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Family Law finalists

David Gebhardt

Centara Legal Group, APC

8880 Rio San Diego Drive, Fourth Floor

San Diego, CA 92108

dgebhardt@centaralegal.com

(619) 398-1700

Education

Law School/Year: University of San Diego/2000

College/Year: Colorado State University, 1997

Bar Admissions

California

Practice Areas

Criminal Law, Estate Planning, Probate and Trust

Professional background

Principal of Centara Legal Group, APC, specializing in tax planning.

Professional affiliations

Member of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, San Diego County Bar Association


Mary Gillick

Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps, LLP

600 W. Broadway, Suite 2600

San Diego, CA 92101

mgillick@luce.com

(619) 699-3459

Education

Law School/Year: University of San Diego/1984, magna cum laude

College/Year: University of Maryland/1972

Bar admissions

California

Practice areas

Probate and Trust

Major cases you have participated in

My cases are intellectually challenging and emotionally charged. A particularly contentious dispute among siblings over the multimillion-dollar estates left by their parents involved accounting, copyright, valuation of assets, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract and similar issues. Settlement of a trust dispute involving approximately $100,000,000 is in the process of implementation. I have tried cases in Superior Court, Probate Court, Juvenile Court and Federal District Court. My most recent trial involved claims of undue influence and statutory disqualification of a caregiver. I have tried numerous cases involving claims of a contract to make a will, lack of capacity and undue influence.

Professional background

During law school, I clerked at Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps. After I graduated, I clerked for the Honorable Eugene Wright, senior judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. I returned to Luce Forward and never looked back. In the late 1980s, I began to focus my practice on fiduciary litigation, including elder abuse and related issues. This has remained the focus of my practice ever since.

Professional affiliations

Recently, I was elected to the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and its Fiduciary Litigation Subcommittee. Prior to that, I served as the chair of the Fiduciary Litigation Committee for the Executive Committee of the Trust and Estate Section of the State Bar of California. I frequently write and lecture in the fields of fiduciary litigation, conflicts, ethics and related topics to lawyers and to the general public. Prior to serving on the Executive Committee, I was a delegate to the Conference of Delegates for the San Diego caucus and led that caucus for two years as the co-chair.

Personal affiliations

Last year I was president of San Diego Inn of Court, a teaching inn, and am a master of the American Inns of Court, Lewis M. Walsh Chapter. I have been active on the board of federal defenders and legal aid, serving as the president of the latter organization 1996-1998. I curtailed those activities to be more active with my professional writing and speaking. In addition to the writing and speaking outlined above, I am the regional chair of the Educating Seniors program of the state bar, which is designed to educate seniors to protect themselves from financial fraud.

Personal background

I am the oldest of nine children. My father was in the Army and we traveled constantly. I graduated in 1972 from the University of Maryland with a bachelor's degree in nursing and served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army Nurse Corps prior to the birth of my first child. By the time I attended law school, I had three children, the youngest of whom was five weeks old. I was married in 1995 to Otto Sorensen. Between us we have five children. Traveling with our entire family -- the motley crew -- is my greatest joy.


David Huffman

Huffman & Kostas

1441 State St.

San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 544-0880

Education

Law School/Year: University of San Diego

College/Year: Azusa Pacific University

Bar admissions

California


Sharon L. Kalemkiarian

Ashworth, Blanchet, Christenson & Kalemkiarian

2250 Third Ave.

San Diego, CA 92101

sharonk@abcklaw.com

(619) 234-8585

Education

Law School/Year: University of San Diego, 1989 (magna cum laude)

College/Year: Princeton University, 1979 (magna cum laude)

Bar Admissions

California

Practice Areas

Family and Domestic Relations, Juvenile

Major cases you have participated in

Because of the nature of my work (family law), it is not appropriate for me to answer this question.

Professional background

After graduating from Princeton with a teaching credential, I spent seven years working as a community organizer and legislative advocate with nonprofit organizations in New York and California. After getting my law degree, my legal professional career was as follows: law clerk to Chief Judge Gordon Thompson Jr., Southern Federal District Court, 1989-1991; Skadden-Arps fellowship with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, focus on juvenile law and special education/mental health needs of youth, 1989-1991; clinical director, Child Advocacy Clinic, University of San Diego School of Law, 1993 - 1996; adjunct professor of law; director, Project Heartbeat, advocacy project at the San Diego County Bar Association to reform mental health services to youth, 1996 - 1999; partner, Ashworth, Blanchet, Christenson and Kalemkiarian, 1999 - present. I am a Certified Specialist, State Bar of California, family law.

Professional affiliations

Fay Stender Award, California Women Lawyers; Outstanding Legal Professional of the Year, San Diego County Bar Association; member, Advisory Committee on Family and Juvenile Law, Judicial Council of California; member, San Diego County Bar Association; member, Lawyers Club of San Diego; member, California Women Lawyers; member, Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego; member, National Association of Counsel for Children; board member and president of the board, Kids' Turn San Diego; member, Minor's Counsel panel of the Family Court; commentator, Family Law Monthly; member, Armenian Bar Association

Personal affiliations

I serve on the board of the Environmental Health Coalition of San Diego, and have for over 10 years. My work with Kids' Turn San Diego is a very important part of my practice. I believe firmly that the best way for parents to work out a parenting plan for their children is not in the adversarial system of the court, but through mediation and agreement. Kids' Turn is a unique program which helps parents learn to get along and how to co-parent, and helps children realize that the divorce doesn't have to be the end of their family life.

Personal background

I came to the practice of family law after having spent many years working in poor communities, advocating for better health care, economic justice and affordable child care. My first cases as an attorney, after finishing my federal clerkship, were in the juvenile court working on behalf of children and families with serious mental health issues in their family. So I came to family law with a longstanding interest in the lives of families and children.

In my law practice, I have been very fortunate to be able to help many individuals, families and children get through a very difficult time in their life. Our office has expertise in all aspects of family law, including the range of property issues from the simple to the complex. All of our clients need expert and caring representation regarding their financial future, and most often, the future of their family. It has been an honor to provide these services to our clients, and to continue to be able to be of service to the community in my volunteer efforts and work as minor's counsel for the family court.


Alexandra Kwoka

Branton & Wilson, APC

12707 High Bluff Drive, Suite 100

San Diego, CA 92130

701 B Street, Suite 1255

San Diego, CA 92130

akwoka@brantonwilson.com

(858) 481-1173, (619) 236-1891

Education

Law School/Year: University of Chicago/1974 Other Graduate School/Year: University of San Diego/2001

College/Year: University of Pittsburgh, 1970

Bar Admissions

Illinois, California

Practice Areas

Family and Domestic Relations, Taxation

Major cases you have participated in

Since 1998 my practice focus has been representing clients in "long-term" marriage. Several clients have several business entities and many have had significant real estate investments (with tax gains and loss issues involved).

Before focusing on Family Law, I represented plaintiffs in business litigation disputes and organophosphate poisoning cases.

Professional background

Litigation attorney, 1974 to date; U.S. Attorney's Office 1974-1979, Chicago, representing clients in the U.S. Tax Court; and the Department of Justice Organized Crime Unit, Chicago. Experience includes trials in San Diego and North County Superior Courts, Southern District of California, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Superior Court, Northern District of Illinois, Southern District of Illinois, U.S. Court of Claims.

Professional affiliations

SDCBA; SDCBA Carmel Valley; Certified Family Law Specialist, San Diego; Certified Family Law Specialist, North County; Kids' Turn San Diego, board member; Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, member

Personal affiliations

Rotary, Downtown Breakfast Club; St. James' Business Roundtable; The Pinnacle Group, Del Mar

Personal background

I have five children: Matt Semmer, an attorney with the Douglas Wilson Co.; Christina Semmer, who will be attending the University of Missouri Law School; Gillian Semmer, an environmental engineer with CH2Mhill in Oakland, Calif.; and twins Peter and Fred Semmer, seniors at the Bishops School. My husband, Robert Semmer, is an attorney/partner with Coughlin, Semmer and Lipman.


Margo Lewis

Moore, Lewis, Schulman & Moore, APC

12636 High Bluff Drive, Suite 200

San Diego, CA 92130

mlewis@mlsmlaw.net

(858) 755-3300

Education

Law School/Year: California Western School of Law/ 1992

College/Year: University of Iowa/1989

Bar Admissions

California, Pennsylvania (currently inactive)

Practice Areas

Alternative Dispute Resolution, Family and Domestic Relations

Major cases you have participated in

I have had the opportunity to be involved in many child custody cases as a representative of a party and in some cases I am appointed counsel for the minor child(ren). Recently, I have worked with minor children that are in the middle of a litigious dissolution proceeding. The amount of family resources is substantial and this allows for more litigation and conflict.

I recently worked on a case that addressed a breach of fiduciary duty by one spouse. The spouse failed to disclose an asset in the dissolution process. This resulted in a substantial award to my client under the family code fiduciary duty statutes and cases.

Professional background

Went into private practice in 1992. Area of practice were family law and civil litigation. Partnered with David S. Schulman in 1997 and established a family law practice. In 2000, Schulman and I joined Peggy Moore and Erik Moore. The firm has grown from four attorneys to nine attorneys and the focus is family law, trusts and estates and civil litigation.

Professional affiliations

San Diego County Bar Association from 1992 to present; Certified Specialist in Family Law from 2000 to present; Executive Committee member of San Diego County Bar Association, Certified Family Law Specialists from 2002-2005; chair of North County Certified Family Law Specialists, 2006; Committee member and past chair for Counsel for Minor Children; member Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. American Inns of Court; judge pro tem for the San Diego Superior Court, Family Law

Personal background

Born and raised in Moline, Ill. I have one older brother who still resides in the Midwest. Graduated from University of Iowa and immediately moved to San Diego where I attended law school at California Western School of Law. Upon graduation from law school and successful completion of the bar exam, I opened my own practice with a focus in family law. I have been practicing family law in San Diego since 1992. I have two children, Peyton, age 5, and Pacey, age 3.


Michele Lowenstein

Law Offices of Michele Sacks Lowenstein

5030 Camino de la Siesta, Suite 304

San Diego, CA 92108

michele@lowensteinfamilylaw.com

(619) 298-6246

Education

Law School/Year: California Western School of Law, 1981

College/Year: Thomas Edison, 1978

Bar Admissions

California, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, United States Tax Court

Practice Areas

Alternative Dispute Resolution, Family and Domestic Relations

Major cases you have participated in

Nothing is more important to a parent than his or her children. Helping someone through his or her divorce means making a difference in someone's life. Practicing family law means that every case is a major case.

Professional background

I am a Certified Family Law Specialist. I have been practicing family law since 1981. I have been trained in collaborative divorce and mediation. As a result, I am able to assist the majority of my clients to bring their matters to resolution without court involvement. When court involvement becomes necessary, I am able to strategically position clients for a favorable outcome. I have served as the chairperson of the Family Law Section of the San Diego County Bar Association. I periodically serve as a settlement conference judge and judge pro tem for the San Diego County Family Law Court.

Professional affiliations

Member of the San Diego County Bar Association, member of the Collaborative Family Law Group of San Diego, member of the International Academy of Collaborative Law Professionals

Personal affiliations

Formerly a member of the board of directors for Jewish Family Service and Homestart, member of the San Diego Historical Society, member of the San Diego Museum of Art, member of the American Institute of Wine and Food

Personal background

Native San Diegan raised in Chula Vista. I collect art, antiques and love to cook. I collect vintage copper jewelry from the 1950s. I study yoga. I like to attend the symphony and the theatre. I love reading biographies, because fiction can never compare with real life. I have a weakness for reality television, and I think the Internet is the greatest invention of all time. I enjoy traveling with David, my husband of 30 years. David and I live with in a 94-year-old house with our three-legged cat, Mattie.


Sandra Morris

Sandra Joan Morris, APC

3200 Fourth Ave., Suite 101

San Diego, CA 92103

sjm@morrislaw.sdcoxmail.com

(619) 296-6060

Education

Law School/Year: California Western/1969

College/Year: University of Arizona, 1965

Bar Admissions

California

Practice Areas

Family and Domestic Relations

Major cases you have participated in

I am not comfortable discussing specific family law cases because of privacy issues. I handle complex litigation, and my cases are high asset/income or high conflict custody cases. Many of my clients are high profile.

Professional background

I have been a family law attorney for over 36 years and a Certified Family Law Specialist since 1980. My first 10 years of practice were primarily devoted to court-appointed juvenile law cases with an emphasis on dependency matters, and I acquired extensive trial experience as a result. I lecture on the local, state, national and international level, frequently on topics related to litigation, which skills I am also asked to demonstrate. I have served as a judge pro tem of the juvenile and family law courts, have written articles on subjects related to both for a variety of law journals, and am often asked by my peers to serve as a private judge, mediator or consultant regarding family law disputes. I received the Family Law Person of the Year award from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2004, have been listed in "Best Lawyers in America" for over 10 years and have been listed in every "Best Lawyers in San Diego" issue of San Diego Magazine since 1983.

Professional affiliations

President, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 2002-2003. Previously officer for 13 years and board member for additional four. Chaired various committees of the local bar, including Juvenile Law Committee for three years in 1970s. President, San Diego Community Child Abuse Coordinating Council, 1977. Member, Advisory Commission on Family Law, California Senate Subcommittee on the Administration of Justice, 1978 and 1979. President, Southern California Chapter of AAML, 1987. Chair, SD Certified Family Law Specialists Committee, SD County Bar, 1996. Permanent faculty, ABA Family Law Trial Advocacy Institute; diplomat, American College of Family Trial Lawyers; fellow, International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

Personal background

Divorced, mother of three wonderful adult children.


Brittany Oates

Centara Legal Group, APC

8880 Rio San Diego Drive, Fourth Floor

San Diego, CA 92108

boates@centaralegal.com

(619) 398-1700

Education

Law School/Year: University of San Diego/1999

College/Year: University of California, Santa Barbara, 1995

Bar Admissions

California

Practice Areas

Estate Planning, Probate and Trust

Major cases you have participated in

My cases typically range from basic trust-based estates to very advanced plans for higher net worth clients who have serious estate tax issues. My firm sets up everything from private annuity trusts to charitable remainder trusts and family limited partnerships. Most recently we were able to save a client and his family nearly $3 million by setting up a private annuity trust and moving several pieces of commercial property outside of his taxable estate while deferring capital gains and ensuring him a steady source of income for the rest of his life.

Professional background

I practiced in the areas of medical malpractice and general civil litigation for several years before transitioning over to estate planning. I have now been with the Centara Legal Group for two years. I am now able to offer my clients comprehensive estate planning by coordinating closely with various experts from different fields, including financial and tax planning professionals.

Professional affiliations

I served as a delegate to the State Bar Association's Conference of Delegates and am an active member of the San Diego County Bar Association Trust & Estates Section. I was president of the San Diego Chapter of the USCB Alumni Association for four years and was the co-chair for the USD Recent Alumni Committee for three years. I remain active within both groups.

Personal affiliations

I grew up in Los Angeles and happily attended college in Santa Barbara. While at UCSB I served as the student body president. Once in law school I continued down the path of service as the Moot Court chairperson, the Women's Law Caucus chairperson and the elected student representative to the American Bar Association. I also volunteered at a women's shelter for three years and was a certified peer counselor.


Beatrice Snider

Law Offices of Beatrice L. Snider, APC

9663 Tierra Grande, Suite 301

San Diego, CA 92126

beatrice.snider@blsapc.com

(858) 566-6650

Education

Law School/Year: California Western School of Law/1973

Bar Admissions

California

Practice Areas

Family and Domestic Relations

Major cases you have participated in

One of the first attorneys to file a separate lawsuit against a spouse for assault and battery. Also, one of the first attorneys to file an action to obtain "equal pay for equal work."

Professional background

In the first class of 12 attorneys to become a Certified Family Law Specialist in the state of California. Chaired the subcommittee that promulgated the San Diego Local Rules for business valuations in dissolution actions that have now become part of the Superior Court Rules.

Professional affiliations

State Bar of California -- CLS-F; San Diego County Bar Association; SDCBA Family Law Section; San Diego Certified Family Law Specialist; judge pro tem for the San Diego Superior Court Family Law Division; Certified Mediator

Personal background

I was born in Sweden and went to law school at California Western. I have dedicated my legal career to family law for over 30 years. Today, I run the second largest family law firm in California, with 11 family law attorneys. The law firm handles all aspects of family law with varying levels of complexities.


Nancy Stassinopoulos, APC

591 Camino De La Reina, Suite 802

San Diego, CA 92108

(619) 688-6505

Education

Law School/Year: Brooklyn Law School

College/Year: Swarthmore College

Bar Admissions

California


Kate Yavenditti

San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program

625 Broadway, Suite 925

San Diego, CA 92101

kyavenditti@sdvlp.org

(619) 235-5656

Education

Law School/Year: UCLA/1976

Other Graduate School/Year: UCLA/1972

College/Year: UCLA/1969

Bar Admissions

California, Federal

Practice Areas

Family and Domestic Relations

Major cases you have participated in

Anderson v. Superior Court (1989) 213 Cal.App.3d 1321: involved the right of the family court to order welfare recipients to initiate job searches. In re Marriage of Ward (1992) 3 Cal.App.4th 618: found that an award of attorneys fees in a family law case to a nonprofit legal services organization was valid.

Professional background

From 1976 to 1980, I was a member of a legal collective in Los Angeles, practicing family law and military law. From 1980 to 1981, I was a sole practitioner in Santa Monica, practicing family law. From 1982 to 1986, I was a sole practitioner in San Diego, practicing family law and probate. From 1986 to 2006, I have worked at the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, first as the only staff attorney, then as senior staff attorney, supervising the family law, domestic violence, children and youth and immigration programs. In August 2006, I will be opening a sole practice in San Diego, focusing on family law and domestic violence.

Professional affiliations

Certified Family Law Specialist, 1982-present; member, CFLS Committee of the San Diego County Bar and on the Minors Counsel Committee; member, San Diego County Bar, 1982-present; member, Lawyers Club and former board of directors member (1993-1996 and 2000-2003); member, Judicial Council Family and Juvenile Law Advisory Committee (two terms); member, Steering Committee, National Lawyers Guild, San Diego Chapter

Personal affiliations

Recipient of the Fay Stender Award from California Women Lawyers in 2003; the Andrea O'Donnell Award from the San Diego Domestic Violence Council in 1996; a Certificate of Achievement from the National Association of Women Judges in 1992 and Community Service Award from Lawyers Club in 1990, for work in domestic violence. Founding member of the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice; founding member of the San Diego Bill of Rights Defense Committee; member, ACLU of San Diego/Imperial counties; member, San Diego Legal Observer Coalition; member, Reproductive Rights Committee of Lawyers Club of San Diego.

Personal background

Married, one son, age 24.

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