bus didn’t come. Now the bus comes and
Q: How did it turn out?
as it turns the corner, it looks like it’s going
to stop. She expects it to stop, because it
stopped for her every other time. This time,
for whatever reason, the bus driver doesn’t
and then just drives, panics, keeps going
for 100 feet and keeps running her over:
front wheels, back wheels.”
Suddenly, the bus company [Alameda-
Contra Costa Transit District] is faced
with a situation of, wait a second. This
is a professional driver. She knows this
particular bus stop. She needs to be
careful. All of a sudden, from being 100
percent our client’s fault, I think we were
able to change the story, change the
narrative, to make AC Transit understand
there was responsibility. That’s their job,
to be on the lookout for passengers and
to stop for them. [Editor’s note: Defense
contended that Lee ran in front of the
bus and another vehicle; and that the
bus driver looked to the right but saw no
passengers and drove on, and saw Lee
seconds before impact but couldn’t stop
A: $20.4 million. It was the largest amount
ever paid by any bus company in the
state—private or public—to an individual,
ever. This was a settlement shortly before
So that’s what I mean about changing
the narrative. When you get a case,
typically you get the police reports, you
get some things and you get a story, but
it’s not necessarily the truth. It’s not that
the police are lying, but they’re just busy.
They’re focusing on a lot of things on their
plate. You just have to start from fresh. Go
to the scene. Start all over.
Q: Going into law wasn’t your original
plan as an undergrad, right?
A: I was in early childhood education.
Q: Quite a change.
A: Big jump. While I was at Berkeley, I
was working at a preschool, and then was
finishing up my degree at Antioch. I was
interning at a rural elementary school in
Ohio, and it suddenly dawned on me that
I just felt too isolated and removed from
what was going on in society.
Between the Vietnam War and
watching Watergate unfold and all the
lawyers—both being examined and
cross-examining the witnesses—I was
fascinated. Law school seemed to be a
logical place for me to get more involved
Q: And you started out as a criminal
A: Berkeley gave me the freedom to go
get engaged. After your first year, you
could engage yourself in public service or
go intern or work. One of the programs
was with the Alameda County Public
Defender’s Office. Starting my second
year, I was down there every minute that
I could, because that’s where I wanted to
be: criminal law, representing indigent
defendants who couldn’t afford counsel.
Then after I graduated … a friend of mine
from the Public Defender’s Office—Jeff
Tauber, who later became a judge—
and I formed a criminal law practice in
Mostly court-appointed, indigent work.
Q: And you’re still involved in helping
You start and you work your way up the
ladder to more serious cases. Because it
was sort of a natural inclination of mine
to work with kids, I started in the juvenile
court system. I’d represent the indigent
minor either in a custody hearing, or
they would be arrested for burglary or
shoplifting or robbery.
A: This is my 15th year teaching mock trial
at Miramonte High School. It’s a great
program—a lot of work, but it’s something
we feel really strongly about. We helped
financially when the courts got cut back.
The programs were at risk—not only mock
trial, but AcaDeca [Academic Decathlon],
Model UN. Our law firm is a major donor
to the Academic Events program at Contra
Costa County [Office of Education].
Opening the courts at night for the
kids to come in requires overtime for the
sheriffs, and they can’t just let the kids
run around in the courts unchaperoned.
The metal detectors are still there and the
guards are there. So it’s quite an expense.
Q: Why is it important to hold these
things in the actual courthouse?
A: The kids are in the halls of justice.
The courtrooms are big and kind of
intimidating. They have to get through
that. Being in the courtroom, having a
judge sit up higher than them; some
person who’s two or three times older
than they are, grilling them with questions
about different evidentiary rules—they’re
in awe at first, and then they learn critical
thinking, how to deal with adults, how to
work under pressure, even if they don’t go
off to law school.
You watch the kids mature in the
program. They’re gawky. They haven’t
grown into their bodies or their voices or
their confidence. I love to work with the