Maria Pagano – Senior Supervising Attorney

Maria Pagano

Senior Supervising Attorney

(716) 854-1007 ext. 1301

Photo of Maria Pagano

Maria has practiced public interest and poverty law for over 20 years in New York, Arizona, and on the Navajo Nation. Prior to her current position at PLS, she was the Managing Attorney at DNA-People’s Legal Services in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she practiced family law, public benefits, consumer, and housing law.

She is a graduate of Barnard College, and received an M.F.A. in Visual Arts from the University of California in San Diego. She left a career in the visual arts to attend C.U.N.Y. Law School, and has followed its motto of “practicing law in the service of human needs”.

Maria has focused on youth in the adult prison system and the rights of disabled individuals. She is director of the PLS Education Unit, and a member of the Erie County ReEntry Task Force.

Betsy Hutchings – Deputy Director

Betsy Hutchings

Deputy Director 

(607) 273-2283

Betsy has been the Deputy Director of Prisoners’ Legal Services since 2017. In this capacity, Betsy writes and edits the PLS newsletter Pro Se, organizes the prisoner education materials, handles professional responsibility issues, reviews and comments on proposed legislation and regulations and is responsible for writing PLS staff and management policies.

From 1984 through 1998, Betsy worked in the Ithaca Office of PLS as a staff attorney and from 2004 through 2017, as the Managing Attorney. She specialized in litigating federal excessive force cases, challenging disciplinary hearings in federal and state court, resolving sentencing and jail time issues and editing Pro Se.

From September 1998 through June 2004, Betsy worked at the Criminal Appeals Bureau of the NYC Legal Aid Society.

Betsy graduated from Rutgers University School of Law in 1978. She began her career in legal services as an attorney first at Appalachian Research and Defense Fund, Inc. in Pikeville, Kentucky and then at North Central West Virginia Legal Aid Society in Morgantown, West Virginia.

When she is not working on prisoners’ rights issues, Betsy and her husband Brad Rudin write articles on Professional Responsibility issues. Their articles have been published in the New York Law Journal and the New York Legal Ethics Reporter.

James Bogin – Senior Supervising Attorney

James Bogin

Senior Supervising Attorney

(518) 438-8046  ext. 1109

After college, Mr. Bogin spent years as an archeologist in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts. Then came law school. Mr. Bogin graduated from Cornell Law School in 1984, and was a staff attorney at North Country Legal Services from 1985 to 1987. In 1987 Mr. Bogin joined the Albany office of PLS as a Staff Attorney.  Between 1994 and 2000 Mr. Bogin worked at times as a Staff Attorney and at times as Managing Attorney of the Albany office. He served as the Managing Attorney of the office continuously from 2000 – 2017, and has been Senior Supervising Attorney since that time.

Jillian Nowak – Managing Attorney

Jillian Nowak

Managing Attorney

(716) 844-8266 ext. 1323

Jillian Nowak was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Jillian received her B.A. in Sociology from Hofstra University and her J.D. from the University at Buffalo with a concentration in International Law. In 2014, as the recipient of the Buffalo Human Rights Center Fellowship, Jillian conducted research on reparations for victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide through the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Jillian was selected for the inaugural class of New York Pro Bono Scholars and was admitted to the New York State Bar in June 2015. Before joining PLS, Jillian worked at Journey’s End Refugee Services, one of Buffalo’s refugee resettlement agencies, providing free and low cost legal representation to immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers. Jillian also co-owns a small knitting business, and the collective, known as West Side Stitchery, proudly hosts the annual Buffalo Women’s Gifts Arts And Crafts Show.

James Milstein – Managing Attorney

James Milstein

Managing Attorney

(518) 694-8699 ext. 2101

cell (518) 423-1719

Jim Milstein graduated from the University of Vermont in 1980 and Albany Law School in 1983. He was an Assistant Public Defender for Albany County and a partner in the law firm of Milstein & Milstein from 1984 to 2011.  Jim was the Albany County Public Defender from 2011 -2016.  From 2016 through 2018, Jim was the Director of the Regional Immigration Assistance Center for the Capital District and Northern New York. In this capacity Jim provided assistance and training to attorneys in fourteen counties in Upstate New York who were representing noncitizen clients in criminal proceedings.  As Public Defender Jim was recognized for his commitment to provide alternative treatment programs for clients and was proud to work with other community leaders to develop the Law Enforcement Assistance Diversion (LEAD) Program which has received national recognition.  As the Director of the Regional Immigration Assistance Center, Jim would assist attorneys to insure that the attorneys were properly counseling noncitizen clients of the immigration consequences of their cases as constitutionally required by Padilla v. Kentucky. Most importantly, Jim guided attorneys to achieve the most advantageous plea bargains that would minimize or eliminate the potential disastrous effects of deportation. He also provided direct representation for cases in which post-conviction relief proceedings[JM1] . The Regional Immigration Assistance Center also provided legal assistance to individuals who had been arrested by local ICE officers.

Sophia Heller – Managing Attorney

Sophia Heller

Managing Attorney

(518) 438-8046  ext. 1106

Sophia joined PLS as a staff attorney in 2011 after graduating from Georgetown Law. At PLS she has litigated a range of issues in federal and state court, including damage actions for wrongful solitary confinement, excessive use of force by guards, the failure to protect incarcerated individuals from assault by other prisoners, state writs of habeas corpus, and challenges to agency decisions through Article 78 proceedings. She became Managing Attorney of PLS’ Albany office in 2018. Prior to law school Sophia earned a B.F.A. in film from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a Ph.D. in mythological studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her decision to attend law school was motivated, in large part, by her inability to satisfactorily answer the question of what one does with a Ph.D. in mythological studies. A class on prison law ignited a passion for prisoner rights, and she hasn’t looked back since. Sophia was also a contestant on NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” in 2009 and proudly uses Carl Kassell’s recorded greeting on her voicemail to this day.