Melissa grew up locally in the South Bay. She obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Berkeley and received her JD/MPA, a dual degree in law and public affairs, from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She earned her JD/MPA degree in three and a half rather than four years, completing her last semester as a visiting student at Northwestern University in Chicago.
Prior to attending law school, Melissa worked as a capital habeas investigator at the California Appellate Project in San Francisco. Her job involved paralegal responsibilities like requesting guilt and penalty phase documents and compiling multi-generational social histories; however, she was also responsible for classic investigator work like conducting guilt and penalty phase interviews including interviews of jurors and client’s family members. The job often involved extensive travel.
Following law school, Melissa joined the Federal Defender’s Office in Sacramento, CA. During her tenure, she contributed to the Capital Habeas Unit, supervised the misdemeanor unit, and was involved in federal trials and non-capital appeals. She also argued before the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.
After a few years at the Federal Defender’s Office, Melissa began working at the LA County Public Defender’s Office. During her three and a half years as a Deputy Public Defender, she tried 35 cases, skipping the usual juvenile rotation and quickly getting promoted to felonies. She obtained not guilty verdicts in the majority of those trials.
After leaving the PD’s Office, Melissa became a solo private practitioner, continuing to represent adult and juvenile clients in trials, appeals and postconviction work.
In 2022, Melissa began contracting with Bruce Mandel’s law office, developing her ability to practice family law under Mr. Mandel’s experienced supervision while continuing to practice criminal law. Melissa has discovered that she really enjoys family law-related issues, especially child custody and visitation. She finds family law to be surprisingly similar to juvenile criminal practice, making the transition comfortable and relatively seamless.
Melissa’s goal is to help clients obtain the best resolution possible for their particular situation. If dismissal, diversion, or a suspended sentence is a possibility, she will do whatever it takes to obtain that outcome. However, if a client’s situation is more complex, Melissa will work with investigators and other experts to develop guilt and mitigation evidence. She will then utilize that information to obtain the best possible plea deal, the best possible result at trial, the best possible plea deal, result at trial, or postconviction relief outcome.