Founded in San Antonio, Texas in 1968, MALDEF is currently headquartered in Los Angeles, California and maintains regional offices in San Antonio, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. In 1991, it purchased the MALDEF Nonprofit Center, its permanent home. The center houses MALDEF’s National Headquarters and Western Regional Office, as well as other nonprofit organizations that represent minority and under-served communities. This helps MALDEF perform its mission by enabling dialogue, cooperation, and broad-based coalition building.
The National Headquarters oversees litigation from all of the regional offices. In addition, the office litigates on behalf of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands.
634 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Phone: (213) 629-2512
President and General Counsel
Thomas A. Saenz
In 2009, Thomas A. Saenz returned to MALDEF as President and General Counsel. Previously, as Counsel to Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Saenz served on the four-person executive team to the mayor, where he provided legal and policy advice on major initiatives. During his four-year tenure with the City of Los Angeles, Saenz helped to lead the legislative effort to change the governance of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and served for two years as the lead liaison on labor negotiations, with a goal of addressing serious financial challenges in partnership with the City's workers.
Saenz previously practiced civil rights litigation at MALDEF for 12 years, including four years as Vice President of Litigation. He was MALDEF’s lead counsel in the successful challenge to California’s anti-immigrant Proposition 187, and he led numerous civil rights cases in the areas of immigrants’ rights, education, employment, and voting rights. Saenz achieved several victories against ordinances unlawfully restricting the rights of day laborers, served as lead counsel in the 2001 challenge to California’s congressional redistricting, and initiated the employment discrimination lawsuit resulting in a $50 million settlement with Abercrombie and Fitch. He also served as MALDEF’s lead counsel in two court challenges to Proposition 227, a California English-only education initiative. Saenz was also the lead drafter of the amicus brief on behalf of Latino organizations supporting affirmative action in the Supreme Court case of Grutter v. Bollinger.
Saenz currently serves as a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Education, the American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities, and the U.S. Department of Education's Equity and Excellence Commission. He also serves as steering committee co-chair of the California Civil Rights Coalition and on the boards of the Campaign for College Opportunity, ENCOMPASS, and the Impact Fund. He served on the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations for four years. For eight years, Saenz taught Civil Rights Litigation as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Southern California (USC) Law School.
Saenz has been recognized on numerous occasions for his work. He was selected as one of Hispanic Business Magazine's "100 Most Influential Hispanics" in October 2009. Among many honors, he received the Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior (IME) Ohtli Award in 2006 and the 2010 Corazón Award from Univision.
Saenz was born and raised in southern California. He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University, and he received his law degree from Yale Law School. Saenz served as a law clerk to the Honorable Harry L. Hupp of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Director of Strategic Development Initiatives
David Damian Figueroa
As Vice President of Strategic Development and Communications, Figueroa leads the organization's efforts to increase partnerships with corporate and philanthropic sectors, improve organizational capacity, and raise the poignancy of MALDEF for all Latinos. Figueroa previously served at MALDEF under Antonia Hernandez from 1998 to 2001, as Director of Public Relations & Creative Marketing. He served as Associate State Director of the Los Angeles County Region for AARP California from 2002 to 2009, where he oversaw the implementation of social campaigns, community alliances, volunteer management and membership development. Figueroa also helped launch AARP's "Segunda Juventud" bilingual magazine in Los Angeles.
Prior to committing to service in the non-profit sector full-time, Figueroa achieved an influential role in the entertainment industry, fostering the success of clients including José José, El Show de Johnny Canales, Boyz II Men, Arista Latin, MCA Polygram, BMI Latin, Motown Latino, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, and India for RMM/Universal.
Figueroa has served as a philanthropic advisor to numerous Latino artists for the past 20 years, and he specializes in connecting celebrities to non-profit organizations. He is a former Commissioner for the City of Los Angeles, a former board member of Clinica Msr. Oscar A. Romero, and an advisory board member for PBS flagship television station, KCET. He currently serves as an advisor for Shine Global and as a board member for Eva's Heroes, Eva Longoria's foundation for children faced with developmental challenges.
Chief Financial Officer
As VP of Finance/CFO for MALDEF, Shelley Mallchok oversees the organization's finance, budgeting, cash management, investing, fiscal compliance and property management activities. She joined the organization in 2006.
Mallchok came to MALDEF with over 20 years of experience in international, domestic and non-profit finance and accounting and business planning. Her for-profit experience includes progressive levels of responsibility in international finance and accounting with Calcomp/Lockheed Martin Comp Inc. She also worked for Mars Inc/Pet Care Division and GTE directories in finance, business and strategic planning roles. In her non-profit career, she has worked with non-profit healthcare organizations and small, community based organizations, holding positions with progressive levels of responsibility in finance and accounting, budgeting and contract management.
Mallchok earned a B.A. in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University and an M.B.A. in Finance from Golden Gate University.
Chief Administrative Officer
As Vice President of Community -Education, Gina Montoya is responsible for revamping MALDEF's communications, technology and human resources infrastructure. Montoya brings nearly 20 years of experience in non-profit management and legislative experience. She has served as the Chief of Staff for two mayors and a state senator. In those positions, she oversaw the operations of several offices with large staffs and varied constituencies.
In addition to managing the complexities of high constituency focused and high demand offices, she has extensive legislative experience, including policy advocacy. Montoya has cultivated a vast network of invaluable contacts and community liaisons, as well as corporate relationships. She has led and coordinated strategic planning, mobilized community advocacy outreach campaigns, coordinated multi-media communications and organized successful fundraisers.
Additionally, Montoya was chief administrator for an internationally recognized Chicano arts non-profit organization and has served on several non-profit boards. She is a practicing artist and has exhibited her work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, UCLA's Wright Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Vice President of Litigation
Nina Perales is Vice President of Litigation for MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. In that role, Perales supervises the legal staff and litigation docket in MALDEF's offices throughout the United States. Perales is best known for her work in voting rights, including redistricting and vote dilution cases. Her litigation has included successful statewide redistricting cases in Texas and Arizona as well as LULAC v. Perry, the Latino challenge to Texas 2003 congressional redistricting, which she led through trial and argued successfully in the U.S. Supreme Court. She also specializes in immigrants' rights litigation, including leading cases striking down anti-immigrant laws in Farmers Branch, Texas and recovering civil damages from violent vigilantes.
Perales received a Bachelor's degree from Brown University and earned her J.D. from Columbia University School of Law.