Antoinette Balta, Esq., LLM is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Veterans Legal Institute® where she oversees and has responsibility for business development, outreach, public relations, marketing, and strategic planning. She comes to VLI with a long-held passion to serve homeless and at-risk veterans and service members and has dedicated her career to that end.
Noticing an influx of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan seeking shelter at a local National Guard armory, Ms. Balta discovered that many issues that contributed to these veterans’ chronic homelessness were legal in nature and required the assistance of an attorney. So moved by the fact that the men and women who had served the country abroad were now struggling, she committed herself to the cause of removing “chronic” from “homelessness” and empowering veterans into self-sufficiency. This led her to be instrumental in the co-development of a veteran based project at a local legal aid, with over 700 veterans receiving legal assistance during her three year tenure.
Ms. Balta is a reserve JAG Officer with the California State Military Reserve, assigned to Legal Support Command where she holds the rank of Major. She is accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs and regularly lectures on legal topics affecting veterans, where she is known for providing innovative solutions aimed at veteran empowerment and self-sufficiency. In the past, Ms. Balta was a law lecturer at UCI School of Law for its Veterans Law Clinic.
Ms. Balta is a Director at Large with the Orange County Bar Association and also a Board Advisor for the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations. Ms. Balta is a member of the OC Veterans and Military Families Collaborative and for a long period of time served as its Vice Chair of its Steering Committee and Chairwoman of its Legal/Re-Entry Working Group and is the Vice Chair of the Military and Veterans Health Law Advisory Board of the American Bar Association Health Section. She is also an advisor to Integrated Recovery Foundation, an organization that serves women veterans that are survivors of military sexual trauma.
KellyAnn Romanych maintains a deep devotion and respect for service. She is a proud wife, daughter, and niece of veterans from every service branch. Ms. Romanych has a background in law enforcement and education. As a Senior Park Ranger for the City of Los Angeles, Ms. Romanych was the equivalent of an area commander and received numerous recognitions and commendations. As such, she was charge of the training division where she wrote and administered curriculum, presented academic and field topics, evaluated students and staff, and managed logistics to support diverse constituents using over 15,000 acres of parkland. In her K-12 experience as a lead and department head teacher, Ms. Romanych has used technology and created websites for remote learning, differentiating instruction, and crafting curriculum. This has included classroom, grade level, and school-wide scales, with particular devotion to special needs students in both public and private schools. Her grant writing experience includes classroom support, small and large foundations, municipal and state agencies. She has also served as a grant and scholarship scorer.
Ms. Romanych graduated cum laude from California State University, Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She holds a master’s degree from the University of North Dakota, graduating summa cum laude. Ms. Romanych draws on her biology and space studies degrees to analyze data and manage diverse projects to document Veterans Legal Institute’s impact and ensure its sustainability. Recently, Ms. Romanych received special recognition for her volunteer development efforts to Veterans Legal Institute by Congresswoman Mimi Walters, Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, and State Senator Janet Nguyen.
William T. Tanner is VLI's Director of Clinics and Pro Bono Programs.
He received a J.D. from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1994 and a B.A. in Philosophy/Law and Society from University of California, Riverside in 1991.
He started his legal career as a staff attorney at CRLA and then went to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County where he worked for 21 years and oversaw many units including Legal Aid's Hotline, Incubator Program, The Notice, the Small Claims Court Advisory Program of Orange County and aspects of I-CAN!. His litigation experience is extensive and his desire to work with populations in need is evidenced by his great work in the homeless quarter in Santa Ana, with the Orange County Bar Association, and multiple legal aids. His mantra in life is to be of service.
Since 1996 he has taught a variety of courses at UCI, Santa Ana College, Coastline Community College and other colleges.
Allison Higley is an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow whose fellowship focuses on removing barriers to employment and preventing veteran homelessness. Her practice, among other things, includes assisting veterans to re-enter the work force by removing barriers to employment through expungements of criminal convictions, petitions to seal and destroy arrest records, and restoring licenses. Ms. Higley also works to prevent evictions for veterans that are in-between jobs and are at-risk of facing homelessness while trying to find a job or just beginning employment.
Ms. Higley is a graduate of Whittier Law School. Prior to that, Ms. Higley attended University of California at San Diego where she majored in Political Science and International Relations, and minored in Middle Eastern Studies and Law. While working on her undergraduate degree she decided to go to law school and to pursue a career as a Judge Advocate Officer in the Air Force. She regularly volunteered with the USO and Wounded Warriors Project in an effort to give back to our service members and to learn more about serving in the military. After witnessing the issues faced by many of her family members, friends, and the veterans served by the organizations she volunteered with, Ms. Higley was drawn to learning more about the social and legal issues that affect our active and retired service members, and wanted to become someone that could affect positive change in the veteran community.
Mr. Douglas is a 2014 graduate of Western State College of law. He earned an MBA from California State University, Fullerton, and a BA in Linguistics from California State University, Dominguez Hills.
While attending CSU, Dominguez Hills, he also participated in the ROTC program at UCLA, receiving a commission in the US Army.
Prior to earning his BA, Mr. Douglas enlisted in the U.S. Army, were he had served as a translator of the Vietnamese language. After his service in the Army, Mr. Douglas worked for the phone company for a couple of years, and then spent 25 years in the US Postal Service as a Letter Carrier, retiring in 2007.
His time in the Army, as well as having seen how Vietnam Veterans were treated when they returned from deployment, along with attendance at several events hosted by the VLI, led him to volunteer to become part of the VLI team.
Ian Deady is a newly-admitted attorney and UC Irvine School of Law Legal Fellow with Veterans Legal Institute. He aims to pursue a career in public interest advocacy, focusing on issues affecting civil rights, public health, environmental quality, and consumer protection.
While in law school, Mr. Deady served as an intern for Public Counsel, the nation’s largest pro bono law firm. There, he counseled debtors through bankruptcy and worked with the federal bankruptcy court to ease the burdens on unrepresented petitioners. He also provided litigation support for student loan debtors seeking relief from federal student loans against for-profit colleges which violated state consumer protection laws and targeted veterans on the G.I. Bill. During his 2L summer, Mr. Deady worked as a law clerk for the Orange County Office of County Counsel where advised the County Board of Supervisors on a diverse array of county policy issues including inmate mental health treatment in county jails, use of drones to survey public lands, and interest group challenges to utility rate increases.
Mr. Deady holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social Ecology from UC Irvine where he studied law, criminology, psychology, and environmental health science. He holds a Juris Doctorate from UC Irvine School of Law where he focused on civil rights and environmental law. Prior to attending law school, Mr. Deady worked for several years as a paralegal in a plaintiffs’ side litigation firm managing personal injury, contract, fraud, and workplace harassment cases while helping fledgling businesses incorporate and conduct corporate governance. Prior to becoming a paralegal, Mr. Deady interned in the U.S. State Department where he conducted research, attended congressional hearings, and took part in interagency programs designed to support global environmental sustainability. He is also an experienced political organizer, having worked on behalf of several non-profit organizations to promote environmental protection and civil rights. In his free time, Mr. Deady is an avid musician and political observer.
Johnanthony Alaimo is a graduate of UC Irvine School of Law and a Staff Attorney with Veterans Legal Institute. His goal is to dedicate his life to public service, with an emphasis on improving the lives of veterans and active service members, low-income and indigent persons and the LGBTQ+ community.
While in law school, Mr. Alaimo had a wide array of unique and rewarding experiences. He interned at the legal division of the U.S. Postal Service, analyzing administrative and employment law issues. Additionally, he participated in UC Irvine’s Immigrant Rights Clinic. During his period of service, Mr. Alaimo, in addition to his colleague, were the first UC Irvine law students to represent a client in his asylum proceedings. Ultimately, he was able to obtain relief for a man fleeing for his life due to persecution of his sexuality. Mr. Alaimo also worked at the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The experience taught him invaluable motion practice and litigation skills, culminating in the opportunity to first chair his own felony trial.
Mr. Alaimo holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from The College of New Jersey, as well as minors in Communication Studies and Politics, Law, & Philosophy. Prior to attending law school, Mr. Alaimo worked for state government, interning at the Office of the Governor of New Jersey in the Constituent Affairs Office. During this experience, Mr. Alaimo actively engaged with his local community, which was still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Mr. Alaimo also interned for the United States Agency for International Development’s virtual intern program. Working remotely, Mr. Alaimo researched global LGBTQ+ topics. In his free time, Mr. Alaimo loves to cook and attempt to travel to all 50 states.
Mr. Duffield served pre-and-post-9/11 in the US Military. While in the Navy, Mr. Duffield was forward deployed to the Gulf during the September 11 attacks. He and his ship, the USS John Paul Jones (DDG-53), took part in the opening tomahawk strikes of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Global War on Terror against the Taliban in Afghanistan in October 2001.
After leaving military service, he used the G.I. Bill to earn a BA in History from the University of California, Irvine and later on earned his Juris Doctor from Western State College of Law. Since obtaining his license to practice law, he has dedicated hundreds of hours of pro bono legal assistance to low income veterans and other populations in need, a true reflection of his life long commitment of service.
*Licensed in Virginia and Michigan and California
Nancy Jones is a licensed attorney in California, Virginia and Michigan. A Marine spouse of 20 years, Mrs. Jones is familiar with the unique issues that face current and former military personnel. She has worked closely with active duty military members through a number of military support organizations and has assisted Marines with their taxes under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program on Camp Pendleton and in 29 Palms. She maintained her own individual and small business tax practice through countless military moves and deployments.
Military orders brought Nancy to California in 2012 where she noticed a number of homeless young veterans on the streets. Inspired, she started volunteering at VLI becoming quickly involved with the legal operations.
Mrs. Jones obtained an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Michigan and a Juris Doctorate from the University of San Diego.
Mr. Schlanger lived in Japan for two years after getting a undergraduate degree in Biology from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Upon returning to the states, he spent a year working with Japanese companies doing data entry and shipment logistics. To continue his interest in the law, he began looking for entry level work at law firms, where he found the Veterans Legal Institute after his tenure at Bet Tzedek.
Working closely with management, Leonard uses his knowledge gained from his experience as a tech-support and logistics specialist to help manage the daily administrative work at VLI and streamline processes to make a more efficient and quality experience for the veteran clientele.
James Nyenhuis is an AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Project (VIP) Fellow serving at Veterans Legal Institute as a Volunteer Coordinator.
Mr. Nyenhuis has spent time as a teacher and graduate student in the English Department at University of California, Irvine where he earned a Master's degree. He is currently pursuing a paralegal certificate from UCI’s Department of Continuing Education. He hopes to continue in public service at the intersection of law and nonprofit management.