Pioneers in Justice
Arcelia was raised in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas by Mexican immigrant parents. She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of California at Berkeley in 1993 and 1997, respectively. Her legal career has been devoted to providing legal representation to those who would not otherwise have access to it.
Immediately prior to joining NCLR, she served as the Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, a national women’s rights advocacy organization. She has also worked with numerous community-based organizations to secure the rights of working class and indigent people in the fields of employment, housing, criminal defense, and immigration. As a trial lawyer, she has litigated over a dozen jury trials representing juveniles and adults accused of misdemeanors and felonies. As an appellate lawyer, she has represented people on death row. She has argued cases before numerous courts including the California Supreme Court. In 2012, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu appointed her to the Board of Appeals, a quasi-judicial 5-person body that hears appeals relating to a wide range of City determinations.
Arcelia has also devoted a substantial portion of her time to community service serving on the boards of various professional and non-profit organizations such as Women Defenders, San Francisco La Raza Lawyers Association, Our Family Coalition, and Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, among others. Arcelia is the founder of the Women Defenders Fellowship which supports law students pursuing careers in indigent criminal defense. She has also taught Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at several Bay Area law schools. In 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle named her a “Bay Area Changemaker.”
Arcelia is a frequent speaker at the national level on civil rights issues and women’s rights in particular. She writes for the Huffington Post and has published several articles on race/ethnicity, education, and feminist theory. She lives in San Francisco with her spouse and their two sons.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights, founded in 1977, is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy and public education.