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2020 MCBA Board of Directors

Laura Elkington Executive Director

  Laura graduated cum laude, in just 3 years, from the University of Minnesota, with a Bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and film studies. 


  Laura’s professional career includes 3 years working in corporate banking, 2 years working for Target Corporation, and 5 years in business and design. She has served with several non-profit organizations including AmeriCorps and YMCA.


  Laura joined the Monterey County Bar Association in August, 2018. She brings her expertise in meeting and event management, office and finance management, design, and superior organizational skills to the position.


Thomas Espinoza President 2020

Tom Espinoza is a native Californian, born and raised in Southern California.  In 1985, Mr. Espinoza graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance and Marketing.  Mr. Espinoza worked in commercial banking for ten years with Wells Fargo Bank, including five years as a trust auditor as well as a legal compliance officer in the Bank’s Consumer Lending Division, dealing with state and federal truth-in-lending laws.  He attended John F. Kennedy University School of Law in the evening and continued to work for the Bank during law school.


In 1996, Mr. Espinoza left banking to begin his legal career in the Monterey Bay Area and had the good fortune of working with highly respected local practitioners.  Prior to opening his own office in January of 2003, Mr. Espinoza had the distinct honor of working with the attorneys and staff of Grunsky, Ebey, Farrar & Howell, located in Watsonville, California.  At the Grunsky Law Firm, much of his caseload involved probate litigation which is the practice area Mr. Espinoza continues to enjoy, utilizing his extensive business/banking background and legal training and experience.  In addition to trust and estate litigation, Mr. Espinoza handles unlawful detainer actions, probate administration, conservatorships and general civil litigation matters representing both plaintiffs and defendants.


Mr. Espinoza served on the Executive Committee of the Monterey County Bar Association from 2004 through 2009, including serving as President of the Association, in 2008.  In 2005, Mr. Espinoza along with other local attorneys reconstituted the Trusts and Estates Section of the Monterey County Bar Association.  He served as Chair of the Trust and Estates Section from 2005 through 2007.   Mr. Espinoza also served four years on the Board of the Court-Appointed Special Advocates of Monterey County.


In 2009, Mr. Espinoza was appointed by Supervisor Dave Potter to represent the 5th District as a commissioner on the Board of Commissioners for the Housing Authority of Monterey County.  In addition to serving on the Board of Commissioners, Mr. Espinoza currently serves as the Chair of the Monterey County Housing Development Corporation which is a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation dedicated to the development and rehabilitation of affordable housing.


Mr. Espinoza has had more than eighty hours of formal mediation training through the University of California, at Berkeley and through the Mandell-Gisnet Center for Conflict Management.  Mr. Espinoza continues to serve as an attorney-mediator as part of the Monterey County Superior Court’s, Court-Directed Mediation Program, since the Program’s inception in 2005.  Additionally, Mr. Espinoza has served as an arbitrator for the Monterey County Bar Association, arbitrating attorney-client fee disputes.



Charles Des Roches Immediate Past President 2019

  Charles Des Roches area emphasis are on Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law, Estate Tax Planning, and Business & Taxation.


  Mr. Des Roches holds the highest rating "AV" from Martindale-Hubbell and is certified as a specialist in probate, estate planning and trust law by the State Bar of California's Board of Legal Specialization. His extensive experience in estate planning ranges from basic estate plans to more complex and sophisticated estate plans. He has a wealth of experience in administering both modest and large trusts/estates.


  Mr. Des Roches also handles conservatorships and guardianships both as a private and court-appointed attorney. He  works with clients to find creative solutions to their problems, tailoring each estate plan to the individual needs of the client, including tax planning. He assists clients in the smooth and efficient administration of decedent’s estates and trusts.

Peter Brazil President Elect 2021

  A fourth-generation Salinas resident, Brazil was raised in Salinas and attended school there, including Lincoln School, Washington Junior High School, and Salinas High School.

  Peter’s father was the Chief Investigator for the Public Defenders’ Office, his mother was a Salinas school district teacher and vice principal, and his grandfather was the District Attorney for Monterey County, as well as a Superior Court Judge for Monterey County.

  After receiving a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a legal environment of business from California State University at Fresno in 1995, Peter graduated with a Juris Doctor degree from Monterey College of Law in 2000. He was admitted to the State Bar of California and the Monterey County Bar Association in 2004.

  Previously, he was employed as a law clerk from 1998-2004 and associate attorney from 2004-2016 at the Salinas law offices of Theodore H. Cominos, LLP.

  In addition to business and cannabis law, Peter is experienced in real property law, landlord-tenant, land use, corporation law, contract law, wills, trusts, and probate.

  His interests include playing guitar, computers, hiking, swimming, physics, and astronomy.


Robert Ward Treasurer

  Robert Ward holds a BS in Finance and Accounting from CSUN. He is a GGU graduate with a Masters in taxation. He is the owner and real estate broker with Carmel Property Management. He is also the owner and CPA with Ward Accountancy, Inc. for over 20 years.


Robert is husband to Jeannie Ward and has been married for 23 years. He is the father of 19 year old quadruplets! 


Cindy Negrete Secretary

  Cynthia (“Cindy”) Negrete was born and raised in Salinas, California where she currently resides. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from California State University, Sacramento and Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Monterey College of Law. Cindy passed the July 2018 California Bar Exam and is now a practicing attorney with the Law Offices of Lawrence & Peck, a criminal defense firm in Salinas. She first joined the Law Offices of Lawrence & Peck as a Law Clerk in July 2016. Prior to joining the firm, she served as Program Coordinator for the Monterey County Bar Association. She is honored to return to MCBA and serve as a board member.



Honorable Judge Vanessa Vallarta

  Vanessa W. Vallarta currently serves as a Judge of the Superior Court of California, County of Monterey in the Civil Division.  She was appointed to the bench in December 2013 by Governor Edmund G. Brown.  Prior to her appointment, she served as the City Attorney for the City of Salinas and in private practice in Salinas, Monterey and San Francisco.  She is a graduate of Princeton University and Stanford Law School.


Christopher Panetta  

  Christopher Panetta is an attorney and Shareholder at the law firm of Fenton & Keller. Chris’ practice focuses on civil litigation, including labor & employment law and general business litigation. Chris has been in practice since 1994 representing both employees and employers, large and small businesses in many local industries, and individuals with a variety of civil litigation needs. Chris also regularly serves as a mediator and has successfully resolved numerous employment related cases.

William Litt

  William Litt is a Deputy County Counsel with Monterey County, where he has worked since 2006 handling general litigation, impact litigation, and employment law, and advising various County departments over the years. 


  Prior to that, Bill had his own law practice in Redwood City from 2002 to 2006, practicing in the areas of civil rights, employment, and consumer law.  Bill previously has worked as a legal services attorney for indigent clients, and for the court-appointed neutral civil rights monitor for a nationwide restaurant chain. 


  Bill earned his JD from UCLA School of Law in 1993 and his BA in history from Cornell University in 1990.


Lori Espinoza MCWLA Representative

  Lori Espinoza is a graduate of Monterey College of Law and has been practicing law since December 2007 in the areas of Conservatorships, Probate and Trust Litigation, Unlawful Detainers, Restraining Orders.  Ms. Espinoza also serves as a Deputy City Attorney prosecuting misdemeanor municipal code violations for the City of Monterey.


  Ms. Espinoza is a past president of the Monterey County Bar Association and has served on the Board since 2011.  Ms. Espinoza’s service on the Board is based upon her desire to give back to the local legal community and community in general that has enriched her life both personally and professionally.  Ms. Espinoza is also a member of the Monterey County Women Lawyers Association and has served on their Board since 2014.



Frank Hespe

  Frank Hespe has been an attorney for 30 years and is presently acting as an attorney and professional fiduciary in Carmel, California. He remains Of Counsel with the law firm of Nicora and Hespe, LLP, where he was a partner for ten years.


 From 2005-2009, Mr. Hespe worked for the American Bar Association in a number of different positions over a four-year period, including Legal Specialist, Country Director and Regional Director in such places as Qatar, Azerbaijan, and the Central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Mr. Hespe specializes in being Chief of Party for Rule of Law programs in challenging and post-conflict environments, including directing programs on anti-corruption, gender equality, training judges, law school development and curriculum reform, continuing legal education and Bar Association reform.


  Before his work abroad, from 2002 to 2005, Mr. Hespe served as Dean of the Monterey College of Law, and has served as an adjunct law professor and the Director of Clinical Studies at the law school for over 27 years.


  From 1993 to 2001, he served as the Executive Director of Legal Services for Seniors, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting low income senior citizens in Monterey County. 


  In the area of Community Service, Mr. Hespe has been Judge Pro Tem of the Small Claims and Traffic Court Division of the Monterey Superior Court; president and treasurer of the Monterey County Bar Association; Legal counsel for Naval Post-Graduate School Foundation, member of the United Nations Association, co-chair of the United Way of the Salinas Valley; past president and member of the board of directors of the Charitable Council of Monterey County; member of board of directors of Leadership Monterey Peninsula, member of the City of Pacific Grove Senior Housing Committee; member of the Planned Giving Advisory Council of California State University, Monterey Bay; member of the board of directors of the Alzheimer’s Association, Monterey County chapter; and member of the board of directors of the Berkeley Community Law Center and founding member of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law’s free legal clinic.


  Mr. Hespe earned his B.A., summa cum laude, from Rutgers University in 1983, and his J.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law in 1988.


Shadee B. Mousa

  Shadee Mousa was born and raised in Auburn California.   He graduated from Chico State University with an emphasis on legal studies.  After graduating from Chico, Shadee attended law school at Golden Gate University in San Francisco where he earned his Juris Doctor degree in 2011.

Upon passing the bar, Shadee was able to get a job working as a deputy public defender in Bakersfield.  It was there in the central valley that Shadee represented thousands of indigent clients and grew fond of fighting for the underdog.

After four years of working in the central valley, Shadee relocated to Monterey County where he continues doing what he loves - representing the poor, downtrodden, and disenfranchised.

“When tyranny becomes law rebellion becomes duty.” – Jefferson


Sean Maffett

Sean Maffett was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio.  After obtaining his undergraduate degree from Xavier University, Sean attended law school at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, where he received the Order of the Coif.  He moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 2017, joining Kennedy, Archer & Giffen as an associate with the firm’s transactional group, with focuses in business and real estate. 


Prior to joining Kennedy, Archer & Giffen, Sean served as corporate counsel for Designer Shoe Warehouse (“DSW”) in Columbus, Ohio, where he obtained in-house experience in a variety of corporate legal areas including corporate governance, real estate, employment law, and contract drafting and negotiation. 


Ryan Bailey

Ryan Bailey is a civil litigation attorney at the Grunsky Law Firm in Watsonville. He has experience in real property issues, contracts, negligence claims, corporation disputes, trusts, consumer issues, and environmental regulations.

He earned his law degree from Brigham Young University, was admitted to the California Bar in 2015, and completed a two-year judicial clerkship before joining Grunsky in 2018. Having started at Hartnell College in Salinas, he earned a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University, graduating summa cum laude in 2006.

Off the clock, he enjoys rock concerts, clean transportation, science fiction novels, and walking through the redwoods with his wife and two small children. He and his wife volunteer for a community food pantry in Prunedale. He is fluent in Spanish.

Nana Knight

Ms. Knight is a deputy district attorney with the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office where she prosecutes gang cases, including homicides. Prior to joining the Monterey District Attorney’s Office, Ms. Knight served as a deputy district attorney at the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in the prosecution of domestic violence cases.


Ms. Knight served on active duty in the United States Air Force as a commissioned officer in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, where she represented the United States in courts-martial and held leadership positions, including advising a 3-star general at the United States Air Force Academy. Ms. Knight continues to serve as an officer in the Air Force Reserve. Presently, she heads the legal office and the legal staff at the 144th Fighter Wing, Air Combat Command with an F-15 mission serving over 1100 military personnel and commanders.  


Ms. Knight graduated summa cum laude and with honors from the College of Letters and Science from the University of California, Los Angeles, earning her degree in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. Ms. Knight worked for the United States Department of State and went on to law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where she earned her J.D. with a concentration in criminal law.


Ms. Knight is certified by the California Board of Legal Specialization as a criminal law specialist. She is the author of multiple articles published by the California District Attorneys Association, on topics such as domestic violence, plea bargaining and military justice for civilian practitioners. Ms. Knight is a professor-of-law at the Monterey College of Law where she teaches Criminal Law and Professional Responsibility. Ms. Knight is an avid runner and enjoys playing tennis and spending time with her children.


Matt Rankin

Matthew Rankin is an attorney with JRG Attorneys at Law. His ties to the Monterey Peninsula run deep, as he was born and raised in this area. After graduating from Carmel High School, Matt attended Santa Clara University to study Journalism and History, as well as to play college baseball. It was right after hanging up his cleats that Matt discovered his new passion on a different field, the legal one, and he decided to attend law school at Monterey College of Law.


While attending law school, Matt worked as a Law Clerk for Bohnen, Rosenthal and Kreeft. While clerking for the firm, Matt found an excuse to put his hat and glove back on, this time as volunteer youth baseball coach. Now, as an attorney, Matt continues to spend his free time coaching Carmel Youth Baseball, serving the community that has treated him so well.


Jim Fitzpatrick

B. James Fitzpatrick is a native Californian.  He attended the University of California at Santa Barbara and received his undergraduate degree in history in 1983.  Thereafter, he attended and graduated from the University of Santa Clara School of Law in 1986. 

Mr. Fitzpatrick has over fifteen years of experience as a trial lawyer.  He frequently serves as a mediator and arbitrator for lawsuits pending in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.  He has represented clients before the Equal Opportunity Commission and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Mr. Fitzpatrick’s current clients include both fortune 500 companies and private individuals.  He enjoys a diverse practice involving most areas of civil litigation with an emphasis on employment and personal injury matters.

Christine Reed

Christine B. Reed is a partner in the San Francisco office of Lewis Brisbois and a member of the General Liability Practice. Ms. Reed’s 25-year legal career began with family law and unlawful detainers, and then evolved to public entity defense, employment, wage and hour matters, and civil litigation defense in areas ranging from personal injury, construction defect, business disputes, property line/trespass/nuisance actions, drug/alcohol rehabilitation matters, and employment related litigation, amongst others. Ms. Reed’s practice includes all aspects of defense litigation mediation/arbitration, trial, and appellate work. She obtained her most recent defense trial verdict in October of 2016 in Alameda County.


Katherine Dorset

Katherine Dorset is a long-time California resident, growing up in the Bay Area.  In 1983, Ms. Dorset graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, earning a B.A. in Politics.  She then worked as a community organizer in South Los Angeles before returning to the Bay Area to attend University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law.  Ms. Dorset was a Book Review Editor and Member of the Berkeley Women’s Law Journal while attending Boalt and also worked as a law clerk for Legal Aid Society of Alameda County. 


In 1997, Ms. Dorset opened her law office in Monterey and since that time has focused her practice on assisting individuals with their family law matters, including divorce, guardianship, child custody, restraining orders and child support, while still maintaining a civil litigation practice.  Ms. Dorset has also served as a Temporary Judge Pro Tem of the Small Claims Division of the Monterey Superior Court.  Before relocating to the Monterey area, Ms. Dorset practiced in Los Angeles as a civil litigation associate focusing on real property law.



Chris Nannini, MCL Student Representative


Maria Buell, LRS Coordinator

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