Since graduating from Stanford Law School in 1974, I have devoted my career in the law to creating greater access for and equal justice for people of color and low income individuals.

Judicial Firsts


I was the first lawyer in the western U.S. to receive an Earl Warren Fellowship from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Inc.


I opened my own law practice in East Palo Alto, CA, a predominately African American and Latino community, making me the first lawyer to establish a private practice in that city.


As the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs at Stanford, I developed an admissions program that led to a dramatic increase in the number of African American and Latino students at the law school and which resulted in establishing Stanford Law School as a leader in the nation in its enrollment of students of color.


I was the first African American female judge to serve on the Municipal Court in northern California.


I established the first formal restitution program for crime victims in Santa Clara County, in partnership with the National Conference of Christians & Jews.


I was the first sitting judge to publicly demand that the California Judges’ Association (CJA) divest its investments in companies doing business in South Africa to protest apartheid. The CJA eventually fully divested those investments.


I was the first judge in California to require convicted drunk drivers to install ignition-interlock devices in their cars to keep them from drinking and driving.


I was the first African American female judge to serve on the Superior Court in northern California.


I created one of the nation’s first Supervised Visitation programs to provide a safe environment for children to visit with their non-custodial parents; and I established the first program in California that trained  senior citizens to assist the court in monitoring the well-being of children placed in guardianships.


I created the county’s first G.R.E.A.T. Project (Guardianship Review and Evaluation Assessment Team) in which private citizens volunteered to monitor children who are placed in court-ordered guardianships.


I created Stanford University’s first-ever “Community Treasures” program that recognized the community service of Stanford University staff.


I was the first person elected to the Palo Alto City Council who did not accept any campaign contributions, and instead relied upon grass-roots volunteers


I brought national prominence to the Office of the Independent Police Auditor in San Jose, CA during my tenure as the Independent Police Auditor.


I was a spokesperson for the efforts to revise California’s draconian Three-Strikes Law (done!) and to abolish the state’s death penalty (still a work in progress).

After a national search, the City of San Jose, California chose me to be the city’s Independent Police Auditor (IPA), a job that I held from 2010 to 2015. Under my leadership, the IPA office gained national recognition for its groundbreaking work in civilian oversight of the police.