Meet Our Comittee Members
Heidi Ruckriegle is an associate at the Denver-based law firm of Welborn Sullivan Meck & Tooley. Her practice centers on public lands, environmental, and natural resources matters. She has worked on a variety of projects includingrenewable energy infrastructure, oil and gas development, mining projects, transmission infrastructure, and water rights. Her experience spans all stages of permitting, development, and compliance, with a focus on litigation. As a native of the Colorado mountains, Heidi has a keen interest in outdoor recreational issues and is building a reputation in this area. Previously she served as a judicial law clerk for the honorable Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr. of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Prior to law school she worked for Costa Rica Outward Bound leading youth groups through outdoor adventures including rafting, coast-to-coast hikes, scuba diving, and surfing. She is fluent in Spanish and volunteers monthly for Project Safeguard assisting victims and survivors of domestic violence to increase their safety through the civil legal system in the Denver metro area.
Halleh Omidi was born and raised in Westminster,Colorado. Her experience in and dedication to family law began even before she attended law school.
She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating summa cum laude in 2008. During college, Halleh interned at the Boulder County Juvenile Court.
Halleh graduated from the University of Colorado Law School in 2011.
While in law school, she worked as a student attorney in the University of Colorado Juvenile Law Clinic representing children as a Guardian ad Litem in dependency and neglect cases. In addition, she represented parents as respondent parent counsel in dependency and neglect cases.
Halleh’s past experience in advocating the best interests of the children is helpful in parental responsibility disputes because it gave her the tools to advise her clients of the outcomes that will benefit their children the most. Additionally, Halleh spent time working on family law cases as a law clerk at McGuane and Hogan during law school. After law school she worked at the Martin Law Firm representing clients in divorce, child custody, paternity, and post decree matters.
In her spare time, Halleh enjoys hiking, traveling, yoga, reading, and wakeboarding.
Anna Louise Halaburda, Treasurer- Anna graduated from Monmouth University where she earned her BS in Accounting in 1980. With over thirty five years of accounting experience in both the public and private sectors, Anna has headed her own CPA firm, served as a Chief Financial Officer, served as manager at a regional CPA firm as well as being the president of the business consulting firm, Little Bear Consulting, Inc. Anna is currently the managing partner of Triumph Business Services, LLC, a Denver based consulting, accounting and tax preparation firm.
In order to better serve her clients, Anna earned her Certified Financial Planner designation in 1987, obtained her Life and Health Insurance license in 2009 and completed the Certified Business Exit Consultant certification program in July of 2013, adding additional levels of skills and expertise to her practice.
Anna has also served on various Boards of Directors of non-profits during her professional career. She currently serves as Treasurer and Board member of Ricardo Flores Magon Academy and Law School…Si Se Puede in Denver, Colorado.
Brand Development Director
Paula Black is a legal business development and branding expert, author, consultant and coach. She has advised individual lawyers and law firms around the globe on everything from powerful and innovative design to marketing and business development strategy and implementation.
She is the award-winning author of “The Little Black Book on Law Firm Branding & Positioning,” “The Little Black Book on Law Firm Marketing and Business Development,” and the Amazon-bestselling “The Little Black Book: A Lawyer’s Guide To Creating A Marketing Habit in 21 Days.” She is also the force behind In Black & White (inblackandwhiteblog.com), a blog dedicated to clear, straightforward advice and open discussion of legal business development issues.
Paula has helped firms of all sizes—from one attorney to one thousand—to separate themselves from their competitors and achieve the growth they desire through powerful branding, sound consulting, as well as strategic marketing and business development planning. Those experiences, coupled with her invaluable marketing knowledge across a wide range of industries, allow Paula to deliver strong business development solutions.
Paula is a frequent speaker on law firm topics including branding and business development. She has delivered seminars and speeches for The Managing Partner Forum, TAGLaw, Bar Associations and the Spanish Trade Commission, among others.
ARIA S. VAUGHAN
Program Development Director
Aria S. Vaughan currently serves as law clerk to the Honorable Christine M. Arguello of the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. Aria sees education as vital to her own and others’ socioeconomic mobility and has long-dedicated her time to improving educational opportunities for all students. Aria’s commitment to LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede stems from her belief that the legal profession should include people from various backgrounds to shape and inform the law. However, many talented students from historically-underrepresented backgrounds are precluded from the legal profession simply because they lack access to information. By guiding students through the law school application process, LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede helps level the playing field.
Aria has spent years as a teacher, tutor, mentor, and coach. Prior to law school, Aria taught math and science in Miami, first in a day program for juvenile offenders, then in an elementary school. She also assisted with the start-up of a nonprofit that provides education, healthcare, and intervention services to at-risk children in Kolkata, India. During law school, Aria pursued opportunities to enforce civil rights in educational and non-educational settings as an intern with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Aria graduated from Fordham Law School where, as a Stein Scholar, she participated in a selective three-year program that trained students in public interest law. She earned numerous awards for academic achievement, public service, oral advocacy, and clinical work. Following graduation, Aria clerked for the Honorable Nancy J. Lichtenstein of the Colorado Court of Appeals. Aria was also a fellow at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, where she litigated cases that focused on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, expanding educational opportunities for students of color, and desegregating schools that remain under federal consent decrees.
Aria coaches the Arrupe Jesuit High School Mock Trial team, and previously coached East High School’s We the People Constitutional Law team as well as multiple moot court teams. Aria is a Denver native and a graduate of East High School.
Dermot Lynch is a former law clerk to Judge Arguello and an attorney in the Migrant Farmworker Division of Colorado Legal Services. He was born in Dublin, Ireland, and immigrated with his family to the United States when he was three. Dermot has called Denver his home for most of his life. Between college at Loyola University and law school at Yale, Dermot spent three years living in the town of Tacna, in Southern Peru, where he taught high school English and helped run an after-school program.
Dermot became involved in the organization of LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede and is a Board member. At Loyola, he stumbled upon an Irish history professor who ended up supervising his thesis about an Irish patriot friendly with Dermot's great uncle. He was motivated by another happenstance encounter with a mentor to work in Peru for three years after his undergraduate studies. Those two relationships--and the experiences they facilitated--marked Dermot, allowed him to more fully develop his intellectual passions, and, even though he did not know it at the time, made him a much stronger candidate for law school. At the same time, Dermot knows that potential future lawyers from groups underrepresented in the law have less of a shot of encountering the mentors and experiences that can accord them the same advantages Dermot had as an undergraduate and law school applicant. His work with LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede is aimed at helping to counteract this deficit.
Public Relations & Community Outreach Director
Roberto Ramírez has been named as a 2016-2017 Marshall Fellow. The fellowship is the German Marshall Fund’s flagship leadership development program. Created in 1982 to introduce a new generation of European leaders to the United States, it now prepares leaders from both sides of the Atlantic for transatlantic relations. The program relies on 6 months of distance learning and 24 days of first-hand experience to facilitate knowledge and network development for effective transatlantic engagement.
The Fund interviews representatives from all 50 states, but individuals from only 13 states were selected to travel to Europe for the Fellowship. These representatives represent individuals from all sectors, including business, government and civil society.
Roberto will start his program in Washington DC, then travel to Brussels, Belgium; Freiburg, Germany; Athens, Greece; Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Berlin, Germany.
Roberto obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas, San Antonio, and his law degree from the South Texas College of Law in Houston. Roberto has worked as a civilian attorney or Air Force federal prosecutor, criminal defense counsel, trial consultant, or instructor in Japan, South Korea, Africa, Guam, Singapore, Australia, Diego Garcia (Indian Ocean), Colombia, Mexico City, Greenland, Hawaii, Colorado, California, New Mexico, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.
Roberto is the former chair of the Education Committee for the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association (CHBA), the current chair of the Pro Bono and volunteering Committee for the CHBA, the chair of the Spanish Speaking Lawyers Committee for the Colorado Bar Association, past member of the Court Interpreter Oversight Committee of the Colorado Supreme Court, current member of the Center for Legal Inclusiveness’ Pledge to Diversity Committee, and a current member of Federal Judge Argüello’s Dream Team.
Roberto has taught in the areas of criminal procedure, trial advocacy, and civil rights in Tokyo, Japan; Barranquilla and Bogota, Colombia; Mexico City, Washington, DC; Vail, Colorado; and at CU Boulder.
“I am a strong believer of the power of mentoring and have done it for years;” said Roberto, “However, the LAW SCHOOL…Sí Se Puede was such a new, transformative, and group breaking program, that I wanted to be part of it from the beginning. I wanted to do anything that I could to help the next generation of our future leaders. I am convinced that this program has the potential to make a difference in politics, law, and society for decades to come.”
CHRISTINA M. HABAS
Christina M. Habas was born in Denver, Colorado and received her undergraduate degree and Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver. She became licensed to practice law in October, 1982 in all Colorado State Courts, as well as the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. She was admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar in 1994.
She began her legal career with the law firm of Watson, Nathan & Bremer, P.C., and there represented many governmental entities, school districts and worked in the fields of general litigation, employment law and civil rights. Beginning in April 1998, she moved to the offices of Bruno, Bruno & Colin, P.C., where she specialized in representation of members of law enforcement in the administrative, civil and criminal arenas. Her current practice focuses on representation of catastrophically injured people.
In December, 2003, she was appointed by then-Governor Bill Owens as a Denver District Court Judge. She served in the Domestic, Civil and Criminal Divisions of that Court until her resignation in July of 2012 to resume her work as a trial lawyer. During her time on the bench, Ms. Habas was also Presiding Grand Jury Judge for 5 years. She served on the Judicial Ethics Advisory Board and the Supreme Court Committee on Civil Procedure Rules, was a mentor judge for newer appointees and also taught at training for judges throughout the State of Colorado. She also had the honor of being among a list of 6 finalists for a vacancy in the United States District Court, District of Colorado.
Ms. Habas has been a frequent lecturer and teacher. She has taught with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy since 1991, and serves as senior faculty and Program Director on many programs. She has also lectured in the areas of civil rights, employment law, trial advocacy, jury selection and storytelling for many groups. She also values her time volunteering as a coach for Aurora Central High School's CBA High School Mock Trial Competition. She has served as an adjunct professor with the University of Denver College of Law on Advanced Trial Practice. She has also participated in many Masters in Trial Programs for ABOTA throughout the United States, on both the Plaintiff's and the Defendant's side, and was the recipient of ABOTA’S Masters In Trial Award in 2014. She is currently recognized as an “Advocate” and a National Board Representative for the Colorado Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and a Fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America. She has also been appointed to the U.S. District Court for Colorado's Committee on Conduct, the Colorado Statewide Judicial Performance Commission and the Second Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission. She was also awarded the 2016 Professionalism Award by the Colorado Defense Lawyers’ Association.
JASON A. MÁRQUEZ
Jason A. Márquez has been practicing law since 2008, almost exclusively in family law. However, he has and continues to work in criminal defense. Mr. Márquez brings a fresh perspective to Law School Yes We Can, with an extensive background in the corporate world where he provided operational, technical, management, finance, and legal support to several corporations.
Mr. Márquez is a Colorado native who grew up in a single parent home. He has a great appreciation for the plight of his clients who separate and go on to be single parents. He advocates for and stands by his clients no matter what, but remains steadfast and conscientious of the issues in his cases. Mr. Márquez is extraordinarily efficient and mindful of his clients’ goals and resources at all times.
Mr. Márquez acquired a BA from Westmont College where he double majored in Economics & Business and Physics. He went on to acquire an MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver with an emphasis in change management. He acquired his Juris Doctorate from the Denver University Sturm College of Law in 2007 where he was awarded the Outstanding Student Attorney Award and the Student Leadership Award.
JENNIFER H. WEDDLE
Jennifer H. Weddle, obtained her law degree from Harvard Law School and her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. She is a partner with the firm of Greenberg Traurig where she is the Co-Chair of the firm's national American Indian Law Practice and has wide-ranging experience in complex regulatory and jurisdictional issues, with a focus in Indian law, handling a variety of matters for tribal and non-tribal clients. Jennifer has broad trial and appellate litigation experience, including tribal court and U.S. Supreme Court experience, and frequently litigates jurisdictional issues. She is also experienced in sovereign models for consumer lending and energy development. Jennifer assists tribes, banks and non-bank entities with financing and regulatory matters with Indian law components. Jennifer is very active in the community. She currently serves as President of the National Native American Bar Association, and is past Chair of the Federal Bar Association Indian Law Section, past president of the Colorado Indian Bar Association, and also past Chair of the board for the Center for Legal Inclusiveness. She is a board member of the Law360 Native American Editorial Advisory Board and the Secretary for Colorado Open Lands. She also serves on the American Bar Association Advisory Commission to the Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress. She has also served in leadership roles for both the Colorado Bar Association and the Denver Bar Association.
Cynthia York’s career is distinguished by her success in helping companies grow their product lines and serve more customers. She accomplished this by leading teams, solving problems and delivering results. With years of experience in leadership roles in the Telecommunications, Pay-TV and Financial Services industries, Mrs. York possesses a unique blend of product management, sales and team leadership skills. She has earned a reputation for understanding how to convert big picture analysis into actionable strategies that get the job done.
Mrs. York recently joined Green House Data, a Denver Based, cloud computing start-up as the Product Director. In this role, she is responsible for leading the formal re-launch of all of the company’s existing products and developing new products with potential for strong revenue growth.
Cynthia’s prior experience includes serving as a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley where she was a frequent speaker at seminars on financial subjects and closed a $250M cash management deal with a large telecommunications company. Mrs. York’s earlier career includes a variety of product management positions at Avaya, CenturyLink, Dynegy and Level 3 Communications. These roles include SVP, Product Management and Sales Operations; Executive Director, Internet Solutions; and Director, Data Equipment.
Mrs. York has previously served on the board of directors for the Emily Griffith Opportunity School and the Stargate Charter School in Thornton. She also served as a volunteer Food Service Worker for the Summer Food Service Program in Commerce City.
Mrs. York earned her BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan and has a MBA in Marketing from Washington University in St. Louis.
Cynthia lives in Thornton, CO with her husband Kenneth Burns and enjoys bible study, playing pool, attending basketball tournaments and learning to play the bass guitar.
MELISSA L. CIZMORRIS
Fundraising and Brand Committees
Melissa Cizmorris obtained her law degree from Brooklyn Law School and her undergraduate degrees from the University of Texas. She is an associate with Akerman LLP's Denver office where she focuses on consumer finance litigation. She has extensive experience nationwide at both the trial and appellate levels, with a focus on appellate litigation in the Ninth and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeal. She is admitted to practice in Colorado, New York, and New Jersey.
Melissa was raised in San Antonio, Texas and was the first in her immediate family to attend college. She was drawn toward Law School … Yes We Can as a way to help first-generation college students navigate the complex and difficult transition from high school to adulthood. Melissa lives in Denver with her husband and young son. She enjoys hiking, skiing, gardening, and baking. She also volunteers her time with Denver CASA and judging CBA High School Mock Trial Competition.
LaLonnie Gray is a lawyer in the Denver office of Constangy Brooks Smith & Prophete, a preeminent boutique firm for labor and employment law in the U.S. She helps employers navigate the prickly legal and regulatory environments of the changing workplace. Prior to working at Constangy, LaLonnie served as law clerk to the Honorable Christine M. Arguello of U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
A native of Colorado, LaLonnie graduated from the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law where she was the Symposium Editor of the Denver University Law Review. She won the Student Leader Award for a program designed to introduce high-school students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to law and was the president of the Latino Law Students Association.
Admissions, Program, and Branding Committees
Eliseo R. Puig is a law clerk to the Honorable Christine M. Arguello of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Eliseo received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia and his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School, where he served as President of La Alianza, the Latino student affinity organization. After concluding his service with Judge Arguello, Eliseo will join the Denver office of Arnold & Porter, LLP, where his practice will focus on commercial litigation.
Eliseo has a strong commitment to public service and believes that mentorship, especially for young people from underrepresented communities, is the gateway to personal and professional success. Law School… Yes We Can delivers high-impact interventions to talented young people reaching for higher education, and Eliseo is delighted to be a part of an organization that will change the face of our legal profession.
“Sí, Se Puede” is a phrase born of farmworkers, who, under the leadership of the UFW, César Chávez, and Dolores Huerta, fought valiantly for equal protection under the law. As a result of the efforts of the UFW, “Sí, Se Puede” has become well known as a call that engenders hope and inspiration in those who face similar battles. We thank the UFW, whom we acknowledge to be the sole and exclusive owner of the Trademark SI SE PUEDE, for granting us a limited license to use“Sí, Se Puede” in connection with our efforts to recruit, in Colorado, students of Hispanic or Latino descent for our law school pipeline program. For more information about the programs offered by the UFW, please see UFW’s webpage (www.ufw.org); UFW Foundation’s webpage (www.ufwfoundation.org); and UFWF’s immigration services webpage (www.sisepuede.org)