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PLI’s California MCLE Marathon 2020: Current Developments in Legal Ethics-Competence Issues-Elimination of Bias

Speaker(s): Alison P. Buchanan, David Mann, Hon. Bernice B. Donald, John Steele, Mark L. Tuft, Merri A. Baldwin, Ragesh K. Tangri, Sarah E. Redfield, Sean M. SeLegue
Recorded on: Nov. 16, 2020
PLI Program #: 278900

David Mann is a graduate of Ohio State University and Stanford Law School.  He served as a Deputy Public Defender in San Francisco before becoming a solo criminal defense practitioner.  After 12 years of practice, substance abuse-related issues caused him to resign from the bar with disciplinary charges pending.  Following a relentless battle with addiction which included numerous hospitalizations and periods of living on the streets, he succeeded in getting clean and sober in 1998.  Since then he has worked, among other things, as a cab driver, a private investigator, a paralegal, and a drug and alcohol rehabilitation counselor.  He presently serves as the Northern California Consultant to The Other Bar, a statewide organization of recovering attorneys, judges, and law students.  In this capacity, he spends his time providing outreach and education to the legal community, and assisting attorneys as they struggle with substance abuse and related challenges that threaten their ability and/or eligibility to practice law.

John Steele is a solo practitioner, representing clients on matters of legal ethics, professional liability, risk management, and the law of lawyering.  He is a certified specialist in the law of legal malpractice. For over fifteen years, he served as the top internal ethics lawyer at an AmLaw 100 firm, where he was Special Counsel for Ethics, and at an AmLaw 200 firm, where he was a trial lawyer and litigation partner.  He has taught professional responsibility for over thirty semesters at UC-Berkeley School of Law, Stanford Law School, Santa Clara University, Golden Gate University, and Indiana University – Maurer School of Law.  He has served on a variety of professional committees, including the State Bar of California’s standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC), and serves an arbitrator in fee disputes.

Mark L. Tuft is a partner with Cooper, White & Cooper LLP; principally engaged in professional liability, media law, civil and criminal litigation in federal and state courts.  State-wide practice as counsel to lawyers and law firms on professional responsibility, professional liability, law firm mergers and dissolutions and lawyer discipline.  Arbitrator, special master and mediator on lawyer-client and law firm disputes.


            LL.M., George Washington University, June 1972. Graduated with highest honors.

            J.D., Hastings College of the Law, June 1968.  Order of the Coif, Thurston Law Society, Hastings Law Journal.


            ·          Certified Specialist in Legal Malpractice Law

·          Member, American Bar Association, Center for Professional Responsibility,  Editorial Board

            ·          President, Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers

                                    (2012 - 2013)

·          Chair, State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (1995 - 1996)

            ·          Member, State Bar of California Commission for the Revision of the Rules of                                            Professional Conduct (2001 – Present)

            ·          Member, Board of Directors, Bar Association of San Francisco

                        (1994 - 1997)

            ·          Chair, Bar Association of San Francisco Legal Ethics Committee

                        (1990 – 1992)

            ·          Bar Association of San Francisco Certificate of Merit Award

            ·          Spirit of the CEB Award


            ·          Co-Author, California Practice Guide on Professional Responsibility 

                        (The Rutter Group, a division of Thomson Reuters)

            ·          Adjunct Professor, University of San Francisco School of Law (1997-2011)

Merri Baldwin is a shareholder at Rogers Joseph O’Donnell, where her practice focuses on attorney liability and commercial litigation.  She handles claims of legal malpractice and breach of fiduciary duty, as well as motions to disqualify and for sanctions.  She regularly counsels lawyers and law firms on legal ethics and law practice management issues.  She represents attorneys in disciplinary matters before the State Bar of California, and has extensive experience handling attorney-client fee disputes.  Ms. Baldwin is a Vice-Chair of the State Bar of California’s Closing the Justice Gap Working Group.  Ms. Baldwin is a former chair of the State Bar of California Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct, and is currently a member of the California Lawyers Association Ethics Committee.  She is a co-chair of the Legal Malpractice subcommittee for the American Bar Association Litigation Section Committee on Professional Services Litigation.  Ms. Baldwin served as the President of the Bar Association of San Francisco for 2017.  Ms. Baldwin frequently lectures to attorneys and professional organizations on issues related to litigation, legal malpractice and ethics issues, and she is a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.  Ms. Baldwin co-edited The Law of Lawyers’ Liability (ABA/First Chair Press 2012) and since 2006 she has served as a consulting editor for the Attorney Fee Agreement Forms Manual, published by Continuing Education of the Bar, California.  Prior to law school, Ms. Baldwin was a Fulbright Scholar at the London School of Economics.


J.D., University of California at Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)

B.A., Smith College, Magna Cum Laude with high honors

Ragesh Tangri represents clients ranging from individuals to Fortune 100 companies in cases ranging from legal malpractice, trade secrets, copyright, trademark, and commercial litigation to high-stakes intellectual property and trade secret matters in jurisdictions across the country.

Ragesh recently represented a major California law firm accused of malpractice; a multi-week arbitration brought a favorable result for his client.  He has represented numerous major law firms in professional negligence claims, arising from work done in a variety of underlying areas including intellectual property litigation, patent prosecution, general corporate matters, and tax. 

Ragesh recently invalidated four patents directed to nutritional supplements on a motion to dismiss.  He represented Volt Delta Resources LLC and Maintech Inc. in a copyright infringement and false advertising lawsuit brought by Oracle regarding Maintech’s provision of hardware support for Sun servers.  He represented Google Inc. in a high-stakes breach of contract matter brought by teleconferencing company Wyde Voice in San Francisco Superior Court.

Ragesh has represented numerous start-up companies in claims brought by former business partners and persons claiming to be co-founders, often centering on allegations of trade secret misappropriation or copyright infringement.  He also has represented the selling shareholders of numerous companies in litigation arising from post-closing matters, including both claims against buyers for failure to pay contingent compensation and claims brought by buyers against escrowed consideration.

Ragesh serves on the Boards of Governors of the Association of Business Trial Lawyers, the Bar Association of San Francisco’s Justice and Diversity Center, the Northern District Historical Society (President), the California Law Review, The Shotgun Players, the Food Craft Institute, and is a Counselor and Member of the Executive Committee of the Edward J. McFetridge Inn of Court.

In addition to being ranked a Litigation Star by Benchmark, Ragesh is ranked by Chambers & Partners as one of the top practitioners in California for trademark, copyright, and trade secret litigation.  Ragesh was named 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Trade Secrets Law and 2016 Lawyer of the Year in Northern California by Best Lawyers.  He has been ranked for Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation, Legal Malpractice Law, Intellectual Property, and Patent Litigation, also by Best Lawyers.  He has been ranked by IAM Patent 1000 as a top practitioner, SuperLawyers as a top rated intellectual property litigation attorney from 2005 through 2017, and was ranked as one of the Top 100 Attorneys in Northern California in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Sarah Redfield is Professor Emerita at the University of New Hampshire School of Law and Affiliate Professor at the University of New Hampshire College of Education. Her primary practice and teaching area is education law (including special education). Her primary research focus is diversity and inclusion in the legal profession and along the education pipeline. Her recent research and scholarship focuses on implicit bias (including its manifestations in legal, medical, education, and workplace environments) and on strategies to interrupt that bias and reduce manifestations at all levels. She currently serves on the ABA Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council, the ABA Commission on Disability Rights, the Criminal Justice Section Council, and as Co-Chair of the Judicial Division Fighting Implicit Bias Committee and the Criminal Justice Section Implicit Bias Initiative. She is a member of the Maine Bar.

Professor Redfield is a nationally respected author, presenter, and trainer. She is the editor and chapter author of the ABA book on implicit bias, Enhancing Justice: Reducing Bias and her most recent publications also include Reversing the School-to-Prison Pipeline Preliminary Report, 47 Memphis Law Review 1. She was a lead author for the ABA Section on Litigation’s Toolbox on Implicit Bias and lead consultant for the ABA project on Achieving an Impartial Jury. Her recent presentations include Implicit Bias and Bias Interruption for the State Bar of California; Arizona State University; and the Texas Criminal Defense Attorneys.

Professor Redfield earned her B.A. degree from Mount Holyoke College, her J.D. degree from Northeastern University School of Law, and her LL.M. from Harvard Law School. She is the mother of a fantastic son and daughter and wife of an also fantastic farmer.

The Honorable Bernice B. Donald received her law degree from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, a LLM from Duke University School of Law, and an honorary Doctors in Law from Suffolk University.  Prior to being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Barack Obama in 2011, she served on the U.S. District Court for more than fifteen years. 

Judge Donald is currently a member of the prestigious American Law Institute and the American Bar Association Judicial Division.  Previously, she served as Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Center for Human Rights and recently chaired a committee which published an implicit bias resource book for judges and practitioners titled, Enhancing Justice: Reducing Bias. Judge Donald also served as Chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section, focusing on issues concerning implicit bias, children of incarcerated parents, mass incarceration, and the collateral consequences of incarceration.  Having previously served as Secretary of the American Bar Association (ABA), Judge Donald served in the ABA House of Delegates until August 2018.  She has been faculty at the National Judicial College, the Federal Judicial Center, and the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center & School.  Judge Donald also served as faculty for the Federal Magistrate Judges Conference held in Portland, Oregon, where she was part of the panel titled, Thinking, Blinking, and Judging: Addressing Implicit Biases.  She served as Jurist in Residence at American University, Washington University, University of Cincinnati School of Law, and the University of Georgia School of Law.  In addition, she has served as faculty for international programs in more than twenty countries. 

Judge Donald’s writings include the following:  A Glimpse Inside the Brain’s Black Box: Understanding the Role of Neuroscience in Criminal Sentencing, 85 Fordham L. Rev. 481 (2016); Not Your Father’s Legal Profession: Technology, Globalization, Diversity, and the Future of Law Practice in the United States, 44 U. Mem. L. Rev. 645 (2014); Bringing Back Reasonable Inferences: A Short, Simple Suggestion for Addressing Some Problems at the Intersection of Employment Discrimination and Summary Judgment, 57 N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 749 (2012-2013); The Not-So-New Normal of the Legal Profession: Facing and Confounding the Odds, 23 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 1 (2014);  Immigrants and Other Cultural Minorities as Non-Traditional Plaintiffs: Culture as a Factor in Determining Tort Damages, 92 Judicature 220 (2009); Fifty Years Later and Miranda Still Leaves Us With Questions, 50 Tex Tech L. Rev. 1 (2017); The Dischargeability of Property Settlement and Hold Harmless Agreements in Bankruptcy: An Overview of § 523(a)(15), 31 Family L. Quarterly 409 (1997); To This Tribunal the Freedman Has Turned: The Freedman’s Bureau’s Judicial Powers and the Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment, 79 La. L. Rev. 1 (2018); When the Rule of Law Breaks Down: Implications of the 1866 Memphis Massacre for the Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, 98 U. Boston L. Rev. 1607 (2018); She Stands on Her Own, Amongst Many: The Women of the Tennessee Supreme Court, 86.3 Tenn. L. Rev.  593 (2019); and Implicit Bias: Should the Legal Community Be Bothered?, 2 J. PLI Press, 615 (2018).

Judge Donald has received over 100 awards for professional, civic, and community activities, including the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Memphis, the Martin Luther King Community Service Award, the Benjamin Hooks Award from the Memphis Bar Foundation, the prestigious Margaret Brent Award, the Spirit of Excellence Award, the John Pickering Award of Achievement, the University of Memphis Pillars of Excellence Award, and the Inaugural Liberty Award from the Tort, Trial and Insurance Section of the ABA.

A former chair of the State Bar of California's Committee on Professional Responsibility and conduct, Sean SeLegue has represented attorneys and law firms in malpractice and malicious prosecution cases, defended State Bar proceedings and advised lawyers subject to sanctions proceedings in federal court. Mr. SeLegue is currently listed in The Best Lawyers in America in the field of Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law.  He previously served on the State Bar Commission for the Revision of the Rules of Professional Conduct and is currently a member of the State Bar Board of Trustees.

He has been recognized as a Northern California Super Lawyer from 2004 through 2017 and is also an AV-rated attorney, a peer-awarded honor given by Martindale-Hubbell. While in law school at the University of California, Berkeley, Mr. SeLegue was an editor of the California Law Review.

Mr. SeLegue also maintains a diverse appellate practice spanning all areas of civil law.  He began his career as a clerk to the Hon. Cynthia Holcomb Hall, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He has handled dozens of appeals, is ranked in Chambers USA in the "California Appellate" category and is a member of the California Academy of Appellate lawyers.

Alison Buchanan is a shareholder with Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel, Inc., in San Jose, California, where she serves as the firm’s General Counsel and chairs the firm’s Business Litigation Practice Group. Alison focuses her practice on business litigation, professional liability, and legal ethics. She has tried business litigation, legal malpractice defense, and employment discrimination cases to verdict.

Alison is a Certified Specialist in Legal Malpractice Law, as certified by the State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization. She is a founding member of the Ethics Committee for the California Lawyers Association, serving as the Vice Chair of Publications. From 2011 to 2014, Alison served a three-year appointment to the California State Bar’s Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct (COPRAC). She previously served a four-year appointment to the State Bar's Legal Malpractice Law Advisory Commission.

Alison is a member of APRL (Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers). She is also a member of the Santa Clara County Bar Association and previously chaired its Professionalism Committee. For ten years, Alison taught Professional Responsibility at Lincoln Law School in San Jose. Alison regularly speaks throughout the state on issues of attorney ethics and professional liability. She has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer from 2013 through 2020.  Alison earned her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law (Illinois Institute of Technology), with honors, in 2001.

In addition to her law-related endeavors, Alison proudly serves on the Board of Directors for the Humane Society Silicon Valley.