Advisory Boards & Board of Directors


Connie Smead Fellowship


Non-Profit Status



Connie Smead Fellowship

Mark and Connie Smead

Connie SmeadThe Smead Family created the fellowship in honor of Connie Smead, wife of Mark Smead and mother of their four children, who passed away in April, 2004. The recipient of this special award is a lawyer whose talent in the area of human rights advocacy meets the standards Connie Smead set throughout her life through her relationship with and care for her family, and especially her four children.

Mark Smead is a former software engineer turned full-time investor. His recognition of the right of all people to be free from torture, genocide, and other international crimes has enabled HRLF to bring successful cases in Spain, Hong Kong, and the United States. This includes his support of HRLF’s efforts to hold multinational corporations responsible for their facilitation of human rights abuses in China.


Jordan Berman
Connie Smead Fellow (2012 -2014)

Jordan Berman received his B.A. from Brandeis University and his J.D. from UCLA. He was Managing Editor of the UCLA Law Review, where he published a note on domestic criminal law. He served as a Temporary Political Officer at the US Embassy in Athens, Greece, and on a prosecution team at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, the Netherlands.

From 2008 to 2010, Mr. Berman was a Staff Law Clerk for the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, where he worked on published opinions in several fields of federal law. In 2010, Mr. Berman moved to Israel and authored the book “Best Practices for Human Rights and Humanitarian NGO Fact-Finding” (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague, 2012). Immediately before joining HRLF, Mr. Berman spent several months in India with the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, where he wrote a handbook on prosecuting caste-baste hate crimes.

He is a member of the Illinois State Bar.

Colin Gillespie
Connie Smead Fellow (September 2011 – August 2012) 

Brian Pierce
Connie Smead Fellow (2010 -2011)

Brian Pierce received his law degree in May 2010 from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was on the Dean’s List and served as an Articles Editor at the Georgetown Journal of International Law, one of the most prominent international law journals in the nation. While at Georgetown, Mr. Pierce studied in London as part of the Center for Transnational Legal Studies, a program that gathers students and professors from around the world to focus on issues of international law.

Mr. Pierce previously worked at HRLF as an intern and extern in 2008 and 2009. Based on his excellent performance, he was offered a Connie Smead Fellowship and joined HRLF in the fall of 2010.

As a Connie Smead Fellow, Mr. Pierce worked extensively on Doe v. Cisco Systems, Inc., filed in May of 2011, and he continues to be a key member of the HRLF team as this case moves forward.

Mr. Pierce earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a member of the Illinois State Bar and is pending admission to the D.C. Bar.

Philip McCarthy
Connie Smead Fellow (2010 – 2011)

Prior to arriving at HRLF, Philip McCarthy attended Georgetown University Law Center, where he was on Dean’s List, a member of the Georgetown Journal of Law & Modern Critical Race Perspectives, and a participant in a clinical program with the Institute for Public Representation. Mr. McCarthy earned his undergraduate degree at The College of William and Mary’s Mason School of Business where he was awarded a fellowship to study at the University of Cambridge.

Mr. McCarthy came to HRLF with the highest commendation of Georgetown University Law Center Faculty. His legal skills have won him accolades and honors here and abroad.

Mr. McCarthy is highly proficient in Spanish. He has studied and/or lived in the Philippines, Japan, Argentina, England, and the United States.

Mr. McCarthy is a member of the New York State Bar and is pending admission to the D.C. Bar. 

Arianne Plasencia
Connie Smead Fellow (2009-2010)

A new and highly gifted litigator, Arianne Plasencia graduated with high honors from Harvard College (2006) and the Georgetown University Law Center (2009), where she was the Managing Editor of the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law. She was the recipient of the Connie Smead Human Rights Fellowship named after the deceased wife of Mark Smead, whose interest in human rights and the needs of others is unmatched. Arianne assisted with the human rights cases HRLF has filed to protect the rights of all people to be free from torture and persecution. Arianne also helped HRLF initiate its Justice for Women Program that seeks justice for women subjected to sex crimes and violence by holding the perpetrators of these crimes accountable for their actions, by providing legal services to female asylum seekers, and by providing referrals for counseling and self-help services.


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