• implements board policy
  • policy and business planning
  • oversees association
Melissa J. Schank, Chief Executive Officer, has worked with nonprofit associations for over 20 years, and has been with TCDLA more than 15 years. She earned her Master’s of Human Resources, Business Administration, Bachelor’s of Communication and Mediation Certificate from Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas and is a Certified Association Executive. Her greatest strengths are overseeing the long-term planning and strategy for legal educational programs, in addition to managing the organization’s seminars, membership and communication departments.

Mari Flores
Chief Financial Officer
  • budgets and financials
  • grant compliance
  • financial analysis
Mari Flores, TCDLA’s Chief Financial Officer, has been with TCDLA since February of 2012. She has an MBA in accounting and a BBA in Finance from Saint Edwards University in Austin, TX. She has 15 years of nonprofit experience in accounting, financial management and auditing. Her accounting and financial nonprofit knowledge, as well as the professionalism, efficiency and dedication she brings to her position are her greatest strengths.

Rick Wardroup
Curriculum Director/ Staff Attorney
  • Develops and directs training for criminal defense lawyers
  • Supervises law clerks for research
  • Provide resources for criminal defense attorneys
As Curriculum Director, Rick is responsible for assisting in the creation and development of trainings to address the needs of Texas trial lawyers, particularly in the areas of forensic science, capital litigation, trial advocacy and wellness issues. He is a regular presenter at trainings which focus on these topics and maintains relationships with nationally known experts, primarily on these topics, who he calls on to assist in our programs. He has served as a co-course director in TCDLA's Forensics seminar for the past 8 years, the TCDLA Capital Litigation/Mental Health programs on South Padre Island and in alternating Texas cities each year since joining TCDLA. He has also served as the Course Director for the Cross-examination course at the Center for American and International Law for 11 years and as co-course director for the Capital Defense College at CAIL for 8 years. As Staff Attorney, Rick assists in the development and reviews the grant applications to the Court of Criminal Appeals and serves as a resource for legal questions which arise at the home office. He leads the updating of TCDLA's publications, soliciting attorneys to update individual books and cheat sheets, updating some publications personally and editing the books and cheat sheets before publication. Rick's greatest strengths are his inquisitive nature and his desire to assist attorneys in the development of their trial skills and their coping/life-balancing challenges.

Miriam Duarte 

Database Director

  • database management
  • operations 
  • membership benefits
Miriam Duarte, Database Director, is an Austin native and has been with TCDLA for over thirteen years. Miriam is committed to providing unsurpassed service in the membership, seminar, and publication departments. Her attention to detail and accuracy has provided great management and upkeep of the organization's database. Miriam is a mother of four and enjoys camping and volunteering at her church with her family.

Briana Ramos

Director of CLE

  • Event coordination and management
  • Contract negotiations
  • Marketing development

Briana Ramos is a native New Yorker, who moved to Austin in 2018. She attended Baruch College where she studied Intercultural Communications while minoring in Psychology. Briana started her career in restaurant management and transitioned into an event planning role at a catering company in New York City. When Briana moved to Texas she began working a Hotel/Conference center so she could fine-tune her contract negotiating and executing abilities. When Briana’s not at work, she can be found volunteering, gardening, exploring, or spending time with her furbabies.

Billy Huntsman

Communications Director

  • Voice for the Defense magazine
  • marketing and communications
  • graphic design
Communications Director Billy Huntsman is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and has a bachelor’s in journalism from New Mexico State University. He lives in Cedar Park with his girlfriend and dog Sully.

Keri Steen

Executive Assistant

  • Liaison to Boards and Committees
  • Office Management
  • Assist Management
Keri Steen is a native of Wisconsin who brings a wealth of experience to the association. Besides working in a number of office environments and gaining the skills required to handle multiple accounts, Keri has done work with both the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts in a variety of positions, including training, accounting, and fundraising. She is the mother of twin teenage girls and a boy.

Cristina Abascal


  • payroll
  • accounts payable
  • deposits
Cristina Abascal, TCDLA’s Accountant, has been with TCDLA for twelve years. She is currently attending Austin Community College pursue a BA in Accounting. She has four years of nonprofit experience in accounting and auditing. Her hard work and dedication and ability to adapt to change are her greatest strengths. When she is not studying or at work she is enjoying her four children.

Irma Rodriguez

CLE Coordinator

  • data processing
  • shipping 
  • attendee packets 
Irma Rodriguez was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She made the transition to TCDLA following fifteen years in clinical pharmacy. During her free time, Irma enjoys swimming, reading, baking, and kayaking with her son. As a mother of four, two with special needs, she volunteers, consulting and counseling fellow parents of special-needs children. 

Susan Nay

Media Specialist

  • manager virtual programs
  • oversee media at seminars
  • coordinate speaker travel and materials
Susan Nay was born and raised in Alaska and worked her way to Texas through California. She is a mom of two teenage boys who love life. Susan is a strong advocate for education and has spent many years working for the betterment of students all around her. She loves to travel, and she encourages student educational travel every chance she gets. When she’s not working she will be found exploring Austin and all it has to offer!


Avea Reyes

Seminar Clerk

  • data processing
  • shipping 
  • attendee packets 
Avea Reyes was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She is currently a full-time student at Texas A&M in San Antonio, majoring in political science. After completing her undergraduate degree, she wants to attend law school and become a lawyer. Avea enjoys being around family and relaxing at home watching TV shows or movies when she's not at work or school.


Seminar Clerk

  • data processing
  • shipping 
  • attendee packets 

Jessica Steen is a born and raised Texan. She has participated and staffed countless Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts events, holding a variety of positions, which include, secretary work, accounting, administration, and training. Jessica is a hard worker that enjoys working with others. When she is not working or studying, she enjoys spending her time with her reptiles or crafting.

Megan Lance

Seminar Clerk

  • data processing
  • shipping 
  • attendee packets 
Megan Lance was raised in Indiana. She moved to Austin, Texas, in 2019. She currently is a full-time student at ACC, majoring in business administration. After finishing her associate's at ACC, she would like to transfer to a university to complete her undergraduate degree. She enjoys kayaking, exploring Austin, and spending time with friends and family.

Legislative Lobbyists

Allen Place Jr.

Head Lobbyist

  • chief media contact 
  • chief lobbyist
Allen Place graduated from Baylor University with a BBA in 1977 and from Baylor Law School in 1979. Since that time, he has practiced law in his hometown of Gatesville. Until he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1990, Allen had a general trial practice in Central Texas and since 1991 has primarily focused on parole law. In 1993, Allen was named Chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence and authored the Penal Code revision during the 73rd Texas legislative session. Texas Monthly named him one of the Ten Best Legislators for his work in 1993. Upon his retirement from the Texas House, Allen was asked to assist TCDLA's legislative program. By January of 2019 when the 86th Texas legislature convenes, Allen will have worked for TCDLA for 20 years.

Shea Elyse Place


  • legislative lobbyist 
  • legislative listserve reports
Shea Place graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Psychology from St. Edward’s University, interning as a research assistant for State Representative Jessica Farrar in 2009. She received her JD from Baylor University, where she was a technical editor on the Baylor Law Review. In 2016 Shea joined the Place Law Office in Austin, practicing criminal defense with a focus on parole issues. She is a member of the Austin Bar Association and the Austin Young Lawyers Association. Shea joined the TCDLA team in January 2017 as a lobbyist for the legislative session. She will continue to assist in legislative efforts throughout the interim.


6808 Hill Meadow Drive
Austin, TX 78736
512.478.2514 phone | 512.469.9107 main fax | 512.469.0512 seminar fax

Lubbock Office

915 Texas Ave.
Lubbock, TX 79401
806.763.9900 phone |  806.769.9904 fax