Executive Team

SMRLS day-to-day operations are overseen by the Executive Team, made up of lead attorneys, finance, and philanthropy department heads.

Jessie R. Nicholson, Esq.

Chief Executive Officer

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Chief Executive Officer

Jessie R. Nicholson, Esq. has led Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services as Chief Executive Officer since August 2007. Previously she held the positions of Deputy Executive Director, Senior Leadership Attorney, and Staff Attorney with the organization.

Ms. Nicholson is active in leadership of both the Minnesota State Bar Association and Ramsey County Bar Association. She currently sits on the MSBA's Assembly, Board of Governors, and Professionalism Committee and the RCBA's Diversity Committee. Other professional affiliations include: Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers; African American Project Directors Association for Legal Services Law Firm Executive Directors; and National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

Ms. Nicholson is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the Heritage Honors Award from the University of Northern Iowa; Distinguished Service Award from the former William Mitchell College of Law. She has been recognized with the MSBA Civil Litigation Section: Advocate Award (2014) and MN Black Women Lawyers Network Achievement Award (2013). She was recently featured in the exhibit A Celebration of Women in Law, organized by the Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association. Ms. Nicholson is also a member of the board of the University of St. Thomas School of Law

Ms. Nicholson received her Juris Doctor from William Mitchell College of Law (1985).

Joan Johnson

Controller

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Controller

Joan E. Johnson, CPA, CGMA, is the Controller for Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc. (SMRLS). Joan received her B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from California State University, Sacramento. She completed coursework at University of Kansas in Lawrence, DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, University of Texas in San Antonio, and University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Joan is a member of the SMRLS Senior Leadership Team. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants (MNCPA).

John Joachim

Human Resources Manager

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Human Resources Manager

John Joachim is the Human Resources Manager at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS). John earned a Master’s Degree in Non-Profit Management from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN in 2014. Before joining SMRLS in 2017, John served as the Business Director for The Salvation Army at their Harbor Light homeless shelter in Minneapolis. John’s wide-ranging career includes stints as a high school English teacher and a support service manager for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. In his spare time, John enjoys reading, movies, cheering for Twins baseball, riding his Harley motorcycle, and taking vacation cruises with his wife.  

Chuck Thomas, Esq.

Director of Litigation and Advocacy

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Director of Litigation and Advocacy

Charles (Chuck) Thomas started work as a staff attorney at Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services (SMRLS) in 1977 when the Mankato office opened. He was a managing attorney there from 1982 till 1994 before becoming one of SMRLS’ litigation support counsel members. In 2012, he also began supervising SMRLS’ Saint Paul government benefits unit. Chuck was hired in 2016 as SMRLS’ Director of Litigation and Advocacy. He has worked on appeals and cases involving public benefits, mental health issues, and family law. Before joining SMRLS, Chuck spent a year as a VISTA attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Michigan doing unemployment cases. Chuck graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1976. 

Lindsay Davis, Esq.

Director of Philanthropy

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Director of Philanthropy

Lindsay Davis started her legal career as a staff attorney in the SMRLS Central Office before leaving to work as the Access to Justice Director of the Minnesota State Bar Association. She has taught numerous law school courses and clinics at Mitchell-Hamline School of Law, including Health Law, Civil Advocacy, and the Legal Scholarship for Equal Justice seminar. She has published several articles and has taught numerous CLEs about re-entry laws, employment licensing, and access to justice issues. Lindsay returned to SMRLS in 2017 to work as the Director of Philanthropy. She is the recipient of the 2017 Hennepin County Pro Bono Publico Public Sector Award.

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