I was born in Baltimore, Maryland and spent my childhood moving where the aerospace industry led my father, whose college degree was in engineering. I learned from him the love of science and mathematics. We moved to New Mexico, then Colorado and finally to Southern California where I spent my formative years. My mother was a homemaker and grammar school teacher. She and her mother both earned college degrees in English, and drilled into me the proper usage of the English language. My grandmother was also an accomplished pianist and lived with us or near us during my younger years. She inspired my passion for music and taught me to sing harmony and arrange multi-part vocals. She hoped I would learn to play piano, but it was the guitar that stole my musical heart.
I first entered college in 1968 at UC, Santa Barbara at age 17. However, I left to pursue a career in music and worked professionally in bands playing lead guitar, mandolin, and petal steel guitar. I performed everything from surf music and rock 'n roll in junior high and high school to bluegrass, country, and jazz over the next 22 years.
In 1976 I moved to the Chico, CA area, where I met the love of my life, Jane Martin. In 1988 I decided to leave the musician's life to return to college at CSU, Chico and complete my undergraduate work. During this time, I rediscovered my love of math and science and earned a degree in Geology, with Honors. After graduation, with the encouragement of attorney friends in Chico, CA, going to law school seemed a perfectly logical move to round out my understanding of the world.
I have practiced family law since November, 1995, and became a public defender for juvenile dependency law (CPS) clients in 1997. I have literally thousands of hours of courtroom experience. While I make every effort to try to help clients settle out of court, if agreement cannot be reached, I’m not intimidated by hearings or court trials. I know when and how to settle cases without resorting to litigation, if at all possible.
My firm is a solo, hands-on “boutique” practice. My wife, Jane Martin, assists me as a paralegal in adoption, guardianship, conservatorship and some family law cases. She also provides paralegal help and legal document preparation to self-represented clients through the paralegal part of Access Court Services. After consultation, some clients who cannot afford to hire an attorney at the time and have an uncontested case don’t need to pay an attorney. I am available to provide hourly consultations and help direct how to procedurally approach the case while Jane can provide all of the paperwork at paralegal prices. If full representation becomes necessary, any self-represented client can substitute me or any chosen attorney into his or her case at any time.
Because I have been a musician and performer for over four decades, I am comfortable and experienced both on stage and in the courtroom - a stage of a different kind. Since law is my second career, I bring my life experience as well as practical legal knowledge to my cases. I speak plainly and clearly to our clients about the law, how it impacts them, their family and their circumstances. Our goal is to be there for each step of the way during their cases to guide them. I try to be available to answer my own telephone and return messages as promptly as possible. I do my own legal research, draft my own briefs, and know the law and rules of court and evidence. If an issue arises that I am not versed in, I know how to find the right answers, or direct clients to other attorneys or sources of information.
Having been called compassionate and understanding in my role as an attorney makes me proud. As a part-time public defender under contract with the Napa Superior Court and state Administrative Office of the Courts, I represent parents whose children have been removed from them by CPS. I also am appointed by the Napa Court to represent children in high-conflict family law cases. I consider myself very child-oriented in my approach to representing parents and children in divorce, paternity and juvenile dependency cases.
As a matter of course I have worked with and/or cross-examined psychological, medical and other experts in my family law and juvenile practice and have developed a good working knowledge of child development issues, psychological disorders in children and adults, psychiatric medications, drug and alcohol abuse and rehabilitation, etc. My experience includes domestic violence cases and how DV factors may affect custody, support or juvenile dependency case. I always keep in mind what is in the best interests of children and non-offending parties, and I make every effort to keep them safe from harm. We always want to see children have healthy relationships with both parents, if possible.