1. What was the first job you had?
Corporal in the United States Marine Corps
2. What’s your proudest moment as a trial lawyer?
My proudest moment was a case that eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court. To stand in front of a panel of nine justices who we’re told are the greatest legal minds in the world, certainly the country. The government and solicitor general argued that you should not have the right to hire a lawyer of your own choice, saying that the government should be able to decide. I never thought the U.S. Supreme Court would even take that case because, to me, it was so obvious that every person should have the right to choose their own lawyer to tell their own story, and never thought the government would think to take that right from us. But I was wrong.
But what I was right about is that there were enough people on that justice panel who would not take that right from us. And by one vote, one single vote, you are this close to losing your right to a lawyer for the rest of your life. The late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that 5-4 majority decision. U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez, 548 U.S. 140 (2006)
3. I attribute my success to….
My successes are directly a result from mentor Gerry Spence who took me in as his son and has shared with me his knowledge and experience my entire legal career. Also attributed to my success is my passion for fighting for what I love and fighting for my clients.
4. What is your most notable verdict or settlement?
Although I’ve had a record $70.5 million verdict in Kern County, California and a U.S. Supreme Court case where Justice Antonin Scalia issues an opinion that, in effect, that I was one of the best lawyers in the country, I take great pride in my military criminal defense work because it paved the way for expanding and sharpening my legal acumen. I’ll refer to my work in the 2007 internationally televised trial coined “The Pendleton 8.” A jury found Cpl. Marshall Magincalda not guilty of the most serious accusations, capital murder. According to the prosecution, an Iraqi civilian was pulled from his home and shot in 2006. An AK-47 and shovel were placed nearby to make him look like an insurgent planting a bomb, the prosecution alleged. Magincalada and seven others were accused in the slaying.
At Magincalda’s court-martial hearing, I successfully advocated that my client, a three-time combat veteran who received the Purple Heart, be released from prison in order to be in good physical and mental shape for trial. I convinced the jury to acquit Magincalda of premeditated murder, for which he would have received a life sentence and the kidnapping charge.
At the award ceremony, Magincalda elected to have me pin the medal on his chest. In accordance with the Marine Corps tradition, this is a great honor.
5. What is your fantasy job?
It is probably being a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court or running an Innocence Project.
6. What is your guilty pleasure?
I love to cook and baking seasonal fruit pies.
7. What do you like to do in your time off?
Working on the ranch in Wyoming, riding horses, walking in the mountains, long distance target shooting for accuracy and generally letting the pace of life slow down a bit. When I’m not litigating I thoroughly enjoy academia and educating aspiring attorneys about trial advocacy.
8. What’s your favorite hobby?
I like restoring old cars and motorcycles.
9. What’s one word that describes you?
10. What keeps you awake at night?
My clients, and their cases.
11. What newspaper do you generally read daily?
The Los Angeles Daily Journal.
12. What advice would you give a young attorney?
Commit to doing an A+ job in every case you have and you will never have to worry about not having enough work.
Trust your intuition. Listen to your gut. Embrace those times when you feel that you’re the only person in the room who feels a certain way and the masses are against you. You’re likely the only one who is right. Don’t give up.
When you feel the most frustrated, that is the time you should become the most excited. Frustration means you care. What it also says is that you’re on the verge of a breakthrough. That’s an exciting time. Get more frustrated because you’re going to solve a problem.
13. How do you relax?
I bake and I cook, and I’ll also play the drums, which is therapeutic as well.
14. What’s your most embarrassing moment in life?
When I got emotional during a closing argument in front of a Marine Corps judge and jury, the judge recessed the court and told me to come back when I could compose myself.