The CELDF staff are composed of dedicated individuals whose mission is the protection of communities and Nature and the advancement of community rights.
CELDF Staff and Legal Team – listed in alphabetical order
Ben was our first community rights organizer. He joined the staff in 2004, focusing on communities in Pennsylvania. Ben’s work has included assisting the first community on settler colonial-controlled land on Earth to recognize legal rights for ecosystems (Tamaqua, PA, 2006) and with the City Council of Pittsburgh to adopt a community bill of rights banning fracking, directly challenging state preemption of local control over oil and gas corporations and recognizing Rights of Nature. Today he works on municipal efforts nationwide. Ben participated in the founding of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (Ecuador, 2010), and authored the book “How Wealth Rules the World: Saving Our Communities and Freedoms from the Dictatorship of Property,” which won the Independent Publisher’s 2020 silver medal. He lives on ancestral lands of the Delaware/Lenape and Mohican people, in Pennsylvania. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, keybase.io/bengprice3gmailc (encrypted), or 717-254-3233.
Chad has been engaged in community rights work since 2009, initially working with Envision Spokane on a Bill of Rights protecting neighborhoods, workers, and the environment. He then moved on to assist in New England, working with communities in Maine and New Hampshire to protect their environment. He now lives and organizes in Pennsylvania, assisting communities to engage in rights-based organizing on issues ranging from environmental protection to prisoners’ rights. Recently, Chad worked directly with state legislators to introduce a PA state constitutional amendment to guarantee community self-government. Contact: email@example.com, keybase.io/ctnicholson (encrypted) or 207-541-3649 (encrypted through signal.org).
Social Media and Communications
Crystal lives on traditional Myaamia Ancestral Land. She has been a dedicated member of our team since 2019. She is a community-focused photographer and an advocate to all who need their voice lifted. Crystal played a crucial role in the passage of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in Toledo, Ohio, and has been a strong voice for the Rights of Nature Movement ever since. She leads up our social media campaigns and produces our Fast Fact Friday video series. Check out CELDF on Facebook and Twitter. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since 2008, Kai has been working with community rights groups in the Western United States including Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. He was a principal member of Envision Spokane which proposed the very first Community Bill of Rights in 2009 and subsequent Worker Bill of Rights and Voter Bill of Rights campaigns. Kai is a lecturer for CELDF’s Democracy School and a board member of the Oregon Community Rights Network. Kai lives with his family near the confluence of Hangman Creek and the Spokane River, home and traditional fishing grounds of first peoples for over 11,000 years including bands of the Spokane as well as the Coeur d’Alene, Nez Perce, and Palouse tribes. Contact: email@example.com, keybase.io/kaihuschke (encrypted), or 509-607-5034 (encrypted through signal.org).
Karen Hoffmann is an attorney at Syrena Law in Philadelphia, the Indigenous territory known as “Lenapehoking,” the traditional homeland of the Lenape. Since 2017, she has worked with CELDF to represent communities across Pennsylvania, including Grant Township, who are fighting to protect their environment by advancing the rights of Nature. She also practices immigration law, helping people defend themselves from deportation and get free from detention, and received the 2019 Pro Bono Award from the Northern District of Illinois for litigation to reunite separated families. She believes the wrong ICE is melting. Contact Karen at syrenalaw dot com or keybase.io/karhoff (encrypted).
Kira defends law-making and law-breaking across the colonized Abenaki and Pennacook territory that is now New Hampshire and Vermont. As a CELDF contract attorney since 2019, Kira joins forces with New Hampshire communities fighting against the corporate state for human and ecosystem rights. In her free time Kira supports and learns from immigration and racial justice organizers working on No Mas Polimigra and defunding the police campaigns, represents activists who are arrested for highlighting the stark difference between legality and morality, and trains groups on basic movement skills like legal self-defense and security culture. Kira believes that the US system of law is designed to stabilize a racist, exploitative status quo and that lawyers should be dam-busters, not gate-keepers, to democratic power. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or https://keybase.io/kelley (encrypted).
Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin lives on nəxʷsƛ̕áy̕əm̕ lands, and is an attorney at Shearwater Law PLLC. He has worked for CELDF since 2013, leading and supporting litigation for dozens of communities we have worked with. His clients have also included Lake Erie Ecosystem, Little Mahoning Watershed, Crystal Springs Ecosystem, and numerous grassroots community groups fighting for local democracy. He has written about rights of nature in Representing Ecosystems in Court: An Introduction for Practitioners, 31 Tulane Envtl. L.J. 279 (2018), and co-authored chapters in La Follette & Maser (Eds.), Sustainability and the Rights of Nature in Practise (CRC Press 2019), and Anthony R. Zelle et al. (Eds.), Earth Law: Emerging Ecocentric Law—A Guide for Practitioners (Aspen Coursebook, Wolters Kluwer 2020). He teaches about direct democracy and local government law, and has written for CELDF’s blog with pieces like Ceiling Preemption is Unamerican and The NRA, Gun Violence, and Ceiling Preemption. He serves as a city councilor in Port Angeles, Washington, and is a member of Local Progress and the International Parliamentary Alliance for the Recognition of Ecocide. He can be reached at lindsey@ShearwaterLaw.com, keybase.io/lindseysw (encrypted), or +1-360-406-4321 (encrypted through signal.org).
Malinda was introduced to CELDF’s work through her work founding Lancaster Against Pipelines, which used non-violent civil disobedience to resist a transmission line. She’s on the executive board of the Pennsylvania Community Rights Network and works alongside Chad Nicholson in organizing communities and legislators throughout Pennsylvania, helping to build a coalition of support for constitutional change for the Rights of Local Self Government. Malinda has worked as a pastor and teacher. She also presently works as a counselor and Spiritual Director. She consistently demonstrates strong support for CELDF’s work in her personal and professional lives. She has published with outlets including Earth Island Journal, and has been featured in PBS’s Protecting the Sacred: Water, the Environment and Climate Change, the documentary Half Mile Upwind on Foot, and in other media venues on a national and international scale. Contact: email@example.com or 717-875-5066.
Foundation and Donor Outreach Assistant
Markie lives on traditional Myaamia Ancestral Land. She is a volunteer organizer for Toledoans for Safe Water, the Ohio Community Rights Network, and previously the National Community Rights Network. For CELDF, she works on grant writing, communications with supporters, and leads special projects. She is an ambassador for the Lake Erie Bill of Rights and the Rights of Nature, speaking at the United Nations, appearing on The Daily Show, and numerous local, national and international media outlets. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle co-led an effort to successfully protect her hometown of Alexandria NH, located in the Abanaki region of the Missiquoi tribe, from industrial wind turbines through a Right to Sustainable Energy Ordinance in 2014. She joined CELDF as a community organizer in 2015. Michelle has nurtured relationships with state representatives, helping New Hampshire to become the first state in the nation to move Community Rights amendments three times. She has continued to expand the Community Rights Movement throughout New England by assisting local lawmaking efforts, including the first New Hampshire Right to a Healthy Climate law in Exeter, and Barnstead’s first-in-the-nation law securing freedom from religious identification. Michelle is also a lecturer for CELDF’s Democracy School and spends her free time creating music, and communing with Nature. Contact: email@example.com or 603-524-2468.
Foundation & Donor Outreach Director
Pattie leads our donor and foundation outreach programs, including grant proposals, annual fundraisers, and outreach content. Pattie first became acquainted with CELDF while working with local community activists to oppose the Jordan Cove Energy Project on the Southern Oregon Coast. She began working with CELDF on fundraising, outreach and grant proposals in 2019. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Communications and Research
Since coming on in May 2019, Simon has worked to develop a long-term media strategy to expand understanding of core issues like state preemption, corporate rights and the Rights of Nature. He helps build media relationships, develop media campaigns, edits CELDF’s newsletter and assists CELDF staff in getting them published in places like The Ecologist, Eugene Weekly, The Guardian, In These Times, Truthout, Common Dreams and Scalawag. In his personal life, he publishes on topics including municipal activism, policing, criminal punishment, civil liberties, citizenship paradigms, state preemption, and the Rights of Nature, for media outlets including The Appeal, The Nation, Common Dreams, Jacobin, Earth Island Journal, LA Review of Books, The Intercept, Salon, and others. He has appeared on radio shows including NPR’s The Takeaway and The Brian Lehrer show and his work has been cited in Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Project Censored, Democracy Initiative, Harvard Latinx Law Review, Fordham Urban Law Journal, The Yale Law Journal, Indiana Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Portside, Politico, Univision, Reuters, National Post (Canada), The Christian Science Monitor, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, among others. Simon lives on the traditional lands of a multitude of indigenous tribes and bands including the Chinook (Portland, OR). Contact: email@example.com.
Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer
Stacey is a co-founder of CELDF. She leads Human Resources and is responsible for planning, organization, and direction of the organization’s operations and programs. She has been with CELDF throughout its many twists and turns, and brings degrees in Biology and Accounting to the group. Her passion for this work has been a driving force since the beginning, “We started out small and knew that it was a big task, but we kept moving toward our goal. I never dreamed that we would have all of the staff members that we currently have. It was a dream, one that you hope others will take on and now they have.” Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-498-0054.
Terry brings 42 years’ experience as an antiwar activist and civil and environmental rights litigator. He has filled much of his past seven years with CELDF bringing challenges in support of direct democracy, Community Rights, and the Rights of Nature in Ohio. He also supports efforts to resist the spread of nuclear power, weapons and waste nationwide and provides criminal and civil law representation to environmental and civil rights protesters. He supports the return to democratic roots in order to resist climate chaos and to create a truly equitable society. Terry lives on Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) traditional lands, from whence he counsels activists to walk with the power of a thousand generations Contact: email@example.com or 419-205-7084.
For the past 10 years, Tish has been involved in community rights and Rights of Nature work starting in her own community of Broadview Heights, Ohio, which led to the adoption of Ohio’s first Home Rule charter amendment creating a Community Bill of Rights banning fracking and recognizing Rights of Nature. She then went on to work with dozens of Ohio communities on anti-fracking, anti-pipeline, right to a livable climate, fair and free elections and water privatization issues. Today, Tish works with communities all over the country and internationally and most recently assisted the people of Toledo with their effort to pass the historic Lake Erie Bill of Rights, the first law on United States settler colonial land to recognize the rights of a specific ecosystem. Tish is a CELDF Democracy School lecturer and a founding member and current board member of the Ohio Community Rights Network. Her work has been featured globally, including by The Daily Show, the Ecologist and Mother Jones. Tish lives on the traditional lands of the Iroquois Confederacy or Haudenosaunee (The Five Nations). Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 440-552-6774 (encrypted through signal.org)
Board of Advisors
Founder, Ecotrust (Oregon)
Spencer Beebe is a fourth generation Portlander with a lifetime commitment to wilderness and new approaches to conservation, social justice, and development – both domestically and internationally. Mr. Beebe spent 14 years with The Nature Conservancy before creating Conservation International with 50 others in 1987. In 1991, he founded Ecotrust to bring global perspectives on rain forest conservation to the temperate rain forest bioregion of North America. He chairs Ecotrust and Ecotrust Forest Management, Inc. In his book Cache, Mr. Beebe shares stories from a 40-year adventure exploring new ways to integrate social, economic, and ecological well being. In the Foreword to Cache, Tom Brokaw wrote, “His pilgrimage is a journey to be relished and emulated, a commitment to be encouraged and shared, a life to be honored.”
Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg who lives and works on the White Earth Reservations, and is the mother of three children. She is also the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support, and create funding for frontline native environmental groups. In 1994, Winona was nominated by Timemagazine as one of America’s fifty most promising leaders under forty years of age. She was awarded the Thomas Merton Award in 1996, the BIHA Community Service Award in 1997, the Ann Bancroft Award for Women’s Leadership Fellowship, and the Reebok Human Rights Award with which she began the White Earth Land Recovery Project. A graduate of Harvard and Antioch Universities, Winona has written extensively on Native American and environmental issues. She is a former board member of Greenpeace USA and serves as co-chair of the Indigenous Women’s Network, a North American and Pacific indigenous women’s organization. In 1998, Ms. Magazine named her Woman of the Year for her work with Honor the Earth. She is the author of six books, including The Militarization of Indian Country (2011), Recovering the Sacred: the Power of Naming and Claiming (2005), the non-fiction book All our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life (1999, South End Press), and a novel – Last Standing Woman (1997, Voyager Press).
Director, Gasland (New York)
Josh Fox (born 1972) is an American film director and environmental activist, best known for his Oscar-nominated 2010 documentary, Gasland. He followed that up with the HBO production of Gasland Part II, which premiered on July 8, 2013. In addition to these films, he is one of the most prominent public critics of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” In February 2012 he was arrested during a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on hydraulic fracturing when he attempted to videotape the proceedings. Fox graduated from Columbia University in 1995.
Founder, Rainforest Action Network (Washington, D.C.)
Randy Hayes has been described in the Wall Street Journal as “an environmental pit bull.” He is Executive Director of Foundation Earth, a new organization fostering the big rethink to help protect the planet’s life support systems. This requires a new human order, including economic models for deep long-term sustainability, earth jurisprudence, eco-technology policy, biospheric literacy, and environmental health. Hayes calls for a “True Cost Economy” that accounts for ecological externalities and honors carrying capacity limits. Hayes, a former filmmaker, is a veteran of many high-visibility corporate accountability campaigns and has advocated for the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. He served for five years as president of the City of San Francisco Commission on the Environment, and for two-and-a-half years as director of sustainability in the office of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown (now governor). Hayes founded Rainforest Action Network and is emeritus on the board of directors. He is an advocate of general systems theory and deep ecology. As a wilderness lover, Hayes has hiked and camped in the rainforests of the Amazon, Borneo, Central Africa, Southeast Asia, and Australia, as well as the High Sierras and the Canadian Rockies.
Hayes has an undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s degree in Environmental Planning from San Francisco State University. His master’s thesis, the award-winning filmThe Four Corners, won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences award for “Best Student Documentary” in 1983. He contributed to Alternatives to Economic Globalization: A Better World is Possible, published by San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., in 2004. Not satisfied with short-term thinking, his 500-year plan offers a vision of a sustainable society and how to get there. Randy Hayes was honored by his corporate campaign activists peers in 2008 with an Individual Achievement Award, given by the Business Ethics Network. In 2010 he was San Francisco State University’s Alumni of the Year and inducted in the Alumni Hall Fame. Additionally, he was one of the original set of inductees in the National Environmental Hall of Fame.
Former President, Center for Constitutional Rights
Professor Jules Lobel is the Bessie McKee Wathour Endowed Chair at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
Lobel co-authored the award winning book Less Safe, Less Free: Why America is Losing the War on Terror (2007), with Professor David Cole, which won the first Roy C. Palmer Civil Liberties Prize for exemplary scholarship exploring the tension between civil liberties and national security. He is also the author of Success without Victory: Lost Legal Battles and the Long Road to Justice in America (2003), and editor of several books on civil rights litigation as well as the U.S. Constitution.
He has authored numerous articles on international and constitutional law in publications including Yale Law Journal, Harvard International Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Reviewand Virginia Law Review. Lobel’s article, Preventive Paradigm and the Perils of Ad Hoc Balancing, was selected by Oxford University Press as one of the Top Ten Global Justice Law Review Articles in 2007.
Lobel is the recipient of the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Distinguished Public Service Award (2002), and the Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award (1993). In 2006, he received the Allegheny County Bar Foundation’s Career Achievement Award for Pro Bono Service, and in 2001 he was named by the School of Law as a Distinguished Faculty Scholar.
Lobel has also testified on various occasions before Congressional committees, most recently on the issue of the constitutional allocation of war powers before a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. He advised the Nicaraguan government on the development of its constitution, and has also advised the Burundi government on constitutional law issues. He has participated in various human rights delegations abroad, including being named the sole U.S. participant in a delegation consisting of prominent European former diplomats and human rights scholars to Israel.
Lobel is former President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a national human and constitutional rights organization headquartered in New York City. He has litigated numerous cases involving Constitutional and Human Rights issues in United States courts and has represented members of Congress challenging various Presidents’ – both Democrat and Republican – assertions of executive power to unilaterally initiate warfare. Lobel has been involved in various cases challenging aspects of U.S. policy toward suspected terrorists, including Rasul v. Bush, arguing for habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees, Arar v. Ashcroft, seeking damages for a Canadian citizen who alleged that he was wrongfully rendered to Syria to be tortured by high U.S. officials, and Holder v. HLP, a Supreme Court case challenging aspects of the material aid to terrorism statute as violative of the First Amendment. In all of these cases, Lobel involved his students in the litigation, giving them firsthand exposure to the constitutional litigation of important and complex issues.
Tree Media (California)
Leila Conners founded Tree Media Group in August 1996. With a background in international politics, Leila set out to build a production company that creates media to support and sustain civil society by telling inspiring stories. Currently, Leila is writing and directing We the People 2.0 about nature rights, and directing the short film on climate, Last Hours. Her longtime project, Into Eden, is about how we can change our society and ourselves in the face of disintegrative forces that threaten everything from the biosphere to our economic system.
Leila most recently produced a documentary film on the explosion of urban farming in Detroit called Urban Roots. Leila’s first feature-length documentary, The 11th Hour, was co-created with Leonardo DiCaprio. The film included 54 leading thinkers and scientists about the state of the world and the state of the human condition. She has written two short films with Leonardo DiCaprio on the environment called Global Warning and Water Planet, and a feature film script for Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions on the state of the oceans. Leila has also been published in newspapers and magazines around the world including theInternational Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Yomiuri Shimbun, and Wired Magazine, among others. Projects over the last 10 years with Tree Media Group include work with the Council on Foreign Relations, NASA, JPL, Norman Lear, Green Cross International, Harvard University, and Hollywood studios, among others. Her article on “Death and American Culture” was published in War, Media and Propaganda, published by Rowan and Littlefield.
Prior to Tree Media, Leila was Associate Editor of NPQ/New Perspectives Quarterly, an international journal of social and political thought, and Associate Editor of Global Viewpoint of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, an internationally distributed op-ed column that reaches 200 papers. At NPQ, she interviewed thinkers and policy makers including: Kofi Annan, Nafis Sadik, Betty Friedan, Hans Bethe, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, and Boutros Boutros Ghali, among others. She is now Editor-at-Large for NPQ. In 1991, Leila translated Jacques Attali’s book from the French for Random House entitled, Millennium. Leila is often invited to speak on issues of sustainability and the environment and has served on panels nationally and internationally.
Founder, Center for Justice (Spokane, Washington)
Jim Sheehan graduated from Santa Clara University in 1966. He then served for three years as an officer in the United States Army, attended Gonzaga Law School, and worked for more than twenty years as a public defender in Eastern and Western Washington until he received a windfall inheritance. He decided that, in this next unexpected chapter of his life, he would put his money to work for the greater good. In 1999, he founded the Center for Justice, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting human rights, alleviating poverty, preserving the earth, and holding the government accountable to the principles of democracy. In addition, he also restored the old Saranac Hotel in downtown Spokane, which became the first LEED Platinum certified building in the region. Additionally, he renovated the Community Building, the Main Market Co-op, and the Saranac Commons in order to provide affordable, beautiful homes for area nonprofit offices and small businesses in downtown Spokane. Despite all these accomplishments, Jim feels most lucky to have a healthy, supportive family, including his daughter Katy, his son Joe, and his partner Mary.
Director, Center for Earth Ethics (New York)
Karenna Gore is the founding director of the Center for Earth Ethics (CEE)at Union Theological Seminary. The Center for Earth Ethics bridges the worlds of religion, academia, politics and culture as we discern and pursue the changes that are necessary to stop ecological destruction and create a society that values life. Before founding CEE, Ms. Gore worked as the director of Union Forum at Union Theological Seminary, where she helped organize Religions for the Earth, a conference of over 200 religious and spiritual leaders from around the world, with the goal to reframe climate change as a moral issue and galvanize faith-based activism to address it.
Ms. Gore’s previous experience includes work as a lawyer at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and in the legal center of Sanctuary for Families, as well as serving as director of Community Affairs for the Association to Benefit Children (ABC). She has also worked as a writer and is the author of Lighting the Way: Nine Women Who Changed Modern America. Ms. Gore is a graduate of Harvard College, Columbia Law School and Union Theological Seminary. She lives in New York City with her three children and serves on the boards of the Association to Benefit Children (ABC) and Riverkeeper.
President & Member, Pittsburgh City Council (2004-2011)
During his tenure on Pittsburgh’s City Council as a staffer and Member (1992-2011), he was recognized for his expertise on government financing, land use and zoning, legislative writing ability, and taking on social issues few others would.
He introduced and enacted laws on matters such as domestic violence within the city police force, prevailing wages for service workers on city funded projects, protection from harassment at women’s reproductive health facilities, reporting of lost/stolen firearms, and an LGBT registry to help facilitate same-sex benefits for the private sector.
In August 2010, he introduced a CELDF-drafted Community Rights Ordinance in the Council. On November 16, 2010, with a unanimous 9-0 vote, it became law, banning shale gas drilling in Pittsburgh – the first place in the world to do so.
Today, Doug is a consultant, an adjunct professor, and a dedicated activist in the fight to move away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy. He’s also appeared in Josh Fox’s films, The Sky Is Pink and Gasland Part II.
President, The Pachamama Alliance (California)
Bill Twist is a co-founder of The Pachamama Alliance (TPA) and its President since TPA’s inception in 1996. TPA is a non-profit organization based in San Francisco, USA, that works on rainforest preservation and indigenous rights in the western Amazon basin and also on global social transformation. TPA is the creator of the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium and the UP to US Initiative, both global efforts to bring about a socially just, environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilled human presence on this planet. Bill has also been active in international efforts to build a Rights of Nature movement and currently serves on the steering council of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.
Bill has a background in business, having worked in management consulting and later in the financial services and investment banking fields from 1969 until 1995. Bill has a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Stanford University and a Master’s degree in business administration from Northwestern University.