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Kazan Law Wins $12 Million in Compensatory Damages Against J&J and Colgate in Talc Trial

Earlier this year, Denyse Clancy and Joseph D. Satterley, partners at Kazan Law, secured $12 million in compensatory damages on behalf of Patricia Schmitz in a jury trial against Johnson & Johnson and Colgate-Palmolive. Schmitz has mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer that only occurs after a person has been exposed to asbestos, and the California jury agreed that her disease was a result of using various products containing talc.

Recent revelations have brought to light the fact that various products containing talc also contained harmful asbestos, and that the companies manufacturing these products were aware of the danger but continued to market their products in spite of the risk to consumers. Some of the talc-containing products Ms. Schmitz used included Johnson & Johnson baby powder, Colgate’s Cashmere Bouquet, and Avon’s Night Magic.

This is the third consecutive victory for Kazan Law in litigation regarding talc products causing cancer. In 2018, Ms. Clancy and Mr. Satterley obtained a $117 million verdict against J&J in New Jersey, and they secured a $29.5 million verdict against the company in Alameda County, California.


Protecting Your Rights after a Talc-Related Injury

If a doctor has diagnosed you with mesothelioma and you have used products that contained talc in the past, there are certain steps you should take to protect your rights. Be sure to make a list of any products in the past that have contained talc and the approximate dates of use. Some products that have tested positive for asbestos include:

  • Blush
  • Eye shadow
  • Baby powder
  • Crayons

Next, call an attorney as soon as you can, and be sure not to accept any money from the manufacturer until you have had a chance to retain a lawyer to represent you.


Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with a Talc Litigation Attorney

Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, and other companies that put dangerous products on the market need to be held accountable for the harm they have caused consumers. If you have developed mesothelioma that you believe may be linked to the use of products containing talc, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately.

Since 1974, the lawyers of Kazan Law have been helping people hurt by asbestos exposure obtain compensation for their disease-related losses. To schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced talcum powder attorney, call our office today at 888-887-1238 or contact us online.

Kazan Firm Wins $29.5 Million Mesothelioma Verdict Against Johnson & Johnson

Paralleling a similar verdict won in April of 2018, a California jury recently awarded clients of Kazan Law  damages totaling $29.5 million. The landmark verdict represents compensatory damages that Kazan clients Teresa Leavitt and her husband, Dean McElroy, suffered as a result of the mesothelioma Mrs. Leavitt contracted from exposure to the asbestos in Johnson’s Baby Powder – arguably the baby powder gold-standard for many decades. The couple is represented by a legal team made up of attorneys from both Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PC, and Levy Konigsberg, LLP.


The Defendants, Responsibility, and Damages

Those defendants ordered to pay the $29.5 million verdict include three entities:

  • Johnson & Johnson (J&J)
  • Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc.
  • Cyprus Mines Corporation (Cyprus) – a talc supplier

The jury determined after extensive deliberation, that J&J bore 98 percent of the responsibility for Mrs. Leavitt’s injuries and that Cyprus bore the remaining 2 percent of responsibility. The verdict includes $22 million for Mrs. Leavitt’s past and future pain and suffering caused by the mesothelioma, $5 million for her husband’s spousal damages, which are also known as loss of consortium and loss of services and society, and $2.5 million for economic damages, including medical expenses and lost earnings.


Jury’s Findings

The jury’s findings on several important elements ultimately led to the final verdict in favor of the couple: 

  • Mrs. Leavitt’s use of Johnson’s Baby Powder was a substantial cause of her mesothelioma.
  • J&J and Cyprus failed to provide adequate warning regarding the dangers of asbestos, such as that found in their talc.
  • J&J intentionally withheld information regarding the risks associated with the talc found in their famous baby powder.


Supporting Evidence

Evidence in support of this verdict included multiple internal documents issued by both J&J and Cyprus that prove both defendants knew – as early as the 1960s – that the talc used to manufacture Johnson’s baby powder and Johnson and Johnson’s Shower to Shower products contained asbestos. In response to their initial discovery of this dangerous fact, J&J – and some other manufacturers of talcum powder – opted out of replacing the tainted talc with an alternative substance like cornstarch and, instead, implemented a testing mechanism that couldn’t detect the asbestos and, thus, attempted to absolve themselves of potential fault. The jury saw through this attempt.

The evidence presented mirrored evidence from the April 2018 case. It was, however, the first J&J talc-related trial to be completed following reporting from the New York Times and Reuters that established J&J’s long-term awareness of the asbestos issue and its decision to keep the information from both the public and government regulators.



The plaintiffs, Teresa Leavitt and Dean McElroy, are represented by a legal team that includes Joseph Satterley and Denyse Clancy of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PC, of Oakland, California, and Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg, LLP, based in New York and New Jersey.


Call Kazan Law Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Talcum Powder Lawyer

To schedule a free case evaluation with an attorney, call Kazan Law today at 888-887-1238 or contact us online.

More Bad News for J&J as It Gets Hit with Federal Subpoenas from SEC and DOJ

The bad news just keeps coming for Johnson & Johnson. As we blogged about in January, in late 2018, Reuters issued a report that alleged that internal documents uncovered in the course of litigation indicate that Johnson & Johnson was aware of the fact that its talc contained asbestos for several decades. In late February, the company announced that it received subpoenas from both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) in relation to litigation involving alleged asbestos in its talc-based Baby Powder product line.

According to J&J, this is the first time that the company has disclosed that is has received subpoenas from federal agencies and that it intends to fully cooperate with them. In addition, the company stated that the federal inquiries “are related to news reports that included inaccurate statements and also withheld crucial information.”


You May Be Entitled to Significant Compensation

If you have used Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder or other talc-containing products and developed mesothelioma, it’s possible that you are legally entitled to significant compensation. In 2018, our law firm secured a $117 jury verdict on behalf of a lifelong baby powder user who developed mesothelioma. According to lead trial attorney Joe Satterley, “Johnson & Johnson and its supplier Imerys knew since the 1960’s that the talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos, and that this might cause the companies to face litigation risks forty years in the future. Now, just as Johnson & Johnson’s confidential documents predicted, my client, a lifelong baby powder user, developed mesothelioma.”


Call Kazan Law Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with an Attorney

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after exposure to talc or otherwise, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The mesothelioma attorneys of Kazan Law have been helping mesothelioma victims and their families since 1974 and will review the facts of your case at no cost to you. To schedule your free case evaluation with a lawyer, call our office today at 888-887-1238, fill out the contact form on this page, or utilize our live chat widget.

Reuters: J&J Continued to Sell Talc Products for Years Despite Being Aware of the Risks

Talc baby powder asbestos mesotheliomaAn explosive report filed by Reuters late last year alleges that internal documents show that Johnson & Johnson was aware of the fact that its baby powder contained cancer-causing asbestos for decades. According to the news agency, an examination of records that were made available in the course of litigation indicates that the J&J’s raw talc powder sometimes tested positive for asbestos. In addition, these documents suggest that the company’s executives, lawyers, doctors, and mine managers all worried about the issue but failed to disclose it to regulators or the general public.

Reuters explained that the evidence of what the company knew and when it knew it finally came to light after people who suspected that their cancer was related to talc use hired attorneys who had experience representing workers that had been exposed to asbestos.  Reuters reported that those attorneys knew from their earlier work that talc producers often tested for asbestos and demanded to see J&J’s records.

No Safe Levels of Exposure

According to the World Health Organization, there is no safe level of asbestos exposure. While it is certainly true that not everyone who is exposed to asbestos develops cancer, even a limited amount of exposure over time is sufficient to trigger the disease. Furthermore, there is a long latency period between exposure and adverse effects. In the case of mesothelioma, the latency period can be as long as 50 years. This means that even if current Johnson & Johnson talc products are not contaminated with asbestos, people can still get cancer from contaminated batches from decades ago. As a result, if you have developed mesothelioma or any other form of cancer that could be linked to asbestos and used products containing talc at any point in your life, you should discuss your case with an attorney as soon as you can.

Plaintiffs Have Recovered Significant Compensation

In recent years, plaintiffs have successfully sued Johnson & Johnson and Imerys, linking the use of its products to both mesothelioma and ovarian cancer. Just last year, the lawyers at Kazan Law won a $117 million verdict on behalf of 45-year old mesothelioma victim Steven Lanzo. According to lead trial attorney and Kazan Law partner Joe Satterley, “Johnson & Johnson and its supplier Imerys knew since the 1960’s that the talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos, and that this might cause the companies to face litigation risks forty years in the future. Now, just as Johnson & Johnson’s confidential documents predicted, my client, a lifelong baby powder user, developed mesothelioma.”

Call Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma after using talc-based products, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. Since 1974, the lawyers of Kazan Law have been helping mesothelioma victims obtain the compensation they deserve and have the skill and experience required to bring your case to the best resolution possible. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys, call us today at 888-887-1238 or contact us by filling out the form on this page or by using the live chat widget.

What to Look for When Researching Mesothelioma Law Firms

Kazan Law Mesothelioma LawyersIf you’ve found yourself on this page, chances are that you are looking into mesothelioma law firms, either for yourself or for a loved one who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. As you’re probably well aware, mesothelioma is a specific type of cancer that only occurs after a person has been exposed to asbestos. Due to federal and state law, people who have been exposed to asbestos and develop mesothelioma are entitled to compensation.

Unfortunately, obtaining compensation is not as simple as letting your employer know that you have mesothelioma and collecting a check. While it’s patently unfair, victims often have to jump through certain hoops to get the compensation they deserve. In addition, the way that your claim is handled can have a significant impact on the amount of compensation you ultimately recover.

For this reason, it’s highly advisable for anyone seeking compensation for mesothelioma to retain the services of a mesothelioma law firm to represent them during the claims process. Not surprisingly, there is no shortage of law firms and attorneys that all claim to be the best in the business for your claim. So how are victims supposed to make an informed choice? Fortunately, there are objective factors that can help you make the right decision. Here are a few of the things that you should look for when researching a mesothelioma law firm.

Experience Counts

Mesothelioma cases are very different from other areas of law, which is why certain law firms choose to focus only on handling these kinds of claims. For this reason, it’s highly advisable for anyone seeking mesothelioma representation to retain an attorney who specializes in mesothelioma claims, as opposed to a generalist personal injury or product liability attorney. Look for a firm with many years of experience in the field and that only represents people with mesothelioma.

The Firm Should Do the Heavy Lifting

As a person suffering from mesothelioma, you should not be expected to handle your claim on your own when you have retained a law firm to represent you. Before you choose a mesothelioma law firm, you should make sure that they will handle every aspect of your claim on your behalf. They should come to you for meetings, research your exposure to asbestos, request and review your medical records, and handle any communications with Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Funds, insurance companies or claims administrators on your behalf.

You Should Never Pay Up-Front

If a law firm ever asks you for money before agreeing to take on your mesothelioma case, walk out of the office or hang up the phone immediately. The overwhelming majority of qualified mesothelioma law firms work on a contingency fee-basis, which means that they will only get paid if you recover compensation. If you do not, you will not owe the law firm anything. This type of arrangement incentivizes law firms to get you as much compensation as possible and ensures that your lawyer has a reasonably strong belief that you have a case.

Case Results

Finally, you should look at a firm’s previous case results. While past results are no guarantee of future success, previous settlements and awards can give you a pretty good idea as to how good a firm is at helping clients maximize the compensation they receive. While obtaining the maximum compensation available will not cure the disease, it can help you and your family achieve financial security and feel that justice has been done.

Call Kazan Law Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Mesothelioma Lawyer

If you or a loved one has mesothelioma, there’s a good chance that you or your family member is entitled to compensation. Remember, mesothelioma only occurs as a result of exposure to asbestos and the asbestos companies have an absolute duty to protect their customers and the public from such exposure. At Kazan Law, we are committed to helping mesothelioma victims and their families obtain the compensation to which they are entitled by seeking the largest possible settlement or award on your behalf. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced mesothelioma lawyers, call our office today at 888-887-1238 or contact us online.



Kazan Law Receives 8th Guardian of Justice Award from Alameda County Bar Association

Kazan Law AwardFor the eighth consecutive year, Kazan Law has received the Guardian of Justice award from the Alameda County Bar Association’s Volunteer Legal Services Corporation (VLSC).

The award, presented to Kazan Law on Oct. 25, is given to firms that have demonstrated the highest commitment to providing legal services to low-income people in Alameda County. “We greatly appreciate this award and we are honored to support VLSC, which works tirelessly to ensure that the scales of justice remain in balance,” said Steven Kazan, founding, senior and managing partner at Kazan Law.

VLSC provides free legal assistance to Alameda County’s low-income population by mobilizing volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono service. VLSC matches trained volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law school graduates with low-income clients in need of critical legal services—services such as ensuring that a child has a safe and stable home, shielding a patient from financial ruin, or protecting a parent’s right to custody and visitation. VLSC is the largest provider of pro bono legal services in the county.

VLSC created the Guardians of Justice campaign so that large firms, small firms, local businesses, solo practitioners, and individuals can help VLSC bridge the justice gap in our community. Guardians of Justice help:

  • Sustain and enhance our current programs, including 30 legal clinics a month in the areas of family law, domestic violence; bankruptcy, guardianship, and landlord-tenant disputes.
  • Provide training, mentoring and malpractice insurance to our dedicated volunteer attorneys, paralegals, and law school graduates.
  • Develop additional programs to meet the existing and growing need for legal services in Alameda County.

Kazan Law advocates for the rights of people exposed to asbestos through the negligence of often big and powerful interests, and the firm supports a legal system that protects all community members equally.

Kazan Mcclain Partners’ Foundation to Be Recognized by Stanford University for Donations to Cancer Research

Stanford Donation Kazan LawKazan McClain Partners’ Foundation is proud to announce that Stanford University plans to include the foundation’s name on the donor recognition wall of the university’s new hospital, which is scheduled to open in 2019.

Through the generous donations of Kazan clients to the Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation, the foundation gave a total of $800,000 to Stanford University Cancer Institute from 2012 through 2016. The donation was part of the Campaign for Stanford Medicine, which raised funds for new cancer treatments, the new hospital and biomedical innovations.

The foundation would like to express its deepest thanks to clients Martin Grigg and his late wife Rose-Marie Grigg, Nancy Karidis-Koepke and her late husband Harold Koepke, and Timothy and Caroline Vest for their enormous contributions. The Grigg, Karidis-Koepke and Vest family names also will be listed on the donor recognition wall of Stanford’s new hospital.

“We were honored to help our clients support Stanford’s cancer research in the hopes that other families may be spared the ravages of mesothelioma in the years to come,” said Steven Kazan, treasurer of Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation and founder of Kazan Law.

The donor recognition wall, which will be a permanent fixture in the main atrium of Stanford’s new state-of-the-art hospital, will honor individuals and organizations that made gifts of $100,000 or more during the Campaign for Stanford Medicine.

Steven Kazan is one of the nation’s preeminent and most experienced asbestos litigation attorneys. For the past 44 years, he and the law firm he founded have represented hundreds of injured workers suffering from asbestos-related mesothelioma in some of the most high-profile cases in history, against Johns-Manville, Fibreboard, Johnson & Johnson, and others.

Steven’s groundbreaking work has helped victims and their families redress the wrongs done to them, and his work has prompted changes in asbestos law that benefit victims. He is also active in helping to improve workplaces through education and legislative advocacy.

In 1994, Steven and his firm established the Kazan McClain Partners’ Foundation Inc. to support institutions that fight for the little guy and provide funding for mesothelioma research. To date, the foundation has given out more than $20 million in grant money to help make a difference in people’s lives. The foundation has worked with University of Chicago researchers to fund pleural mesothelioma research, which was presented at the International Mesothelioma Interest Group conference in May 2018. The foundation also supports thoracic cancer programs at UCSF and Stanford.

Kazan Law Partner Supported Broussard Scholarship Foundation Announces 2018 Scholarship Recipients

In Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1929, future California Supreme Court Associate Justice Allen E. Broussard was born. When the Depression hit, his family moved to the Bay Area to seek better opportunity.  To pay his way through San Francisco City College, UC Berkeley and Berkeley Law School, Justice Broussard sold shoes and worked in a canning plant. As a student, he started his lifelong effort to promote equal rights for African Americans in the workplace. In 1964 he became one of California’s first African American judges, and in 1981 Governor Jerry Brown appointed him to the State Supreme Court where he served for 10 years, writing many of the Court’s majority opinions.


Broussard Scholarship Established in 1996

The Allen E. Broussard Scholarship Fund was established in 1996 after Justice Broussard’s death, and was incorporated as the Allen E. Broussard Scholarship Foundation in 1999. The goal of the foundation was to continue Justice Broussard’s work to make sure all minorities are given the opportunity to rise and “take a place at the table,” as he was fond of saying.  In 2008, Steven Kazan of the Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, A Professional Corporation, became President of the Broussard Scholarship Foundation, and for the past eight years has awarded scholarships to law students to continue Justice Broussard’s mission to diversify the law profession. 


Kazan Law Foundation Helps Support the Broussard Scholarships

Several of us here at Kazan Law have had the privilege of working with Justice Broussard during our legal careers. We are proud that our Firm’s foundation annually helps support the Allen E. Broussard Scholarship Foundation scholarship awards.  Having served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Allen E. Broussard Law School Scholarship Foundation for over a decade, I am honored each year to present three or more academically qualified students from economically challenged backgrounds with a $5,000 scholarship. This award is the largest private scholarship award for law students attending California Bay Area law schools. Three students received the award this year.


The 2018 Broussard Scholarship Recipients

Chelsea Davis is a second-year student at Berkeley School of Law.  Her interests in law and supporting her local community were significantly influenced by her father, who was a police officer. Chelsea pursued her interest in public service as a 2015-2016 California State Senate Fellow for Representative Holly Mitchell, where she managed four bills, one of which was signed into law. As a Berkeley Law student, she contributes to the Berkeley Journal of African American Law & Policy, and is a member of the Law Students of African Descent, Women of Color Collective, and First Generation Professionals. Chelsea graduated cum laude from UCLA in 2015 with a degree in Political Science and African-American Studies. Chelsea has also served as an intern for the NAACP and Housing & Economics Rights Advocates (HERA).  Chelsea’s application demonstrated academic excellence, interest in public law, and strong roots in the Alameda County community.

Anya Ku is a first-year law student at Berkeley Law School and a proud product of the Oakland public school and Peralta Community College systems. While attending Berkeley City College, Anya co-authored a local, best-selling book, Flavors of Oakland. After community college, Anya transferred to UC Berkeley and graduated in 2017 with a BA in Political Science.  At Berkeley Law, Anya is co-chair of the La Raza Law Students’ Association and an articles editor for the La Raza Law Journal. This summer, Anya will be at the California Attorney General’s Bureau of Children’s Justice doing research and policy advocacy for children in foster care, children that have faced discrimination in education, and victims of trafficking and trauma. This will be a perfect preview for her career goal of representing children in guardianship cases. One day you might even see her on the bench!

Samson Lim is the National Director of Graduate and Fellowship Programs at The Posse Foundation, a college access and youth leadership development program that awards four-year, full-tuition scholarships to high school seniors with extraordinary academic and leadership potential. Previously, Sam founded Scholarship Junkies, scholarship resource program, and led the University of Washington Dream Project, a college access program. Sam was a U.S. Student Fulbright Scholar and Humanity in Action Fellow in Berlin, Germany, where he researched the relationship between access to higher education and social mobility. Sam holds a Master of Arts in Education Policy from Teachers College, Columbia University in New York and a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies (Development) from the University of Washington in Seattle. Sam will pursue his JD at UC Berkeley School of Law, beginning in the fall of 2018.


Kazan Firm Wins $117 Million Johnson & Johnson’s Talc Baby Powder Verdict

Johnson & Johnson Baby Powder Mesothelioma Trial Team

Pictured: The trial team included Joseph Satterley (left) and Denyse Clancy (right) from Kazan Law and Moshe Maimon (middle) from Levy Konigsberg LLP.

Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, PC of Oakland, CA announces a $117 million verdict for their clients Stephen and Kendra Lanzo, formerly of Lafayette, CA. A jury this week found that Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos, and that Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. and its supplier Imerys Talc America, Inc. failed to adequately warn consumers of this fact, and further that Johnson & Johnson had a safer alternative design in cornstarch.

The jury awarded the Lanzo’s $37 million dollars as compensation for Stephen Lanzo’s asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, with 70% to Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. and 30% to Imerys Talc America, Inc. The jury also awarded $80 million in punitive damages.

Trial counsel Joe Satterley explained that this historic victory was based on newly revealed confidential documents: “For the first time the jury was allowed to see secret, internal company documents showing that these companies knew that Johnson’s talc Baby Powder contains asbestos. As a result, the jury unanimously found that Johnson’s Baby Powder contained asbestos. Johnson & Johnson should stop selling Johnson’s talc Baby Powder and replace it with cornstarch.”

The confidential company documents also revealed that Johnson & Johnson in 1969 created “Project 101.” Project 101 showed that Johnson’s talc Baby Powder contained asbestos, and that it could cause cancer. Project 101 warned that in “forty years” the company could face litigation. In 1975, Johnson & Johnson’s talc mining subsidiary noted the presence of asbestos in the Vermont talc used in Johnson’s Baby Powder, and warned that it was a “severe health hazard.”

Imerys Talc America, headquartered San Jose, California, is the exclusive talc supplier to Johnson’s Baby Powder in North America. Imerys had also found asbestos in the Vermont talc mines in 1975, yet proceeded to purchase these mines and sell this talc for use in Johnson’s Baby Powder. An internal email revealed that Imerys failed to test the talc supplied for Johnson’s Baby Powder for four years, despite certifying to its customers that it had done so. Imerys’ confidential documents also showed that Imerys fought off regulation of its talc sales by creating “confusion” with the regulatory agencies, and by turning its regulatory efforts into a “game” as set forth on a “License to Market” monopoly board. On this board, a skull and cross bones and “DANGER” were placed next to squares marked “Public perception” and “Litigation.”

The case name is Stephen and Kendra Lanzo v. Johnson & Johnson Consumer, Inc. and Imerys Talc America, Inc. The Lanzo’s were represented at trial by Joseph Satterley and Denyse Clancy of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, P.C of Oakland, California and by Moshe Maimon of New York and New Jersey- based Levy Konigsberg, L.L.P.

Kazan Law Applauds the Appointment of Judge Rafael Vazquez

Kazan Law is proud to announce that one of its former associate attorneys has just become one of the newest judges on the California bench. In December of 2017, Rafael Vazquez, 42, was among 33 new judges appointed by Governor Jerry Brown. Judge Rafael Vazquez will serve in the Monterey County Superior Court.

Humble Beginnings for Judge Rafael Vazquez

The fact that he was appointed to a judgeship at so young an age is no small accomplishment for Judge Rafael Vazquez. He grew up in King City in Monterey County, the son of immigrant parents. His teachers and coaches at King City High School encouraged him to dream big and seek out a college education.

After he graduated from high school in 1993, Rafael started his college career at Hartnell Community College in Salinas, then transferred to San Jose State. While he was at San Jose State, his teachers recognized his potential for success and suggested that he apply to law school.

Rafael finished his undergraduate work in 2000 with a degree in criminal justice. He went on to get his Master’s degree from San Jose State a year later. Rafael was a law clerk in the law-and-motion department at Kazan Law while he attended the University Of San Francisco School of Law. It was there he met Dianna Lyons, a Kazan Law partner (now retired) who became an important mentor to Rafael as he advanced his legal career.

After he completed his law degree in 2004, Rafael went to work for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office as a deputy district attorney. In in 2007, he took a job at a law firm and, in 2008, he returned to Kazan Law as an associate attorney. He left the firm to become an assistant D.A. for Santa Cruz County.

During his time as a D.A., Rafael prosecuted some high-profile cases, including the case of a teenager who committed a high-profile murder of a young girl in 2015. He felt the crime was premeditated and that the teen should not be back on the streets any time soon. He recently succeeded in moving that case to the adult courts, where the defendant is more likely to get a tougher sentence.

After practicing law for just 13 years, Rafael was elevated to the bench on February 2, 2018.

Finding a Mentor at Kazan Law

Judge Rafael Vazquez

From left to right, Kazan Law partner (retired) Dianna Lyons, Judge Rafael Vazquez, Kazan Law associate Ian Rivamonte

One of the people most excited to attend the investiture of Judge Rafael Vazquez was Dianna Lyons, who has stayed in touch with her former law clerk through the years. The investiture of a judge is the ceremony where an appointed judge is formally given his post. Judge Rafael Vazquez used the opportunity to remember the mentorship he received from Dianna at Kazan Law. In this early legal experience, Dianna’s guidance helped Rafael get his start as a lawyer. She made an impression that has stayed with him to this day.

When Rafael came back to Kazan Law in 2008, he didn’t work directly with Dianna, but she continued to support his development as a lawyer. He particularly appreciated Dianna’s perspective on maintaining work-life balance as an attorney.

Dianna was just one in a long line of people who saw Rafael’s promise and gave him the leg up he needed to move to the next level. At Kazan Law, we are honored to have played a part in the training of someone as bright and motivated as Rafael. We are humbled to have Judge Rafael Vazquez among our alumni.

A Showing of Support for Judge Rafael Vazquez

Judge Vazquez California

Judge Vazquez addressing the audience during the investiture at the Monterey County Government Center

Dianna Lyons wasn’t the only distinguished guest present to celebrate the elevation of Judge Rafael Vazquez. Congressman Jimmy Panetta, who represents the 20th District (Monterey, San Benito, and part of Santa Cruz counties) in Washington, was in attendance as well. Rafael and Jimmy met when they both worked for the D.A.’s office in Alameda County and they have remained close friends ever since.

Jimmy’s father Leon Panetta was also on hand to celebrate Rafael’s judicial appointment. Leon Panetta represented the same part of California that his son now serves for 16 years, until he left to be Chief of Staff for Bill Clinton in 1994. More recently, Leon Panetta served as the Secretary of Defense and CIA Director under Barack Obama and he’s another inspirational figure for Rafael.

Perhaps the most important people at the ceremony were also named Vazquez: Judge Rafael Vazquez’s three children, Apollonia, Vianni, and Trajan, along with his wife, Yvette.

Judge Rafael Vazquez Represents California’s Legal Future

In Monterey County, where almost 60 percent of county residents are Latino, only 16 percent of the judges have been Latino in recent years. The elevation of Judge Rafael Vazquez to the bench will help make the county’s judges more representative of the population.

As a first-generation American with immigrant parents, Rafael is in a better position than most to understand the life histories of many of the people who will pass through his courtroom. His contributions to his community won’t be limited to the courtroom; he has a history of community service that will serve him well as a member of the judiciary. He mentors young people in Salinas, where he lives. He has also done work to safeguard female farm workers from sexual harassment and assault. He is passing on to others the leg up that helped launch him on his legal career.

People like Rafael represent the future of the judiciary: smart, talented legal minds from a broad range of backgrounds who will bring many perspectives to the cases they hear. Perhaps most important, Rafael sets an example for others. Kids in Monterey County who live in immigrant families like his can see his example and know that, if a kid from King City can grow up to be Judge Rafael Vazquez, they can too.

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