Antoinette Balta is Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Veterans Legal Institute® where she oversees and has responsibility for the overall management of the firm including business development, outreach, public relations, marketing, strategic planning and a light legal caseload. 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. Since co-founding the Veterans Legal Institute in 2014, over 6,000 local low income veterans have benefitted from free legal services.
Ms. Balta was an officer with the California State Guard for over 6 years. She served in the rank of Major both as a Marketing Officer assigned to Strategic Communications (STRATCOM) as well as reserve JAG Officer assigned to Legal Support Command. 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 graduate of the 2018 Presidential Leadership Scholars Class, a prestigious program that serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world as they learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Lyndon B. Johnson. During her tenure in this program, she focused on the improvement and further development of mobile legal clinics for low income veterans, a project that is shared freely throughout the nation to promote additional services for veterans in need.
Ms. Balta is a two term Director at Large with the Orange County Bar Association, a member of the Outreach and Pro Bono Committees and a member of the Orange County Women’s Lawyers Association. She is also a Board Advisor for the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations and Integrated Recovery Foundation, a group dedicated to providing housing and mental health service to women survivors of military sexual assault. Ms. Balta is a member of the OC Veterans and Military Families Collaborative, Chair of its Legal/ Re-Entry Working Group, and for a long period of time served as Vice Chair of its Steering Committee.
Ms. Balta holds a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing and Management from Chapman University School of Business as well as a Juris Doctor with a special certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution and an LLM emphasized in Business and Economics from Chapman University Fowler School of Law.
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. She is an alumna of Seth Godin's altMBA and an Official Member of Forbes Nonprofit Council.
Michelle began her legal career as criminal defense attorney in the Orange County Public Defender’s Office over 26 years ago. She has practiced criminal defense her entire career, with a brief cross over as a prosecutor early on in her career. She has passionately worked with clients from all backgrounds, representing them throughout the criminal court process under highly emotional, stressful and intense circumstances. She has negotiated and resolved a multitude of mental health, juvenile, misdemeanor and felony cases.
Michelle’s passion has always revolved around participating in and representing clients in collaborative courts, working with multiple county agencies to aid in the rehabilitation of clients, including adult & juvenile drug courts, domestic violence court, and Military Diversion court for active duty military and veterans. Working towards aiding clients in rehabilitating themselves to become productive citizens has been the most rewarding part of her legal career.
Michelle is the mother of 5 children, one of which is currently an active duty Marine stationed in Washington D.C. Her father was a Navy Veteran, and her brother served in the US Airforce. Her grandfather served during WWII in the British Army. She is deeply connected to the mission of Veterans Legal Institute and is excited to become a part of the VLI tribe to continue pursuing higher purpose related legal work, by working with Veterans.
Michelle obtained her B.S. degree from the University of Southern California in 1988 and her J.D. from Western State college of Law in 1995.
Doug joins VLI with more than 35 years of experience as a civil litigation, real estate and bankruptcy attorney.
Doug obtained his B.A. degree from Yale University in 1978 and his J.D. from Columbia University School of Law in 1982. Doug has practiced in major private law firms (Kelley Drye & Warren - New York, New York and Los Angeles, California, and Kelly, Hart & Hallman, P.C. - Fort Worth, Texas), and financial institutions (American Savings Bank, F.A., American Real Estate Group, Inc., and New West Federal Savings and Loan Association). For the past 25 years, Doug has been a shareholder in Frankel & Tennant Professional Corporation in Costa Mesa, a small firm emphasizing representation of lenders in state and federal court, including foreclosures, receiverships, and bankruptcies. Doug is admitted to practice in New York (1983), California (1985), the District of Columbia (1989), and Texas (1993), and to federal courts in California and New York.
Doug is committed to the mission of serving our active duty service members and veterans. Beginning in 2013, Doug has volunteered time, providing advice and counsel to service members challenging unjust efforts by the military to recoup re-enlistment incentives, including successful applications to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records. He also has helped with applications for retirement benefits and CRSC. Doug is a VA accredited claims agent.
Faith, family and community are important to Doug. He is active as a Boy Scout leader, AYSO soccer referee, and Little League umpire.
Doug is excited to join the incredible team at VLI as a staff attorney serving our veterans full time!
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.
*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.
Caitlin Emmons is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. Her spouse is an active duty Marine. Following her law school graduation, Caitlin was a UCI Law Public Interest Fellow at the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice in Honolulu. Her family received orders to North Carolina in 2017 where she took a job as the Judicial Assistant for Onslow County’s Senior Resident Superior Court Judge and was promoted to Trial Court Coordinator for the 4th Judicial District in 2019.
In early 2020, Caitlin's family relocated on military orders to Camp Pendleton. She and her spouse have two young children.
Caitlin has dedicated her career to public interest law and serving the public in any capacity she can. As a military spouse, Caitlin has seen firsthand the impact military service can have on individuals. Her personal and work experiences have inspired her work with Veterans.
*Admitted to practice in California. VA Accredited
*Admitted to practice in Arizona and California. VA Accredited.
Katie is a graduate from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. During her time in law school, she was awarded the Judge Mary M. Schroeder Award for most pro-bono hours as a 2L student, and graduated with the highest pro bono distinction. Katie is experienced in the public sector, with stints at both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Arizona State Legislature. Additionally, she has worked for multiple non-profits, advocating for renewable energy regional solutions to climate change as well as humane animal welfare practices in the agriculture industry.
Serving veterans is important to Katie. Her late grandfather was an Officer in the U.S. Army during the Korean War so she seeks to honor him by utilizing her law degree to assist military veterans.
Christopher Asmar is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law. They are first-generation Arab American. While in law school, they were the recipient of the Michael Chaghouri Commitment to Excellence Scholarship and Award. After graduating from law school, they dedicated their time to serving the public in any capacity they can. In 2021, they took a position as a provisionally licensed attorney with Veterans Legal Institute. Christopher Asmar has now completed the provisional licensing program and sworn in as an attorney. They now are pursuing their passion for helping others by dedicating their legal career to public interest law.
*Admitted to practice in California.
Andrew Alton is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. He was born in Anaheim, CA, and has lived all of his life in Orange County except during his time in the military.
After graduating from Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove, Andrew enlisted in the US Marine Corps, where he served on an intelligence collections team after studying the Russian language at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. During his time in the Marine Corps, Andrew deployed twice: first in support of humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti following the devastating 2010 earthquake, and following that a combat deployment to the Sangin region of Afghanistan.
After his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps as a Sergeant in 2012, Andrew returned to Orange County to continue his studies receiving his B.S. in Biology from CSU Fullerton and then his Juris Doctor from UC Irvine School of Law.
Tim spent nine years, two months on active duty, mostly in the Air Force. After starting his military career in the Army Reserves, he was granted a conditional release to attend Officers Training School at Medina Annex to Lackland AFB in San Antonio. Following ATS at Keesler AFB MS, he was assigned to the 68th Bomb Wing (now 68th Air Refueling Group) at Seymour Johnson AFB NC where he served in various capacities as an administrative officer. At the end of his first tour of five years, he cross-trained into information systems ad completed a second tour at Gunter AFS AL as a computer programmer/database administrator.
Shortly after his ETS in 1989, Tim started developing symptoms of an autoimmune disease that could only be traced back to exposure to toxic substances during his military assignments. Tim filed his own claim in 2010 which was initially denied. He then filed a Notice of Disagreement which resulted in service connection for hearing loss and tinnitus but denial, again, for his neuropathy. That denial is currently under appeal to the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (BVA).
Tim saw an article in the Orange County Register about VLI and was inspired to contact them to offer the expertise gained from his personal dealings with the VA. It is his hope that he can help other veterans with their claims, discharge upgrades and dependent benefits.
Besides his volunteer time at VLI, Tim is also a musician, playing for many organizations in Orange and LA Counties and on the boards of two local orchestras.
Stephen first came to work at VLI as a Volunteer in 2017. Before then, he lived in Japan for 6 years working as a English Instructor and later as part of an IT Support Desk in Tokyo, Japan. Stephen has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Telecommunications Management which he put to use when he was a Wide Area Network engineer.
Stephen has worked various roles in IT, but Customer Service is a field he has worked in his entire career. He enjoys music, cooking and travel in his spare time.
Robin Williams, Jr. hails from Laguna Beach, CA. He is a US Army Veteran and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a Master of Arts in Public Administration.
Prior to serving at VLI in December 2019, Robin served 8 years with the US Army as an Intelligence Analyst, having served one tour to Iraq in 2011 as part of Operation New Dawn. His duty assignments included Fort Hood, TX, with the 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Benning, GA, with the 3rd Infantry Division, and Fort Dix, NJ, with the Military Intelligence Readiness Command.
Aside from his military service and studies, Robin’s underlying passion has always been the legal field. He plans to take the LSAT in the summer of 2020 and begin part-time law school in the fall of 2021. Through dedication, persistence, and a lot of grit, Robin aspires to ultimately become an attorney specializing in national security law and continue his service to the nation throughout his legal career.
Emily Neves is a recent graduate from California State University of Long Beach and holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice. She started as an intern at VLI in 2020 and became devoted to serving veterans in her community.
Emily is planning to attend law school in Fall of 2022. She has always been interested in the legal field and with her persistence and determination she hopes to become an attorney specializing in family law.
James Fish, a resident of Santa Ana for the past 34 years, brings to VLI his 39 years of experience in the Clerical/General Office field. His past clerical experience includes working as a Mail Room Clerk, a Data Entry Clerk, and a Document Control Clerk with the Corridor Design Management Group, or, CDMG. (CDMG is an organization that was responsible for making sure that the Orange County Toll Roads were designed according to CalTrans standards) Mr. Fish is also a licensed Amateur Radio Operator, for the past 33 years, with the call sign of KB6OUM.
Tim Sager is a volunteer at VLI since October 2018 provided to us through Working Wardrobes Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Tim has over 25 years experience in the design and support of electronics products at both technical and end-user level, including hardware design and software development. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Electronics Engineering Technologies and Computer Science and extensive training in IT management.
Tim's job function at VLI is as an Office Administration Assistant, comprising in client case data entry and management and further IT and hardware support. With numerous family members and friends in various branches of the military, working at VLI has provided him a chance to assist veterans and active service members who've served in our country's armed forces.
Matt proudly served in the United States Navy and seeks to continue his mission of service. Along with the recent completion of his Bachelor’s degree in Business, Matt also holds a professional certificate in General Management. His education and prior work experience have given him the necessary skills to have the proper interpersonal and communication abilities to work effectively with a wide range of constituencies in a diverse work environment.
2020 SUMMER LAW CLERKS
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA
UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
GREGORY “PK” PADILLA
AIR FORCE (OFFICER)
Troy High School