Bill Dobbs is a New York City lawyer, activist, communications consultant and longtime National Lawyers Guild member. As a protester he’s been thrown bodily out of New York City Hall; as a lawyer he’s been called in the middle of the night to get protesters released from the clutches of police.
While a law student Dobbs co-founded the school’s lesbian and gay student group which has endured and is now known as Outlaws. When such refuges were rare, Dobbs co-founded a local gay community center. In the dark years of the AIDS pandemic Dobbs was an early and energetic member and on-call lawyer for the nervy protest group, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), and publisher of the group’s controversial internal newsletter, TITA. Dobbs served as media coordinator and spokesperson for the largest anti-Iraq war coalition in the U.S., United for Peace and Justice. He campaigned against the death penalty for Matthew Shepard’s killers, sparking a debate in Wyoming and elsewhere that eventually embarrassed major LGBTQ organizations into opposing capital punishment. As a regular participant in Occupy Wall Street from its first day Dobbs helped anchor the media relations team sending Occupy’s messages around the world.
His current work is concerned with criminal justice and opposing harsh punishments such as the sex offense registry, a 21st century blacklist with 900,000 Americans on it, by one count. He publishes The Dobbs Wire which circulates sex offense law and policy news. Dobbs’ work has been recognized by national media including the New York Times. Born in Michigan, Dobbs has lived in Manhattan for many years; he received a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan.
Moira Meltzer-Cohen (Mo/she/they) is a civil rights attorney, educator and activist who is representing Chelsea Manning in her refusal to testify before a grand jury. Mo began working in mass defense during Occupy Wall Street, performing Know Your Rights trainings and acting as the “Bail Fairy,” administering a $180,000 bail fund set up for protesters. She was a co-founder of Just Info, a free 24-hour legal information and referral service hotline for people in the five boroughs, and Mutant Legal, a collective devoted to popular legal education. As a researcher, she’s authored a legal rights pamphlet for sex workers; a curriculum for Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance; and contributed to Sundown Towns, a Hidden Dimension of Segregation in America.
Mo recently acted as staff attorney for Water Protector Legal Collective in North Dakota, and was a founding member of the New York Law Collective before starting a private practice focusing on the myriad legal needs of targeted communities, with special attention to dissidents, incarcerated people, and her LGBTQ communities.
Alex Petkanas is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. They have been involved with the BLS NLG chapter since their 1L year, and have focused on public interest throughout their first two years of school.
Through the BLS chapter of NLG, Alex has coordinated legal observer trainings on campus, attended the Robert M. Cover retreat in New Hampshire, and assisted with organizing several student demonstrations.
Alex is also a member of the BLS LGBTQ+ student organization, OUTLaws, and spent the spring semester working in the LGBT Advocacy Clinic run by Professor Hazeldean. In the clinic, Alex worked on a memo in support of the New York State Gender Recognition Act, which would make the process of name changes more accessible and add X markers to state driver’s licenses and birth certificates. They also worked directly with clients on a legal name change, a green card application, and a parole application.
This summer, they are interning at NYLAG doing public benefits and shelter advocacy work.
Bill Singer’s legal career as an advocate for the LGBTQ community spans decades. In the 1980’s, Bill was a founding member of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation and assisted countless clients with deathbed wills and end of life matters. That dark period was followed by the joy of the lesbian baby boom and LGBTQ family creation which accelerated in the 1990’s. Bill crafted ways for members of the community to create and safeguard their families while pressing judges and legislators to provide frameworks to protect those families. And now since 2009, Bill has been connecting LGBTQ family lawyers around the world, particularly in hostile or isolated places, who are on the front lines counselling our community on a daily basis.
Bill’s participation with the New York Chapter began in 1986, as part of the National AIDS Network of Guild attorneys recruited to assist patients living with AIDS. The NLG AIDS Network, along with the National Gay Rights Advocates went on to produce the AIDS Practice Manual.
After the 2016 elections, Bill trained to become a NLG Legal Observer at marches and demonstrations throughout the city and loves that this role enables him to continue his work for equality and justice.