William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law

“That they may truly and impartially administer justice”

Speakers and Panelists Bios

Gary Bledsoe, President, Texas NAACP, Austin

Gary L. Bledsoe was born in 1952, and attended public schools in Odessa, Texas. He moved to Austin to attend college, majored in Government, and in 1973 he graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin. In 1976, he graduated from the University of Texas School of Law where he was class president. Mr. Bledsoe has spent his professional career in law, first working as Assistant Attorney General under Attorney General Jim Mattox from 1979 to 1994. After leaving the Attorney General's office he worked in private practice and as an instructor at St. Mary's University Law School in San Antonio. He has been president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP Branches since 1991.


Sarah Buel, Clinical Professor of Law, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University

Professor Sarah Buel


Sarah Buel is a Clinical Professor of Law at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Faculty Director of the Diane Hall Center for Family Justice. She received the law school’s 2012-13 Centennial Professor Award in recognition of her outstanding teaching efforts.

Since 1977, Sarah Buel has worked with battered women, abused children and juveniles within the legal system. At the College of Law, Buel teaches Criminal Law and Family Violence and the Law. Prior to joining the faculty at ASU in 2010, she was a clinical professor at the University of Texas School Of Law, having started, and then co-directing their Domestic Violence Clinic. She also taught Domestic Violence and the Law, Criminal Law, Torts, and Public Education, Civic Engagement & Policy courses.

Buel was co-founder of the U.T. Voices Against Violence program and the U.T. Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault that focuses on research, pedagogy and direct services. She has served as Special Counsel for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, providing domestic violence training, technical, and case assistance to prosecutors throughout Texas. For six years she was a prosecutor, most of that time in Boston and Quincy, Mass., helping to establish their award-winning domestic violence and juvenile programs.

As a domestic violence survivor, Buel has been committed to improving the court and community response to abuse victims and their children. She was a welfare mother for a short time before working full time in the day and going to school at night for seven years to obtain her undergraduate degree in 1987. She then graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1990, where she founded the Harvard Battered Women's Advocacy Project, the Harvard Women in Prison Project, and the Harvard Children and Family Rights Project. Buel has published more than 35 articles, book chapters, and amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She narrated the Academy Award-winning documentary, Defending Our Lives, and is actively involved in human rights and anti-trafficking projects in Cambodia, China, Kenya and the U.S.


Meg Clifford, Fellow, School-to-Prison Pipeline Project, William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, Texas Law

Meg taught fifth grade in the Bronx, as part of the Teach for America program, before attending law school.  As a law student, she focused on issues relating to youth and education, and interned at Texas Appleseed, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and the Travis County Juvenile Public Defender’s Office.  Her post-graduate fellowship is funded by the law school’s William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law and UT Austin’s Department of Diversity and Community Engagement.  As a fellow, she oversees the Texas Law Youth Court at Webb Middle School, a positive disciplinary program using law student volunteers to intervene on behalf of students facing suspension, expulsion, and ticketing, by teaching middle school students to hold hearings to provide positive accountability measures for their peers.  She also works on community outreach surrounding School-to-Prison Pipeline issues and on pro bono direct representation of students in cases involving ticketing, school removal, and expunction of records.  She graduated from UT Austin and holds a law degree from The University of Texas School of Law.  


Luis Figueroa, General Counsel, Office of Texas Senator Sylvia R. Garcia, Austin

Luis Figueroa received his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Speech Communications with a concentration in American Politics and Law from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX in 2000 and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Texas School of Law in 2003. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Texas.

Luis Figueroa grew up in El Paso, Texas. In the summer of 1999, he interned at the El Paso office of Texas Rural Legal Aid.  In the fall of 1999, Luis interned at the White House in the Office of Political Affairs. In law school, Luis was a student attorney for the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic and served on the board of the Public Interest Law Association.

While at MALDEF, Luis Figueroa has testified in numerous legislative hearings to advocate for the protection and advancement of Latino rights particularly on the issues of bilingual education reform, access to higher education, voting rights, and immigrant rights.  He has provided invited testimony on state legislation related to voter identification requirements at the polls, the Texas Top Ten Percent Plan, Texas Grants, and state enforcement of immigration.  He also has coordinated multi-state election protection efforts and co-chaired the Texas Latino Complete Count Committee for Census 2010. Prior to MALDEF, Luis was an Esther Peterson Fellow for the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, where he advocated for federal consumer protections.


Deborah Fowler, Deputy Director, Texas Appleseed, Austin

Deborah Fowler oversees Texas Appleseed’s legal team, coordinating legal efforts on juvenile justice, the school-to-prison pipeline, and other Texas Appleseed project areas.  She is a nationally recognized expert in school discipline and juvenile justice issues--having authored three major reports on the school-to-prison pipeline in Texas.  She also authored the first of its kind handbook for attorneys representing defendants who have an intellectual disability.  She received the 2011 Excellence in Public Interest Award for her contributions to public interest law.  Prior to assuming the Deputy Director's position, Deborah served as Texas Appleseed's Legal Director for five years.  She also has extensive experience working with the judiciary, both as a judicial clerk and supervising attorney. Deborah holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tulane University and a Juris Doctor from Lewis & Clark College's Northwestern School of Law.


Barbara Hines, Clinical Professor, Co-Director, Immigration Clinic, Texas Law

Barbara Hines is the co-director of the immigration clinic. Professor Hines has practiced in the field since 1975 and is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She has received numerous awards for her work including the 1992 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Jack Wasserman Award for Excellence in Litigation; the 1993 AILA Texas Chapter Litigation Award; the 2002 Texas Law Fellowships Excellence in Public Interest Award; the 2007 AILA Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award; the 2009 MALDEF Excellence in Legal Services Award; and the 2010 National Lawyers Guild Carol King Award. In 2000, she was named one of the 100 best lawyers in the state by the Texas Lawyer publication.

Professor Hines was a Fulbright scholar in Argentina in 1996 and 2004. She focused her research on Argentine immigration law.

Professor Hines served as the first Co-Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law of Texas, Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. She has litigated many issues relating to the constitutional and statutory rights of immigrants in federal and immigration courts including the lawsuit leading to the closure of the Hutto immigrant family detention center. She frequently lectures and publishes on topics related immigration law and immigrants’ rights.


Stephanie Kolmar, Staff Attorney, American Gateways, Austin

Stephanie Kolmar is originally from Brownsville, Texas and obtained her bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Brownsville. During law school at the University of Texas School of Law, Stephanie represented low-income immigrants before the immigration court in San Antonio and worked on conditions monitoring at the T. Don Hutto detention center through her work with the UT Immigration Clinic. In 2009, she was selected as the National Immigration Project's Haywood Burns Memorial Fellow. In 2010, Stephanie received the Julius Glickman Fellowship in Public Interest Law which initially funded her work on criminal-immigration issues at American Gateways (formerly the Political Asylum Project of Austin), in Austin, Texas.  Currently, Stephanie is a staff attorney at American Gateways and conducts a weekly legal rights presentation at the T. Don Hutto detention center.  Her caseload primarily consists of removal defense and family based cases for vulnerable populations, including homeless individuals and those with mental disabilities.  For the last two years, Stephanie has served on the faculty of the Defending Immigrants Partnership's National Training on the Immigration Consequences of Criminal Convictions.  She is a member of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.


Javier Maldonado, Law Office of Javier N. Maldonado, PC, San Antonio

Javier N. Maldonado is a lawyer in private practice in San Antonio, Texas who specializes in representing individuals in complex federal and state litigation in the areas of immigration, employment disputes, criminal, and civil rights law.  He attended Columbia University for both undergraduate and law school and then clerked for the Hon. George P. Kazen in Laredo, Texas.  Mr. Maldonado was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and then joined the legal staff at the end of his fellowship.  He was subsequently employed as a trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and then became the executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of Texas where he litigated class action and individual civil rights cases on behalf of immigrants.  Since March 1996, Mr. Maldonado has been in private practice and regularly presents at state and national conferences on civil rights and immigration matters.


Brian McGiverin, Prisoners' Rights Attorney, Texas Civil Rights Project, Austin

Brian joined the Texas Civil Rights Project in November 2010 to help litigate cases against prisons and jails for issues including excessive force, inadequate medical care, and disability accommodation. His experience includes federal trials and appeals to the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on issues such as exposing inmates to life-endangering temperatures and neglect of mentally ill inmates. Since September 2011, he has also organized TCRP’s Justice for Veterans Campaign.

In addition to his work with TCRP, Brian is a member of the board of directors of the Poverty Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, the Austin Tenants’ Council, and the Texas Housing Justice League. He is also co-chair of the Austin Lawyers Guild. He founded the ALG’s pro bono referral program to fight the School to Prison Pipeline, which became a recipient of the 2013 Pro Bono Service Award at the Local Bar Leaders Conference. He also helped found the National Lawyer Guild’s statewide program “Protect the Vote: Texas.”

Brian has represented clients pro bono in matters including foreclosure, wrongful eviction, and apartment habitation claims. He was recognized for his work with the 2013 Susan P. Burton Award. Further, in conjunction with the Workers Defense Project, he has litigated wage theft cases and created self-help materials for workers using small claims court.


Hon. John R. Vasquez, Judge, City of Austin Municipal Court

John Vasquez is a graduate of the San Antonio public school system earning his high school diploma at age 16. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration (Accounting) from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1974 at age 19. He graduated from the University of Texas Law School and became a lawyer in 1980. Upon graduation from law school, he was awarded a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellowship.

He has worked as a bank accountant, legal services attorney, Assistant Texas Attorney General. Special Counsel for the Texas State Auditor’s Office, and as a private attorney. He has been a Municipal Judge since 1996.

Judge Vasquez has spoken at numerous events ranging from attorney legal education seminars to judicial training conferences. As a member of the faculty of the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center, Judge Vasquez has instructed municipal judges from across the state. Judge Vasquez regularly volunteers his time for community organizations in Austin. He has served as a PTA President, Board Chair of Austin Families, Inc., Board President of Avance-Austin, and as Secretary of the Avance, Inc. National Board. He has received awards from LULAC and Shots Across Texas for his work on educational and children’s health issues.

Judge Vasquez is a past Chair of the Municipal Judges Section of the State Bar of Texas and former Legislative Chair for the Texas Municipal Courts Association.  He also served as Chair of the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas and the KLRU-TV Citizens Advisory Board.

Judge Vasquez has taught Juvenile Justice/Delinquency at St Edward’s University as an Adjunct Professor.

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