Director of Pro Bono, Partnerships & Development
Ashleigh Backman is CVLC’s Director of Pro Bono, Partnerships & Development. Prior to joining CVLC, she worked as a legal aid attorney and Pro Bono Attorney Manager for Statewide Legal Services of Connecticut, Inc., where she managed four pro bono programs, private bar engagement, and community-based outreach and advocacy. As a legal aid attorney, Ashleigh represented low-income individuals seeking pardon assistance in order to overcome barriers relating to affordable housing and employment. Ashleigh is a Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellow. Ashleigh graduated from Bryn Mawr College and the University of New Hampshire School of Law, where she was a Doris Monroe Rappe Scholar and a Franklin Pierce Public Interest Scholar. She is admitted to practice in Connecticut.
Liam comes to CVLC from New Haven Legal Assistance Association, where he worked in the Community and Economic Development Unit. Prior to joining New Haven Legal Assistance, Liam worked for the U.S. Department of Justice where he served as a trial attorney in the Criminal Division's Fraud Section, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Financial Fraud and Public Corruption unit in Connecticut, and the director of the Federal Public Corruption Task Force in Connecticut. Liam has also been a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and serves on the Board of Junta for Progressive Action.
Staff Attorney, Veteran Benefits & Eligibility
Passionate about access to justice and trauma-informed practice, Chelsea has chosen to dedicate her life to serving the community that requires legal aid the most: low-income individuals struggling with mental illness and trauma. Her primary practice at CVLC remains heavily focused on veterans struggling from severe mental health diagnoses accessing the healthcare and services that they need to heal. Her recent access to justice advocacy includes expanding access to re-entry services to incarcerated veterans and developing pro se legal resources for all veterans stigmatized by unjust “bad paper” discharges.
Chelsea began her career at CVLC as a Connecticut Bar Foundation Singer Fellow representing survivors of military sexual trauma in VA Benefits cases. Prior to her Singer Fellowship, Chelsea worked as clerk for the Connecticut Judicial Branch. Her graduate career includes clinical experience as a social worker for incarcerated people reintegrating into society. She earned her J.D., cum laude, from Western New England University School of Law and her M.S.W. from Springfield College. She is admitted to the Connecticut State Bar and Court of Appeals for Veterans’ Claims (CAVC).
Howard R. Udell Staff Attorney
Sharon Fialkovich is CVLC’s Howard R. Udell Fellow in Veterans Justice representing veterans in the Hartford area. Prior to joining CVLC, she worked as an Agency Attorney for the City of New York Department of Social Services. Before her time at DSS, she worked as a Staff Attorney at Womankind (former New York Asian Women’s Center), where she headed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Project and assisted trafficking and domestic violence victims seeking immigration remedies. Sharon received her J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law and her B.A. from the State University of New York Binghamton. She is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and New York.
A graduate of George Washington University National Law Center, Christy has an impressive resume in public interest law. Her previous experience includes working as Director of George Washington University’s Consumer HELP Bankruptcy Clinic, the Managing Attorney at Valley Legal Assistance, and the Deputy Director at New Haven Legal Assistance. Christy has also worked as a Visiting Clinical Instructor at Yale Law School and served on the Board of Directors at the Columbus House and Washington Council of Lawyers.
Cindy Johnson has worked at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center since 2011. Prior to pursuing her dream to become a public interest lawyer, she had a 25-year career in Software Development. She is a graduate of University of Connecticut School of Law. While finishing her law degree, she interned with CVLC and could not bear to work anywhere else. She is admitted to the Connecticut State Bar and is a member of the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA). She is the Chair for the Veterans and Military Affairs Section of the CBA and she teaches a Veterans Benefit Clinic at UCONN Law.
Nicola Kelsey is a paralegal at Connecticut Veterans Legal Center. Nikki comes to us with a diverse legal background. Prior to this position, Nikki worked at the U.S. District Court clerk’s office as the Operations Supervisor in the Hartford division, and previously as a case administrator in the New Haven division. Before her time at the Court she worked for almost ten years as a paralegal at Wiggin and Dana LLP in New Haven and she worked over six years as a legal assistant for the Subway franchisor in Milford, CT. Nikki is a graduate of Wellesley College with a B.A. in history.
Steve Kennedy is a Pre-Law Fellow with CVLC providing development and legal support while pursuing a law degree at the University of Connecticut. Prior to CVLC, Steve was the Connecticut Team Leader for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, where he led significant legislative advocacy efforts and supported ongoing litigation. Before deciding to pursue a legal career, Steve was a structural biologist working in both academic and pharmaceutical settings. Steve is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, having served as an infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq and stateside. Steve received his M.S. from New York University and his B.S. from the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Director of Discharge Upgrade Practice
Margaret Kuzma is the Director of CVLC’s military records corrections team (commonly referred to as “discharge upgrades”). Prior to CVLC, she worked as a Skadden Fellow at the Legal Assistance Foundation in Chicago, Illinois where she served low-income veterans and military families. Before deciding to become a public interest attorney, Margaret worked as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for Fort Benning and USAG Baumholder. Margaret received her J.D. from DePaul University, College of Law and her B.A. from Brown University. She is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and Illinois.
Alden Pinkham is a Connecticut Bar Foundation Singer Fellow focused on improving veterans’ access to their mental health benefits. Before deciding to become an attorney, Alden worked as an advocate for victims of human trafficking on the National Human Trafficking Hotline and as a consultant and trainer for anti-trafficking non-profits. She also worked for Central Virginia Legal Aid Society as a migrant outreach worker, educating migrant farmworkers about their employment and housing rights. Alden received her J.D. from Yale Law School and her M.A. and B.A. from the University of Virginia.
As a Supervising Attorney at CVLC, Darren Pruslow’s practice covers a wide range of areas from civil legal issues (housing, child support) to various VA Benefit claims. In addition to representing clients, he is a lead on working with our VA partners and strengthening CVLC’s Medical Legal Partnership (MLP).
Prior to CVLC, Darren created a small ‘low bono’ practice focused on bridging the gap between legal services and traditional representation. He continues a near 20-year career as an educator as the co-founder of the Quinnipiac University School of Law Veteran’s Clinic and as an adjunct in the University of New Haven’s Legal Studies and Political Science Department. He also is on the board of the Connecticut Mediation Association.
Darren has his J.D. form Quinnipiac University School of Law and MS in Education from Hofstra University. His undergraduate degree is from the College of the Holy Cross where he majored in Sociology with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies.
Intake Coordinator and Legal Assistant
Kharl works as the Intake Coordinator and Legal Assistant. Before joining the team, she led public interest campaigns around higher education affordability and youth voter engagement focused on grassroots organizing and policy action with ConnPIRG Students. She is passionate about storytelling, community engagement, and public service. Kharl has a B.A. in Economics and Human Rights from the University of Connecticut.
Jessica Subocz first came to CVLC as a volunteer and now works as a part-time administrative assistant whose myriad duties include providing support to the development department. Jessica cut her proverbial teeth when she was just fourteen years old working for her father’s direct mail company, a role that would groom her for the multifaceted demands of her position in the non-profit world. In addition to working at CVLC, Jessica continues her work as a mentor to individuals with intellectual disabilities, which was her primary vocation before joining CVLC as a regular staff member.
Jessica recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.A. in English and plans to go on to graduate school.
Staff Attorney for Discharge Upgrades and Policy Counsel
Millie VandenBroek returns to CVLC as a staff attorney on the Discharge Upgrade Team. She served previously as CVLC’s Howard R. Udell Fellow in Veterans Justice specializing in VA benefits law. Millie has also taught in the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School as a Visiting Clinical Lecturer. Prior to joining CVLC, she worked as an Assistant Public Defender in Baltimore City’s Mental Health Court and as a litigator in the private sector. Millie holds a JD from Georgetown University Law Center and an MPH from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.