Leslie Starr Heimov

Executive Directorwildej@clccal.org(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 Abrams

Policy and Training Directorabramss@clccal.org(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 Dabney

Northern California Regional Director dabneyb@clccal.org(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.

David Estep

Firm Director, CLCLA1estepd@clccal.org(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.

Ivy Lewis

Firm Director CLCLA3lewisi@clccal.org(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.   

Jenny Cheung Marino

Firm Director CLCLA4marinoj@clccal.org(323) 859-4000

Jenny Cheung Marino, Firm Director, has been with the Children’s Law Center of California (CLC) since 2001.  She began her career at CLC as a law clerk while attending UCLA School of Law and was a staff attorney after passing the bar.  In 2006, Ms. Cheung Marino was promoted to Writ Supervisor and then was an Attorney Supervisor from 2008-2016.  In January 2016, she was chosen as CLC’s fourth firm director and she helped build a specialty law firm from its inception.  This unique law firm within CLC provides a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to serving clients who have the most complex needs.  She oversees the Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC), Non-Minor Dependent (18 and up), Crossover Advocacy and Resource Effort (CARE), Peer Advocate, Mental Health Advocacy Team (MHAT) and Education Advocacy programs within the firm. 


Jennifer McCartney

Firm Director CLCLA5mccartneyj@clccal.org(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 Moll

Director of Operations leee@clccal.org(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.

Phyllis Stricklan

Firm Director CLCLA2stricklanp@clccal.org(323) 980-8700

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).