Title: Chief Executive Officer, Civil Rights Lawyer
Company: Law Offices of R. Samuel Paz
Location: Encino, California, United States
R. Samuel Paz, Chief Executive Officer and Civil Rights Lawyer at the Law Offices of R. Samuel Paz, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Lawyers for dedication, achievements, and leadership.
An accomplished civil rights lawyer with over four decades of professional experience, Mr. Paz is an expert in the area of police misconduct litigation. Since 1987, he has excelled as the president and chief executive officer of the Law Offices of R. Samuel Paz, previously in Los Angeles, now in Culver City, California.
Prior to having his own firm, he was a senior partner with the Law Offices of Romero, Paz, Rodriguez and Sanora from 1975 to 1986, following a year as a legal services attorney at Legal Services of San Gabriel Valley. Having accomplished much over the course of his career, Mr. Paz attributes much of the success to a lesson he learned early on, which was to “take yourself extremely seriously and hold yourself to a higher standard of competence, honesty and integrity than any other lawyer” because representing people alleging they or their loved ones were harmed or killed by law enforcement must meet the highest standards to prevail in a court of law.
Subject to much racial disparity in school due to his Native American and Chicano heritage, Mr. Paz struggled in high school, not being allowed to enter the college program and instead being tracked into industrial training for factory workers. This all changed when he entered the United States Navy, where he tested in the 97th percentile in boot camp, which resulted in him being sent to an electronics school.
Upon entering the Navy, Mr. Paz witnessed first-hand the attitudes of superiority and racism from many of the recruits from southern states. Moreover, during three tours of duty overseas, he saw considerable poverty and governmental oppression of basic freedoms in many foreign countries. These experiences along with his own humble upbringing, personally suffering police harassment during high school and being exposed to the struggles of African Americans for basic equality in the 1960s were forming his passion for advocacy for the rights of Americans. Originally intending to be a psychologist, Mr. Paz earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, cum laude, from the University of California Los Angeles in 1971. His personal involvement in the Chicano Movement for civil rights in the southwest and the inspirational fight of Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez for the United Farm Workers in the 1960s and 1970s made it evident that police were frequently violating the rights of peaceful advocates for basic rights. This was his motivation to work tirelessly over the years to bring police misconduct cases to protect the constitutional rights of victims who otherwise had no avenue to justice.
Another factor that led him to the challenge of advocating for civil and human rights was when he realized that there were practically no lawyers in Los Angeles who would touch a police abuse case. Mr. Paz felt very strongly that as a civil rights lawyer, if you see injustice you cannot ignore it, and he obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence from the USC Gould School of Law in 1974. Licensed to practice law by the State Bar of California that same year, he has since been admitted to practice by the United States District Courts for the Central, Southern and Eastern Districts of California, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States. He has presented and argued numerous reported appellate civil rights cases before the Ninth Circuit and successfully argued the case of Chavez v. Martinez in the U.S. Supreme Court.
He became a pioneer in challenging police abuse prevailing in a 1977 lawsuit brought against an undercover LAPD officer by Seymour A. Myerson, reportedly the first recovery for “politically motivated police spying” alleged by Myerson to be a campaign of “fascist, terrorist” activities against Myerson and his wife Vivian Myerson. Then he won the first civil verdict and judgment reportedly in excess of $1 million in California for the 1980 killing by a deputy sheriff of Jildardo Plasencia, a 33-year-old furniture factory worker. Thereafter followed a nation-wide record $8.75 million verdict in a case against a police officer to Adelaido Altamirano, a Coliseum groundskeeper who was shot in 1987 by a Los Angeles Police Department officer and left paralyzed from the shoulders down. More recently, he achieved a jury verdict that found Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca personally liable for $100,000 in punitive damages in a case of an inmate being beaten by deputies, which was the first time a jury had held any California sheriff personally at fault for his failure to supervise his subordinates.
When Mr. Paz first started winning cases in the mid-1980s and early 1990s the local newspapers in Los Angeles would reluctant to publish the decisions, even when he won a case. Sometime it would take several months to get an article published. Despite all the difficulties he faced over the years, he has found truly incredible success, which he credits to the culture of his family of honesty, frankness and hard work he applied to pursuing his education. The sense of hard work and perseverance that he cultivated in school carried over to his work at his law firm.
Alongside his primary career litigation responsibilities, Mr. Paz spent time as an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School (Los Angeles) the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, and the People’s College of Law in Los Angeles. He also served as a guest lecturer, guest presenter and guest panelist for numerous presentations and conferences. Whenever he speaks before audiences at schools, he strives to convey to the students that the civil rights era was a victory for the entire nation. He stresses that the struggle for human rights in the United States and the world at large are never ending and require eternal vigilance–they must always be fought for and upheld. Furthermore, he has contributed his expertise as an author and co-author in numerous articles for professional journals.
In order to keep abreast of developments in his field, Mr. Paz maintains professional involvement with the National Police Accountability Project, a leading 600 member civil rights plaintiff’s organization since 2002, the American Civil Liberties Union National Board of Directors since 1989 to 2019, the Southern California ACLU Board of Directors since 1977, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, the California Consumer Advocates Association, the California State Bar Association and the Mexican American Bar Association, among others. He has further been active with, the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, the Hispanic Advisory Council to the Los Angeles Police Commission, Police Watch in Los Angeles, The Police Misconduct Lawyer Referral Service, the UCLA Foundation and the Hispanic National Bar Association.
Widely honored in his field, Mr. Paz was most recently recognized with the American Civil Liberties Union Certificate of Honor in 2019 and the Decades of Service Award from the National Lawyers’ Guild 2018. Impressively, he was recognized as a Top Attorney in Southern California in Civil Rights by Super Lawyers between 2011 to the present and as a Top 100 litigator by the National Trial Lawyers.
In 2016, he was also presented with the Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Public Service Award and the entire Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ Commendation for “dedicated service to the affairs of the community”. He has received countless other awards throughout the years, including a 2007 Certificate of Recognition from California Senate Majority Leader Gloria for “commitment and dedication to the community and the residents of the 24th Senate District”, 2002 Commendation from the Speaker of the House of the California State Assembly, Herb J. Wesson Jr. upon receiving the ACLU’S Lifetime Achievement Award, the 1995 Advocacy Award for courageous defense of and advocacy for civil and human rights of immigrants by CARECEN, and the Police Misconduct Lawyer Referral Service Award for outstanding achievement in litigating civil rights cases and community education on the importance of civil rights.
Happily married to and working alongside his wife, Sonia M. Mercado, for many years, Mr. Paz is the proud father of four children and grandfather to three wonderful grandchildren. Looking towards the future, he intends to maintain the majority of his current work in civil and human rights. To young professionals in the field, Mr. Paz would advise that when they pursue fields like civil rights and human rights they have to work to be better than good.
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