DC Appleseed Center

For Law and Justice

DC Appleseed Staff

Walter Smith


Walter has been the executive director of DC Appleseed since 2001. Previously, he served as the Special Deputy Corporation Counsel at the D.C. Office of the Corporation Counsel, now the Office of the Attorney General, where he focused on addressing the many receiverships in the District, supervising litigation affecting the school system, setting up pro bono assistance for the District from private law firms, and bringing a suit before a three-judge federal court seeking voting representation for the District in Congress.  Walter practiced for 16 years at the law firm of Hogan Lovells, where he specialized in appellate litigation. For several years, he served as a partner and full-time director of the firm’s pro bono practice.
He also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy JAG Corps. Walter has argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the D.C. Court of Appeals. Walter has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and a law degree from Harvard Law School. He served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Charles Clark on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.  In 2011, Walter received the President’s Award from the Washington Council of Lawyers.  In 2007, the Legal Times named him one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the last 30 years.” In addition to his many accomplishments, Walter reigned as the Hula Hoop Champion of Oklahoma in junior high.

Neil Richardson


Neil directs DC Appleseed’s work on child support, special education, workforce development, and children’s health.  Before joining DC Appleseed in 2019, Neil worked with the University of the District of Columbia where he was part of the founding team that launched the UDC Community College.  He created the Continuing Education program at the university and was also responsible for Advancement and Partnerships.

Previously, Neil worked with the Executive Office of the Mayor for Mayors Anthony Williams and Adrian Fenty.  He has also worked across the United States and in Ghana while working with The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Illinois State League of Women Voters.  Neil has a Master’s degree from Georgetown University with a concentration in democratic theory and an undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida where he attended on an athletic scholarship.  Neil is a regular practitioner of meditation and loves poetry, soccer, travel and especially his son Kai. 

Louise Duke


Louise comes to DC Appleseed with experience in communications, outreach, development, and administration. Born and raised in the UK, she worked for many years as a civil servant in Child Support and then the Pension Service before moving to the US. More recently she held a similar position at Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and also as an Events Coordinator at D.C.’s celebrated bookstore, Politics & Prose.

She holds a BA in English Literature and Sociology, worked in music journalism, and sold vintage clothes on London’s Portobello Market. Louise loves ballet and can often be seen at the Kennedy Center. Living in the US she has also developed a passion for baseball and the Washington Nationals, much to the bemusement of her English friends.

Scout Cheeks 


Scout contributes policy research, data analysis, and technical assistance to a number of DC Appleseed’s projects. She received a BA in Foreign Affairs and Criminology with a Pre-Law Studies focus from the Pennsylvania State University and is currently a Master's candidate for Carnegie Mellon's Public Policy and Management degree program. She is working as Appleseed's Policy Fellow this year, in which her second year of study integrates graduate coursework in public policy, management, technology, and analytics with a two-semester fellowship based in Washington, D.C. 


Scout has held a variety of diverse research positions including an internship with UNESCO on educational policy and using quantitative analysis to evaluate the impact of taxes and subsidies administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She is the founder of a nonprofit organization based out of Pittsburgh, PA, Green Grass Dakota,  which aims to promote social equity while reducing the negative effects of environmental hazards in low-income, communities of color. Before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, Scout was serving as a Fulbright Scholar to Bahia, Brazil. She is a lover of languages, animals, fitness, and nature. In her free time, you may find her playing rugby within the US Women's Olympic Development pathway or riding around the city on her motorcycle. 

Alex Roos


Alex leads the development efforts at DC Appleseed, managing the organization’s foundation grants, all corporate philanthropy, and the individual giving network.  Alex is engaged in securing funding for DC Appleseed projects and identifying new funding pipelines as well as managing external communications.


Prior to his work at DC Appleseed, Alex managed the development activities at ServiceSource, a nonprofit supporting individuals with disabilities, and also worked in the fundraising and development division of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Alex has a BA in International Studies from American University and a MA in International Policy Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.  In his spare time, Alex enjoys traveling, reading history books, and spending time with his wife and two sons

Iain Phillips


Iain provides legal and policy research and analysis to a variety of DC Appleseed’s projects. Iain received his Associate’s Degree from Brookdale Community College, his Bachelor’s Degree from American University, and currently attends Syracuse University College of Law, where he is a rising 2L. Before attending law school, Iain held a variety of positions and internships throughout the DC area. He interned on Capitol Hill and for DC Councilmember Brianne K. Nadeau and worked in an administrative support capacity at George Washington and American Universities as well as at Pew Research Center. After graduating from law school, Iain hopes to serve as a public defender. In his spare time, Iain enjoys coaching undergraduate mock trials and reading comic books.




Vanessa Batters-Thompson joined DC Appleseed as its executive director in May 2022. Vanessa brings to her role nearly twenty years of litigation, policy, and advocacy experience, as well as a passion for serving the District community.

Prior to joining DC Appleseed, Vanessa worked at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center as their Associate Director of Legal Services for Individuals and Families. In this role, Vanessa spearheaded the launch and directed the Family Law Assistance Network, a joint endeavor of several legal service providers to offer parents and caregivers family law services through a single, accessible, intake point. As co-manager of the Pro Bono Center’s Advocacy & Justice Clinic, Vanessa oversaw the intake and matching of up to 300 clients per year with pro bono attorneys from private law firms and the public sector. Vanessa additionally supervised and provided substantive guidance to the Pro Bono Center’s individual representation training program, which won the D.C. Bar’s 2022 Frederick B. Abramson Award.

Prior to joining the Pro Bono Center, Vanessa worked for an anti-poverty organization, Bread for the City, providing direct representation to clients and engaging in systematic advocacy regarding child support issues. From 2009 through 2011, Vanessa served as a Friedman Fellow for the George Washington University Law School, teaching and supervising students handling domestic violence and family law cases through the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics. While in law school, Vanessa clerked for the Mental Health Division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, as well as the Humane Society of the United States.

Vanessa obtained her J.D. from the George Washington University Law School and her B.A. from American University with a certificate in Women, Policy, and Political Leadership.  She currently lives and works with her husband, daughter, and dog.  During her downtime, Vanessa likes camping, reading, and growing flowers.

Cory Jones


Cory works to provide insight into policy research and analysis of various projects on DC Appleseed’s agenda. He is currently a rising senior at James Madison University, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Public Policy and Administration. He has worked as a volunteer on a local campaign in Harrisonburg. Outside of policy work, he volunteers at an animal rescue group located in downtown Harrisonburg. Alongside interning with DC Appleseed, Cory works with Starship Technologies, leading projects and managing a small team of technicians and customer service representatives. After graduating from James Madison, Cory plans to find work as an environmental policy writer in D.C., or San Francisco. He enjoys hanging out with his cat, Mars, building LEGO sets, and playing video games in his free time.