Clinic Faculty & Staff
Senior Staff Attorney
Celina represents tenants in rent-controlled buildings who are at risk of eviction and focuses on rent control as a means of preserving affordable housing in DC through education, legal assistance, and legislative reform. She joined Rising for Justice after graduating from Yale Law School in 2017. During her time in law school, Celina participated in the Landlord & Tenant Legal Services Clinic and the Criminal Justice Clinic and was a summer clerk with the National Juvenile Defender Center and the Public Defender Service of DC.
Celina grew up in Houston, Texas. She attended Columbia University, where she received a B.A. in Sociology and Neuroscience and was involved in advocacy for indigent criminal and juvenile defendants in New York.
Co-Director of Eviction Defense Services
Dan Clark is the Co-Director of the Eviction Defense Services of RFJ. Dan earned his LL.M. in clinical teaching and systems change while serving as an instructor in the Housing and Consumer Law Clinic at the David A. Clarke School of Law, University of the District of Columbia. Before joining RFJ, Dan was the Managing Attorney for Housing and Consumer Law at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program. As Managing Attorney with the Pro Bono Program, Dan oversaw operations of the Landlord Tenant Resource Center and Bankruptcy Clinic while supporting the Advice & Referral Clinic, Advocacy & Justice Clinic, and other programs. He attended law school at American University, Washington College of Law and was awarded a J.D. in 1995. In 1990, he graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida.
Jessica DeStefano is a faculty supervisor in the civil clinic. Prior to joining RFJ, she worked as a Staff Attorney in the Housing Rights Project at Legal Services NYC, where she defended low-income tenants in eviction proceedings. She was also a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Rockland County. Jessica is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where she focused on public interest law. During law school, Jessica clerked for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, The Trevor Project, and Whitman-Walker Health. She also holds degrees from American University (B.A.) and Shepherd University (M.A.). In her spare time, Jessica volunteers for several LGBTQ rights organizations, including Boston Pride for which she manages social media and co-edits the annual magazine.
Paul Di Blasi
Director of Clinical Education & Supervising Attorney
Paul Di Blasi is the Director of HALC represented low-income tenants as a Staff Attorney at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia. He moved to the District from the Rio Grande Valley in Southmost Texas, where he represented low-income tenants, consumers, and workers as a Staff Attorney at Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.
Paul graduated with honors from the University of Texas in Austin School of Law in 2008. At the University of Texas, he was an Articles Editor for the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights, and also participated in numerous clinics. Paul also organized the University’s first “Pro Bono in January” trip to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Paul graduated from Williams College, where he played trombone in the jazz band and the student symphony. Between college and law school, Paul worked probably too many jobs, including voter registration projects and teaching monolingual Spanish speakers GED math. After a nomadic early childhood, Paul grew up in San Antonio, Texas.
Director of Social Work & Faculty Supervisor
Jenifer Foster rejoined RFJ as a faculty supervisor in the civil clinic in January 2018. Jen had worked at RFJ from 2007-2012, as “Attorney of the Day,” helping low-income tenants in danger of eviction. She left RFJ to clerk for the Honorable Stephanie Duncan-Peters. Jen has worked at several area legal services agencies, including Our Place DC, University Legal Services and the Legal Aid Society. She is passionate about working with D.C. residents who are struggling and helping give individuals who are frequently overlooked, a voice.
Jen is starting the social work division of RFJ. She loves the interplay of law and social work and thinks that when the two converge, dynamic things can be accomplished. Prior to rejoining RFJ, she worked as Senior Director of the Addiction Continuum at So Others Might Eat. She has a private practice on the side and provides counseling services primarily to veterans and others struggling with trauma and abuse. Previously, Jen has worked at the Veterans Administration Medical Center as a social worker in the emergency room, at a crisis stabilization program for individuals in psychiatric crisis, and as an addiction counselor at a treatment program. She was an Adjunct Professor at Bowie State University for five years where she taught Social Work and the Law.
Jen graduated from the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law and the National Catholic School of Social Services with her J.D. and MSW in 2005. She has her undergraduate degree from Roanoke College, where she majored in sociology, minored in American history and had a concentration in social work. Right after undergrad, she spent a year in the Jesuit Volunteer Corp, where she taught sexual abuse prevention classes.
In her spare time, Jen loves to travel and find adventures. She has bathed tigers, ridden elephants, swam with whale sharks, done a triathlon, hiked to Machu Picchu, swung on a trapeze, and ran a half marathon. Her dream is to travel the world and then become a diving instructor in the Caribbean.
Co-Director of Eviction Defense Services
Lucy Newton is the Co-Director of the Eviction Defense Services of RFJ. Over the course of her career, Lucy has represented low-income clients in a wide range of housing, public benefits, consumer law and family law matters, including at the Legal Aid Society of D.C., the Neighborhood Legal Services Program of D.C., and the Georgia Legal Services Program. She has also been a legal fellow at the National Women’s Law Center and has advised students in the Office of Career Services at Howard University School of Law. Lucy was a member of the steering committee of the Litigation Section of the D.C. Bar from 2009 to 2015, and she currently serves on the board of directors of a D.C. public charter school.
Lucy graduated from New York University School of Law in 2002, where she was a student in the civil rights clinic, and received her B.A., with a major in music, from Emory University in 1996. Before law school, Lucy worked backstage at an opera company. She lives in the District with her husband and two daughters, and she spends a lot of her spare time singing.
Senior Staff Attorney
Peter joined Rising for Justice after graduating from Yale Law School in 2017. During his time in law school, Peter participated in the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and the Rule of Law Clinic. He also served as a summer clerk with the Detroit Mayor’s Office, the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, and the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
Peter grew up in Orlando, Florida. He attended the University of Florida, where he received a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish and a B.S. in Economics.
Senior Staff Attorney
David is a 2011 alumnus of Rising for Justice, having served as a student attorney in the Housing Advocacy and Litigation Clinic. David joined the organization from Ifrah Law, a litigation boutique where his practice focused on a range of federal civil and criminal litigation and arbitration, as well as pro bono work with the Dulles Justice Coalition and other organizations. As an associate at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, in New York, David was given the firm’s pro bono award for his work with organizations including the New York Office of the Public Defender, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Project Vote, and the Innocence Project. He also has co-taught evidence at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
David received his JD, magna cum laude, from the Georgetown University Law Center, a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Colgate University. From 2013 to 2015, David clerked for the Honorable Paul W. Grimm in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.
David is originally from Long Island, New York, but now lives in the District with his wife and son.
James Toliver is a Supervising Attorney in the Housing Advocacy and Litigation Clinic. Prior to joining Rising for Justice, James was a staff attorney in Maryland Legal Aid, Inc’s Montgomery County Office, where he represented indigent clients facing housing, consumer, and family law issues.
He earned his J.D. from The American University Washington College of Law. During his time in law school, James served as fellow within the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. He also served as a research assistant for the second edition of the casebook Poverty Law: Policy and Practice, and as a student-attorney in the Community and Economic Development Clinic.
James was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio. He earned a B.A. in International Relations from Youngstown State University. An avid runner and self-confessed nerd, he enjoys training for annual long-distance races in the DMV area and reading science-fiction.
Additional staff bios can be found on the RFJ website.