"I don’t know what we would do without Legal Services. Poor people can't afford a lawyer. We elderly need Legal Services of the Hudson Valley to protect our interests."

KEY STAFF MEMBERS

Barbara Finkelstein
Chief Executive Officer

Cynthia Knox
Deputy Executive Director

Lewis G. Creekmore
Deputy Director, Program Development

Thomas Cochran
Chief Financial Officer

Joanne Labrusciano
Director, Grant Initiatives & Reporting, Headquarters

Marianne Delaney
Development Director

Melinda Bellus
Attorney-in-Charge, White Plains Office

Jill Bradshaw-Soto
Attorney-in-Charge, Mount Vernon Office

Mary Grace Ferone
Attorney-in-Charge, Yonkers Office

Jill Faber
Attorney-in-Charge, Poughkeepsie and Kingston Offices

Lara Kasper-Buckareff
Attorney-in-Charge, Newburgh and Spring Valley Offices

Joanne Sirotkin
Attorney Manager, Domestic Violence Services

Rebecca Praus
Supervising Attorney - Intake, White Plains


Barbara Finkelstein
Chief Executive Officer

Barbara Finkelstein oversees every aspect of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley (LSHV), the largest provider of free civil legal services to more than 500,000 poor and low-income individuals in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.  Since Ms. Finkelstein became Executive Director in 1995 and now CEO, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley has increased its budget fivefold and has grown to a 100-person staff with an $11 million-dollar budget and eight offices. She is the first woman to lead the organization.

Ms. Finkelstein’s accomplishments on behalf of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley are many. Under her leadership LSHV has made great strides in securing funding from public and private sources to increase services to low-income residents of the Hudson Valley facing civil legal problems affecting the basic necessities of life.  Motivated by a desire to make justice a promise for every member of society, Ms. Finkelstein created partnerships with governments, community-based organizations, and law schools to ensure solutions to the problems facing the low income population.  Most recently, she started a Veteran’s and Military Families Advocacy Project to provide legal assistance to returning veterans and their families. In 1996, she started the Domestic Violence Unit, which has provided legal assistance to more than 15,000 survivors of domestic violence.  In 1999, Ms. Finkelstein started a Children’s Advocacy Unit, and in 2002 a Family Law Unit, both supported exclusively by private funds raised through an individual donor and foundation fundraising program.  Before joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Ms. Finkelstein was the Assistant Project Director at Queens Legal Services where she directed services to clients and assisted with overall program operations.

Ms. Finkelstein is a member of Chief Justice Jonathan Lippman’s Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York, the New York State Bar Association’s President’s Committee on Access to Justice and the Board of Directors for Nonprofit Westchester.

Ms. Finkelstein received her J.D. from Rutgers School of Law – Newark, and her B.A. from Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Related Experience 
Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services in New York
New York State Task Force on Pro Bono Scholars
New York State Bar Association's President's Committee on Access to Justice
Board of Directors, Nonprofit Westchester


Cynthia Knox
Deputy Executive Director

Cynthia is Deputy Executive Director of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley where she is responsible for oversight of Services and Offices, including supervision of all program managers and substantive law work groups. LSHV provides support, advocacy and legal representation in civil legal matters for low-income individuals and families, in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties.

Prior to joining LSHV, Cynthia worked in the field of HIV/AIDS law. Cynthia began focusing on HIV/AIDS legal issues in the 1990s and has extensive litigation experience in HIV/AIDS related law. Cynthia was the Deputy Executive Director of HIV Law Project in NYC from 2006 until she joined LSHV in 2011. Prior to becoming an HIV/AIDS advocate, Cynthia worked in the private sector as an attorney. Cynthia is a passionate advocate for social justice and is sustained by the belief that through effective advocacy justice can be achieved for low income individuals and communities.

Cynthia has presented regularly at local and national conferences on HIV/AIDS Law, and she is co-editor of the American Bar Association’s AIDS Benchbook (2012). Cynthia received her J.D. from CUNY Law School and her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College.


Lewis G. Creekmore
Deputy Director, Program Development

As deputy director of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Lewis Creekmore serves as chief administrative officer overseeing the daily program work of the organization. He coordinates service delivery throughout the seven-county region to ensure that Legal Services of the Hudson Valley attorneys work as a team to provide the best legal assistance that the organization can provide to its client population.

In addition Mr. Creekmore brings his legal experience and passion for protecting the rights of poor and low-income people into area courtrooms by specializing in homelessness protection. His familiarity with laws relating to foreclosures — and the ways individuals can avoid unwarranted evictions and/or restructure loan repayment schedules — is especially valuable at a time when a troubled economy and high unemployment rates are bringing the number of foreclosures in the United States to more than one million.

Mr. Creekmore received his J.D. from City University of New York Law School and is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received a BA in mass communications. He also attended New York University's School of Continuing Education.

Related Experience:
Member, New York State Bar Association: Legal Aid Committee, Public Interest Committee of the Real Property Section, Executive Committee of the Real Property Section
Orange and Westchester County Pro Bono Action Committees
Past member, Board of Directors, Westchester Hispanic Coalition 
Past member, Board of Directors, Croton Housing Network
Volunteer, Habitat for Humanity


Thomas Cochran
Chief Financial Officer

Thomas Cochran joined the Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Finance & Administration team in 2011. Previously he served in a number of corporate accounting roles, including both start-up and large corporations. Most notable is his experience in the telecommunications industry—Verizon & NYNEX.  His responsibilities included director positions in Corporate Accounting, Market Area Management, and Regulatory Affiliated Interests.  

Tom has a Bachelor of Science in Public Accounting from Fordham University and is a member of the Business Council of Westchester County, NY.


Joanne Labrusciano
Director, Grant Initiatives & Reporting, Headquarters

Joanne Labrusciano heads the organization’s grant initiatives and both internal and external reporting. Her responsibilities include oversight of (1) reviewing Requests for Proposals and other public funding opportunities, writing proposals and applying to selected opportunities, disseminating award information and informing and developing strategies for implementation; (2) ensuring contract terms are agreeable and paperwork is properly executed; (3) funders’ reports at various intervals; (4) preparing program personnel for funders’ monitoring visits; (5) arranging for contract renewal paperwork; (6) producing reports for internal and external use including productivity, contract fulfillment, performance metrics and special information requests for outreach and networking purposes and events; (7) reviewing database content to identify issues and propose solutions.

Ms. Labrusciano joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 2009 as Grants Manager in its White Plains office prior to assuming her current position. Her previous experience includes Wall Street investments, trading and financial analysis at a variety of firms including a large money market fund, primary money market dealer, primary government dealer, municipal bond insurer, money center bank’s mortgage portfolio and a single strategy hedge fund.

She received her J.D. from Pace School of Law and has an M.B.A. in Finance from Fordham University, Lincoln Center. She received her B.A. in Modern Languages from Fordham College, Rose Hill campus.

Related Experience:
Member, Westchester Women’s Bar Association
Pace Law Investors’ Rights Clinic


Marianne Delaney
Development Director

Marianne Delaney joined the Development office at Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 2013. Previously she served as Director of Development and Communications at Neighbors Link in Northern Westchester, NY, a non-profit community center providing education and employment opportunities to immigrant families and individuals. Prior to that she worked in public relations, non-profit management, fundraising, community organizing, arts management and as a writer and editor. She authored Ireland: Places and History.

Marianne has an MS in Integrated Marketing Communications. She serves on the Bedford Central School District’s Budget Advisory Committee, the Friends of Neighbors Link and other community organizations.


Melinda Bellus
Attorney-in-Charge, White Plains Office

Melinda Bellus supervises our largest office in White Plains.  Her primary area of concentration is elder law. However, since joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 1999, she has practiced in many areas including housing, government benefits, disability, and family law.  Prior to supervising the White Plains office, Ms. Bellus supervised our central intake unit.  As attorney-in-charge of the White Plains office, she leads a team of over 20 attorneys, paralegals, and support staff in delivering comprehensive legal services to residents of Westchester and Putnam counties. Ms. Bellus is a tireless advocate for seniors, and is committed to assisting seniors to remain in their homes.

Melinda Bellus received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and a B.A. in political science and theatre arts from Hunter College of the City of New York. Her prior experience includes working as an associate in the law firm of Zeichner Ellman & Krause in New York City, where she practiced real estate law.

Related Experience:
Co-Chair of the Medicaid Litigation and Fair Hearings Committee - Elder Law Section of the New York State Bar Association.


Jill Bradshaw-Soto
Attorney-in-Charge, Mount Vernon Office

Jill Bradshaw-Soto heads Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's office in Mount Vernon, which has one of the largest poor and low-income populations in Westchester. In addition to handling a full caseload of her own, she is responsible for case strategy and management, daily client intake, supervision and mentoring of staff. She also has built strong ties with the cities of Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and Pelham, as well as the many local non-profit organizations that address matters of concern to economically disadvantaged individuals and families.

Ms. Bradshaw-Soto joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley in 1998 as a housing attorney in its White Plains office and was subsequently named managing attorney of its Yonkers office prior to assuming her current position. Her prior experience includes work as a Special Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of New York's Paternity and Support Unit and as a legal advocate in the Osborne Association's Alternative to Incarceration Program in the Bronx.

She received her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and  has a BS in Administration of Justice from Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. She received her paralegal certification from Mercy College.

Related Experience:
Member, Westchester Black Bar Association
St. Francis AME Zion Church — Missionary and Member of the New Life Choir


Mary Grace Ferone
Attorney-in-Charge, Yonkers Office

Ms. Ferone has dedicated her entire career to working with low income and disabled New Yorkers. She began her career in legal services in a small field office near the Canadian border where she represented clients with serious physical and mental disabilities. Ms. Ferone then represented low income persons in housing matters at Queens Legal Services. A native of Westchester, Ms. Ferone returned home in 1999 to work in the mental health unit of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley.

Since 2011 Ms. Ferone has been the Attorney in Charge of the Yonkers branch of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. Ms Ferone is proud that this office is a mainstay of the community and often the place of last resort when clients are in crisis.

Active in the community, Ms. Ferone spends her time away from the office devoted to other organizations that advance the cause of justice. She is the current Board chair of CHOICE, a Westchester based not-for-profit organization that provides peer advocacy services for persons with serious and persistent mental illness and is a mentor with the Her Honor Mentoring program.

Ms. Ferone received her law degree from Franklin Pierce Law Center (University of New Hampshire) and BA from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Related Experience:
Board Member, Choice
Member, Westchester Disability Advocacy Partnership
Member, Westchester Women’s Agenda
Past Board Member- Careers for People with Disabilities, Family Ties, New York State Civil Liberties Union
Former White Plains Democratic District Leader.


Jill Faber
Attorney-in-Charge, Poughkeepsie and Kingston Offices

Jill Faber supervises Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Poughkeepsie and Kingston offices, which serve Dutchess and Ulster Counties. Ms. Faber's background is in legal issues affecting children. Prior to assuming her current position, Ms. Faber served as Senior Staff Attorney in Legal Services of the Hudson Valley's Lanza Children's Law Center. Before that, she was a partner in the firm of Frishman & Faber, where she represented children with disabilities and their families.

Ms. Faber has extensive experience litigating special education, Section 504 and ADA cases. She lectures frequently on education law and laws affecting children with disabilities and their families. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College and a J.D. from Northeastern University. She also has a Master's Degree in Education from Harvard University and is licensed to practice in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Related Experience:
Board Member, Advocates for Exceptional Children
Community Advisory Board Member, Westchester Institute for Human Development


Lara Kasper-Buckareff
Attorney-in-Charge, Newburgh and Spring Valley Offices

Lara Kasper-Buckareff supervises the Newburgh and Spring Valley offices which include approximately 15 staff members that cover densely populated urban areas and sparsely populated rural areas in Orange, Sullivan and Rockland counties. 

From 2008 until December 2012 when she joined the management team, Ms. Kasper-Buckareff was a Staff Attorney at LSHV during which time she gained diverse experience representing persons with disabilities in their related civil matters, survivors of domestic violence in their family court and matrimonial matters, and low-income children and their families in various matters, such as special education, Medicaid denials, Section 8 terminations, and school disciplinary matters.  Prior to joining Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Ms. Kasper-Buckareff was an attorney at the Workers’ Rights Law Center of New York, Farmworker Legal Services of New York, and MidPenn Legal Services.  Ms. Kasper-Buckareff is licensed to practice law in New York and Pennsylvania. She received her J.D. and M.S.W. (Health, Mental Health, and Disability Concentration) from SUNY Buffalo, and her B.A. in History from California State University, Fullerton.


Joanne Sirotkin
Attorney Manager, Domestic Violence Services

Joanne Sirotkin joined Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s staff as Attorney Manager of Domestic Violence Services in November, 2013, bringing expertise as an experienced attorney and specialist in the dynamics of domestic violence.

Prior to joining Legal Services, Joanne Sirotkin was employed as Special Litigation and Appeals Counsel within the Legal Center of My Sisters’ Place, a full service domestic violence agency in White Plains. Ms. Sirotkin was previously at Faust Roy Mangold and Fuchs, a matrimonial firm. Prior to that, she was an associate at Lansner & Kubitschek, where she was part of the trial team representing the subclass A mothers in Nicholson v. Williams, a federal class action lawsuit initiated in 2000 on behalf of victims of domestic violence and their children, and the subsequent appeal, Nicholson v. Scoppetta.

Joanne’s job duties will include coordination and substantive supervision of domestic violence legal services program-wide, guiding the professional development of staff regarding domestic violence work, and serving as a resource about domestic violence related issues to all Legal Services of the Hudson Valley staff and justice communities.


Rebecca Praus
Supervising Attorney - Intake, White Plains

Rebecca Praus oversees Legal Services of the Hudson Valley’s central telephone intake unit, where she ensures that the team of dedicated paralegals provides efficient and compassionate services to those calling for assistance. Rebecca brings her experience as a legal practitioner so that callers are provided with useful information and options when they contact LSHV. Prior to becoming the Supervising Attorney for the Intake Unit, Rebecca was a Staff Attorney in the White Plains Office of LSHV, where she spent seven years providing services to residents of Putnam and Westchester Counties who needed assistance with matters pertaining to the Department of Social Services and Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Rebecca taught several CLE (Continuing Legal Education) courses on how to represent claimants in Unemployment Insurance hearings

Rebecca is admitted to practice law in New York State, and is a member of the New York State Bar Association.  She received a BA in Politics from Ithaca College, and her JD from CUNY Law School, where she was a member of the Editorial Board of the New York City Law Review.