San Diego Lawyer January/February 2023

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Girl, Undetected: The Dark Side of Remote Bar Examinations

Launching a Litigation Practice

Stress, Suicide, and Coping Strategies

® ® JAN/FEB 2023

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LAW SCHOOL COLUMN The Audacity of Equality by Zameer


Brag at Your Own Risk Your Clients Might Have a Say About Your Website by Edward McIntyre

TECHNOLOGY Tech Tips and Tidbits by Bill Kammer


Launching a Litigation Practice by Gayani


COLLABORATION AND COMMITMENT: Applying Inclusive Leadership to Pro Bono Work by Hon. Charles E. Bell Jr. and Carrie Holmes




LONG TIME GRANT RECIPIENT CASA CORNELIA: Turning Despair Into Hope for Victims of Crime

THE REWIND In the Arena by George W. Brewster Jr.

SDCBA MEMBER PROFILE Get to Know Adriana Raquel Ochoa

MEET YOUR BAR-ISTA Bill Baldwin Executive Director



CONFLICTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Consider Joining San Diego's New Commission on Police Practices by Maresa Talbert

GIRL, UNDETECTED: The Dark Side of Remote Bar Examinations by Kiana Caton

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16 23 44 41 14 9 Page 35 39 31 32 17 18 24 35 36 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 5


Iwant to take this opportunity to thank our outgoing San Diego Lawyer editor, George Brewster, who has served for the last two years as co-editor. Don’t worry, he is still part of the editorial committee and will continue to share stories and cartoons and support our publication. I also want to thank the outgoing committee members who helped shape this publication last year. We were able to present some great stories and themed issues because of their solid efforts and our writers’ contributions.

We are stepping into 2023 with another first: It is my pleasure to introduce our new co-editor, Genevieve A. Suzuki, who joins San Diego Lawyer with her vast journalistic experience. Prior to becoming an attorney, Suzuki was an editor and a print journalist for several years. Her last professional position in the field was editor of the community newspapers Mission Times Courier and La Mesa Courier. For the first time in the history of this publication, we have two female co-editors and two women of color in these leadership roles. I look forward to serving alongside Suzuki as well as returning and new committee members.

During last month’s meeting, the committee discussed our plans for next year and, while we will have our usual columns, we also deliberated on our theme.

I sincerely believe setting an intentional theme for the year helps us shape the stories we bring and allows us to embrace inclusivity.

Storytelling is a powerful tool. Our hope is, through sharing these stories, we will bring more awareness and make strides toward a fairer, more inclusive community. After all, as lawyers, judges, and community members, you are the advocates, leaders, and changemakers.

This year our theme is intersectionality.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” There is a wealth of information out there under this wide umbrella and we are excited to share it with you.

Here’s to a productive 2023. Happy New Year!


The article “Community within Community, Advancements of the San Diego Latinx Community” by Arcelia N. Magaña in our November/December 2022 printed issue, under the subsection, “Not So Hidden Gems in Our San Diego Legal Community,” last paragraph, incorrectly referenced “Justices Linda Lopez and Ruth Bermudez Montenegro — the first Latina Justices of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California ...."

The Hon. Irma Gonzalez, former Chief Judge of the United States District Court, Southern District, was the first Latina in the nation to serve as a U.S. Magistrate. She served a term from 1984 to 1990 before her appointment to the San Diego Superior Court, where she presided from 1991-1992, and was the first Latina statewide to serve in that role. She then became the first Latina judicial appointee to the Federal District Court in 1992, where she served until 2013, including presiding as Chief Judge from 2005-2012.

Also, Hon. Linda Lopez and Hon. Ruth Bermudez Montenegro were mistakenly referred to as justices. They are judges. San Diego Lawyer magazine regrets these errors.

6 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

Issue no. 1. San Diego Lawyer® (ISSN: 1096-1887) is published bimonthly by the San Diego County Bar Association, 401 West A Street, Suite 1100, San Diego, CA 92101. Phone is (619) 231-0781. The price of an annual subscription to members of the San Diego County Bar Association is included in their dues. Annual subscriptions to all others: $50. Single-copy price: $10.

Periodicals postage paid at San Diego, CA and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to San Diego Lawyer, 401 West A Street, Suite 1100, San Diego, CA 92101. Copyright ©2023 by the San Diego County Bar Association.

All rights reserved. Opinions expressed in San Diego Lawyer are those of the authors only and are not opinions of the SDCBA or the San Diego Lawyer Editorial Board.

Interested contributors may submit article ideas to the editors at for consideration. San Diego Lawyer reserves the right to edit all submissions, contributed articles and photographs at its sole discretion.


Genevieve A. Suzuki

Editorial Committee

Stephanie Ahlstrom

Eric Alizade

George Brewster

Jodi Cleasattle

Sara Gold

Wendy House

Julie Houth

Gayani R. Weerasinghe

Rafael Hurtado

Isaac Jackson

Edward McIntyre

Michael Olinik

Stephanie Sandler

Wilson Schooley

Andrea Warren


Board of Directors


Melissa Johnson


Stacey A. Kartchner

Immediate Past President

David Majchrzak


Leslie Abrigo

Michael L. Crowley

Jason Evans

Michelle A. Gastil

Nicole Heeder

Brandon Kimura


Robert M. Shaughnessy


Fanny Yu

Tatiana Kline

Brenda Lopez

Angela Medrano

Spencer Scott

Cynthia L. Stratton

Timothy G. Williams

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Stephanie Pengilley

Executive Director

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SAN DIEGO LAWYER EDITORIAL COMMITTEE ® Issue 1, January/February 2023 ADVERTISERS INDEX Alternative Resolution Centers 15 Buchalter 39 CaseyGerry 3 Clio 38 JAMS 30 Judicate West 2 LawPay 4 Lawyer Referral & Information Service 34 Monty A McIntyre, Esq 37 San Diego Business Journal 13 San Diego County Bar Foundation 22 Singleton Schreiber, LLP 8 Todd Bulich Real Estate Company, Inc 48 West Coast Resolution Group 42 Wheatley Mediation Services 33
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After President Obama was elected, some pundits theorized the United States was entering a post-racial era. 1 However, by the end of his second term, many Americans still experienced systemic inequality. 2

A year later, shortly after Donald Trump spewed vitriolic rhetoric about preventing Muslims from entering the United States,3 I was violently assaulted by a bigoted student with a knife. The school refused to interview any witnesses or investigate the incident.

They allowed the student who threatened me with death back on campus, so I transferred to another college for my own safety. The incident itself, and the subsequent trauma inflicted upon me through the school’s substandard response, made me realize that I was not perceived as being worthy of justice by some people.

That same year, the Council on American Islamic Relations published a study that found 1 out of 2 Muslim students in California was subject to abuse while at school.4 I vowed to learn why the maltreatment that myself, and others like me, were experiencing existed.

The next year, after being admitted to California State University San Marcos, John Earnest, a student at the University, attempted to burn down the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido and murdered a congregant at the Chabad of Poway a month later.5

We want to hear from you.

While our country has made great progress since its founding, I felt that we were in a reactionary phase, undoing much of the headway made toward achieving equality. Even after engrossing myself in social sciences research, and comprehending why some people react violently to globalization, it didn’t seem like I was doing enough.

I started studying for the LSAT and got heavily involved in community affairs. The struggle for equality won’t be easy, but with a fundamental understanding of how systemic injustices manifest, I know I’ll be better equipped to contribute to this lofty aspiration.

Zameer Karim ( is a 2L at California Western School of Law. He is also the Intellectual Property, Privacy, and Security Editor of The Commentary, and a Certified Law Clerk.

1. Media Matters for America, "Dobbs calls on listeners to rise above ‘partisan and racial element that dominates politics’," November 12, 2009.

2. Balz, Dan et al., “On racial issues, America is divided both black and white and red and blue,” The Washington Post, December 26, 2014.

3. Johnson, J., “Trump calls for ‘total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,’” The Washington Post, December 7, 2015.

4. Council on American Islamic Relations, California School Bullying Report, (2017).

5. Figueroa, T., “College classmates raised concerns about Poway synagogue shooter before 2019 attack,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 27, 2021.

San Diego Lawyer welcomes article submissions from practicing attorneys and industry experts on various law-related topics. Interested contributors can view guidelines and submit their ideas using the form at

We also highly encourage the participation of diverse authors, including (but not limited to) people who have less than five years of legal practice, women, people of color, people with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBTQ+. Please read posted submission criteria carefully. Publication cannot be guaranteed, but the SDCBA appreciates and will consider all article submissions.

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 9

Macbeth, Duncan, and Sara sat in a booth at Lazy Dog Tavern.

Grant McNeil came up and stood at their table. “A celebration, Macbeth?”

“Indeed. Sara’s victory in State Bar Court. Review Department. Complete exoneration of our client.”

McNeil bowed in her direction. “Congratulations. Macbeth, would your dream team have time for a question?”

“Of course. We’re finished here. Let’s adjourn to the office.”

With everyone settled around the conference table, Macbeth nodded to McNeil. “Ask away.”

“A friend designed a new website for me. Thought I’d have you take a look before I launch.”

He opened his laptop, clicked twice, and turned the screen so everyone could see.

A banner, prominently centered, asked: “Who’s Grant McNeil?” Beneath it, the page proclaimed:

• He defended John Day against pre-litigation allegations of workplace sexual harassment.

• He successfully overturned an adverse jury verdict against Lonestar Corporation for wrongful termination and racial discrimination. See Miller v. Lonestar Corp. (2022) 19 Cal. App. 5th 254.

• He closed a $2 million bond funding transaction for Krause & Company.

A “Representative Clients” section featured logos of half a dozen national and international corporations.

ETHICS by Edward McIntyre



Macbeth smiled. “Eye-catching.”

“Thanks. Like the way the colors pop?”

“Indeed. Have you discussed it with clients?”

“No. Should I?”

A nod. “State Bar Act requires that we maintain inviolate our clients’ confidence, and at every peril to ourselves — fancy language — preserve their secrets. Without a client’s informed consent, we can’t disclose confidential information.”

“Nothing’s confidential here. The other side knows about the harassment case. Lonestar’s a published decision. The banks were in on the financing. No attorney-client privilege. What’s the big deal.”

Macbeth nodded toward Duncan and Sara.

Duncan started. “Our confidentiality duty’s a lot broader than what’s covered by lawyer-client privilege. An evidentiary rule, it only covers communications with clients. Confidentiality covers all the information about the client we get in the representation.”

Sara continued. “Client secrets, at least here, applies to information that in another context wouldn’t seem secret. But a client secret may even include publicly available information. Information a client asks us to keep confidential. Also, information that might be embarrassing or detrimental to a client if disclosed.”

Macbeth spoke. “Well stated, both of you. Grant, take your first bullet. Wouldn’t disclosing sexual harassment allegations, even if you negotiated them away, be embarrassing to Mr. Day? Maybe detrimental?

You’ll need his informed consent.”

10 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

“OK. He’s pretty sensitive. But what about Lonestar? That’s a published decision. No issue there, right?”

“Let’s consider it. Remember, a client secret can include publicly available information. Your corporate client was not only accused of racial discrimination and wrongful termination. A jury found it liable. Even though you won on appeal, publicity might embarrass or be detrimental to Lonestar.”

“Even if it’s a former client?”

“Same obligation. Same answer.”

“Suppose I just list the reported decision. Not mention any issues involved. That work?”

Sara cautioned: “Even reporting the case name and cite could disclose confidential information. It could lead a reader to the opinion with its embarrassing or detrimental details.”

McNeil shrugged. “What about the financing deal? Dead there, too?”

Macbeth looked to Sara and Duncan. Both shook their heads.

“I agree with my brain trust. Appears to be nothing embarrassing or detrimental about the fact of bond funding. The client’s name likely doesn’t constitute confidential information.

Sara cautioned: “I agree. Our State Bar has said, in most situations, client identity isn’t considered confidential. But courts and ethics authorities in other states have concluded even a client’s identity is confidential information.”

“Okay. So I need informed consent. In writing?”

Macbeth answered: “I’ve always found it curious — given the importance of client confidences — that it doesn’t have to be written. But risk mitigation dictates getting it in writing.”

Sara added: “It also helps the client focus on what it's consenting to.”

“Well said. Those logos represent some pretty prominent corporations. You’re fortunate to have such a client base.”

“I’ve had some luck. From time to time.”

“Do you regularly represent them?”

“I wish. No. Just ones I’ve represented in a case at one time. One, a repeat client for a second case. I only regularly represent one of them.”

“You still need that client’s consent. If you’ve only represented the others one-off or so, listing them as “Representative Clients” may violate rule 7.1 — no misleading advertising.”

McNeil closed his laptop. ”So my brilliant website may need work? Glad I asked, I guess.”

Macbeth smiled.

Editor’s Note: Rules 1.6 and 1.9 and Bus. & Prof. Code 6068, subdivision (e) state confidentiality obligations; rules 7.1 and 7.2, Comment [1], advertising. See Cal. Formal Opn. Nos. 2016-195, 2004-165, 1993-133.

Edward McIntyre ( is a professional responsibility lawyer. GOT

The SDCBA Legal Ethics committee is here to help! SDCBA members can call our Legal Ethics Hotline* for guidance and perspective on a variety of ethical considerations in the practice of law. Your call will be taken by a seasoned attorney with significant experience in legal ethics issues.

Simply call the hotline and leave a message with your phone number, your question, and any context you can provide that can help our attorneys research your question before responding. One of our Legal Ethics Committee members will call you back to discuss your question with you.

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Apple Releases iOS 16.2 and Enables Endto-End Encryption

Attorneys should be pleased that Apple modified its iPad and iPhone OS’s at year-end to enhance the security of information stored in the Cloud. Historically, iPhone and iPad backups stored in the Cloud on Apple’s servers were encrypted at rest, but Apple retained the key that could decrypt that data. Given an attorney’s duty of confidentiality and the obligation to protect a client's data (B&P §6068(e)), the former situation may not have been satisfactory. With the new OS16.2, Apple users may now activate Advanced Data Protection for their iCloud backups. Subsequently, only the attorney user has the key to decrypt the backup data stored on Apple’s servers. Common sense, if not ethical duties, suggests all attorneys should immediately implement that additional protection: and

WiFi Router Vulnerabilities

To the extent attorneys continue to work remotely, they must ensure the security of their home WiFi networks. This should always remain a primary concern. Many consumers set up their home networks, sometimes with great difficulty, and then only pay attention to the individual components when they have problems. But routers have firmware that can be prone to vulnerabilities. There have been past reports that routers have been shipped with outdated and vulnerable firmware. Broad studies have reported many routers were found vulnerable and others had never been updated: Yet many consumers have no idea their routers could be threatened, or even know how to update them. (Consumer Reports has published a guide to router security at

Some manufacturers reach out to notify owners who have registered their hardware. Other routers automatically receive pushed-out updates if those settings have been enabled. Netgear, with a substantial market share, recently issued a firmware update to fix a high-severity vulnerability that might affect many of its models. You can access that update at

Social Networks and Usernames

The growing importance of social media data to eDiscovery suggests attorneys might want to explore the host of social media sites a particular witness or opponent may have used. Most users have a known tendency to use the same username for multiple social media sites. When investigators learn one username, they can quickly search for its use on other sites for additional electronically stored information (ESI) or other data. One example is the tool developed by the volunteer team at the Sherlock Project ( It searches for a given username across a base of about 300 social media sites. Other projects have produced sites that can mine that data and display the hits for further exploration. HandleFinder is one example of a useful site; it calls itself a “wrapper” around the Sherlock Project:

OpenAI and Chatbots

Attorneys doing legal research, reviewing contracts, or engaging in eDiscovery are exposed to frequent suggestions that their endeavors can be enhanced by an artificial intelligence (AI) component, though few understand how that AI works.

Now, technologists and attorneys are experimenting with a combination of artificial intelligence and chatbots. For instance, OpenAI is a research and deployment company based in San Francisco. Its mission is "to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity,” ( Artificial intelligence attempts to create machines with human-like intelligence.

12 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

OpenAI is trying to do that — create a system that can do anything a human can; write, speak, listen, and learn. Its goal may be to pass the Turing Test: https://plato.stanford. edu/entries/turing-test

Chatbots are computer programs that can facilitate a conversation through a digital device in a manner that might resemble talking to a human. Ralph Losey is a noted eDiscovery commentator. Using OpenAI and ChatGPT, he has experimented with writing blog entries by questioning a database. This is an example: https://e-discoveryteam. com/2022/12/27/surprise-top-five-e-discovery-casesof-2021

The recent experiments by Losey and law school dean Andrew Pearlman illustrate that OpenAI and its chatbots can generate reasonable articles or essays in response to prompts from questions posed to them. The potential to use that technology to assist the legal profession (or to compete with it) has attracted substantial venture capital to various technology startups.

Pearlman’s experiment produced a 14-page law review article in one hour. The quality of that article is potentially debatable, but Pearlman judged it not so bad: will-chatgpt-make-lawyers-obsolete-hint-beafraid-2022-12-09. Whether the combination of AI and chatbots will allow students to write term papers or lawyers to write briefs of satisfactory quality remains to be seen.

As you might suspect, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (hat tip to Newton). Other experimenters have developed tools that can detect AI-written essays. One such is GPTZero, developed by a Princeton student. It’s an app that can quickly and effectively detect whether an essay was written by a human or a chatbot/AI combo: https:// In other words, a machine that can tell you if what you are reading was written by another machine.

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 13
Bill Kammer ( is a partner with Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith, LLP.



aybe it is your goal to launch your own practice this year. Here is some advice from those who launched a successful civil litigation practice in recent years.

First, you must decide if you want to be a solo practitioner or launch with partners. Then, there are decisions to be made on whether to incorporate your practice, become a solo proprietor, or create a partnership. California mandates that certain types of businesses cannot limit their liability, and the law is one of them. Therefore, if you are planning on creating an entity, you must create a professional corporation. If you have partners, you can create a limited liability partnership or a professional corporation.

I interviewed three different managing partners from litigation firms in San Diego who work in civil and personal injury law to specifically speak to how they launched their litigation practices.

Valerie Garcia Hong launched her own practice, Garcia Hong Law, in March 2018 after leaving her position as a shareholder at a bigger firm, where she worked for ten years. She said one of the most difficult parts of launching was initially having to learn to do things that she did not normally have to do at a full-service law firm. For instance, she suddenly had to do her own filings with the court, pull records, and perform duties normally handled by law clerks and paralegals.

Garcia Hong advises anyone starting out, however, to be careful with how they allocate resources, as in the beginning there is a high rate of cash burn. She said what

made a real difference is having a good client relationship management (CRM) software system for her practice because it is important for billing and invoicing. Currently, the firm has three other attorneys and a paralegal, and she has also partnered with other colleagues as a cocounsel. In her words, this is a great resource because it allows an opportunity to bring in certain expertise for a case, without having to create a partnership with the firm.

Garcia Hong has co-counseled with Angela Jae Chun, who also launched her own civil litigation firm in January 2020, Law Office of Angela Jae Chun. However, Chun also remained on "of counsel" with her previous firm for a limited time, as she was still part of the litigation team against PG&E Wildfire cases from 2017-18. One of the key aspects of success is how you advertise the services. Chun utilizes the popularity of social media platforms such as TikTok in advertising for her practice, which she admits is not a traditional space for attorney advertising. For Chun, having her own practice is rewarding because it allows her to capitalize on changes she wanted to make, do more remote work with her associate, and provide more flexibility in the workplace. She also recommends Justice HQ, a membership organization with resources and space, and EsquireTek as a discovery tool that allowed her to cut down on the forms.

Further, she advises anyone wanting to bring a co-counsel to a case to have a good co-counsel agreement that goes into all the details of the representation, responsibilities, expectations, and cost and profits, as this is the key to a successful relationship. What she loves the most about having her practice is that she is free to be herself.

14 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

Lastly, I spoke with Adam Hepburn, managing partner of HHJ Trial Attorneys, who launched HHJ in March 2018 after leaving the Public Defenders (PD) office in San Diego. He started his practice with two colleagues. Hepburn said he knew he wanted to be a courtroom attorney since the beginning — doing trials and presenting the issues to juries — and being at the PD office allowed him to gain that experience. Hepburn credits his time doing these trials as having helped him hone in on the issues related to discovery, what would be important for a jury for a case, and how you evaluate the information you are seeking pretrial as it shapes the story you end up presenting to the court.

When asked about launching the practice with two others, he attributes their successful partnership to knowing each other as people and not just by each other's skill set, understanding communication styles and how they run the practice. He advises anyone thinking about launching to speak with others who have launched, including solo practitioners, to learn about running the business and resources. For instance, if you need daily access to Lexis or Westlaw, then budget it into your startup plan.

Some of these other questions include, how do you open an attorney trust account (IOLTA), and how do you create the retainer agreement and process any payments. Hepburn also emphasized the importance of being selective with cases you take on a contingency basis as those cases may have high expenses, especially if they require expert testimony.


SDCBA — Meet with Adriana Linares, the SDCBA's free-for-members technology advisor, to discuss any questions about CRMs.

San Diego Law Library — Provides access to legal databases and other practice guides. However, you need to physically go there to access certain resources from the library.

Cal Bar — A list of IOLTA-providing banks is available along with other important reminders for starting a practice.

Gayani R. Weerasinghe ( is an

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Pro bono means “for the public good,” and is an important way for attorneys to serve the public at no cost while also strengthening their own selfawareness and leadership skills. When you consider your legal career and why you chose to enter this profession, it is important to be mindful of whether your original why still holds true.

Are you committed to serving others before yourself? Are you committed to further developing yourself as a leader? Are you leading in an inclusive manner? How do you know?

Inclusive leaders are great for society and great for the legal profession. Inclusive leadership assures that all people feel they are being treated fairly and are valued (Bourke & Titus, 2019). Inclusive leaders are characterized by six signature traits (Bourke & Titus, 2020):

1. Visible Commitment: They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.

2. Humility: They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.

3. Awareness of Bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots, as well as flaws in the system, and work hard to ensure a meritocracy.

4. Curiosity About Others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek with empathy to understand those around them.

5. Cultural Intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.

6. Effective Collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

In this article, we focus on effective collaboration and visible commitment.

Effective Collaboration

Effective leaders value the insights and experiences of others, amplifying voices that may otherwise go unheard. They seek opportunities to guide and coach others, serving as stewards of our profession. We hear often from attorneys that they would love to volunteer their legal skills, but they do not have the time. Pro bono work is an impactful mechanism for collaboration and partnership between professionals with various levels of experience. Perhaps you’re a partner at a firm, or are a solo practitioner, absolutely swamped with your paying clients, unable to find time to represent a pro bono client. Could you partner with an associate and mentor them on the matter? Do you have a mentee outside your firm who could benefit from seeing how you work on a case? In doing so, you’ve created an opportunity for that recently admitted attorney to gain practical experience, facilitated a mentoring relationship with a newer attorney, and provided vital legal services to a client in need. The 2022 California State Bar Diversity Report Card listed mentorship as a top-five area of need for workplace satisfaction identified by attorneys of color, nonbinary attorneys, LGBTQIA+ attorneys, and attorneys with disabilities. Pro bono work is an effective way to bridge this gap and contribute to the success of attorneys of all backgrounds while also making a difference in your community.

We also hear from attorneys that their practice area or expertise is not something that translates easily into pro bono work. But one of the benefits of collaborating with a nonprofit legal services organization on a pro bono case is that they will teach you how to do the work. Inquire about training opportunities and you’ll hear all about the templates, samples, manuals, recorded trainings, and

16 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

one-on-one mentorship volunteers receive. And not all pro bono opportunities are litigation-based. There are a variety of transactional volunteer opportunities for attorneys, including estate planning, educational advocacy, and business transactional matters.

Visible Commitment

A trait common to the leaders we admire is the clear connection between their beliefs and their behavior. You’ve heard all the cliches: actions speak louder than words; who you are will show in what you do; facta, non verba. Most of us believe the justice system should equally protect everyone regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, immigration status, or disabilities, and we encourage you to take on work reflecting that belief. Importantly, pro bono legal work is something only a lawyer can do. Only a lawyer can, for example, represent a domestic violence victim in their restraining order hearing, assist a refugee with making a claim for asylum, or help a lowincome entrepreneur draft a client service agreement.

Pro bono work affects not just the pressing legal need that motivated the client to seek out legal services, but also their relationship with the justice system and lawyers in general. The federal Legal Services Corporation’s 2022 Justice Gap Report found that only 39% of low-income Americans believe they can use the civil legal system to protect and enforce their rights. By taking on pro bono work, you can be at the forefront of showing litigants that, no matter the outcome of their case, the civil legal system took their issue seriously and someone cared enough to try to help them resolve it. In this way, your pro bono work could do more than resolve a discrete legal issue. You may fundamentally alter how someone interacts with the legal system, contributing to the health and preservation of our society’s institutions.


The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California’s Pro Bono Panel continues to offer invaluable opportunities to both attorneys and indigent civil litigants. Serving on the Panel provides attorneys a unique, invaluable trial experience before federal judges. The Panel generally provides attorneys with pre-packaged, trial-ready cases that have survived summary judgment.

The Panel also provides invaluable assistance to indigent civil litigants not otherwise entitled to appointed counsel. Generally, the Panel selects civil rights cases for indigent state prisoners alleging basic constitutional violations in the conditions of their incarceration, such as inadequate medical care, retaliation, limitations on the right to religious exercise, and excessive force. That said, the Panel also selects non-prisoner civil rights cases, such as excessive force cases and Social Security disability appeals.

Once a judge determines that a case is appropriate for appointment, the judge’s staff prepares a “historical memorandum” summarizing the factual and procedural details of the case and the causes of actions asserted therein. The judge then sends the memorandum to the Panel’s Pro Bono Administrator, who selects the next firm or attorney on the randomly generated list of appointed firms and attorneys. Counsel then has three weeks to conduct a conflict check and initial review and investigation of the claims.

The Panel consists of both law firms and attorneys. Once selected, a firm or attorney will remain on the Panel for at least two years. An attorney will not be appointed to a new matter more than once every two years, and an attorney is expected to accept appointments absent a conflict of interest or exceptional circumstances. The Court’s Pro Bono Fund may reimburse necessary out-of-pocket expenses, and prevailing litigants may seek attorneys’ fees.

Interested attorneys should complete a Pro Bono Panel Application at Pro-Bono Panel ( Any questions should be directed to the Pro Bono Administrator, Karen Beretsky, at (619) 557-5693 or

Hon. Charles E. Bell Jr. is a judge for the Superior Court of San Diego County in California. Carrie Holmes ( is the Pro Bono Manager and Supervising Attorney at San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program.
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 17
Andrea Warren ( is Special Counsel at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP. She litigates nationwide with a focus on commercial litigation and complex insurance coverage matters.


The Basic Nature of the Challenge Faced by Attorneys

As lawyers we have been heavily conditioned through education, training, and experience to strive for the reduction or elimination of uncertainty, primarily through the employment of intellect and analytical thought. The highly conceptual nature of law practice also can lead to deeply dualistic thinking in terms of reflexively construing situations as right/wrong, good/bad, win/lose, etc. Additionally, the significant time and energy expended in comparing and contrasting situations and anticipating potential threats may strengthen our instinctual negativity bias and lead to heightened reactivity in situations lacking certainty of outcome.

As individuals who deal with the “conceptual world” in so much of our professional lives, it may become a challenge to lessen our gravitation toward intellectual concepts in our lives beyond the professional realm. This challenge may eventually manifest in mounting anxiety and depression as attorneys become habitually conditioned to analyze and dissect every experience and interaction; in the process, we come to spend less and less time experientially connected to life as it unfolds.

Early Roots of Relational Challenges

The internalized emphasis on intellectual and analytical thinking evident in attorneys often takes root at a point in life preceding law school and entry into formal law practice. To begin, it is likely that those who have become attorneys realized significant positive reinforcement for their intellectual abilities early in life. Absent adult perspective in earlier developmental years, we may have come to heavily rely on our intellect and problem-solving abilities to get our needs met. Assuming that our families of origin were relatively well-functioning, heavy reliance on our cognitive skills as children may not have become unduly problematic. If, however, we were faced with significant emotional challenges earlier in our development, we may have experienced challenges navigating these situations that were not amenable to our primary coping strategy of intellectual problem-solving.

Heightened Challenges Through High School, College, and Law School

High school and college may have presented heightened competition to maintain our internalized self-concept built

upon intellectual prowess. We then put more time and effort into intellectual pursuits and academic success, which, if successful, opens a path to law school.

By the time they enter law school, many attorneys have developed such a deeply analytical way of relating to their experience that more pronounced interpersonal and emotional problems may begin to manifest. But the relatively sheltered law school experience allows law students to avoid more serious problems associated with a growing inability to experientially connect with their life experience, tolerate uncertainty, and experience emotional discomfort.

Upon completing law school, passing the bar, and entering formal legal practice, interpersonal relationships and workrelated frustrations often begin to present heightening challenges that many attorneys simply are not prepared to confront. The attorney may initially expend significant time and energy in trying to get their external experience to conform to their conceptual notion of what might ultimately lead to “happiness” or a reduction in suffering. But such efforts are often met by others as attempts to control, or at least display a noticeable level of difficulty around the exhibition of true empathy and effective listening.

The nature of law practice, perhaps more so than any other profession, involves time-based mandates that specific objectives be achieved. Attorneys face potential adverse consequences by courts and clients if certain time-bound objectives are not met. Spending so much of their working time under such time-based mandates can produce a situation in which attorneys experience consistently high levels of arousal of their central nervous system, which may well manifest in a consistent flood of stress hormones to allow them to meet the perceived threat of adverse consequences if deadlines are not met.

Left unchecked, attorneys can become physiologically habituated to a certain level of adrenaline and stress hormones. This habituation can lead to recurring feelings of agitation even when objective "threat" recedes, and attorneys are involved with more mundane, less exigent activities in everyday life or interpersonal relationships; situations that call for a higher degree of patience to accurately connect and empathize with others.

18 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

Realizing the Need for Change

What becomes necessary at this point is mitigation of the negative consequences of a pervasive mindset that is very much fear-based and outcome-oriented, and cultivation of psychological flexibility to become more able to relate to different situations in a more nuanced, flexible way. It becomes necessary to begin developing coping strategies that facilitate the ability to let go of outcomes and allow things to organically unfold in the absence of objective urgency.

Emotional regulation is what ultimately provides us with this necessary flexibility. When we lose the ability to consciously regulate our relationship to external events, and external experience consistently precipitates high levels of nervous system arousal, we become less able to consider alternatives. We want to fight or flee. Only when we become more able to calm our central nervous system through conscious attention that de-escalates our level of arousal can we effectively stay with uncertainty without the need to flee or defend. It is in this de-escalation that we become more able to tolerate uncertainty and consider a more broad range of alternatives; we become responsive instead of reactive.

Entrenchment in the conceptual world, taken to a logical extreme, can and will precipitate suffering to a degree that can lead to a deep sense of hopelessness. It is this depth of hopelessness that may eventually lead an attorney to consider end of life as the sole escape hatch. One may begin to consider suicide as the sole option because the attorney has lost connection with life beyond the conceptual realm. The attorney, limited to intellectual problem-solving, has likely devoted significant bandwidth to try and “figure out” a solution to their unhappiness. The attorney has come to internalize the thought-driven belief that they are a separate and isolated fragment in the world at large. Trying to address this existential crisis through intellectual means simply leads to repetitive thought loops that deepen the sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

The Remedy: Cultivating the Ability to Tolerate Uncertainty and Discomfort

What becomes necessary when an attorney's level of despondency reaches a level of suicidal ideation is an

If you are experiencing depression or suicidal ideation, please reach out for help. Additionally, if you are interested in meditation, the SDCBA’s Mindful Meditation Series offers a half-hour guided meditation session every second Wednesday of the month, free to members.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention 24/7 support for people in distress or needing suicide prevention and crisis resources.

800-273-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 741741 ∙

instillation of hope that things can improve — that there is a possibility of real connection, inner peace and contentment. As alluded to earlier, however, this remedy lies beyond the faculties of intellect and analytical thinking.

Meditation practice has demonstrated a high degree of scientific efficacy in recent years in, among other things, reducing the incidence and severity of depression, and producing underlying changes to brain function that are empirically linked to a heightened state of well-being. On a cognitive level, meditation practice over time helps us more deeply appreciate the true nature of our thoughts as impermanent and fleeting. In creating space, or “awareness” between being and thinking, we become more able to “respond” rather than habitually react to a wide range of situations. In addition, the only place that we can ultimately find true experiential grounding and inner peace is in the present moment. The inability of so many attorneys and legal professionals to let go of their conceptual ideas goes a long way toward explaining the high degree of anxiety, depression, and substance misuse within the legal profession.

In meditation, we create time and space to simply observe the arising and cessation of experiential phenomena. During a meditation sitting, we simply try to “notice” these phenomena that may take the form of sound, somatic feelings, or arising thoughts. In coming to witness our thoughts more simply, we come to more deeply appreciate how the thoughts simply arise and pass away and go on their own accord without us taking any sort of affirmative action. We become more aware of habitual ways of relating to our thoughts that have been problematic over time. This awareness creates space to meaningfully connect to the unfolding of presentmoment experience. This felt connection lies beyond the conceptual realm. When internalized, this connection begins to deconstruct the attorney’s notion that they are a separate, isolated fragment in the universe embodied in an identifiable self. We begin to feel a new sense of connection and belonging that heals our existential dread.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) San Diego Resource helpline, support groups, educational meetings, newsletters, a lending library, and several classes on mental illness. 800-523-5933 or 619-543-1434 ∙

The Trevor Project 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ people under 25.

866-488-7386 ∙ https://www.thetrevor

Mike Lubofsky ( is a licensed psychotherapist and attorney at Lubofsky PC based in Oakland, California, and specializes in providing psychotherapy to attorneys.

Your success as a lawyer depends not only on determination and effort, but, equally important, the connections you make along the way. As a member of the San Diego County Bar Association, you’ll have unlimited opportunities to connect with thousands of other lawyers, judges, and legal professionals at frequent networking and educational events and on our online community listservs. You’ll also enjoy a host of member-exclusive benefits designed to help you succeed in your practice. Best of all, annual membership costs less than the cost of a typical billable hour. Connecting for success has never been more accessible.

Join or Renew now: Join. Connect. Succeed. SAN DIEGO COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION

Why I Lawyer


The reason why I lawyer is because, first and foremost, I absolutely love being an attorney and counselor at law. I love the personal satisfaction of helping clients solve their legal problems or concerns. I truly enjoy counseling and advising individuals and corporations on their legal rights and responsibilities. One of the best feelings in the world is working together with a client who has entrusted you with a personal and/ or business matter of great concern and helping them achieve a favorable resolution.

I most love being in the courtroom. As a trial lawyer, I am honored and thrilled to present evidence, examine witnesses, and argue legal positions on behalf of individual and corporate clients before a judge, arbitrator, or jury. As an admittedly competitive person, I fully embrace the challenge of persuading an opponent to resolve a matter in my client’s favor peacefully, with civility and respect for the legal and judicial processes and each other.

However, having been born and raised in the segregated South, probably the most important reason why I lawyer is because I am convinced that my purpose in life is to use my skills, talents, and training as a lawyer to make the world a better place.

When I was a child, I never thought of becoming a lawyer. In fact, I never knew a lawyer until I attended college. (I grew up in a small eastern North Carolina town (population 1,100). All I ever wanted to be was a pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. Although I didn’t dream of being a lawyer as a kid, I did dream of a world free of racism, discrimination, and hate. I have always envisioned a world where justice, equality, and freedom is more than a mere slogan for a political campaign.

As one of a handful of Black children helping to integrate my hometown elementary school, I have personally felt the sting of racism and hatred and the impact it has, especially on the lives of Black people. (Our entrance into that school was in the face of protests by members of the Ku Klux Klan.) I have always had a deep and abiding faith in the belief in our nation’s creed that all human beings “are created equal” and have the “unalienable rights” to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” as stated by the Founding Fathers in this country’s Declaration of Independence. As lawyers, judges, and legal professionals,

I strongly believe that it is our duty to apply these principles to the work that we do.

Our history books tell us that when our country came into being, our Founding Fathers wanted a country governed by the rule of law, and not by a king. I believe that since that time, lawyers, judges, and legal professionals have been primarily charged with making sure that our country maintains the ideals upon which our society was built. As lawyers, judges, and legal professionals, we have the unique obligation and responsibility to ensure that our laws, institutions, and our systems of justice are applied fairly and equally to all. Charles Hamilton Houston said it best. Mr. Houston was a prominent African American lawyer, former dean of the Howard University School of Law, and the chief architect of the Brown v. Board of Education cases that led to the dismantling of Jim Crow laws in the 1950’s, including the legal theory of “separate but equal.” He once stated that “a lawyer is either a social engineer or a parasite on society.”

This principle has guided my work as a lawyer and goes a long way in helping to describe why I lawyer. As a practicing attorney for nearly 40 years, I have gone about law practice with a commitment and dedication to being a social engineer rather than a parasite on society, with the determination to help change the world for the better. Whether as a military lawyer, federal prosecutor, or civil litigator, I am, and always have been, committed to giving back to society rather than taking from society. I have personally strived to be a lawyer whose actions and words serve as a positive role model for other lawyers.

I lawyer because I want to continue the work of those lawyers who were social engineers, who used their legal skills and talent to build a better society — indeed a country — that is more just, fair, and equitable for everyone. A country where discriminatory practices and policies within institutions (policing, schools, workplace, health care, etc.) that deny resources and opportunities and produce racially inequitable outcomes for people of color, particularly Black people, no longer exists.

Randy K. Jones (, Member at Mintz, was featured on the cover of the first issue of San Diego Lawyer magazine in 1997.
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 21

Thank you!

With the generous contribu�ons of the San Diego legal community, we were able to fund 23 local organiza�ons that work towards crea�ng “jus�ce for all” through legal services and support.

In 2022, we awarded over $436,000 in grant funding. Your dona�ons help low-income families, veterans, domes�c violence survivors, immigrants, and asylum seekers.

619-231-7015 | |
To Donate: @SDCBF

Long Time Grant Recipient Casa Cornelia: Turning Despair Into Hope for Victims of Crime

I its 29th year of providing pro bono legal services to eligible

accept what was happening for the sake of her children. “I did not want to split apart my family.”

Through SDCBF’s support, Casa Cornelia has provided Know

The physical and mental abuse became more severe when Robert lost his job. Eva tried to call the police, but he threatened to report her to ICE and separate her

neighbor called the police who arrested Robert. While support of Robert ’s own parents.

live free from fear and abuse, and members of our community. The VOC Program has experienced many accomplishments in the last year, but most importantly it has served the most vulnerable of us and transformed lives. Lives like Eva*, who was able to restart her life with her children.

Eva* moved to the U.S. as a teenager and despite a language together.

He would physically abuse her and controlled her every move. Eva grew numb to the abuse, deciding that she needed to

She did not have contact with him for a year, but struggled to take care of her three children on her own. Her youngest daughter required special medical care. He leveraged the

For a while, everything was stable, but under increased

Robert got angry with Eva for waking him up – he began yelling and pushing her, calling her names in front of the children. Eva got so scared, she took her kids and escaped,

Because Eva cooperated with law enforcement in their crime. Eva has found a new life and her children do not have free from abuse.

*Names and photographs have been changed to protect client

the San Diego County Bar

Pantone Colors Red - Pantone 7628 CP Blue - Pantone 2955 CP White
“Once legal status is conferred, members of our community.”
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 23
“Eva has found a new life and her children do not have to worry about losing their mother


“Melissa Johnson: feminist, activist, and, of course, workers rights lawyer. Melissa’s humble journey is the foundation of her character, practice of law, leadership, and becoming the first female veteran to serve as President of the San Diego County Bar Association.”

—Stephanie Sandler, employment lawyer

Just proving to Ron, SDCBA Director of Marketing, that Melissa can get out of a sand trap 50th birthday trip to Pebble Beach with friends Tami, Suzanne, and Sandy Melissa and Brenna with Jean and Di in Flagstaff Marching band (1980) Kissing high school goodbye with Andrea and Luann (1981) Melissa and wife, Brenna, at Radio City Music Hall (2021) Ran into Rick Steves in York, England
Melissa, aunt, Dory and mom, Cookie 24 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023
US Air Force (1981)

Melissa’s story began when her great-grandparents immigrated from Italy around 1915. After passing through Ellis Island, they eventually settled near the Jersey Shore, in a community of mostly immigrants from Italy.

Raised in a working-class family, Melissa paid great attention to her grandparents’ work in sweatshops and her father’s job as a truck driver. As the oldest of four children, Melissa understood hard work. To this day, Melissa never shies away from a difficult or time-consuming case. And just like her hard-working family, Melissa knows the joy and exhilaration of a job well done.

Starting in early childhood, Melissa faced events that taught her that people experience life in many ways, some better than others. Some of what she saw happened to strangers. Some closer to home. Growing into adolescence, Melissa began to recognize that people’s dissimilar experiences may have more to do with “immutable characteristics,” such as color, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, and so on, than anything else. She may have been too young to understand the meaning of discrimination but she sure recognized unfairness.

Her sister, Kristi, admires Melissa’s ability to judge right from wrong. Kristi says Melissa’s “moral compass is guided by her

belief in fairness. I am grateful for Melissa’s viewpoint and how she lives her life, leading the way for me.”

The inequity Melissa witnessed and experienced throughout her life showed her there was, and still is, much to be done to reach a more equitable society. Melissa’s drive to take on life-changing cases pointed her toward advocating for people hardest hit by societal imbalance, where discrimination or social limits interfere with reaching their potential.

Her family taught her well. Her father, Joe, instilled his values into his children. When Melissa was young, her father was an independent long-haul truck driver. Joe’s favorite truck was an International rig he named Little Missie, which he used to haul goods across the Eastern Seaboard.

Joe was a lifelong member of the Teamsters. Melissa recalls, “My dad was a strong union supporter back in the Jimmy Hoffa days. He understood the value of the picket line.” Smiling, Melissa added that once, when her father was visiting, he once opted to join the picket line of a local teachers’ union instead of attending his birthday celebration. Melissa continued, “Ironic that my dad marched with teachers. He grew up on a dairy farm and spent most of his time working the farm with his seven siblings. He didn’t graduate from high school because work was more important. He didn’t even learn to read until he was in his 50s, but there he was, walking with the teachers, supporting them.”

By her father’s words and actions, Melissa learned that all work is important, and standing up for workers, equally so. Melissa remembers with pride, “My dad never crossed a picket line. Not once. Neither have I.”

Melissa’s father wasn’t the only one to teach her the realities of work. Her maternal grandparents and two great-aunts worked in sweatshops sewing clothing. “I remember being in those sweatshops when I was a kid, seeing the working conditions. It was crowded; hot; the air was thick and cloudy from dust and lack of ventilation; poor lighting; and scraps of cloth everywhere. What the old pictures of sweatshops can’t reveal is how management was harsh and unforgiving. The work was hard and monotonous. The pay was nominal.”

Melissa remembers, “In elementary school, we learned about the wages and working conditions in sweatshops. I don’t think anyone in my class had firsthand knowledge of sweatshops and what they were like, nobody but me.”

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 25

The look on Melissa’s face changes to one of pride when she says, “I have a picture hanging in my office of workers in a sweatshop. It’s there in honor of my grandparents, to remind me of how hard they worked, and the conditions they worked in. I also have a picture of Teamsters on strike, for my dad, of course. I keep those pictures just to the left of my office door. Every time I pass through, I see the pictures and they remind me of my roots.”

Melissa’s biggest supporter has always been her mother, who was an early and strong influence. Melissa recognizes that, “My mom has always been with me every step of the way.” Beyond signing her up to play Little League baseball, Melissa’s mother encouraged her in other meaningful ways. Her mother bucked the system and allowed a 12-year-old Melissa to deliver newspapers. “There weren’t any other papergirls, but that didn’t matter to my mom. She didn’t let my gender interfere with my success. And when I marched in the high school band, my mom was literally with me every step of the way, walking in every parade and attending every field show.”

Melissa is reflective when she talks about her mother’s role in one of the most important experiences of her life:

“I was only 17 when I enlisted in the Air Force, so my mom and dad had to sign for me to get in. My mom was sad that I wanted to go, but was eager to support me. My mom always gave me room to grow.”


Melissa’s childhood exposure to the working world came during a time when society encouraged conformity and assimilation. “My grandparents made it a point to integrate as fully as they could into mainstream culture. For example, my grandfather refused to use his given Italian name, Salvatore (or Sal); he used Sam instead.” At the same time, the civil rights movement was gaining steam. Melissa shares, “I was very young, but I remember the protests and civil unrest I saw on TV. I was too young to grasp what was happening. Yet, the fact that I remember it so vividly tells me it impacted me.”

Melissa had heard disparaging comments about Italian immigrants, but she was not yet savvy enough to see a relationship between those epithets and other forms of bias. Harder still was understanding that bigotry may also infect people who themselves were targets of intolerance. She remembers a great-uncle who refused to watch TV programs with actors of color. And she remembers commenting about a pretty woman on TV, and a relative scolded her, telling her that she was to never marry anyone of that race. This was not long after the groundbreaking case on mixed race marriage, Loving v. Virginia1, was decided.

Melissa’s first brush with personal discrimination came when she was forbidden from playing on the high school baseball team. “It was a boys’ team. I was mad and didn’t understand why I was excluded, especially since I’d been playing baseball and competing with boys in Little League since I was 10 years old. I was a good player, but girls were expected to play softball, not baseball.”

“Girls playing baseball is actually a big deal,” says Melissa. Little League baseball changed her life, especially two events.

First, when the national Little League Baseball organization learned that Maria Pepe — a 12-year old girl in Melissa's home state of New Jersey — registered to play on a Little League team, the League threatened to kick the team out unless Pepe was off the team. Pepe was dismissed. This was in 1972, and the women’s liberation movement was

1. 1. 388 U.S. 1
26 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023
Photo in Melissa's office of striking teamsters (upper) and sweat shop garment workers (lower)

going strong. The media played up Pepe’s dismissal and the National Organization for Women (NOW) brought a lawsuit against Little League Baseball, which vigorously opposed the suit. NOW won the case three times: from the administrative level2 to the Supreme Court of New Jersey.3

myself, and nobody else could help, because what happened to me — the injustice — was legal. There was no way to fight, no matter how wrong it was.”

Decades after Melissa’s forced discharge, President Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010, ending the prohibition of gays and lesbians serving in the military. Melissa says, “This came too late for me. I was discharged during the Reagan-era witch hunts, where thousands of good and honorable servicemembers, just like me, were discharged because of our sexual orientation.”


Melissa’s experience in the Air Force is one of the main reasons she practices employment law. “I know what it’s like to be unable to help myself because of an unjust law.”

By the end of the litigation, Pepe was too old to play, but Melissa was not. The case’s reach was phenomenal. Within just one year of the decision, more than 30,000 girls registered for Little League baseball, including Melissa.

Second, Melissa says, “My mom signed me up to play baseball even though my dad was against it. This experience confirmed I could compete with the boys, and even be better. All I needed was a level playing field and someone to believe in me.”

The Pepe case changed Melissa’s life and cemented in her mind that lawyers do good. Even though she was only 10 years old, she knew that she had benefited because NOW fought for her rights. Melissa knew then she wanted to be a lawyer so she could do the same for others.

During Melissa’s service in the Air Force, she was excluded from the job she wanted, denied training that led to promotions, prohibited from carrying certain weapons, and disqualified from numerous job activities only because she is female. And within three years of her enlistment, Melissa was involuntarily discharged because of her sexual orientation.

For Melissa, being discharged from the Air Force was deeply demoralizing. As she puts it, “I couldn’t help

Melissa witnessed how people get away with harassment and discrimination in the workplace, especially where targets don’t have the strength or tools to push back. At one of Melissa’s first San Diego jobs, she witnessed blatant discrimination against women and African Americans. True to form, Melissa doggedly advocated for mistreated fellow workers. “I was proud I could help my co-worker get through an awful situation and keep her job.”

Even though she wasn’t a lawyer yet, this was Melissa’s entrée into advocacy, and she was good at it. Yes, Melissa was going to be a lawyer and she would represent working people.

Melissa’s own life has been filled with court decisions, executive orders, and legislation which affected her legal rights and quality of life. Melissa was directly touched by the prohibition against same-sex marriage. For Melissa, marriage was not possible until 2015, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. Melissa says, “I was allowed to marry my partner, Brenna, only because the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Melissa’s legal career is influenced by the fearless people who relentlessly pursue social justice — inclusion, fairness, and equality — and these warriors motivate her to do the same. Melissa keeps this inspiration in her heart.

2. New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. 3. National Organization for Women v. Little League Baseball, 127 N.J.Super. Ct. App. Div. 522 (1974), 318 A.2d 33 (1974), aff’d, 67 N.J. Sup. Ct. 320 (1974), 338 A.2d 198 (Mem) (1974).
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 27
Melissa's Little League baseball team (1974)

Today, as a partner at Johnson Heeder LLP, Melissa represents and advises workers in private and public sector employment law matters including wage and hour claims; gender, race, age, color, disability, and national origin discrimination; and sexual harassment.

Melissa’s law partner, Nicole Heeder, commends Melissa: “It is always great to be in the war room with Melissa. She draws on her experience and extensive knowledge of employment law to do everything from negotiating meaningful settlements to crafting winning trial strategies.”

Leading into her retirement, Melissa’s former law partner of nearly eight years (and author of this article) said, “Representing individuals, groups, and classes of working people, I admire Melissa’s strength as a consensus builder. When she encounters a problem, she promptly looks for a mechanism to address it.”

Former law partner Tom McCammon appreciates how, “Melissa does what she can to reach a resolution whenever possible, before putting clients through the discomforts of litigation. As a retired mediator, I know how hard it can be to find solutions, but Melissa finds a way.”

Melissa has been a team player throughout her life. Her wife Brenna admires how “Melissa has a way that makes everyone around her shine, and she is always smiling. She draws the best out of others and she really, truly, believes we all can and should build one another up.”

Her long-time friend Suzanne Dukes says, “Having known Melissa for almost 20 years, I can share that Melissa’s courage and ability to walk through life with transparency and integrity fosters trust and love in her community; we all respect her for that. She wants the people in her life to succeed and will go out of her way to help them achieve success.”

Melissa’s history shows how important sports have been in building her character. Melissa understands, “Team sports are where I excel. Teammates make one another better. I remember winning the Gay World Series with my softball team. We played multiple games every day for four days in a row. I was exhausted by the end. I remember knowing that if any of us had left anything on the field, we might not have won. Same thing with law. My client and I are a team. My law partner Nicole and I are a team. My co-counsel and I are a team. We all depend on each other.”

Melissa’s practice area bar is the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) , the second largest plaintiffs’ employment bar association in the country. Melissa is an exceedingly active and effective CELA member, serving on the Executive Board since 2019.

Nicole Heeder says “Melissa is the first person to make you feel welcome in a crowded room, and strong enough to fight any battle. She is the embodiment of the CELA ‘vibe’ which encourages camaraderie and selfless assistance to others.”

Fellow-CELA member Leonard Sansanowicz jumped at the chance to talk about Melissa, sharing, “I have known Melissa for years and worked closely with her within CELA. The first thing you notice about Melissa is her infectious laugh. She has a great sense of humor. But that belies her diligence, attention to detail, and commitment to the cause she lends her time and energy to. Melissa is thoughtful, caring, compassionate, a zealous advocate, smart and insightful. And she’s competitive as hell. I’d go to battle with her any day of the week.”


Melissa’s service with the SDCBA has allowed her to gain a deep understanding of the organization. She’s fully committed to the Association’s values of community and inclusion, and its mission to connect lawyers and support their success and fulfillment. That devotion is deeply informed by her lived experience combating discrimination and bigotry. Her commitment as SDCBA President is to promote and nurture a community that welcomes, affirms, boosts,

28 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023
She’s fully committed to the Association’s values of community and inclusion, and its mission to connect lawyers and support their success and fulfillment.

and celebrates all members, from all backgrounds — a place where everyone is equally important, leveraging the power of collaboration to help everyone succeed.

Nicole Heeder affirms, “Melissa leads with authenticity and compassion on vital issues in our community, and never hesitates to lend a hand or share ideas to reach common goals. Over the years I’ve known Melissa, I’ve come to appreciate that her courageous leadership and practice of law are an honest reflection of her diverse life experiences, which make her not only a fiery advocate for our clients, but also a beloved pillar of this community.”

Johanna Schiavoni, 2020 SDCBA President, hails Melissa as “a bold, visionary leader. She always asks what will best serve the SDCBA’s members. I look forward to the new heights to which Melissa — working with the Board, staff, and members — will take the Bar in the coming year!” 2019 SDCBA President Lilys McCoy applauds Melissa. “What always impressed me about Melissa is her inspiring story. She had to brave the indignities of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ She then uprooted herself to move away from home and family to work her way through undergrad and law school. After the years of hard work and self-sufficiency, she dug deeper into her physical, mental, and financial reserves to build a successful law practice, all while serving our legal community. I know Melissa will take all the grit, intelligence, and resilience she used to meet the previous challenges and use those qualities to great effect as she embarks on her latest challenge: leading San Diego’s largest bar association.”

Melissa wants the SDCBA to be a place for every member to grow. During her swearing-in, Melissa challenged every person in the room to see the good in people, see their potential, and help them travel the path to find their strength, power, and joy.

Melissa said, “Membership in the SDCBA is being part of something bigger. We are never alone.” With Melissa at the helm, every member is part of the team that makes the SDCBA an exceptional organization. Melissa ended her remarks, “I will always do my best for the SDCBA and its members.”

Marilynn Mika Spencer has been a workers rights attorney in San Diego for over 30 years. More recently, Mika has worked intensively on voting rights and poll access. She and Melissa Johnson were law partners at Spencer Johnson McCammon LLP and at Spencer Johnson LLP.


Personal motto?

Do what makes you happy.

Favorite vacation?

It’s a toss-up between:

a. 20 days in the UK with my wife and friends; or

b. 10 days alone in Kauai playing golf every day (shhhh ... don’t tell).

Ever had a hole-in-one?

Yes. December 26, 2021.

After taking the bar exam, you ... Drove to Kansas alone to clear my head.

Favorite thing to do that you don't do well?

Sing – because singing makes me happy.

Most famous person you have met?

Prince (now King) Charles.

Go-to karaoke song?

I try not to sing in public, but when I do, it’s got to be "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," by Cyndi Lauper.

Favorite sports team?


Is it okay to eat dessert first?

Of course!

If you had a walk-up song, what would it be?

"This Girl is on Fire," by Alicia Keys.

If you were not a lawyer, what would you be?

A trust fund baby with plenty of time and money to do all the good deeds I dream of.

Your hero?

My mom. She always let me step outside the box, and supported me when I did.

Guilty pleasure?

Ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food. And no, I won’t share.

Pet peeve?

People who use the word “verse” when they really mean “versus.” These are two different words; please use them properly.

Favorite concert?


Early bird or night owl?

Definitely a night owl.

Favorite movie?

Fried Green Tomatoes — it’s a great story of how one strong woman helped others find their power. “Towanda!”

Something that most people don’t know about you?

I was summer church camp queen runner-up. Lol.

Dog or cat? No doubt about it, dog.


Recently race consideration in admissions has once again been thrust into the national spotlight. On October 31, 2022, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding whether both private and public universities nationwide could continue to consider race as a factor in admissions. A decision in the case is not expected until summer 2023. While awaiting the ruling, I decided to talk to Admissions officials at two local law schools to see how an adverse ruling from the Court would affect their current admissions practices.

Before hearing their responses, it’s important to note the exact question the Court will be answering. There are two cases before the court, both being brought by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. (SFFA). In one case the respondent is Harvard University, and in the other, the University of North Carolina. In both cases, the issue is whether the Court should overrule Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) 539 U.S. 306 (Grutter). Grutter held that the University of Michigan Law School “(1) … had a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body; and (2) admissions program was narrowly tailored to serve its compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body, and thus did not violate the Equal Protection Clause.” The admissions practices being challenged by SFFA are not quota systems. They are referred to as holistic approaches where admissions officials consider race along with many other factors.

In California, public universities have not been able to consider race in admissions for nearly 26 years. A decision that was reaffirmed in 2020 when Proposition 16, which would have repealed Proposition 209, failed 57% to 43%. Private institutions, however, are still able to consider race in their admissions practices, unless the Court says otherwise.

With that in mind, I spoke with California Western School of Law Assistant Dean of Admissions Jorge Garcia and University of San Diego School of Law Assistant Dean of Admissions Tracy Simmons. Both Assistant Deans stated an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court concerning Affirmative Action would have little to no impact on the admissions practices at the institutions.

Assistant Dean Garcia stated Cal Western uses a holistic approach where diversity is not defined only by race and that there are other policies that account for diversity. Similarly, Assistant Dean Simmons stated USD School of Law uses a holistic file review where decisions have never been made just on race. Regardless of the ruling, both schools will remain committed to ensuring a diverse law school class and working to create a class that reflects the diversity of San Diego County.

The question then becomes whether our local law school populations reflect the community. A look at the statistics shows that the answer is not yet. According to data published by the ABA and U.S. Census Bureau, white-identifying students are overrepresented in law schools while minority-identifying students continue to be underrepresented.

Percentage of Population Self-Identifying with a Race

We won’t know for several months what the Supreme Court will say in terms of race considerations in admissions, but in my discussion with both assistant deans, what became clear is that both schools actively employ other practices, like recruiting at diverse undergraduate institutions, mentorship, campus affinity groups, diverse student life programs, etc., to maintain and increase the diversity of their student bodies. Additionally, both Assistant Deans noted that alumni support is critical to maintaining the programs and initiatives that drive diversity for the law schools.

San Diego County Cal Western School of Law USD School of Law White 43.8% 49.3% 57.2% Hispanic 34.8% 26.1% 13.7% Asian 12.9% 6.7% 9.6% Black 5.6% 2.9% 2.5%
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 31


Ibegan my legal journey eight years ago. As a first-year law student, I joined the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association (EBGBA) and I immediately got involved with the organization's work. Under the direction of then-EBGBA President Dennis Dawson, I wrote a memo detailing the conflict of interest that existed because the City Attorney represented both the Citizens’ Review Board (CRB) and the San Diego Police Department (SDPD). I was so excited to be a part of something that mattered, but in hindsight, I realize that I truly did not understand its impact.

Throughout my community engagement, I soon became intimately familiar with the history of police oversight in San Diego. I learned that as early as the 1980s, civil rights leaders in San Diego had been fighting for independent oversight of the San Diego Police Department. After years of watered-down proposals, police union lobbyists influencing city officials, and establishment politicians undermining grassroots organizations, the community demanded action. So, in July 2019, with the interest of EBGBA in mind, Andrea St. Julian, EBGBA’s then-President, and I co-founded San Diegans for Justice, a political action committee committed to bringing public trust to the way that SDPD was held accountable. This was indeed a full-circle moment.

As most, if not all of you know, San Diegans for Justice, along with EBGBA, Women Occupy San Diego, Mid-City CAN Youth Council, and a coalition of over 70 organizations came together to advocate for a city charter amendment.

The charter amendment, known as Measure B, replaced the former review board with an independent, community-led Commission on Police Practices. The charter amendment would grant the new Commission the power to:

• Conduct independent investigations, separate from SDPD’s internal affairs, into complaints of police misconduct

• Hire independent legal counsel that doesn't also represent the city and SDPD

• Subpoena law enforcement, witnesses, and all relevant records

• Evaluate SDPD’s compliance with federal, state, and local laws

In November 2020, Measure B received nearly 75% of the vote in San Diego, a larger share of votes than any city candidate on the ballot the same year. This was a massive win for the community!

32 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

We mobilized, showed community strength, and passed this ballot measure. So now what?

Well, similar to our U.S. Constitution, Measure B was a city charter. It only served as the framework for the overall structure of the Commission. We still needed an implementation ordinance to detail how the Commission would operate.

And, a new fight began — to draft a robust ordinance that would be passed by the San Diego City Council. During this time, the community saw several efforts to thwart the will of the voters and weaken the Commission’s power.

But the community continued to show up and make their voices heard. Originally drafted by the City Attorney’s Office, it was the community that demanded a neutral party draft the ordinance. And it was so. It was the community that denounced a per se bar on Commissioners with criminal records. And it was so. It was the community that fought to have proportional representation in the city districts who encountered negative police interactions at a higher rate. And it was so.

Finally, this past October, after two years of advocacy, City Council passed the ordinance. The Commission is what it is because the community was fully invested in the planning and design process, and the community’s input has been largely reflected in the outcome.

But the work is still not done!

Now, the Commission needs Commissioners. As community leaders, it is incumbent upon us to claim our stake in matters that affect us as individuals, our clients, and our communities. You all have a chance to shape something that San Diego has never seen — an independent, community-led Commission on Police Practices. We must maintain a keen presence so that we are not lulled into an erasure of community in decisionmaking altogether, and here’s how you can help: (1) apply to serve as a Commissioner; (2) provide recommendations for potential Commissioners; and (3) join the San Diegans for Justice email list to become a Partner in Justice.

So, are you the next Commissioner? Just asking for a friend

(619) 987-9575 | | email: William (“Bill”) Wheatley—Mediator Areas of Mediation: • Personal Injury • Products Liability • Public Entity Claims • Business & Commercial Disputes • Contractual Disputes • Corporate, Partner and Member Disputes • Employment Disputes Wheatley Mediation Services Serving San Diego & Orange County Dedicated to helping individuals and businesses resolve conflict and move forward in their lives through effective and creative solution-based services.
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 33
Maresa (, CEO of Talbert Law Office, APC, is a Business, Nonprofit, & Intellectual Property Law attorney.


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With results like these, LRIS can offer you the most cost-effective way to gain high-quality clients, hands down. The cost is much lower than other marketing methods, including advertising, SEO, listing/rating services, you name it (lower still with the highly discounted LRIS enrollment

fee offered to SDCBA members — your membership will immediately pay for itself).

The public trusts LRIS as the reliable way to get connected with qualified attorneys. Lawyers trust LRIS too, because we carefully pre-screen potential clients to ensure we only send you referrals that match well with your practice area.

Best of all, by participating in LRIS, you will be helping clients access quality legal services they wouldn’t find otherwise — a true win-win.

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Take a moment to recall your bar exam experience. Did it go smoothly, or did you come out with a war story? Perhaps a power outage or an earthquake, or someone who went into labor? These are just a few examples of the stories I heard during law school, so I at least had an idea of some of the most extreme disruptions that could occur.

And then COVID-19 happened.

Everything I was taught to expect of the bar exam was suddenly made irrelevant when the State Bar of California began developing the state’s first remote bar exam. Of course, the subject matter remained unchanged. But many of the tools and strategies I came to rely on during law school exams were no longer available. Use of physical scratch paper was restricted. Possession of any food or beverages (including water) during exam sessions was prohibited. Getting up from your seat during exam sessions for any reason, even to use the restroom, was considered misconduct. I even had to cover all the clocks that were visible from where I took the exam in my mother’s dining room. These new rules were troubling enough, particularly because they had a disparately negative impact on exam takers from traditionally marginalized backgrounds.

To add insult to injury, our State Bar (and others) contracted with a remote exam software company that relied, in part, on artificial intelligence (AI) and facial recognition technology (FRT) to proctor the exam with audio and visual monitoring and recording. Certainly, use of this technology had significant implications for privacy and government surveillance. But what made this decision especially perplexing to me was the fact that there is an overwhelming body of research indicating that FRT algorithms perpetuate bias and discrimination, and are unreliable when used on people of darker complexions. In fact, a 2016 study found that FRT algorithms yield the least accurate results when used on young Black women, such as myself.1 By contrast, FRT is most accurate when used on middle-aged white men, resulting in error rate discrepancies of up to 34%.2

Problems with this technology were evident from the time the software launched. Prior to each exam session, I was unable to properly authenticate my identity because the auto-shutter camera could not detect my face. I resorted

to manual authentication, but the greater concern was whether the FRT would detect dark-complexioned examinees during exam sessions. Since leaving the view of the camera was a sanctionable offense, there was a credible threat of exams being wrongfully flagged for review and imposition of sanctions. The only way to minimize this risk was to place a light directly toward one's face, which I reluctantly did for the duration of the exam.3

I recently shared this experience during the SDCBA’s “Intersecting the Color Line: The Urgent Matter of Colorism” event to bring awareness to the fact that colorism — a form of discrimination based on skin tone — can appear in the least expected situations. Other attendees, including panelists Dr. Sarah Webb and Professor Theresa Ford, expressed their shock that an attorney licensing agency would engage in such egregious conduct with the potential to have a negative disparate impact on bar applicants who have historically been excluded from the legal profession. While it appears the State Bar has resumed in-person testing, it is nevertheless crucial to ensure that these circumstances are not repeated. With the ever-increasing presence of technology in our lives, it is only a matter of time before remote testing becomes a standardized practice in our profession. Therefore, I strongly and respectfully urge the State Bar to thoroughly assess the reliability of FRT and consult AI experts who specialize in developing inclusive programs. The State Bar must be held accountable if it sincerely values diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession.

1. El Khiyari, H. and Wechsler, H. (2016), 'Face verification subject to varying (age, ethnicity, and gender) demographics using deep learning,' Journal of Biometrics & Biostatistics, 7(4). doi: 10.4172/21556180.1000323

2. Buolamwini, J. and Gebru, T. (2018), 'Gender shades: Intersectional accuracy disparities in commercial gender classification,' Proceedings of Machine Learning Research, 81, 1-15. Retrieved from

3. Johnson, K. (September 29, 2020). 'ExamSoft’s remote bar exam sparks privacy and facial recognition concerns,' Retrieved from

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 35
Kiana Caton ( is a Law Clerk for the U.S. District Court.



Two old warriors sat down to chat. At the end of the session, what stood out was how much the two shared in common, and how much the law profession has changed over the past 60-plus years.

Jim Marinos, 93, tried his last case in 2022 and closed shop after more than 65 years in practice. Tom Sharkey, 91, continues a mediation practice with Judicate West with 62-plus years, so far, as an attorney. For the most part, Marinos has maintained a solo practice and figures his cases were 80% plaintiff; Sharkey has, for the most part, been a private practice partner and figures his cases were 80% defendant.

Marinos said after 65 years of “litigation combat,” he was ready to leave the legal arena, and so he slowly and methodically wound down his practice until it came to a smooth stop. Sharkey allowed that his litigation regimen kept him out of the house more than it should have and started doing mediations in 1989 (and fulltime in 1999); 2,700 mediations later, he is still putting in the hours.

So the question naturally presents itself: What drove each to put so much into the practice of law, and for so long?

For Marinos, he trended toward representing the underdog, and being tenacious but truthful. He enjoyed connecting with the judge and jury, and notes that to be an effective litigator, you have to have “a strong belief in the ethics of your case — make a powerful and moral assessment of the facts … and look for the truth in your evidence. Get that on the record and you should win.” But the wins are not automatic, and he learned early on that “the path to success is a tough one,” and warns young litigators that “the traps [ in discovery and motion work ] are everywhere; it takes a Herculean effort to get to and through trial.”

Sharkey worked in the insurance industry while going to law school, and thought he was headed into corporate law. But the first firm he joined had a backup of cases for trial, and he found that he enjoyed the courtroom. Like Marinos, Sharkey liked to tell a story, and stressed that an effective lawyer must be honest, have a goal for the case,

be organized, and “be able to sell your case, and yourself, to the jury.”

It is, they agreed, all about connecting — to the judge, the jury, your client, and your opponent. That was true 60 years ago and remains true — although the technology is vastly different. Both men agreed that young lawyers don’t have the opportunities to take cases to trial, with Marinos (from a plaintiff viewpoint) lamenting that defendants “are so well financed and organized, making simple cases very complicated.”

“Most young lawyers are better trained than I was starting out,” said Sharkey, “but they can’t see the forest for the trees. They lose sight of what should be the ultimate decision to be made, overcomplicate a case, and fail to connect with jurors who are everyday people." And he added, “know that you are going to lose every once in a while. Bounce back; don’t lose your confidence or drive. Just showing up time after time — after things don’t always go your way — is a necessary component to being a good trial lawyer.”

The topic of civility also raised concern. Marinos said simply that today’s young lawyers are more likely to be acerbic. When he first started his practice, and on into the '80s, “there was a certain amount of deep trust between experienced trial lawyers who knew the importance of the word ‘trust’ and the meaning of it when negotiating and communicating with opposing counsel or jurists,” but now, “the proliferation of lawyers in the profession has brought many modern and unproven motivations among trial lawyers who confuse success with strategy, trickery, and even deceit … the magic of the profession has been tarnished severely.”

Sharkey agreed things were different today than when he started out, noting that when he started the trial bar was relatively small and “you really got to know the people involved.” He believes this loss of association has a great deal to do with the loss of civility.

Of note is that both men were very active in high school and college sports, mainly football. Significantly, Marinos

36 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023
L to R: Jim Marinos and Tom Sharkey

played in the 1951 Rose Bowl (for coach Pappy Waldorf and the California Golden Bears). Both ended up with large families — Sharkey has eight children, one of whom became a lawyer and later left the profession, a granddaughter and a brother who are lawyers; Marinos had three children and six stepchildren, one of whom became a lawyer and left the profession, and one grandchild and a brother who are both lawyers.

Both also went to USD School of Law. Marinos had previously attended Boalt for his first two years of law school, where “it was shocking to me how difficult it was” and left for the Marine Corps for three years. When he got out, he wrote to the State Bar and convinced them to let him sit for the bar without finishing law school. He was allowed to do so and passed; but his mother convinced him to get his law degree to hang on his wall so his clients knew he was a legitimate member of the bar. In his hometown of San Diego, USD had just opened up its law school, so Marinos enrolled for the final year (a class of eight) and became the first graduate of USD to practice law (since he took and passed the bar before graduating in 1958, he didn’t have to wait for bar results).

Sharkey recalled Marinos — in the class ahead of him — because Marinos was a well-known Rose Bowl player and already a licensed attorney while still in law school. Football was also a big part of Sharkey’s upbringing.

Although a native of Chicago, he went west to attend St. Mary’s on a football scholarship, transferred to and played for the University of Illinois after St. Mary’s dropped its football program, and then came back to California to SDSU after being recruited by San Diego State coaches. He said he was an indifferent college student (economics major) but enjoyed law school, and San Diego.

How much longer will Sharkey stay in mediation? “Like a football player, one of these days my inner voice will tell me to stay home tomorrow. I haven’t gotten to that point yet,” he said.

Marinos heard that voice and prepared for it. As to a legacy, Marinos hopes that he will be remembered for “impressing lawyers and clients that I was a true believer in what I did … and got the best result for my clients.”

As for Sharkey’s legacy, he said, “I don’t know what mine will be, but I feel very lucky to have lasted as long as I have in this legal community. I hope people know that I did the best I could with what I had, that I was honest and that I always showed up.”

George W. Brewster Jr. ( is a retired attorney after 35 years of practice, including JAG, private practice, and the last 30 with the County of San Diego, Office of County Counsel.

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 37
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Areas of practice: Public Agency Litigation, Corporate and Commercial

What initially inspired you to practice law?

TV shows inspired me to be a lawyer when I was super young, about 5 years old. Then at 13 I met my best friend and her mom, Lynne Lasry, who was the first lawyer I ever met, and I was inspired by her. She was a mom AND a lawyer and I just thought she was amazing. She was my idol (and still is). She was a partner at Procopio early in her career, and now here I am, a partner at Procopio. Pretty cool.

What is your proudest career moment?

I’ve been fortunate to have many, but my proudest career moments remain the pro bono cases I won for Casa Cornelia. I fought for and won asylum for a few different young women in need of protection. It was literally a matter life or death for them, and I was able to use the law to help them, which is what lawyering is really all about. Those cases were thrilling and terrifying and gratifying and humbling. They were all the things. I was very proud.

What fills your time outside of work?

My family! My husband, three young daughters and my dog Timber keep me busy. It’s a lot — school drop offs and pickups, recitals, piano lessons, soccer practices, date nights — it’s exhausting, and probably the most fun time of my life. The pandemic was super hard on our family, so I’m trying to just soak up all the goodness I can these days and really absorb how lucky I am.

“If I weren’t an attorney, I’d be ...”

A journalist or an event planner. I love investigating and telling stories, and I also love throwing parties.

What is your favorite movie, book, or TV show? Why?

The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (Bilingual Edition) I find something new in the poems book every time I read through them. They are beautiful, melodic, tragic, romantic, happy, inspiring — especially in Spanish.

What one skill has helped you be successful as an attorney, and how could others develop that skill to better their practices?

Thinking outside the box has been useful for my practice. I think folks could develop that skill by being intentionally thoughtful, opening their mind to everything they know, and applying cross-sections of law when there is no clear answer. I am also detailoriented, and that helps a ton. That involves slowing down, paying close attention, and being precise — if you make these skills habits, they can become tremendously valuable.

What would you most like to be known for?

I hope that when my colleagues think of me, they think of a kind, creative, sharp, professional, and ethical attorney who does excellent legal work. I am also the first, and for now, the only Latina Partner at Procopio, which is a bit lonely and surreal given how I grew up (engulfed in diversity). So I’d also like to be known as someone who proudly represents the Latinx community, and who is resilient and determined. I want to keep the door open for other underrepresented lawyers like me (or better yet, get rid of the door).

The Professional Responsibility Practice Group focuses on ethics, litigation and regulatory issues that impact lawyers and law firms, in addition to public entities, inhouse departments, as well as judges and law students.

Amber and David can help lawyers and law firms navigate the ethics rules and develop strategies to avoid and manage sticky situations. And they defend lawyers when they need it most.

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 39
BEVACQUA-LYNOTT (503) 226-8644
ELKANICH (503) 226-8646


The SDCBA gratefully acknowledges the generous commitment of members who support our community at the Patron and Friend membership levels. You can become a Patron or Friend member when you activate or renew your membership online, or by request at any time. For more information about upgrading, please contact

Patron and Friend member lists as of January 2023


Marc D. Adelman

Alicia Aquino

Danielle Patricia Barger

Hon. Victor E. Bianchini (Ret.)

Jedd E. Bogage

Tanisha Bostick

James A. Bush

Andy Cook

Steven T. Coopersmith

Ezekiel E. Cortez

Tricia D'Ambrosio-Woodward

Taylor Darcy

Warren K. Den

John A. Don

William O. Dougherty

Alexander Isaac Dychter

James J. Eischen Jr.

Matthew J. Faust

Sergio Feria

Nicholas J. Fox

James P. Frantz

Michelle Ann Gastil

Olivia J. Gilliam

Douglas A. Glass

Alvin M. Gomez

Nicole L. Heeder

Stephen M. Hogan

Ted Holmquist

A. Melissa Johnson

James Michael Johnson

Stacey A. Kartchner

Carla B. Keehn

Lilys D. McCoy

Mark M. Mercer

Peter P. Meringolo

Jillian M. Minter

Virginia C. Nelson

Ron H. Oberndorfer

Deborah A. Ortega

Anthony J. Passante

Frank J. Polek

Kristin Rizzo

Ana M. Sambold

Pamela J. Scholefield

Seana Kelly Scholtemeyer

Khodadad Darius Sharif

Elizabeth Silva

David G. Sizemore

Christopher J. Sunnen

Genevieve A. Suzuki

Cassandra C. Thorson

Thomas J. Warwick

Lenden F. Webb

Jon Webster

Daniel Weiner

Andrew H. Wilensky

Karen M. ZoBell


Pedro Bernal Bilse

James Gregory Boyd

Jivaka A.R. Candappa

Julie Marie K. Cepeda

Linda Cianciolo

David B. Dugan

Mark Kaufman

Randall E. Kay

Elysian M. Kurnik

Philip John Mauriello

Anne Perry

Kristi E. Pfister

Blanca Quintero

Hon. Stephanie Sontag

Peter B. Tentler

Michael A. Van Horne

Mark Richard VonderHaar

40 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023

What are your main responsibilities at the Bar?

As the Executive Director of the SDCBA, I report to and collaborate with the Board, often through the president. Likewise, the Executive Director’s performance is monitored and evaluated by the Board. My main role is to provide strategic leadership to the internal team; manage the operations, finances, and programs of the organization; and advance the goals of the SDCBA, as well as the strategic plan, initiatives, and priorities of the Board and certain committees.

I also serve as the “public face” of the organization’s internal team by developing and maintaining relationships with the local federal and state courts and other law-related organizations, including specialty, affinity, and regional bars, local and state government, law school deans and administrators, the media, and members of the legal profession.

How long have you been working at the Bar?

I began my position here on Nov. 21, 2022.

What is your favorite part of your job?

There are many facets of my job that I enjoy, but I would have to say that working with such a dedicated and hard-working Board and internal team is one of the best parts of my job. I have also enjoyed getting to

know the members of the San Diego legal community and look forward to serving them in my role as the Executive Director.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I actually have two movies which would tie for my favorite: Inherit the Wind and A Man for All Seasons The themes of both films focus on qualities in people that I truly value: honesty, ethics, dedication, and a willingness to place principle before self-gain.

What's your favorite quote?

“I believe in one thing — that only a life lived for others is a life worth living.”

What do you love about San Diego?

There are so many aspects to living in San Diego that I love. First and foremost, the people here are very warm and genuine. In the short time I have been here, I have been made to feel so welcome and integrated into the community. Secondly, this is a beautiful city in terms of the weather and topography. I love the proximity to the water, mountains, and desert. San Diego also has an amazing history and enjoys the perfect blend of classical and modern architecture and style. I am very excited to call this city “home.”

SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 41


Who has inspired you through selfless service? We want to recognize these exceptional leaders at the SDCBA's Annual Awards Ceremony & Celebration of Community Service. Awards will be presented for the following categories:

Outstanding Attorney

Outstanding Jurist Service by a New Lawyer Service to Diversity

Service by a Public Attorney Service to the Legal Community Community Service

Distinguished Citizen or Organization

Nominate deserving friends, colleagues, and organizations here:

Experienced Neutrals: Real Estate, HOA, and Business Panel

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• Breach of Contract

• Buyer/Seller/Agent

• Commercial Property

• Corporations, LLCs, Partnerships

• Construction Defects

• Homeowners Associations

• Intellectual Property

• Professional Liability

• Specific Performance

• Title Insurance

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42 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023








We had a fantastic turnout for our annual potluck festival celebrating food from cultures across the globe. Thank you to all of our participating table hosts and everyone who attended!

L to R: Andrew Kagen, Christine Schumacher, Tamra Lett L to R: Yasmin Bigdeli, Khodadad Sharif, Yasaman Sharif, Parisa Shafajoo L to R: Arcelia Magaña, Michelle Chavez, Perla Perez, Paola Valencia Elida Espinoza, Ramona Tumber Heather Carmody, Carrie Holmes A colorful spread at the Tom Homann LGBTQ+ Law Association table L to R: Jodi Cleesattle, Lauren Kim Woon, Nima Shull Members enjoying the potluck Jenn French
44 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023
L to R: Michelle Gastil, Andrew Dizon


We enjoyed a wonderful evening at our annual celebration and swearing-in ceremony. Thank you to everyone who joined us at THE US GRANT to welcome 2023 SDCBA President Melissa Johnson and our incoming Board of Directors.

Special thanks to our Diamond Sponsor Antonyan Miranda; Platinum Sponsor AMBA; Gold Sponsor Klinedinst; and Producing Sponsors CalPrivate Bank, Casetext, CaseyGerry, JAMS, Johnson Heeder, Judicate West, NCRC West Coast Resolution Group, SDCBA Lawyer Referral and Information Service, and Torrey Pines Bank.

L to R: Laura Ashborn, Susanne de la Flor, Kathleen Jones Raya L to R: (Back row) Bill Baldwin, Tom Warwick, Stacey Kartchner, Richard A Huver, Heather L Rosing, Hon Loren G Freestone, David Majchrzak, Lilys D McCoy, (Front row) Kristin E Rizzo, Hon Jill L Burkhardt, Melissa Johnson, Hon Marcella O McLaughlin, Jerrilyn T Malana, Johanna Schiavoni Hon Paula S Rosenstein swears in 2023 SDCBA President Melissa Johnson Melissa Johnson and mom, Cookie L to R: Becky Mendoza, Bhashini Weerasinghe Guests enjoying the photo booth L to R: Nickie White, Lillian Nahar, Joann Sellick
SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023 45
San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Michael Smyth swears in the 2023 SDCBA Board of Directors

THANK YOU 100% CLUB 2023

The San Diego County Bar Association wants to thank all of the San Diego law firms, public agencies, and nonprofit legal organizations that have provided SDCBA membership to 100% of their attorneys in 2023. Your commitment to the San Diego legal community is greatly appreciated.

Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis LLP

Ames Karanjia LLP

Antonyan Miranda, LLP

Appellate Defenders, Inc.

Astuno Sabel Law PC

Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo

Beamer, Lauth, Steinley & Bond, LLP

Bender Kurlander Hernandez & Campbell, APC

Best Best & Krieger LLP

Biomed Realty

Blackmar, Principe & Schmelter APC

Blanchard Krasner & French

Bobbitt, Pinckard& Fields, APC

Brierton Jones & Jones, LLP

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC

Burton Kelley, LLP

Butterfield Schechter LLP

California Western School of Law

Case Harvey Fedor

Christensen & Spath LLP

Cohelan Khoury & Singer

Dean Gazzo Roistacher LLP

Devaney Pate Morris & Cameron, LLP

Dietz, Gilmor & Chazen, APC

District Attorney’s Office of San Diego

Donald R. Holben & Associates, APC

Duckor Metzger & Wynne ALC

Ferris & Britton, APC

Fitzgerald Knaier LLP

Flanagan Law, APC

Fleischer & Ravreby

Gatzke Dillon & Ballance LLP

Goodwin Brown Gross & Lovelace LLP

GrahamHollis APC

Greene & Roberts LLP

Grimm, Vranjes Greer Stephan & Bridgman LLP

Hahn Loeser & Parks, LLP

Hegeler & Anderson APC

Henderson, Caverly, Pum & Trytten LLP

Higgs Fletcher & Mack LLP

Hoffman & Forde

Hooper, Lundy & Bookman, PC

Horton Oberrecht & Kirkpatrick, APC

Hughes & Pizzuto, APC

Jackson Lewis PC

Johnson Fistel LLP

Judkins, Glatt & Rich LLP

Klinedinst PC

Konoske Akiyama | Brust LLP

Kriger Law Firm

Law Offices of Beatrice L. Snider, APC

Legal Aid Society of San Diego, Inc.

Lincoln Gustafson & Cercos LLP

McCloskey Waring Waisman & Drury LLP

McDougal, Love, Eckis, Boehmer, Foley, Lyon & Mitchell

Miller, Monson, Peshel, Polacek & Hoshaw

MoginRubin LLP

Moore, Schulman & Moore, APC

Musick, Peeler & Garrett LLP

Neil, Dymott, Frank, McCabe & Hudson APLC

Noonan Lance Boyer & Banach LLP

Office of the Carlsbad City Attorney

Office of the Public Defender

Office of the San Diego City Attorney

Paul Plevin Quarles

Pettit Kohn Ingrassia Lutz & Dolin PC

Preovolos Lewin, ALC

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP

Rowe | Mullen LLP

San Diego County Counsel

San Diego Unified Port District

Schor Vogelzang & Chung LLP

Schulz Brick & Rogaski

Schwartz Semerdjian Cauley & Evans LLP

Seltzer|Caplan|McMahon|Vitek ALC

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP

Shustak Reynolds & Partners, PC

Solomon Minton Cardinal Doyle & Smith LLP

Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith, LLP

Stokes Wagner, ALC

Sullivan Hill Rez & Engel APLC

Sullivan, McGibbons, Crickard & Associates, LLP

Tresp, Day & Associates, Inc.

Walsh McKean Furcolo LLP

Webb Law Group, APC

Wilson Turner Kosmo LLP

Winet Patrick Gayer Creighton & Hanes ALC

Wingert Grebing Brubaker & Juskie LLP

Wirtz Law APC

Witham Mahoney & Abbott, LLP

Withers Bergman LLP

Wright, L'Estrange & Ergastolo

46 SAN DIEGO LAWYER | January/February 2023
100% Club member list as of January 2023


All information shown is as of January 2023, and subject to change without notice.



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