top of page


The LAW Project was founded in 2009 to provide free legal assistance to workers applying for jobs with a criminal record.
Our work with men and women who became court-involved highlighted other areas of need in the community. The failings of the education system were clearly contributing to incarceration rates. This was particularly true for clients who had been diagnosed with a learning disability. We understood that our advocacy needed to be more broadly focused to do more to help dismantle the schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline.
In 2017, the LAW Project expanded the scope of our work to provide legal advocacy to families and children involved in the education and juvenile justice system.


At the LAW Project of Los Angeles,
we understand that work and access to meaningful education are two essential components of healthy families and strong communities. We know that kids who learn and families who work create communities that thrive. We are committed to helping make that happen.



  • Responsibility. We believe that each of us must accept responsibility for the choices we make and the consequences of those choices. We value responsibility and its power to make us accountable.

  • Fairness. We believe that fairness is essential in all facets of our daily lives. We value fairness and its power to comprehend and balance the rights and needs of all community members.

  • Integrity. We believe that integrity allows us to work diligently, respectfully and mindfully. We value integrity and its power to inform the right decision in any situation we face.

  • Dignity. We believe that dignity reminds us of who we are and who are capable of being. We value dignity and its power to invest in us the courage and determination we need to face any hardship.

  • Transformation. We believe that people are capable of monumental change. We value transformation and its power to redirect a life’s path.

  • Hope. We believe that hope empowers us to move forward despite past defeats. We value hope and its power to inspire our belief that tomorrow will be better than today.



The LAW Project’s Board of Directors is comprised of four attorneys. Stephanie Sauter, Sarah Ellenberg, Elie Miller, and Dyanne Stempel, who have a combined total of over 40 years in the Public Defender’s Office and office and decades of additional combined years experience in other criminal and civil law. 

  • Stephanie Sauter is the founder of the LAW Project. She has worked in the Chicago and Los Angeles Public Defender Offices. She represented clients in criminal, delinquency and dependency courts. She is a member of the Independent Juvenile Defense Panel and the 317(e) Education Attorney panel. Ms. Sauter holds a Masters in Special Education and taught high school English to students with learning disabilities for 5 years.

  • Sarah Ellenberg practiced civil litigation at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher before joining the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office in 2001. She is a member of the Independent Juvenile Defense Panel and the 317(e) Education Attorney panel. Ms. Ellenberg was the Educational Rights attorney at the Alternate Public Defender’s Office before joining the LAW Project as co-Executive Director.

  • Elie Miller is the former Director of Legal Services at Homeboys Industries and is currently a staff attorney at the Loyola Law School Center For Juvenile Law and Policy, working in the Collateral Consequences of Conviction Clinic.

  • Dyanne Stempel is a writer and an attorney who formerly practiced civil law in the entertainment field.

  • Kiyomi Kowalski is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. She has been volunteering with the LAW Project since the organization was formed and has been a tireless advocate on behalf of our clients. Ms Kowalski earned her JD at Southwestern Law School.

  • Barbara Lempel is a Special Education teacher at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles. She brings invaluable insight and experience to the board with her knowledge of the special education system.

  • Kristin Ebbert is a California-licensed acupuncturist. Kristin brings a wide range of experience working in the complementary medical community and has served on the Board of Directors of the California State Oriental Medical Association (CSOMA) and is currently an Associate Editor of the California Journal of Oriental Medicine. Kris has volunteered her time as an acupuncturist at the Venice Family Clinic, the largest free clinic in the U.S. As Program Coordinator at Community Arts Resources, Kristin coordinated a $1 million program for the Getty Museum and L.A. County Arts Commission that provides paid internships at performing and visual arts organizations to 300 college students annually. As Managing Editor of the Utne Award-winning Green Guide consumer newsletter from 1992 to 2000 (now National Geographic's Green Guide), she contributed bi-weekly articles about environmental issues and food choices and how they affect community health.

LAW Project LA Advisory Board Members

  • Two of our Advisory Board members bring the organization their expertise in finance and marketing. Board member George Smith has a substantial background as a financial professional, with expertise in financial reporting, budgeting and forecasting, and accounting.

  • Debbie Smith brings a unique marketing perspective to the board as she has been working in marketing in the private sector since 1991 and has an MBA from the Anderson School at UCLA.

  • Our final two Advisory Board members, P. Richards and K. Bailey, bring an essential perspective to the organization, having overcome the challenges presented by criminal court involvement.

bottom of page