This month, many staff members across Legal Aid Chicago were promoted within the organization.

Barbara Bertini
Promoted to Associate Director, Pro Bono & Community Partnerships

Barbara joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2021 as the Associate Director of Community Partnerships. This new role will allow Barbara to work more closely with all of the projects in PCG and to continue to center our client communities in all of our work. She joined Legal Aid Chicago to focus on enhancing and expanding the organization’s presence in the Cook County community.  She has experience as a government attorney, a criminal prosecutor, and a specialist in criminal records relief.  This experience allows Barbara to provide substantive legal trainings to service providers and community members and manages Legal Aid Chicago’s partnerships with organizational allies. Barbara received both her law degree and her undergraduate degree criminal justice from Northeastern University in Boston.


Ashley Fretthold
Promoted to Associate Director, Children & Families Practice Group

Ashley Fretthold is an Associate Director for the Children & Families Practice Group. She primarily represents students in education matters, including special education, school discipline, sexual harassment, residency, and bullying. She was a member of the Legal Aid Chicago teams that filed civil rights suits in 2013 and 2018 against Chicago Public Schools on behalf of communities whose schools were selected for closure. She has engaged in systemic advocacy reforming special education and Title IX policies at Chicago Public Schools. She also advocates for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in Order of Protection cases and family law matters such as divorce and custody disputes. She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2008 as a staff attorney at the Westside neighborhood office, where she gained experience in every area of law in which Legal Aid Chicago practices. Prior to law school, Ashley worked in the education field, first as an education research associate and later as a fifth grade teacher. In 2019, the agency awarded Ashley the Jerold S. Solovy Equal Justice Award. Ashley received her law degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law and her undergraduate degree in public policy studies from Duke University.


Jess Kalmewicki
Promoted to Associate Director, Housing Practice Group

Jessica Kalmewicki is an Associate Director in the Housing Practice Group. She began her career at Legal Aid Chicago as a staff attorney in 2000 and litigated domestic relations, consumer, employment, bankruptcy, and housing law matters before administrative agencies, and state and federal courts. In 2009, she joined the Housing Practice Group, where she concentrated her practice on defending housing rights pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, and state and local statutes. In addition to litigating her own matters, Jessica currently oversees staff and senior attorneys handling housing law matters. Jessica is also a member of Legal Aid Chicago’s Veterans Task Force and HIV Task Force. In addition to working for Legal Aid Chicago, Jessica has worked as a corporate litigator in Detroit, Michigan, and as an Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Bureau for the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. She is licensed to practice law in Michigan and in Illinois. Jessica earned an undergraduate degree in political science and English from Aquinas College and her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School.


Gwynne Kizer Mashon
Promoted to the Associate Director, Public Benefits Practice Group

Gwynne has been a Supervising Attorney in PBPG since joining Legal Aid Chicago in 2022. She manages the Public Benefits Outreach and Enrollment project. Gwynne has lead a revitalization of our services for people experiencing homelessness including helping to obtain new HUD funding and reforming the Homeless Services Task Force which seeks to increase access to services for people who are homeless and address cross-practice group systemic issues affecting people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.  Gwynne has also served on the Fall Staff Hiring Committee, the Senior Staff Committee, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and the Community Engagement Working Group to implement the 2023 Strategic Plan.

Gwynne came to Legal Aid Chicago after a previous career in fundraising and as Director of Development and Systemic Advocacy at Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in New Orleans from 2011 – 2022.


Amina Najib
Promoted to Associate Director, Immigrants and Workers’ Rights Practice Group

Amina has been an IWR Supervisor in the Immigration team since April of 2021, which has almost doubled in staff size since the increase of state funding to provide legal services to new arrivals from the border.  Amina was previously working in private immigration practice for nine years, representing immigrants in removal proceedings and administrative applications with USCIS in Chicago.  Before this period, Amina worked as a staff attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) in Chicago, providing free legal services to immigrants in Chicago, including managing the agency’s Waukegan satellite office to serve that area’s growing immigrant population.

Amina interned at the Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man, Ramallah, in the Palestinian Territories during law school, researching and drafting human rights memoranda, and translating witness statements. Amina is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law.  She is fluent in Spanish and a native speaker of Arabic, and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Arab American Bar Association.


Marcy L. Phillips
Promoted to Associate Director, Housing Practice Group
Marcy L. Phillips started with Legal Aid Chicago in 2021 as a Supervisory Attorney. In February of 2024, she was promoted to Associate Director with the Housing Practice Group. 






Melissa Staas
Promoted to Associate Director, Children & Families Practice Group

Melissa Staas is an Associate Director with the Children & Families Practice Group.  She joined Legal Aid Chicago in 2018 as a Supervisory Attorney after practicing public interest law for 10 years with the Family Defense Center (now Ascend Justice), where she represented parents involved in all stages of the child welfare (or “family regulation”) system, including affirmative class action and federal civil rights litigation.  During law school, she focused on legal issues involving families and children, serving as Editor-in-Chief of her school’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal. At Legal Aid Chicago, Melissa helps lead the practice group’s representation of clients in family defense, domestic violence, domestic relations, and education law matters. Currently, she also serves as an Adjunct Faculty Member teaching trial practice at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and serves on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Homelessness and Poverty. Melissa received her undergraduate degree in psychology and women’s studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and her law degree, magna cum laude, from Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law.

Learn more about our staff on our Leadership page.