- Dan Varner, President
- Melissa Cragg, Treasurer
- Lisa Schmidt, Secretary
- Jessica Lieberman, Equity Officer
- Noel J. Saleh, National Board Representative
- Laura J. Champagne, Executive VP, ACLU Fund of Michigan
- Peter Hammer, Vice President
- Gilda Jacobs, Vice President
- Loren Khogali, Vice President
- Nathan Triplett, Vice President
ACLU OF MICHIGAN BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Gary Boren received a B.S. degree in mathematics from the University of Michigan and a J.D. in 1979 from the University of Michigan Law School. He is in private practice specializing in bankruptcy law. He is a member of the Michigan Bar Association and admitted to practice in Michigan state courts, as well as the Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts for the Eastern District of Michigan and the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Gary is a former member of the board of directors of the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace and the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Association. He is currently on the board of the Minerva Project, Inc., the Washtenaw Area Housing Coalition and the Packard Community Clinic.
Michael Carter is a staff attorney with the Federal Defender Office in Detroit, Michigan. He is a graduate of Wayne State University Law School and the University of Michigan where he received a B.A. in English. Prior to joining the Federal Defender Office, he served as a Staff Attorney with the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where he represented adults and juveniles charged with serious felonies ranging from armed robberies, to kidnappings, to homicides. Following law school, Michael worked as an associate attorney for the Law Office of John A. Shea. While there, he represented clients in civil matters, and clients accused of various crimes including state misdemeanors and felonies, and federal offenses.
Laura J. Champagne, Executive Vice President of the ACLU Fund of Michigan, is an attorney and journalist who has served in the Milliken administration as the Director of the Office of Nutrition and in the Granholm administration as the Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Human Services. However, the bulk of Laura’s career was with the International Union, UAW where she was involved in contract negotiations, including auto, aerospace and the public sector, and policy development, primarily related to health care. Laura has also been involved in advocacy for long-term-care consumers both at the state and local levels, and is currently the Managing Director for Citizens for Better Care. As to the ACLU, Laura has served on the Board of Oakland County Branch for several years and been a member of the State Board during which time she was an active member of the Branch Development Committee. She currently serves as Board Chair for Gay Elders of Southeast Michigan and is active in the LGBT Older Adult Coalition, both projects of the ACLU LGBT Project. She also serves on a number of other boards for non-profits and foundations.
Melanca Clark is president and CEO of Hudson-Webber Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving quality of life in Detroit. Prior to joining Hudson-Webber Foundation, she served in key leadership roles in the Obama administration including chief of staff of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), senior counsel with DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, and senior policy advisor with the White House Domestic Policy Council. Clark earned her law degree from Harvard Law School, and her undergraduate degree from Brown University. Clark serves on the advisory board of LISC Detroit, University of Michigan’s Youth Policy Lab, and the board of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Michigan Future Inc, and the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Melissa Cragg, Treasurer, is the retired CIO of The Fisher Group (TGF) but continues as a senior advisor and Chairman of their Investment Committee. Prior to working with the Fisher Group Melissa was the Vice President of Finance and Treasurer at The Detroit Medical Center and a corporate banker with Comerica Bank. Melissa’s board experience includes recently completing her term as Governor Snyder’s appointee and Vice President of Michigan’s Early Childhood Investment Corporation, Board Member of the Girl Scouts of Metro Detroit and Women’s Caring Program which she also co-founded. Melissa has also served on the Investment Committees of a number of charities including Trinity Health Corporation, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. Melissa earned both her bachelor’s and MBA degrees from Washington University in St. Louis.
Peter Hammer, Vice President, is the director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University Law School which is dedicated to promoting the educational, economic and political empowerment of under-represented communities in urban areas and to ensuring that the phrase equal justice under law applies to all members of society. Professor Hammer was instrumental in editing and compiling Judge Damon J. Keith’s new biography, Crusader for Justice: Federal Judge Damon J. Keith (2013). Professor Hammer has become a leading voice on the economic and social issues impacting the city of Detroit, and has added new courses to the law school curriculum on Race, Law and Social Change in Southeast Michigan and Re-Imagining Development in Detroit: Institutions, Law & Society. Professor Hammer has expertise in the fields of domestic health law and policy, as well as international public health and economic development. He is a recipient of an Investigator Award in Health Policy Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and served as lead editor for Uncertain Times: Kenneth Arrow and the Changing Economics of Health Care, a book published by Duke University Press (2003). His most recent book, Change and Continuity at the World Bank: Reforming Paradoxes of Economic Development (2013), combines his training as an economist and a lawyer to takes on questions of international economic growth and development. His scholarship also has examined the role of global health initiatives in health system development and how international law might further the objectives of global child health. Professor Hammer has spent more than 20 years engaging issues of human rights, law and development in Cambodia. He was a founding board member and past president of Legal Aid of Cambodia, an organization providing free legal services to Cambodia's poor. He is presently a board member of the Life & Hope Association, an organization in Siem Reap, Cambodia, founded and run by Buddhists monks to address the needs of orphans, vulnerable children and at-risk young women. Professor Hammer received his undergraduate education at Gonzaga University and completed his professional and graduate education at the University of Michigan, where he received a J.D. and a Ph.D. (economics). Before entering private practice, he clerked for the Hon. Alfred T. Goodwin, former chief judge of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Ponsella Hardaway is the Executive Director of MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) and a native Detroiter. MOSES, a group of diverse congregations, organizes communities, develops leaders and builds relationships to advocate for social justice. Ponsella is also a National Trainer with the Gamaliel Foundation. She has trained congregation members in South Africa, Swaziland and in the United Kingdom. Ponsella has traveled to Brazil and Mali to study NGO’s work on political and social issues. She lives in Wayne County.
Katherine Humphrey is a longtime advocate for women, children and families with a passionate commitment to social justice and human rights, including reproductive rights, for all people. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Duke University and a Master of Science Degree in Counseling from Indiana University and served as President/CEO of Planned Parenthood in west and northern Michigan for 27 years. Throughout her tenure at Planned Parenthood, the affiliate grew from an organization serving eight counties in west Michigan to one serving 52 counties throughout the majority of the western half of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan and all of the Upper Peninsula, serving approximately 30,000 people annually. Previously, Ms. Humphrey worked as a therapist and administrator in the community mental health sector and as a hospital social worker serving terminally ill children and their families. Throughout her career, Ms. Humphrey has served on numerous boards, at the local, state, and national level. She was co-founder of the Progressive Women’s Alliance PAC and co-founder of Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. She is currently the Chair of the statewide Planned Parenthood Affiliates and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan Boards, and serves on multiple local community boards and steering committees.
Loren Khogali, Vice President, is an attorney with the Federal Defender Office in Detroit where she represents indigent clients charged in federal court in all phases of criminal cases. She is a graduate of Northeastern University School of Law and Western Michigan University where she received a B.S. in Psychology and B.A. in French. Following law school, Khogali worked as a law clerk in the Superior Court of Massachusetts where she assisted Justices in all phases of civil and criminal state court litigation.
Gilda Jacobs, Vice President, is CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. From 2003-2010 she was a Democratic member of the Michigan Senate representing the 14th District. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan where she received her bachelors in science with a distinction in education and a master’s degree in behavioral sciences in education and worked as a special education teacher. She was the first woman elected to the Huntington Woods City Commission (1981-1994) and then served as Mayor Pro Tem of Huntington Woods (1993-94), Oakland County Commissioner (1995-1998), and was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1998 where she served for two terms. She made history as the first female floor leader in either chamber of the legislature and was Chair of the Senate Democratic Caucus, vice-chair of the Economic Development, Small Business & Regulatory Reform Committee and the Families and Human Services Committee, and served on Government Operations and Health Policy Committees.
Jessica Lieberman is a 2003 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School where she served on the Michigan Journal of Race and Law where her primary academic interests were in race and gender discrimination, civil rights and poverty law. Upon completing her J.D., she stayed at home to raise her children.
Yolanda Lipsey is the Deputy Chief of Staff & District Director for U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. She initially began working for Rep. Conyers independently, legislative assistant then Congressional Black Caucus Fellow working on various legislative and policy issues. Ms. Lipsey effectively manages the day-to-day operations of the district offices and travels back and forth to Washington, DC. She has written over 200 letters of support for businesses and nonprofit organizations in the Metro Detroit area which helped to secure over $10 million in federal funding. Ms. Lipsey mentors youths of all ages and prides herself on networking. She performs volunteer work with various nonprofits and political campaigns to help uplift, educate and advance the socio-economic status of individuals at large.
Joe Marogil lives in the Grand Rapids area. He received his J.D. from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and his B.A. from Michigan State University. His legal work focuses on health law and the regulation of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. He has long participated in social justice and anti-war advocacy. He is an active member of both the Western Branch local chapter and the Western Branch Lawyers Committee of the ACLU of Michigan. Previously he has been involved with the National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty International, volunteered with the Illinois branch of the ACLU, and has participated in organizing numerous conferences and events on critical social justice issues.
Portia Roberson was born and raised in the City of Detroit. She is a graduate of Cass Technical High School. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and law degree from Wayne State University. Ms. Roberson currently serves as the Group Executive of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity for the City of Detroit. Prior to her current role, she served as Corporation Counsel for the City of Detroit.
Upon graduation from law school, Ms. Roberson established a private practice specializing in criminal defense law. In 2002, she joined the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office as an Assistant Prosecutor. She began as a trial courtroom prosecutor and eventually served as a principal in the community prosecution unit. In 2004, Ms. Roberson became Associate General Counsel at the Detroit Medical Center. In 2009, Ms. Roberson was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison for the United States Department of Justice. During her tenure with the Obama Administration, she also served as the Detroit Lead of Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2), an initiative of the White House Domestic Policy office.
Ms. Roberson is a member of various professional organizations including the Wolverine Bar Association. She was previously a member of the National Black Prosecutors Association, the Recorders’ Court Bar Association and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. She serves as the Chair of the City of Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board and is the first African-American Woman ex-officio to hold the position. Within the community, Ms. Roberson is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated (Detroit Alumnae Chapter) and the Detroit Chapter of Links, Incorporated. She serves on the board of Habitat for Humanity and Delta Manor. She is also a regular guest on WDIV’s Sunday morning news show, Flashpoint.
Noel J. Saleh, Representative to the National Board, is an attorney in private practice; specializing in civil liberties and immigration law. He is recognized nationally as a leading immigrant advocate. He has successfully challenged “secret evidence” and “special interest” cases. Noel is the immediate past president of the ACCESS and has served on the ACCESS Board since 1989. From January 2002 until October of 2005, Noel was the Post 9/11, Safe and Free Project Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. Noel took a sabbatical from his private law practice to help the ACLU outreach to the Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities and coordinate legal work in the wake of 9/11. His responsibilities included community education and outreach as well as development of litigation (in coordination with the ACLU national office) to challenge some of the most restrictive provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and other assaults on civil liberties. He was lead counsel in the ACLU lawsuit which challenged the State of Michigan’s participation in MATRIX; the Multi-State Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. He is also a member of the ACLU legal team which filed the first direct constitutional challenge to Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Noel brings a long history of community involvement. He has served on the Boards of the National Immigration Forum (NIF); the Rights Working Group; Palestine Aid Society of America; American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; National Lawyers Guild; the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit and as a member of the Michigan Advisory Committee to the U. S. Civil Rights Commission. He lives in Washtenaw County.
Lisa Schmidt, Secretary, is an attorney in private practice in Southfield, Michigan. She has operated her practice, Schmidt Law Services, PLLC, since 2011. Before that time she practiced in Berrien County, Michigan. She attended Michigan State University where she graduated with Highest Honors from the College of Arts and Letters, and Thomas M. Cooley Law School where she graduated magna cum laude. Lisa is also happy to serve on the Affirmations Faith Alliance in Ferndale, Michigan, which helps to unite members of the LGBT community with accepting and supportive congregations of faith, and to volunteer providing pro bono legal services through the Family Law Assistant Project.
Jonah Siegel is the Research Director of the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, where he is responsible for identifying institutional research priorities, overseeing data collection and analysis, and translating research findings into best practices. Jonah has conducted research on the criminal justice system for more than ten years for a range of government and nonprofit agencies including the Vera Institute of Justice and Michigan’s State Appellate Defender Office. His professional research interests are in crime and incarceration, efficient operation of the criminal justice system, prisoner reentry, and policy development and implementation. Prior to his work with MIDC, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, where he also completed his PhD in 2014.
Derrell Slaughter was born in Detroit, raised in Metro Detroit, and now resides in Lansing. He is a graduate of Michigan State University. Derrell has been on the executive board of the Lansing Area ACLU for the past three years and has served as the chair of its Racial Justice Committee for over a year and a half. In the short time he has been in this chairman position, he has developed strong relationships with other progressive organizations with the purpose of getting Greater Lansing area law enforcement officers to actively promote and use more progressive policing tactics. In addition to this policy work, his committee has successfully hosted five highly attended forums on various criminal justice topics. In addition to his work with the Lansing Area ACLU, he has run a number of state and local political campaigns in Lansing and Metro Detroit and has the pleasure of serving on the Ingham County Board of Health.
Buzz Thomas is co-founder and President of Thomas Group Consulting, Inc. (TGC), a multi-client advocacy team committed to providing access, advancing business and engaging communities for select corporate, government and non-profit clients. A public affairs professional with more than 20 years of experience, Thomas spent 14 years in the Michigan legislature, including serving as Democratic Floor Leader in the Senate and as Democratic Leader in the House. He was Co-Chairman of the 2008 Michigan Presidential campaign of Barack Obama. In 2013 he founded and Co-Chaired Turnaround Detroit, the Super PAC credited with electing Mike Duggan Detroit’s Mayor. His career began as a senior counselor to two Members of Congress representing Michigan. Prior to his foray into politics, Thomas was Construction Manager for Parkside Building Company and Avis Tech Partners. There he managed both commercial renovations and single-family residential construction. Today, An avid entrepreneur, he is also the co-founder of Grand Circus Lights and staffing company HIRE/Detroit LLC.
Nathan Triplett, Vice President, MA, JD is the Political Director of Equality Michigan and has worked in various capacities as an organizer, policy advocate, and elected official throughout his 15 years of LGBTQ advocacy and public service. For eight of those years, Triplett served on the East Lansing City Council and in 2013 was elected as the city's youngest Mayor.
During his Council tenure, Triplett championed numerous pro-LGBTQ initiatives, including an Equal Benefits Ordinance, Domestic Partner Registry, and Other Eligible Individual Benefits Policy for municipal employees. Triplett's work earned East Lansing back-to-back perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index. In addition to his work in East Lansing, Triplett served as the President of the Board of Trustees of the Michigan Municipal League and as a member of Michigan Equality, the National Stonewall Democrats, and the National Board of Directors of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). A GLSEN's Pathfinder Award recipient and the former Director of Priorities Michigan, Triplett has arduously worked to pass comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinances in cities across Michigan.
An ally of the LGBTQ community, Triplett is a graduate of Michigan State University's James Madison College with degrees in Political Theory/Constitutional Democracy and Social Relations. He also holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He lives in East Lansing with his wife and newborn son.
Joe Tuchinsky is a devoted, life-long civil libertarian, and has been an active member of the ACLU of Michigan’s State Board and its Lansing Branch local board for more than 35 years. As the State Board’s Treasurer for many years, he chaired its Budget and Audit Committee, where he developed the plans to fund the building purchase and to manage cash flow, among many other initiatives. He has also been an active member of the Executive Committee, Investment Committee, and Governance Committee. With a degree in accounting and 20 years of experience as director of three different nonprofit advocacy organizations, followed by 25 years as a consultant assisting and advising nonprofit organizations with financial and IRS-compliance matters, he brings the ACLU a high level of expertise in nonprofit management.
Daniel Varner, President, has served as Chief Executive Officer of Excellent Schools Detroit since 2011. Excellent Schools Detroit is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that every child in Detroit has an excellent education. Prior to that time, Dan was a program officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this role, he worked with the Education and Learning team to develop programming priorities, identifying and nurturing opportunities to affect positive change within communities. His responsibilities included reviewing and recommending proposals for funding, conducting site visits and maintaining strong relationships with grant seekers and external partners. He managed and monitored a portfolio of active grants, providing technical assistance to grantees on model development, partnership negotiations, leadership capacity building and coaching. He has also served as chief executive officer for the youth development organization Think Detroit Police Athletic League (Think Detroit PAL), which he co-founded as Think Detroit in 1996. Earlier in his career, he worked as an attorney in Detroit, Michigan, at the Federal Defender Office and with Sachs, Waldman, O'Hare, Helveston, Bogas & McIntosh, PC. He earned both a bachelor's degree in history and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan. Dan has won numerous awards for public service, and currently serves on the board of directors at Think Detroit PAL and the Michigan Fitness Foundation. He has three children, and lives in Wayne County.