Our Team

RYLEE SOMMERS-FLANAGAN

Founder and Executive Director

Before founding Upper Seven Law, Rylee Sommers-Flanagan served as Montana Governor Steve Bullock's deputy chief legal counsel, not only defeating the Trump campaign in election-related litigation, but winning two other cases against the administration over the course of a few short months. Rylee also worked as a fellow for the nationally renowned class action firm, Cohen Milstein, and as the Supreme Court Assistance Project Fellow for the Public Citizen Litigation Group. Before that, she clerked for the Honorable Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit, and for Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle and Judge Thomas Hogan, of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

Rylee graduated from Stanford Law School, where she served as president of the Stanford student chapter of the American Constitution Society. She graduated magna cum laude from Emory University, where she founded Emory's Day On, a service day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. She also has a creative writing degree from the University of St. Andrews. Rylee is a fifth generation Montanan who grew up in Missoula and spent summers on the family's working ranch in Absarokee.

Publications: Rylee is the author of The Legal Story of Guantánamo North, 19 U. Pa. J. Const. L. 1169 (2017), and Our False Promise of Justice, Democracy Journal (Spring 2020).

Constance Van Kley

Litigation Director

Constance Van Kley grew up on the Iron Range of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she watched mining corporations create and then withdraw from small towns throughout the region, destroying livelihoods and landscapes. She graduated from high school in Custer, South Dakota, a small town with a tourist economy in the Black Hills, and attended college in Minnesota. Constance married a wildland firefighter, whose job as a smokejumper brought her to Montana. When their first child was born prematurely, she and her husband were uninsured. As a result of that experience, Constance and a group of hotshot firefighters organized a successful citizens’ movement, pushing the Obama administration to extend federal healthcare benefits to seasonal wildland firefighters and their families.

A nontraditional student with two children at home, Constance graduated first in her class from the University of Montana School of Law. During her time in law school, she was elected Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Montana Law Review, participated in the Mediation and National Moot Court competition teams, and served as a teaching and research assistant. After law school, she clerked for Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and then-Chief Judge Dana L. Christensen of the District of Montana. Constance worked in private practice before joining Upper Seven Law in July 2021.

Niki Zupanic

Staff Attorney

Zupanic moved to Montana in 2008 to become Public Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana. In that role, she successfully contributed to civil rights victories for Montanans, advancing LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies, criminal justice reform, and voting rights. Zupanic most recently served as Executive Director of the Montana Justice Foundation, where she oversaw Montana’s IOLTA program and worked to improve access to justice. Zupanic earned her J.D. from McGeorge School of Law in 2007 with distinction.

Jacob Linfesty

Impact Associate

Jacob was born at the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan, and he lived in Japan and San Diego before moving to Billings. Jacob attended elementary, middle, and high school in Billings before heading to the University of Pennsylvania for college. During his summers, Jacob interned in Senator Jon Tester’s Billings office and on the Kathleen Williams for Montana campaign. Since graduating summa cum laude in May 2021, Jacob is excited to be back in Montana and working with Upper Seven Law. He plans to gain two years of work experience before attending law school, and after law school Jacob hopes to continue working in public interest law here in Montana.

Our Board

Bill Jarosz

Board Chair

Bill Jarosz is a Founding Partner of Cartesian Capital Group, a global investment management firm headquartered in New York. He started Cartesian’s office in Shanghai, China. He also serves as Executive Director of Satellos Bioscience, a biotechnology firm focusing on novel treatments for skeletal muscle regeneration. Bill grew up in Bozeman, Montana, and graduated from University of Montana. He subsequently graduated from the Fletcher School at Tufts University with an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy and from Harvard Law School with a J.D., magna cum laude. Before founding Cartesian, Bill practiced law in New York at Debevoise & Plimpton.

Bill is an avid outdoorsman who is grateful for the opportunities that Montana has provided. He seeks to protect and preserve the sense of community that he believes lies at the root the Montana way of life and is honored to be part of the Upper Seven Law team.

Rachel Caroll Rivas

Treasurer

Rachel Carroll Rivas is a Senior Research Analyst Lead at the Southern Poverty Law Center. For more than twenty years, Rachel has worked to expose anti-democratic far-right forces and to organize communities in response to hate activity. Her work has supported and empowered rural community organizing and research across the Western United States. She has trained hundreds of advocates, academics, and community leaders in cross-issue movement building and analysis. Rachel’s work countering white nationalism and the anti-government militia movement has been featured extensively in major news media outlets.

Before joining SPLC, Rachel was Co-Director and Research Director of the Montana Human Rights Network, an affiliate of Center for Popular Democracy. Rachel has an extensive diversity of experience with Montana nonprofits and insight into effective and efficient operations. She has also helped manage six successful electoral races in Montana. Rachel’s collegiate studies took place at North Dakota State, University of Montana, Illinois State, and Utah State University.

Rachel was raised in Central Montana by parents who were public servants and who instilled in her the value of community engagement and the public good from an early age. Rachel loves spending time listening to music, hiking, and being with her family.

Jason Smith

Board Member

Jason Smith is enrolled with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and a descendant of the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. For eight years, Jason served as Governor Steve Bullock’s Director of Indian Affairs. In that role, Jason acted as a liaison and advocate for tribes in Montana. Jason has sweeping experience developing relationships and between state and tribal governments, developing policy, and supporting tribal economic development. Before his work with the Governor, he served as Chairman Assistant to the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes, and worked as Program Manager for the State Tribal Economic Development Commission in the Montana Department of Commerce. He graduated from Salish Kootenai College with a business degree.

Jason is a proud member of his tribe and enjoys working to make a difference in the Big Sky State. He values his time with friends and family across the state. He loves to listen to people stories and experiences in Montana and finds we have more in common than we do difference. He strives to strengthen relationships and build new ones.

Kari hong

Secretary

Kari Hong is an appellate attorney with the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. Over the course of her career, Kari has represented nearly 200 individuals before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, dozens of people before the Board of Immigration Appeals, and more than 50 people in state and federal criminal court appeals. Kari’s commentary and scholarship has appeared in national publications, and she is a valued speaker on matters relating to asylum, immigration consequences of criminal convictions, and appellate advocacy.

Before joining the Florence Project, Kari was a tenured law professor at Boston College Law School. Kari is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Swarthmore College. She clerked for Judge Jeremy Fogel of the Northern District of California and Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Like many Americans, Kari’s own family history is a tapestry woven from those who immigrated and fled persecution. Drawing inspiration from family members who have both been welcomed by this country and have worked to help others do the same, Kari believes in the power of the law to do good. Kari lives in Montana and enjoys hiking, biking, hockey, and playing golf with her family.