Ashley Carter, Director (She/Her/Hers)
Ashley Carter joined the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan in 2022 and leads as the Director of the Michigan Justice Fund.
Ashley began her career as a public defender in New York City with The Legal Aid Society. For almost five years Ashley represented hundreds of clients with cases ranging from low-level violations to serious felonies. Ashley has been active in community engagement including “know your rights” trainings for young people and adults, voter registration of inmates at Rikers Island, and mentorship development for the children of incarcerated parents in Brooklyn.
After working in New York City, Ashley joined the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission as a Regional Manager where she worked to
restructure the public defender system across the state. Ashley closely advised county administrations and local court systems on how to restructure their indigent defense systems by implementing practice standards for attorneys taking court appointed criminal cases developed by the MIDC. In this capacity Ashley created and presented trainings for attorneys taking court appointed cases, led policy reform discussions with various stakeholders about indigent defense, and helped counties create plans for ensuring that every citizen in the state had access to their constitutional right to counsel, regardless of their ability to pay.
Most recently, Ashley served as a Senior Attorney + Deputy Director in the Justice Project of Advancement Project’s National Office in Washington, DC. Her work focused on addressing oppressive systems of mass incarceration and policing by partnering with grassroots organizations to support their campaigns around these issues in cities across the country. She provided legal and strategy support and helped develop mechanisms for widespread community education and engagement around issues in the criminal legal system. These mechanisms included impact litigation, FOIA, and policy research, development and recommendation.
Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Ashley attended Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, and William and Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Melanca Clark, Steering Committee Chair, Michigan Justice Fund, President & CEO Hudson-Webber Foundation (She/Her/Hers)
Melanca Clack serves as Chair of the Michigan Justice Fund Steering Committee.
Melanca Clark is President and CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation in Detroit, MI. Prior to joining the Foundation in August 2016, Melanca held several senior position in the Obama Administration including Chief of Staff of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Senior Policy Advisor with the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Senior Counsel with DOJ’s Access to Justice Initiative.
Prior to her government service, Melanca served as Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, a John J. Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at the Gibbons law firm, and a Skadden Fellow and Assistant Counsel with the Economic Justice Group of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr., U.S. District Court of New Jersey; adjunct professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, and a litigation associate with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.
Clark earned her law degree from Harvard Law School, and her undergraduate degree from Brown University. Clark serves as the Steering Committee Chair of the Michigan Justice Fund, and on the boards of the Center for Employment Opportunities, the Council of Michigan Foundations, Downtown Detroit Partnership, Michigan Future Inc., the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, and the advisory board of LISC Detroit, and was a member of the DOJ Agency Review Team for the Biden Presidential Transition.
Annie Mendoza, Program Officer (She/Her/Hers)
Annie Mendoza serves as Program Officer for the Michigan Justice Fund.
Annie Mendoza is a Michigan native with a comprehensive background in team leadership, community development, and stakeholder management.
She has spent her career improving, managing, and piloting programs within the City of Detroit and Wayne County, advocating for holistic approaches to community development. Her experience in local government has uniquely positioned her to serve collaboratively across Wayne County, large and small nonprofits throughout the region, elected officials, regional chambers, and most importantly, residents.
Most recently, Annie served as Deputy Director for Wayne County’s Economic Development Department, acting as a lead on strategy and implementation for Wayne County’s $339 million American Rescue Plan allocation. Additionally, Annie served as the executive director for Wayne County’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, issuing grants to local organizations for the assessment of brownfield sites.
Annie obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2014 and her Master of Community Development in 2016 from the University of Detroit Mercy.
Liv Velarde, Program Assistant (She/Her/Hers)
Olivia (Liv) Velarde has joined our staff as Program Assistant of the Michigan Justice Fund.
She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor with a focus on English Literature, Spanish Language, and Museum Studies.
Most recently, Liv wrote and edited travel articles uplifting the beautiful state of Michigan. She also worked as a special events coordinator with Ss. Peter & Paul Jesuit Church. Liv was born and raised in Michigan with a background in writing and editing, human services, museums, legal services, and event planning. These diverse experiences in various fields have given her the ability to be adaptable and approach things with a unique perspective.
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