Harvey Rosenfield, Founder
As Consumer Watchdog's founder, Harvey Rosenfield is one of the nation's foremost consumer advocates. Trained as a public interest lawyer, Rosenfield authored Proposition 103 and organized the campaign that led to its passage by California voters in 1988 despite over $80 million spent in opposition (still a record).
He has co-authored groundbreaking initiatives on HMO reform and utility rate deregulation (Proposition 9, 1998). Rosenfield is the author of the book, Silent Violence, Silent Death: The Hidden Epidemic of Medical Malpractice.
Rosenfield, who established Consumer Watchdog in 1985, has worked for the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Congress, in private practice, as a staff attorney for Ralph Nader's Public Citizen Congress Watch and as the Program Director for the California Public Interest Research Group (CalPIRG).
Rosenfield graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College and obtained a joint Law and Masters degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.
Jamie Court, President
Consumer Watchdog's President and Chairman of the Board is an award-winning and nationally recognized consumer advocate. "Court has made a career of battling all comers in the interest of the public, and his take-no-prisoners approach has earned him plenty of enemies," Capitol Weekly wrote of Jamie in naming him to its "Top 100" list of movers and shakers in Sacramento.
Jamie’s latest book is The Progressive's Guide To Raising Hell: How To Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws And Get The Change You Voted For (Chelsea Green, 2010). "Americans angry about the state of their government might find in Court's persuasive manifesto a cause for action," Publishers Weekly writes. "With great accessibility and a fired-up attitude, Court brings his lessons in empowerment to the people." He is also the author of Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Freedom And What You Can Do About It (Tarcher Putnam, 2003) and co-author of Making A Killing: HMOs and the Threat To Your Health (Common Courage Press, 1999).
Jamie has led dozens of major corporate and political campaigns to reform insurers, banks, technology companies, oil companies, utilities and political practices. He helped to pioneer the HMO patients' rights movement in the United States, sponsoring successful laws in California and aiding them elsewhere, and was an early champion of many of the most important consumer protections in the federal Affordable Care Act years before they were enacted. He authored the health insurance rate regulation reform Proposition 45 on the November 2014 California ballot.
A frequent media commentator and op-ed contributor, Jamie is a high-profile and stalwart defender of consumers’ rights. The Los Angeles Times calls him "a tireless consumer advocate." The Wall Street Journal writes, "He's notorious for his dramatic, sharp-tongued attacks on the health- and auto-insurance industries, and on any politician who takes their campaign cash."
His public interest career began as an advocate for the homeless and as a community organizer. Jamie’s alma Mata is Pomona College, where he graduated with a BA in History in 1989.
Carmen Balber, Executive Director
Carmen Balber is Consumer Watchdog’s new executive director and returns to California after four years directing the group’s Washington, D.C. office. Balber leads Consumer Watchdog’s national health reform project, and is recognized as a leading expert on a wide range of insurance issues. In 2012, she managed the coalition effort to defeat a $17 million insurance industry initiative that would have raised rates on good drivers, as well as the campaign to successfully qualify an initiative measure for the 2014 ballot that will require health insurance companies to justify and get prior approval for rate hikes. Her advocacy work includes consumer issues ranging from medical malpractice and the civil justice system, to personal privacy, corporate accountability and the influence of money in politics. She has authored or co-authored numerous reports on the auto, health and medical malpractice insurance industries, and insurance rate regulation.
Balber is a consistent critic of politicians who skirt campaign and ethics laws. Her exposure of corporate funding for exotic overseas junkets led to new rules on politicians’ travel and luxury spending. Balber ran the campaigns to pass the nation’s strongest conflict of interest protections in five cities across California and coordinated citizen organizing efforts in Consumer Watchdog’s successful grassroots campaign to block a legislative utility bailout in 2001, including leading a three-week volunteer lobbying effort in Sacramento.
Before joining Consumer Watchdog, Balber served as Assistant Canvass Director for the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (COPIRG). She holds a B.A. in Politics from Pomona College.
Pamela Pressley, Senior Staff Attorney
In May, 2010, Pressley was named as one of the top women litigators in California by the Daily Journal.
Pressley received her B.A. in Sociology from UCLA and her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law. Before joining Consumer Watchdog, Pressley worked for CALPIRG as its Consumer Attorney and as a staff attorney for the Center for Law in the Public Interest, a non-profit, public interest law firm specializing in consumer, environmental, and civil rights advocacy and litigation.
Jerry Flanagan, Litigation Director
Jerry Flanagan is Consumer Watchdog's Litigation Director. Flanagan leads Consumer Watchdog’s litigation efforts in the areas of health insurance coverage and access to treatments. He has over 20 years experience working in public interest and health care policy, legislation and litigation. Flanagan was admitted to the California Bar in 2010.
Flanagan has spearheaded efforts to address discrimination against those with HIV and other serious illnesses in the era of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Flanagan leads Consumer Watchdog's efforts to ameliorate the damaging effects of the "narrow" doctor network epidemic and loss of access to providers.
Flanagan is an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles and currently teaches the class "Health Insurance Regulation: Law, Policy & Politics." Flanagan exposed the illegal practice of health insurers retroactively canceling coverage and authored a law journal article underscoring the need for reform in health insurance rescission law, Healthy State of Mind: The Role of Intent in Health Plan Rescissions, 43 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 291 (2009). An “intentional misrepresentation” standard for coverage rescissions, advocated by the article, was adopted in the ACA.
Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog, Flanagan drafted and won passage of one of the nation’s strongest HMO accountability measure, which was signed into law in New Jersey in 2001. Flanagan received a B.A. in Social/Cultural Anthropology and Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley and his law degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. At Loyola Flanagan was a Note and Comment Editor on the Loyola Law Review, and he graduated magna cum laude and is a member of the Order of the Coif, Sayre Macneil Scholars Program, St. Thomas More Law Honor Society, and Alpha Sigma Nu Honor Society.
John M. Simpson, Privacy Project Director
John M. Simpson is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog and is the director of the organization’s Privacy Project. He also directed the nonprofit public interest group’s Stem Cell Oversight Project, which was intended to ensure that the people paying for California’s $6 billion stem cell research program – the taxpayers of the state – receive direct benefit from the research they are funding. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements helped trigger intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the Internet giant’s business practices.
A frequent contributor to op-ed pages across the country, Simpson is a veteran journalist who held top editing positions at international, national and community newspapers. Most recently he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. He was previously deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition.
Simpson taught journalism at Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum; was Treasurer, Inter American Press Association; is a former Executive Board member, World Press Freedom Committee; and former Board member, American Committee of the International Press Institute. He is also a former director of The Gleaner Company (NA) Ltd., New York, (Overseas subsidiary of The Gleaner Company, Kingston, Jamaica).
Simpson has a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and holds a Graduate Certificate as a Gannett Fellow from the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He also has a certificate from the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute. In 2006 he was awarded an M.A. in Communication Management from the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.
Liza Tucker, Consumer Advocate
Liza Tucker is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, following everything from oil and gas to the regulation of toxic substances in the state of California. She comes to us from Marketplace, the largest U.S. broadcast show on business and economics heard by ten million listeners each week on 400 radio stations. Liza worked at this public radio show for a decade, first as Commentary Editor and then as Senior Editor for both Washington and Sustainability News. At Marketplace, Liza produced and edited several special feature series from who funds Washington think tanks to the BP oil spill. Liza has worked as a journalist, consultant, teacher, and translator.
Prior to moving to Los Angeles, Liza spent a few years in Bologna, Italy. She covered business at The Washington Post and later free-lanced her way through the Soviet Union, covering its collapse for Time, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. Liza is fluent in Russian and speaks Italian. She taught journalism at Allegheny College. She also served as a consultant to the MacArthur Foundation awarding individual grants in the areas of independent media, women’s rights, and legal reform, and to US AID on how to support independent media in Ukraine. She translated Alexandra’s letters to Nicholas for The Fall of the Romanovs, published by Yale University Press, and the memoirs of Anatoly S. Chernyayev, a top Gorbachev aide on foreign affairs, My Six Years with Gorbachev. She travelled through Europe in 2009 as a German Marshall Fund Fellow studying German, French, Danish, and British approaches to sustainability. She holds a B.A. from Oberlin College and an M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.
Evan King, Technical Director
Evan King came to Consumer Watchdog after spending years as a production director and designer in the television and film. He has worked for industries such as entertainment, finance, animation, computer technology, and design. Prior to that, Evan spent several years working in the programming and IT fields for software companies all over the world. He has various accreditation and certifications in design, production and technology.
Evan has volunteered his time and skills to various issues, including fundraising efforts for victims of child abuse, the Anne Frank foundation, and human rights issues. Evan attended Portland State University for Theatrical Direction, and continues that practice in a range of digital mediums including producing and directing plays and productions aimed for children and adults.
Mark Reback, Operations Manager / Consumer Advocate / Researcher
Mark Reback has been with Consumer Watchdog since 2001, providing research for the advocacy and legal departments, following money trails from special interests to politicians, as well as being the primary contact with members of the press and media.
Reback also oversees the organization's accounting, development and human resources programs, as well as maintaining the organization's various websites, and is responsible for supervising Consumer Watchdog's consumer complaint program, which assists members of the public looking for consumer assistance.
In his life outside Consumer Watchdog, Reback has been a long-time volunteer with TreePeople, an environmental non-profit based in Los Angeles, and was honored in 2009 with TreePeople's Volunteer Leader Award at their annual gala. Mark is also an accomplished drummer/musician, who has recorded/performed/toured with a variety of bands & artists, such as the seminal British band Slaughter And The Dogs, and Los Angeles band VAST ASTEROID. Additionally, his music has been featured in films and TV shows. Reback holds a B.A. in Business - Marketing from Colorado State University.
John Ennis, Creative Director
John Ennis is a filmmaker and author. His feature films are PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy’s High Stakes, exploring the role of money in politics, FREE FOR ALL! One Dude’s Quest to Save Our Elections, chronicling widespread voter disenfranchisement, and the Upright Citizens Brigade‘s Wild Girls Gone starring Amy Poehler and Matt Walsh. Ennis has written for The Huffington Post, The Onion, and Melrose & Fairfax. He is a co-founder of Video the Vote, a citizen journalism project exposing election problems, and served as executive director and board member for Public Interest Pictures. He attended the film schools at New York University and University of Southern California and has taught documentary filmmaking at UCLA Extension. His book, Where Else But The Streets: A Street Art Dossier, chronicles political street art in Los Angeles.
Jonathan Phenix, Staff Attorney
Jonathan Phenix is a staff attorney at Consumer Watchdog. His practice focuses on enforcing Proposition 103 and its mandate that insurance companies justify auto, homeowners, and business insurance rates.
Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog, Phenix owned and operated a California-based brokerage firm. During the financial crisis, he worked closely with small business owners to transfer trucks, tractors, and other heavy equipment between business.
Phenix received his B.A in Economics from UCLA and received his J.D. from UCLA School of Law with a Specialization in Business Law and Policy. While at UCLA Law, he was a vice president of UCLA’s prestigious Moot Court Honors Program, a nationally recognized appellate advocacy program that sends teams to compete all across the county. He was also a Managing Editor for the Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs.
Benjamin Powell, Staff Attorney
Benjamin Powell is a staff attorney on Consumer Watchdog’s Litigation Team. While his primary focus is in the area of health insurance litigation, he also provides litigation support in other areas.
During law school, Powell was a member of the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, writing articles for the journal’s specialized “Developments in the Law” issue. His scholarship included an analysis of the shifting employment status of California Uber drivers and a discussion of the fate of class action waivers under California contract law. He also served as a Coordinator for Loyola’s Young Lawyers Program, providing students from local high schools with mentorship as well as training for a mock trial experience in front of actual Los Angeles Superior Court judges.
Powell received a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA and a J.D. from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Samantha Skouras, Paralegal
Samantha Skouras is Consumer Watchdog’s paralegal, providing legal and administrative support to the Litigation Team. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog, she worked as a paralegal for Glancy Prongay & Murray LLP, a firm that represents investors, consumers and employees in national class action cases and complex litigation.
While earning her Paralegal Certificate, she interned for Public Counsel in its Homelessness Prevention Law Project.
Samantha is a Los Angeles native and loves to explore the city. She is an avid swimmer and all-around ocean enthusiast who dabbles in ocean photography in her spare time. She also enjoys hiking, traveling and eating donuts with rainbow sprinkles. Samantha received her B.A. in International Studies from UC Irvine and her Paralegal Certificate from UCLA Extension’s Paralegal Training Program.
Connor Finney, Kathy Olsen Patient Safety Advocate
Connor Finney started with Consumer Watchdog in January 2017 as a research and advocacy assistant. Finney, in addition to his responsibilities researching campaign donations and editing press releases, is Consumer Watchdog’s new medical malpractice reform advocate, reaching out to victims of medical malpractice in order to challenge California’s existing laws on patient safety and patients’ legal rights.
Prior to his work at Consumer Watchdog, Connor was a field organizer for NARAL fighting TRAP laws in the state of Colorado before being brought on as an organizer for Hillary Clinton’s general election campaign in the state. Finney graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder in December of 2015.
Our Board of Directors
Consumer Watchdog Director Suzy Marks is a Los Angeles native, philanthropist and community activist. She dedicates her time and support to many community organizations, but is especially proud of the Liberty Hill Foundation’s “Wally Marks Leadership Institute for Change,” named in her late husband’s memory.
Consumer Watchdog Director Scott Olsen has traveled the state and the nation advocating for increased patient protections and fighting efforts to limit the rights of people and families harmed by medical malpractice. His late wife, Kathy Olsen, was a Consumer Watchdog Director until 2015. Scott stepped in to carry on her legacy and the fight for patient rights. Scott and Kathy founded the Steven Andrew Olsen Coalition for Patients’ Rights, after their wonderful son Steven was injured as a result of medical negligence. The Olsens’ story has been told in television and newspaper stories around the nation. Scott is a longtime technical writer of automotive service manuals for mechanics. He lives with his son Steven in Chula Vista, California.
In 1988, Chic Wolk was the first person to call Harvey Rosenfield and say “I am glad you are fighting for consumers and I’d like to give you some money to help the cause.”
In addition to being a Director of Consumer Watchdog, Chic is the Treasurer of the Board of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. He is Honorary Counsel General for the Kyrgyz Republic, Chairman of the Friends of Vilnius Yiddish Institute, the Founder of the Survivor Mitzvah Project, and he has served as President of the Board of the Inner City Law Center.
Chic was the CEO and Founder of Five Star Parking, a nationwide service company. He attended Loyola School of Law in Chicago. Chic lives with his partner Kristin Zethren in Los Angeles.
Ellen Snortland is many things: a writing coach who works with both individuals and groups, an author, columnist, self-defense advocate, actor, lawyer, Huffington Post blogger, radio and TV personality and more. She is currently writing a book about writing books. She is a true Renaissance Woman.
Her groundbreaking book on women's self-defense, Beauty Bites Beast with a foreword by Gavin de Becker, is considered a classic in the violence prevention field and was featured on Dateline NBC. The documentary film of the same name was released in 2016. You may view the trailer here. Ellen will be a presenter at the 2016 Islamic University Islamabad in association with the US State Department with Beauty Bites Beast.
In addition, Ellen has created a 6 minute overview of her life's mission — to empower and protect women and children around the world. You can see it here. And her 2011 TEDx Pasadena talk, "The Personal Safety Paradox," is now available; in 18 minutes it neatly sums up everything Ellen has been trying to say about the subject for the past 20 years.
A regular columnist for the Pasadena Weekly, and frequent contributor to Ms. Magazine and The WIP, she is an advocate for women and girls and physical safety for all.
"There's a saying: 'Think Globally, Act Locally' — your body is as local as it gets," Snortland says. As a president for UNA Pasadena/Foothills Chapter, she has attended United Nations world conferences and annual UN meetings as an NGO delegate and journalist.
Ellen performs her acclaimed one-woman show, Now That She's Gone, a comic memoir about growing up Norwegian American to SRO audiences, and is currently active with 50-50 Leadership, a non-profit that envisions more women and girls in leadership positions. Ellen also serves on the boards of Impact Personal Safety. She also presents personal safety talks and workshops for corporations and educational institutions as "The Safety Godmother."