Leslie Starr HeimovExecutive Director(323) 980-1537
Leslie Starr Heimov, Executive Director, has been with the Children’s Law Center of California (CLC) since 1992. She began her legal career at CLC as a staff attorney, providing direct representation to parents and children in the dependency system, and later moved to a supervising attorney position. In 2004, Ms. Heimov became CLC’s first Policy Director, responsible for CLC’s legislative and policy agendas. In 2007, Ms. Heimov was named Executive Director and under her leadership, CLC expanded its programs to include representation of children in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Placer counties utilizing a multidisciplinary model of representation. She has worked tirelessly to promote best practices for multidisciplinary legal representation and improve outcomes for children and their families in the child welfare system.
Susan AbramsPolicy and Training Director(323) 980-1552
Susan Abrams has been working at CLC since 2005. She began her career implementing an Equal Justice Works fellowship project, where she sought to reduce the rate of dependent youth entering the juvenile justice system. Following her fellowship, Ms. Abrams worked as a staff attorney for several years until she transitioned from the courtroom to focus on macro level policy work. She now serves as CLC’s Director of Policy and Training – developing and strategizing CLC’s public policy priorities and legislative advocacy efforts at the local, state and national levels. In addition to Ms. Abrams’ work with CLC, she has served as President of the Board for Happy Trails for Kids, a non-profit that she co-founded that provides overnight summer camp for children in foster care. Ms. Abrams earned a BA from UC Berkeley in 2001 and a JD from Harvard Law School in 2005.
Brenda DabneyNorthern California Regional Director (916) 520-2003
Brenda Dabney is the Northern California Regional Director at the Children’s Law Center of California and leads a team of attorneys, social work investigators, and advocates in the representation of more than 2,500 clients of CLC. Based in the Sacramento office, Ms. Dabney originally joined the organization in 2001 representing children and youth in Los Angeles County serving as trial counsel on several high-profile cases before becoming Supervising Attorney and then Director upon the opening of the Sacramento office in 2011. During her time in the Los Angeles office, she previously served as State Policy Coordinator for the Home At Last project, an initiative funded by the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care established to implement important federal reforms in the child welfare system nationwide including the Fostering Connection to Success Act implemented in 2008. In her current capacity as a member of CLC’s Executive Team, she also oversees grant writing and legislative advocacy on behalf of all CLC clients in California. She is a passionate advocate and was named a Certified Child Welfare Specialist by the National Association of Counsel for Children in 2006 and is also an alumnus of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Teacher Training Program providing trial skills training to other dependency attorneys.
Phyllis StricklanDirector of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (323) 980-1700
Phyllis Stricklan joined Children’s Law Center in 1998 as a staff attorney where she was later promoted to Supervising Attorney, and in 2010, became Firm Director. A Child Welfare Law Specialist, Ms. Stricklan’s many years of experience in dependency includes representing youth in the County of San Bernardino. In addition to her legal background, she is also a Registered Nurse, and in that capacity she has been employed as a Head Nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist and assistant professor of mental health nursing. Ms. Stricklan was honored as part of National Foster Care Awareness Month and the 2nd Annual Brightest Star Awards in 2012 as an “outstanding, unsung hero“ dedicated to serving the needs of abused, abandoned, and neglected children in a leadership capacity in the Inland Empire (San Bernardino & Riverside Counties) and Pomona Valley (Los Angeles County). In 2017, Ms. Stricklan received the Game Changer Award from Project Fatherhood at the Children’s Institute, and in 2019, presented at The International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP) at the University of Hudersfield in England. She serves on the Steering Committee of the Los Angeles County Eliminating Racial Disproportionality and Disparity workgroup. For the past several years, Ms. Stricklan has taught an educational program for family and friends of individuals with mental health conditions for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).
David EstepFirm Director, CLCLA1(323) 980-7700
David Estep joined the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles in 1994, serving first as a staff attorney representing both children and parents in juvenile dependency cases and subsequently working as writ attorney and attorney supervisor. In his current position, Mr. Estep supervises the work of CLCLA 1 attorneys, investigators, paralegals, and support staff. He also participates in community partnerships within the greater Los Angeles child welfare community. Mr. Estep currently serves on committees working with community service agencies and tort representation for juvenile dependents while also assisting other court-appointed dependency law firms around the state.
Brian ThompsonActing Firm Director, CLCLA2(323) 980-8700
Brian Thompson is the Acting Director of Firm 2 at the Children’s Law Center of California. Mr. Thompson joined the CLC team in April 2004 as a trial attorney and in 2013 was promoted to supervising attorney. Brian has an extensive background in California juvenile dependency law and has over 10 years’ experience teaching trial skills and strategy at Whittier Law School as an adjunct professor. Brian is an active participant at CLC and leads the LA2 Care All unit. He also participates in the Dual Status/ Crossover Committee and Compassion Fatigue Committee. Brain regularly presents “Trial Skills for New Attorneys” at CLC, and most recently presented “Analyzing Nexus, Risk of Harm, and Removal in the time of COVID” for the attorneys at CLC. Prior to his work as an attorney, Brian taught elementary school for the Los Angeles Unified School District. He has played the piano and organ for more than 30 years.
Ivy LewisFirm Director CLCLA3(323) 980-5700
Ivy Lewis has been practicing law in California for 30 years. Ms. Lewis began her career in private practice focusing on personal injury matters as well as acting as appointed counsel in juvenile dependency and probate court matters. Prior to joining Children’s Law Center in 1995, she gained experience in workers’ compensation hearing work and insurance defense litigation. Ms. Lewis was promoted into a management position as a coverage attorney in 2000. In that role she developed a specialty in mental health and juvenile delinquency court advocacy. Ms. Lewis became Firm Director in 2005, and currently manages a staff of approximately 95 employees. She is a long standing member of the Edelman Children’s Court Eliminating Racial Disproportionality and Disparity (ERDD) advisory work group. A graduate of UCLA, she obtained her J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Ms. Lewis is a member of Agape International Spiritual Center where she has served as the Co-Director of their community volunteer outreach ministry for many years.
Lucia MurilloFirm Director CLCLA4(323) 859-4000
Lucia Murillo has represented children and parents in the Los Angeles County child welfare system since 1994. She first worked at CLC from 2001-2006 as a Staff Attorney. From 2006-2017 Ms. Murillo worked in a supervisory capacity at a non-profit representing parents in the child welfare system. Ms. Murillo returned to CLC in 2017 and was promoted to Attorney Supervisor in 2018, applying her expertise in parent representation to the benefit of CLC’s growing population of parenting youth clients and co-developing a program aimed at preventing the system involved parenting youth from perpetuating the generational cycle of foster care. She became Director of CLC’s specialty firm, CLCLA4, in October of 2020. Ms. Murillo serves on the LA County Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) Steering Committee as well as the AB-12 Steering Committee and has been a presenter for the ABA on the subjects of representation of CSEC youth as well as pre-petition representation of parenting foster youth. Ms. Murillo also serves as CLC’s Team Champion for the National Learning Collaborative on Effective Child Welfare and Justice Systems for Families Impacted by Opioid and Stimulant Use.
Jennifer McCartneyFirm Director CLCLA5(323) 859-9400
Jennifer M. McCartney, Firm Director, began her career at Children’s Law Center of California in 2006 as a staff attorney. In 2009, Ms. McCartney was assigned to the Indian Child Welfare Act Court in Edelman Children’s Court, gaining expertise in her representation of Native American children in their dependency court cases. She later became a writ attorney; her work included writing and filing CLC’s first appellate respondent’s brief, assisting with research and writing on a United States Supreme Court Opposition, and summarizing newly published California Appellate and Supreme Court cases. Ms. McCartney served as counsel on the high profile dependency case In re Alexandria P., in which the California Court of Appeal reaffirmed that it is the legal and ethical obligation of child’s counsel to represent the interest of the child in dependency court proceedings, not any other entity. With CLC’s expansion, in 2019 she became Firm Director of the newly formed CLCLA5. Ms. McCartney obtained her Bachelor in Arts in Political Science from Chapman University, and her Juris Doctorate at Whittier Law School.
John MollDirector of Operations (323) 859-9404
John Moll joined Children’s Law Center in 2006 as Director of Operations. In this capacity, he oversees the finance, human resources, and information technology and operations departments; reviews and negotiates contracts; and works to ensure the smooth running of all aspects of the organization’s administrative functions. Prior to joining CLC, Mr. Moll served for almost 10 years as General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Steven Spielberg to videotape and disseminate testimonies of witnesses and survivors of the Holocaust. Previously, he was in private practice as a litigator. Mr. Moll also provided pro bono represention to individuals with HIV/AIDS having employment, benefits, and insurance related issues.