The Dallas LGBT Bar Association’s Board of Directors for the 2021–2022 term is comprised of attorneys from a range of backgrounds and practice areas:
President: Derek Mergele-Rust
Derek is a founding partner of DebnamRust, P.C., where he practices corporate law, estate planning & probate, and LGBT law. He spends a majority of his time protecting and representing small- and medium-sized Texas businesses. For small and new businesses, Derek drafts formation documents, advises set-up and structuring of companies, sets up 501(c)(3)s, protects companies and board members from liability, advises companies with future business planning, and helps new companies use best practices to avoid potential litigation. For existing small- and medium-sized Texas businesses, Derek helps companies prepare for litigation, navigate city council meetings, plan for future business, and face the legal complexities involved in everyday business.
Before law, Derek worked in property management, high-tech, non-profit, and accounting. Derek graduated summa cum laude from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Geography and a Bachelor of Public Administration. He earned his law degree from Texas Tech University.
VP of Programming: Michael Debnam
Michael G. Debnam is a Founding Partner at DebnamRust, PC. He focuses his entire practice on divorce and family law, where he navigates the sensitive and nuanced issues facing families in litigation. The majority of Michael’s practice is dedicated to assisting the LGBT community navigate the Texas Family Code. Michael’s firm is dedicated to furthering the LGBT civil rights movement.
Michael is current Council Chairman of the LGBT Section of the State Bar of Texas. He spends his free time actively participating in groups such as the Dallas LGBT Bar Association, GALA North Texas, Texas Trans Kids and Family, The Resource Center, and various other LGBT organizations.
VP of Community Partnerships: Adwoa Asante
Adwoa Asante is the Principal Attorney of Asante Legal PLLC, a Dallas-Fort Worth law firm that practices exclusively in Criminal Defense. Adwoa Asante is committed to protecting the rights and liberty of those accused by the State of Texas. Prior to founding her own firm she was a Public Defender in Dallas County.
Adwoa is a member of Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, J.L. Turner Legal Association, and Dallas Black Criminal Bar Association. She hopes that in service to the Dallas LGBT Bar Association she can aid in addressing the hyper-criminalization and the systemic murder of LGBTQ persons who are also Black.
VP of Professional Development: Karri Bertrand
VP of Communication: Callie Butcher
Callie is an associate in both the IP Litigation group and the Technology and IP Transactions group in the Dallas office of Sidley Austin LLP. Her practice focuses on complex patent litigation involving a variety of technologies, such as wireless communications, semiconductor manufacturing, and consumer electronics. Callie also has expertise assisting clients in connection with IP acquisitions, patent cross-licensing investigation and negotiation, and IP due diligence, as well as trademark, trade secret, and unfair completion claims.
When not practicing law, Callie enjoys spending time with her partner and children. Callie is also passionate about cycling, and you are likely to see her putting in a few laps or leading a group ride on the weekends.
Secretary & Treasurer: Nadia Haghighatian
Nadia practices intellectual-property litigation at Thompson & Knight. Her expertise ranges from patent disputes covering various technologies (software, telecommunications, electrical, mechanical, semiconductor, and more) to disputes involving trademarks, trade secrets, and unfair competition. She earned her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Texas at Austin and graduated summa cum laude from Texas Tech University School of Law.
Nadia is a member of the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association, Iranian American Bar Association, and Young Professionals Advisory Council for Dallas’s LGBTQ Resource Center. She is also a former Associate member of The Honorable Barbara M. G. Lynn American Inn of Court, was named to Texas Rising Stars® by Thomson Reuters in 2018–2020, included in the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch for Litigation—Intellectual Property, and selected for the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity Pathfinder Program in 2019.
Whether she is drawing portraits, dabbling in the kitchen, or crafting legal arguments, Nadia seeks out opportunities to be creative. She enjoys spending time with her partner and their two dogs (Edison and Tesla) and cats (Galileo and Archimedes), competing in bar trivia, and watching true-crime documentaries.
VP of Membership: Elissa Wev
Elissa Wev is a Public Integrity Prosecutor at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. She began her career as a public defender, helping indigent clients overcome poverty-biased procedures and punishments. Elissa previously prosecuted strangulations, aggravated assaults, and murders that occur in intimate partner relationships. In her current role she investigates police shootings and prosecutes public service misconduct offenses.
As a passion project, Elissa is the host and creator of “Chisme – a Virtual Call to Action,” a live-streaming Zoom show created to raise awareness of sexual assault in the military and encourage greater civic engagement in the LatinX community. On the weekends you can find her enjoying her home in Oak Cliff with her partner and their dog, Bear.