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Our Staff

Brwyn Downing, Executive Director

Brwyn Downing received her J.D. with honors and awards from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2018.  She first joined SCLO as a paralegal in 2014 and continued working with SCLO through law school.  After graduation, Brwyn was hired as a law clerk and then as a staff attorney upon passage of the bar examination.  In 2020, Brwyn left the organization to work for New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Term Services Department, primarily giving legal advice and providing representation to Adult Protective Services.  Brwyn rejoined SCLO as the Executive Director, and is honored to continue SCLO’s long history of advocacy and legal services for New Mexico’s most vulnerable elders.

Elena Spielman, Attorney

Elena received her B.A and J.D. degrees from the University of Wisconsin (Madison WI). After moving to New Mexico in 1976 she worked for the Legal Aid Society of Albuquerque and then Northern New Mexico Legal Services (now New Mexico Legal Services). Subsequently Elena practiced family law in the private sector for many years. Elena joined SCLO’s staff as a part-time attorney in 2014.

Phillip Medrano, Estate Planning Attorney

Phillip Medrano is a graduate of The American University Washington College of Law (1978) and began practicing law in 1978.  He was a prosecutor until 1985. He then had his own law practice for eleven years; a substantial part of his practice involved estate planning matters. His next position was as an assistant federal public defender until 2014. He started working for SCLO in May, 2014, and is one of two estate planning lawyers at SCLO.

Nancy Higgins, Estate Planning Attorney

Nancy Higgins is a graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law and has been a licensed attorney in New Mexico since 1993.  Nancy’s legal career has been in public interest law and non-profit work for the under-served and underrepresented in our community.  Nancy practiced law at Resources, In., in Family Law (Domestic Matters) within the Family Violence Protection Act.  She later served as legal director and for a short period of time, acting Executive Director.  She later worked as Enlace Comunitario as an attorney and as Legal Director.  Nancy worked as a staff attorney at SCLO for 2 years before leaving.  She returned to SCLO as a part-time, dedicated Estate Planning Attorney.  Her practice is primarily assisting eligible clients with the drafting of their Wills, Transfer on Death Deeds, and execution of their financial powers of attorney and advanced directives for health care.

Michael McGuire, Staff Attorney

Michael McGuire received a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin (Madison) in 2007 and graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law in 2012. Prior to joining SCLO in 2016, he worked with legal services programs in Louisiana and Ohio representing low-income taxpayers and military veterans. Michael legal practice has focused on a variety of legal issues including: identity theft; evictions; veterans’ benefits; family law; tax disputes; and estate planning.

Cristóbal Muñoz, Health Care Director

Cristóbal Muñoz who is bilingual is SCLO’s Health Care Director. He is a licensed New Mexico attorney. Cris received his J.D. degree from the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, D.C. in 2013; and his M.A. in Education from the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain in 2002. Prior to joining SCLO’s staff in 2017, Cris was a trial attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, worked under a temporary contract with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and served a brief internship at United South Broadway Corporation. At SCLO, Cristobal focuses primarily on federal benefits (Medicare, Social Security, SSI) and state administered benefits (Medicaid and SNAP). Because of the intersection between healthcare, income, nutrition and housing, Cris also works on issues related to housing subsidized by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Alexander Colbert-Taylor, Staff Attorney

Alex joined the SCLO in November 2021. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 2015, where he focused on public interest law and issues like healthcare access and disability rights. He spent summers at the ACLU of Georgia and the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse, and was a full-time extern at Georgia’s protection and advocacy organization, working to enforce the rights of people with disabilities. Prior to the SCLO, he worked at the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless, providing legal services for unsheltered people and those facing eviction; at FEMA, advising the agency on meeting the legal and practical needs of disaster survivors with disabilities; and at the SSA’s National Hearing Center in Albuquerque, where he counseled administrative law judges and drafted SSI and SSDI decisions.

Paul Spear, Foreclosure Project Attorney

Paul grew up on a farm south of Fargo, North Dakota, studied Agricultural Economics at North Dakota State University and worked several years as a farm loan officer with USDA and private banks in northwestern Minnesota. Graduating from the University of North Dakota School of Law in 2005, Paul moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has represented creditors and insurance companies with insurance subrogation, foreclosure, asset and debt recovery, and tort defense. Paul represents SCLO clients with active foreclosure cases before the courts.

Clara Padilla-Silver, ARPA Housing Attorney

Clara received her J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 1996.  Clara rejoined SCLO in March 2022 as the dedicated American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Housing Attorney, and brings over 25 years of legal expertise and knowledge to her practice.   SCLO’s ARPA Housing Program will run through June of 2024, and focuses on housing stability for persons aged 60 and older residing in Bernalillo County.   As a housing expert, Clara has experience with a wide range of real estate issues, from residential foreclosure to real estate development, and has represented both homeowners and commercial real estate developers over her career.  Clara now utilizes her knowledge to focus her efforts on assisting elderly renters and homeowners.  Clara understands how frightening and confusing an eviction notice can be for a senior and how essential it is to have an attorney who is familiar with the law and comfortable in the courtroom.  Clara enjoys being able to provide experienced advocacy for her clients and being able to support them through an unfamiliar, and sometimes overwhelming, process.

Marsha Shasteen, Emergency Rental Assistance Project Director and Staff Attorney

Mikayla Jaramillo, Foreclosure Legal Assistant

Mikayla Jaramillo joins SCLO as a  graduate of the Post Degree Paralegal program with the University of New Mexico Continuing Education. She additionally holds Bachelor degrees in English and Religious Studies, and a minor in Philosophy. She has a strong professional background in training and client care. She looks forward to advocating on behalf of New Mexican Seniors that are facing foreclosure.

Kathy Heyman, Administrative Director

Kathy Heyman joined SCLO in 1990 after working with private attorneys in the area of consumer law for five years.   In her current role as SCLO’s Administrative Director, she utilizes her education at Palm Beach College and UNM’s Anderson School of Business along with her work experience in human resources and in the paralegal field to supervise support staff and assist attorneys in their advocacy work on behalf of seniors.

David J. Monson, Fiscal Officer

David has been the Fiscal Officer for the Senior Citizens’ Law Office since 1996.  David has 29 years experience serving as the Finance Director/Fiscal Officer for several non profit organizations including Open Hands, Inc., Santa Fe, NM; Desert State Life Management Services, Albuquerque, NM; and Health Action New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM.  In addition to serving as the treasurer of Health Action New Mexico, David also served as the Treasurer of NewChild Productions, a performing arts academy in the African American community for kids aged 6 through 84.  He serves as treasurer of ACTNM, a GLBTG affiliate of the New Mexico Community Foundation, building a fund to provide grants for projects concerning the health and welfare of families in the Gay & Lesbian Community.  In addition to health care advocacy, David is on the New Mexico Governor’s AIDS Commission.

Jan Thomson, Paralegal

Jan is a recent graduate of the Post Degree Paralegal Program at Central New Mexico Community College. Jan received her  Bachelors degree from UNM in 1975 and worked for many years in a medical laboratory field. Jan works in the area of Estate Planning and also assists SCLO’s attorneys in all areas of elder law.

 Dean Shelton, Paralegal

Dean Shelton, an SCLO paralegal, has more than 30 years of experience in the private legal sector in Albuquerque and, most recently, Portland, Oregon. He holds a Bachelor of University Studies from the University of New Mexico, which speaks to his eclectic interests. Dean worked for many years as an estate planning paralegal, but assists SCLO’s legal staff in all areas of the law. Dean has also worked at a non-profit public radio station and has an enduring passion for music.

 Carla Wassom, Receptionist

Carla joined the SCLO staff as a bi-lingual part-time receptionist in 2019; she is an asset to our organization with her hard work ethics.

Mineli Pinon, Receptionist

Mineli joined the SCLO staff as a bi-lingual part-time receptionist in 2022; she deals with clients and staff in a professional and considerate manner and is a pleasure to work with.

 

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