Ryan P. Haygood, Esq.
President and CEO Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 23
One of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers, Ryan Haygood became the third president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (the “Institute”) in 2015. In this role, he leverages his national expertise to advance the Institute’s cutting-edge work in empowering urban communities where residents of color are connected to full-time, meaningful jobs, have access to affordable housing and the democratic process, and are treated fairly by the criminal justice system.
Prior to leading the Institute, Haygood served as the deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Inc. (LDF), where he worked for more than a decade. At LDF, Haygood litigated some of the most important civil rights cases of our time. In two of those cases, he defended a core provision of the Voting Rights Act, widely regarded as one of the nation’s greatest pieces of civil rights legislation, before the United States Supreme Court.
A passionate advocate, Ryan speaks and writes regularly on issues concerning race, law, civil rights, and democracy. He is frequently interviewed by media outlets, including: MSNBC, CNN, National Public Radio, and the New York Times. Prior to joining LDF, Ryan was a litigation associate in the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, and was a recipient of the prestigious LDF/Fried Frank Fellowship. At Fried, Frank, Ryan represented clients in a variety of complex commercial and civil rights matters before federal courts.
Ryan received his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law and B.A. in American History and Political Science cum laude from Colorado College, where he was nominated for the Rhodes scholarship and earned academic and athletic All-American honors as a football player.
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 27
Teresa Brown is the Administrative Director for the Institute. Before joining the Institute, Teresa worked for various major law firms, managing legal support services, training and information technology globally in the US, European and Asian offices. Teresa has extensive legal management experience; she introduced and implemented process innovation and best practices across multiple service departments, increasing efficiency, productivity, and profitability margins. Teresa is a Leadership Newark Fellow, Class of 2016. Teresa holds an AS in Business Management & Economics from SUNY Empire State College and a BA in Business Administration & Management (Concentration in Organization Leadership) from Pillar College. She also has certificates in Business Analysis and Project Management.
Chief Operating Officer
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 16
Demelza Baer, Esq.
Senior Counsel & Director of the Economic Mobility Initiative
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 32
Demelza Baer is a Policy Counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where she directs the Institute’s Economic Mobility Initiative. She previously worked as a Policy Counsel for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she worked on racial justice, women’s rights, disability rights, human rights, and criminal justice reform through advocacy before the U.S. Congress and Administrative Agencies. Before working at the ACLU, Demelza served as an Assistant Counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, where she worked both on civil rights issues for the Subcommittee on the Constitution and on oversight for the full Committee. Demelza also served as an appellate law clerk for the Honorable Maria M. Cabret of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, and before attending law school, as a researcher at the Justice Policy Center of the Urban Institute. She received her LL.M. from Columbia Law School, graduating as a James Kent Scholar. Demelza received a Dean’s Scholarship to attend Tulane Law School, where she graduated with her J.D. magna cum laude. During law school, Demelza served as the Chief Justice of the Moot Court Board and as a member of the Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property. She graduated from Northwestern University with her B.A., double-majoring and receiving Honors in both Political Science and Sociology.
Andrea McChristian, Esq.
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 35
Andrea McChristian is associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice ("NJISJ"). Before joining NJISJ, Andrea served as a litigation associate at the New York office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson ("Fried Frank"). During her time at Fried Frank, Andrea worked on complex commercial litigation and pro bono cases.
Andrea is a 2008 graduate of Yale University, graduating with distinction in the major of Political Science. At Yale, Andrea served as co-President of the Yale NAACP, co-reactivating the chapter after a years-long absence from campus. After graduation, Andrea joined Teach for America, teaching Head Start for two years in the Las Vegas Valley. Andrea then attended Columbia Law School where she participated in the Challenging the Consequences of Mass Incarceration Clinic, interned in Auckland, New Zealand as part of the law school's Human Rights Internship Program, and interned at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. After graduating from Columbia Law School in 2013 as a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Andrea clerked for Chief Judge Petrese B. Tucker of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Associate Counsel and Debevoise Legal Fellow
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 30
Scott Novakowski is Associate Counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Institute’s inaugural Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise Social Justice Legal Advocacy Fellow. Scott was most recently a voting rights attorney at the New York-based policy organization Demos working to eliminate barriers to civic participation faced by low-income communities and people of color. Through advocacy and litigation, his work at Demos focused primarily on enforcing the National Voter Registration Act, a federal law that requires voter registration services to be provided by state public assistance agencies and departments of motor vehicles, and protecting voters from being unlawfully removed from the registration rolls.
Prior to law school, Scott was a Policy Analyst at Demos for five years, performing data analysis and writing reports and articles on various aspects of voting rights. While in law school, Scott worked with the Innocence Project and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and served as Submissions Editor of the Cardozo Law Review. Scott holds a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and a M.S.W. and B.A., both from the University of Connecticut.
Phone: (973) 624-9400 Ext. 20
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg is the Director of Communications for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Prior to joining the Institute, she was the Communications Manager for the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey. From 2007 to 2015 she worked as a Case Analyst for the Innocence Project, an organization that uses DNA testing to exonerate the wrongly convicted. As a Case Analyst she was tasked with reviewing requests for assistance from those seeking representation. For cases that she determined warranted an in-depth investigation, Weill-Greenberg reviewed trial transcripts, police reports, lab reports, and corresponded extensively with the person seeking help. She then synthesized information from these disparate sources to create a new narrative of the case that had not yet been written--about how the person may be innocent, and how it could be proven with DNA testing. Weill-Greenberg’s work has been instrumental in countless people becoming clients, and several exonerations.
Over the course of her career at the Innocence Project, Weill-Greenberg trained staff and law students on the Innocence Project's screening process; mentored new Case Analysts; and instituted new systems to make the intake processes more compassionate and responsive to those seeking help.
She is a Part-Time Lecturer at Rutgers University-New Brunswick at the Program in Criminal Justice. She earned her Master’s degree at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and her Bachelor's degree at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Phone: (973) 624-9400 ext. 25
Jeanette Tindel is the Human Resources and Benefits Administrator for the Institute. Prior to joining the Institute, Jeanette worked for corporate organizations in Banking, Global Shipping, and Financial Services. As a member of Society for Human Resources Management, Jeanette leverages a broad and diverse knowledge base of current and topical Human Resources and Benefits issues, across multiple industries.
Retha Onitiri, PMP
Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 19
Retha Onitiri is the Juvenile Justice Campaign Manager at the New Jersey Institution for Social Justice. The Juvenile Justice Campaign’s primary goal is decarceration – reducing the number of youth locked in secure facilities in New Jersey. Other goals include ensuring that children in the system are treated fairly and in accordance with the system’s rehabilitative ideal, and reducing the number of children arrested and referred to the system.
Retha also leads New Jersey Communities Forward (NJCF), an Initiative focused on building a coalition for change on issues of criminal justice, economic mobility, and civic engagement. NJCF is the community outreach arm of NJISJ established to develop local leadership teams in major cities across New Jersey, host community forums, and identify issues and community-based solutions.
Prior to joining NJISJ, Retha worked in the private sector and was responsible for Readiness Project Management of complex telecommunications High Leverage Networks and Services, Training and Skills Development projects for a Software Integration organization, and Supply Chain North American Operations for Internet Protocol (IP) Platform products at Alcatel-Lucent. Retha is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and has a Masters of Science Degree in Management from Stevens Institute of Technology.
Phone: 973-624-9400 ext. 33
Muddasra Munir is the Program Associate at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. Prior to joining NJISJ, she served as an Administrator at Strong Healthy Communities Initiative. She also interned at Office of Sustainability office-City of Newark as well as Essex Pregnancy and Parenting Connection. As an undergraduate, she worked as a Student Assistant at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences formerly known as UMDNJ. Muddasra holds a BA degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration from Rutgers University-Newark and is currently enrolled as an MPA graduate student.