severe mental illness, on behalf of children with special needs for special education, and general civil rights.
Ms. Nelson received her B.A. from City College of New York in 1965, an M.S.W. from the University of Georgia in 1967, and a J.D. from Stetson College of Law in 1976. She has worked for the Developmental Disabilities Law Project at the University of Maryland and Bay Area Legal Services. She was a law clerk to the Honorable Thomas A. Clark when he was on the old Fifth Circuit (now the Eleventh Circuit). She is a member of The Florida Bar; the Middle, Southern and Northern Districts of Florida; the Fifth, Eleventh, and District of Columbia Circuit Courts of Appeal; the District of Columbia Bar (inactive status), and the United States Supreme Court.
Gabriela Ruiz - ↑ top
Ms. Ruiz joined Southern Legal Counsel in 2007. She directs SLC’s Developmental Disabilities Medicaid Waiver Advocacy Project. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law where she teaches Disability Law. She is a member of The Florida Bar, the California Bar, the U.S. Northern and Middle Districts of Florida, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Northern District of California, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to joining Southern Legal Counsel, Ms. Ruiz practiced as a litigation associate at Farella, Braun + Martel LLP, in San Francisco, California, and before that practiced immigration, dependency and education law as a Staff Attorney at Legal Services for Children, Inc., also in San Francisco.
Ms. Ruiz received her J.D. from Yale Law School in 2003 and her B.A. with honors and distinction from Stanford University in 1999, where she also was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. While in law school, Ms. Ruiz worked in the Landlord/Tenant and Prison clinics of the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and received the C. LaRue Munson Prize for Excellence in Work on Cases in the Clinical Program.