Maria is a Head Deputy District Attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office where she has been an attorney for 25 years. Maria is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and received her Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in 1990. This is Maria’s seventh year on the MABA Board.
Maria’s story in Los Angeles began when her grandfather emigrated from the town of Pihuamo, Jalisco, Mexico where he had the distinction of serving as the town’s mayor. In Los Angeles, Maria’s grandfather started a trucking company which continues to operate to this day as Ramirez Trucking Company. Maria’s father soon followed her grandfather to Los Angeles to work for her grandfather’s company as a truck driver. Eventually, Maria’s father sent for her mother who was living in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and was a few months pregnant with Maria. Maria was born in 1965 at Rose Hospital in Los Angeles. Maria’s family was later joined by two sisters and one brother.
Maria grew up in Boyle Heights and attended Our Lady of Talpa grammar school and Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello. After graduating from high school, Maria attended Loyola Marymount University where she majored in Political Science and minored in Philosophy. During college, Maria was President of the Latinos for Law student organization. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987. At Loyola Law School Maria focused on criminal law and trial advocacy and was on the board of the La Raza Law Student’s Association.
Maria joined the District Attorney’s Office as an attorney in 1990 and spent most of her career in the Hardcore Gang and Major Narcotics Divisions. In 2009, District Attorney Steve Cooley promoted Maria to Head Deputy District Attorney, thereby becoming the first Latina Head Deputy in the history of the office. Maria is also a founding member and former president and board member of the Latino Prosecutors Association. Maria is currently the Head Deputy of the High Technology Crime Division of the LADA where she supervises nine attorneys. She was recently honored as the 2015 Prosecutor of the Year by the California District Attorney Investigators’ Association.
Maria currently lives in Whittier with her fiancé Edward Guerrero, Fire Captain with the City of Alhambra, and their five year old son, Cruz Guerrero.
Alejandro G. Becerra was born in Jalisco, Mexico and came to the United States when he was 13 years old. He attended Whittier public schools. He was the first in his family to graduate high school. He attended California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) where he was involved with different student organizations that focused on giving back to the community. He graduated cum laude from CSUF with degrees in History and Chicano Studies. He received the Outstanding University Service Award and the Academic Excellence Award. He taught elementary school and taught ESL to adults before he attended UCLA School of Law. There, he was La Raza Law Student Association’s Secretary and an associate editor for the Chicano Latino Law Review. Alejandro was a co-founding student member of the National Latina/o Law Student Association.
After earning a J.D. with a Concentration in Critical Race Studies, he taught courses in Chicana/o Studies at CSUF for three years. He has acted as consulting attorney to Mexican Consulates throughout California mostly representing pro bono clients. Before opening his own office, Alejandro gained substantial trial experience working for two preeminent personal injury firms in the Los Angeles area.
He is the owner of the South Pasadena firm of Law Office Of Alejandro G. Becerra, A Professional Law Corporation, a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm.
Coming to this country as an undocumented immigrant, he understands how others have contributed to his success and firmly believes in giving back to the community. He has proudly served on the MABA Board since 2012. He lives in Pasadena with his wife Maria S. Becerra and their two daughters, Aleria and Alessandra.
Denisse O. Gastélum
Denisse O. Gastélum was born in East Los Angeles into an immigrant family from Chihuahua and Sinaloa, México. Having come from humble beginnings, her focus on the advancement of the Latino community comes naturally.
Ms. Gastélum completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she majored in Psychology and minored in Political Science and Education. Ms. Gastélum graduated from Loyola Law School, where she served as a mentor for the Academic Support Program, a debate coach for the Johnnie Cochran Middle School Debate Program, a member of the review team for For People of Color, Inc., and a law clerk for The Cochran Firm and the Law Offices of Felipe Plascencia. Following law school, Ms. Gastélum served as a Public Service Corps Fellow for the Honorable Teresa Sánchez-Gordon. She is a founding member of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association Young Lawyers Committee and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Latina Lawyers Bar Association.
Ms. Gastélum is an Associate Attorney at Casillas & Associates, one of the nation’s leading trial firms dedicated to advocating on behalf of those harmed by civil rights violations and catastrophic injuries
Ana Graciela Nájera Mendoza
Ana Graciela Nájera Mendoza is a 2014 graduate of UCLA School of Law, where she was enrolled in the Critical Race Studies (CRS) specialization. Through CRS, Ana was part of the Civil Rights Litigation Clinic, Workers Rights Clinic, Rebellious Lawyering Clinic, and Community Lawyering Seminar on Low Wage Workers.
Ana is dedicated to representing clients who are pursuing their constitutional and statutory rights. She has represented employees across a broad spectrum of industries in vindicating their labor and employment claims. She has also worked on impact litigation involving voting rights, First Amendment issues, education policy, and immigrants’ rights.
During law school, Ana volunteered with A New Way of Life and clerked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the ACLU of Southern California, and UNITE HERE Local 11. She was also the recipient of scholarships from the Beverly Hills Bar Association, Mexican American Bar Foundation, and Latina Lawyers Bar Association and she was selected as the 2014 MALDEF Hernandez-Stern Scholarship recipient. Ana is currently an Associate at Alexander, Krakow, and Glick LLP, a plaintiff-side employment law firm, where she advocates for employee justice.
Oscar Rene Gutierrez
Oscar Rene Gutierrez is the son of Mexican immigrants from Guadalajara and La Barca, Jalisco. After graduating from Loyola High School of Los Angeles in 2002, he attended the University of Southern California (USC) where he graduated in 2006 with two degrees, cum laude. Oscar then enrolled at Pepperdine University School of Law as a Diversity Scholar. While at Pepperdine, he served as a judicial extern for the Honorable Ronald S.W. Lew, United States District Court Judge for the Central District of California. Additionally, he was part of a two-person team that received the award for Best Respondent’s Brief at Pepperdine Law School’s 2010 Dalsimer Moot Court Competition. Oscar also served as the Legal Summaries Editor for Pepperdine’s administrative law journal, the National Association of Administrative Law Judiciary, where he was twice published for his Legal Summaries.
Oscar’s involvement in the Latino legal community began in law school. While at Pepperdine, he served as the MABA Student Vice Chair for Pepperdine and as the President of the Latin American Law Student Association (LALSA).
In 2012, Oscar followed his dream of becoming a trial attorney and enrolled in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office “Academy of Justice” six-week trial advocacy program. After completion of the program, he served as a Reserve Deputy City Attorney. Oscar is grateful to have gained valuable trial experience by prosecuting cases on behalf of the City of Los Angeles.
Oscar currently practices law as a trial attorney with his father and former MABA board member Oscar H. Gutierrez. Their practice focuses on plaintiff’s personal injury, real estate, and criminal defense matters. The vast majority of Oscar’s legal work aids the monolingual Spanish-speaking community here in southern California. His goal is to ensure that the rights of Latinos are protected in our judicial system, both civilly and criminally, regardless of their immigration status, finances, or socioeconomic background. He loves trial work and representing his clients.
He is a member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). Oscar also serves on the board for the Latino Alumni Society of Loyola High School and is the Co-Chair of the Membership Committee for the Litigation Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA).
This will be Oscar’s third year serving on the MABA Board. He was a MABA Trustee in 2014 and served as MABA Secretary in 2015.
Noreen Lysette Barcena
Noreen Lysette Barcena was born in Whittier, California to former 1987 MABA President, Gustavo A. Barcena, and Norma E. Reynoso. Raised in Hacienda Heights, California, Ms. Barcena always dreamed that one day she would follow in her father’s footsteps and become an attorney. In 2009, Ms. Barcena received a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology, and Organizational Studies with a minor in Chicano Studies from Pitzer College.
Ms. Barcena graduated in May 2012 from the University of La Verne College of Law. She successfully passed the July 2012 bar. Ms. Barcena often spends time with her family, and friends, whom have coined themselves “Team Palo,” in honor of their MABA Softball Team. She has a brother, Gustavo D. Barcena, whom is a successful computer engineer. Every summer, Ms. Barcena, her best friend and extended family, volunteer with IMAHelps to organize medical missions to underserved populations. Ms. Barcena has been involved with MABA for many years, serving on your board for four years.
Currently, Ms. Barcena practices Immigration and Criminal Defense in East Los Angeles, California. Ms. Barcena attributes her success to her parents, MABA mentors, and friends. Ms. Barcena is honored to serve as your Newsletter Editor. She looks forward to building MABA's legacy, and in the near future serving as your President.
Cristal L. Cabrera practices employment and family law in downtown Los Angeles. Originally from the State of Indiana, she graduated in 2009 from Indiana University-Bloomington where she double majored in Chemistry and Spanish and obtained a minor in Biology. She graduated in 2012 from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. While in law school, Cristal served two terms on the executive committee of the National Latina/o Law Student Association (NLLSA). Her first term she served as the Central Regional Director where in 2011 she co-hosted and organized the Inaugural Central Region Encuentro at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois. In 2012 Cristal served as the Chair of the organization and directed the planning and organization of the 16th Annual NLLSA Conference at UCLA School of Law in Los Angeles, California.
Since graduating law school, Cristal obtained her license to practice law in 2012 from the State of Indiana and in 2013 from the State of California. She previously worked with the Law Office of Gustavo A. Barcena as well as the Nourmand Law Firm prior to starting her own practice in downtown Los Angeles. Cristal is excited to serve on the MABA executive committee as the membership director.
Mario Trujillo is a native Californian, raised in a rural town in Jalisco, Mexico and then the Mission District of San Francisco, CA. He is a graduate of Lowell High School (Class of ’86), and UC Berkeley (’90) B.A.s in Sociology and Chicano Studies. While at UC Berkeley Mr. Trujillo was active in MEChA, the Raza Recruitment and Retention Center and in student government as an ASUC Student Senator. After undergrad, he moved to Los Angeles to work as an elementary school teacher. He taught in South Los Angeles for six years, while attending Law School at night. He received his Juris Doctorate from Southwestern Law School. He was a member of the Moot Court Honors Program. He was sworn in as a Deputy District Attorney on August 1, 1996. Mr. Trujillo is a dedicated public servant with over nineteen years of experience as a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. He has tried over 115 jury trials, including 22 homicide cases, with an overall 92% conviction rate. His last trial assignment was with the Hardcore Gang Division, which prosecutes the most serious gang-related murders. He also served as a felony prosecutor in the Victim Impact Program, handling emotionally charged and sensitive cases involving the physical and sexual abuse of children as well as Domestic Violence Cases. He is currently assigned to the Early Disposition Program (EDP) at the South East Norwalk courthouse. Apart from his trial experience with the District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Trujillo has also served as a Special Assistant in the administration of the office and in management as a Deputy in Charge of the Bellflower office with jurisdiction over 8 southeast cities.
Mr. Trujillo has a passion for community/civic involvement and service. He was President of the Los Angeles County Mexican American Bar Association (MABA) (2009), and President of the California La Raza Lawyers Association (2010). He rose to the rank of Lt. Governor with Kiwanis International, and has served on the boards of the Downey YMCA, MABA PAC, Latino Prosecutors Foundation, Community Lawyers, Inc. and the Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse and the HONOR PAC. Mr. Trujillo was an Associate Instructor of Law at Southwestern Law School, working with the Trial Advocacy Program from 2004-2007. He was recognized by the South East District Bar Association as the 2011 Attorney of the Year. Mr. Trujillo is also a licensed California Real Estate Broker.
In his proudest role, Mr. Trujillo is the father of three children, with his eldest son currently attending UC Berkeley.
Daniela Saspe was born in San Diego by immigrant parents from Queretaro and Durango, Mexico. Ms. Saspe graduated in 2005, magna cum laude, from Loyola Marymount University with a B.B.A. in business management. She was inducted into Loyola’s academic honors society, Beta Gamma Sigma. Thereafter, she worked in Mexico as an acquisition accounts manager where she traveled extensively abroad negotiating exclusive distribution and licensing agreements with Fortune 500 companies. Ms. Saspe obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School in 2014. During her final year at Loyola Law School, Ms. Saspe clerked full-time at a highly selective plaintiffs’ firm, Girardi & Keese. Her rewarding experience in representing victims of injustice gave her the skill set and training to litigate against some of the largest and well-funded companies in America.
Ms. Saspe is now an associate attorney at Capstone Law APC where her practice is focused on representing consumers and employees in class action litigation. Her continued devotion to the community is demonstrated in her active involvement as a MOSTe mentor. As a first generation college graduate in her family, Ms. Saspe understands the obstacles presented to minorities in pursuit of a higher education. As a MOSTe mentor, Ms. Saspe motivates underprivileged girls to attend and succeed in college. Ms. Saspe aspires to continually pursue her goal in aiding disenfranchised members of the community in both her personal and professional life.
Araceli Campos is Executive Director of the Miguel Contreras Foundation, a new non-profit organization born out of the local labor movement and housed at the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Araceli previously served as Corporate Counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). She began her legal career as an intellectual property and business litigator in the Los Angeles and New York offices of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Araceli is currently an appointee of Mayor Eric Garcetti on the Commission on the Status of Women. Commission efforts include Mayor Garcetti’s first-of-its-kind gender study for Los Angeles and implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). A first-generation American and first-generation middle and high school graduate with family from rural Mexico and Cuba, she is the product of Los Angeles public schools. She received her B.A. from Yale University and J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Richard Chacon graduated from the USC Gould School of Law in 1999. In addition to his Juris Doctorate, he received a Master's in Communications while receiving awards from both programs. At USC Law School, he received the Shattuck Award for "Most Promise in the Legal Profession" and at Annenberg School of Communication he graduated "With Distinction". Richard is currently a criminal defense attorney handling criminal matters through trial. He is also on the Hollenbeck Police Business Council, the USC Law Alumni Board and is the Secretary for the Criminal Courts Bar Association
Marisa Hernández-Stern is a litigation associate with the civil rights law firm of Hadsell Stormer & Renick where she handles primarily wage and hour class actions and other employment matters. Ms. Hernández-Stern graduated from Brown University in 2005 and the UCLA School of Law in 2010 with concentrations in Critical Race Studies and Public Interest Law and Policy. After graduating, Ms. Hernández-Stern worked as a bilingual civil rights analyst at the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, Voting Section. Ms. Hernández-Stern then clerked for the Honorable Harry Pregerson, United States Circuit Judge for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Ms. Hernández-Stern is the co-chair of MABA's Federal Judicial Externship Scholarship Program.
Ms. Hernández-Stern currently serves as the Vice-President of Regional Engagement for the Brown University Latino Alumni Council. She is also a member of the California Employment Lawyers Association, the Latina Lawyers Bar Association, and the Pacific Council on International Policy. In February 2014 and 2015, Ms. Hernández-Stern acted as an NGO legal observer representative for the Pacific Council to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to view pre-trial proceedings of detainee Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.
Susana E. Juarez
Susana E. Juarez is the fifth of seven children of immigrant parents from Mexico. She is the first in her family to attend college, and went to California State University, Los Angeles where she graduated cum laude with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics; all while working a full-time job to finance her undergraduate education.
Ms. Juarez was encouraged by her undergraduate professor Marc Dollinger to pursue her dream of going to law school and becoming an advocate to protect the most vulnerable members of society. Susana received her J.D. from Loyola Law School where she participated as a board member for La Raza de Loyola, the Criminal Law Society and was an active participant in the Women’s Law Society. At Loyola, Ms. Juarez was selected to participate in the Center for Juvenile Law and Policy as a legal advocate on behalf of children & youth charged with criminal offenses. It was at this time that Ms. Juarez became committed to protecting the rights of the accused who were prosecuted in criminal court. Upon graduating from law school, Ms. Juarez became an attorney with the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office and in 2013 she joined the Los Angeles County Alternate Public Defender’s Office where she continues to advocate on behalf of indigent clients as a felony trial attorney.
Ms. Juarez is committed to uplifting and empowering the Latino community in a cooperative and inclusive way. She is looking forward to her membership on the MABA Board and in serving the Latino community.
Sal was born in Pasadena, CA and is the fifth of eight children raised by Mexican immigrant father and mother of Mexican immigrant parents. He graduated from John Muir High School in Pasadena, and has a B.A. from UCLA in History, with a minor in Business Administration. He is the only member of his family to graduate with a college degree and post graduate degrees.
Sal graduated with a J.D. from the University of Dayton School of Law where he was the President of the Student Bar Association and member of the International Law Moot Court Team. He also earned a LL.M. degree from the University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in Transnational Business Practices where he interned in Milan, Italy.
Salvador is the Deputy in Charge of the El Monte Branch, of The Public Defender Office. He has been with the Public Defender’s Office for almost seventeen years where his experience is working with indigent clients charged with misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. This is Sal’s first year as a member of the Board. He is excited to be a member of the Board and looks forward to representing MABA.
Juan Ramos has experience in transactional law, including corporate, real estate, contracts and business law. He is an Adjunct Professor at Southwestern Law School, where he teaches Drafting Business Contracts.
As a member of MABA’s Board of Trustees, Juan has contributed his experience and skills in helping MABA fulfill its mission. As MABA’s Membership Director in 2015, Juan worked hard to increase MABA’s membership. Over the last several years, Juan has served on the MABA Lawyer Referral and Information Service (MABA-LRIS) Committee in charge of revamping and relaunching the service. MABA-LRIS’s purpose includes, among other things, providing legal and professional assistance to the Latino community. In addition, Juan drafted and filed with California’s State’s Supreme Court MABA’s amicus brief in support of Sergio Garcia’s admission to the State Bar. Juan was born and raised in Los Angeles. After graduating from Roosevelt, he attended Harvard, where he received his B.A. in Economics. Before attending Stanford Law School, he received a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan, worked in finance in New York, and taught at his high school alma mater.Juan is a board member of the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA and the Variety Boys and Girls Club in Boyle Heights, where he grew up. He is also a trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association and a City of Los Angeles commissioner.
Juan is married and has three daughters.
Aníbal Valdez-Ortega was born in Los Angeles, CA and was raised in Palmdale by his Mexican immigrant parents. He graduated from Quartz Hill High School and is the first in his family to graduate from high school and attend college. While at UCLA, Aníbal double majored in History and Chicano Studies, becoming part of the first ever graduating class under the Chicano Studies Department at UCLA and earning Cum Laude honors.
Aníbal has a passion for serving the immigrant communities. After college, he worked for a non-profit that focused on helping the under-served communities and renters of Los Angeles. He is currently a 2L at Loyola Law School where he is an active member of La Raza student organization. He is pursuing his legal education to one day become a District Attorney in Los Angeles with hopes of one day serving as an elected official for the city. In his spare time, he enjoys camping and fishing with his family and plays on a men’s baseball and basketball league.
Leonard Torrealba was born and raised in Venezuela. At the age of 17, he moved to Los Angeles. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and his Juris Doctor degree from the George Washington University in Washington D.C. Mr. Torrealba has been a trial lawyer for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for 28 years. He has been assigned to various trial and management assignments including the Public Integrity, Healthcare Fraud, Major Narcotics and Consumer Protection divisions. Mr. Torrealba is firmly committed to public service and community advocacy. He has served multiple terms as the President of the Latino Prosecutors Association and is currently the President of the Latino Prosecutors Foundation and a trustee on the Mexican American Bar Foundation board He is an advocate of crime prevention and mentoring programs and is currently a Project Lead instructor and a Washington Preparatory High School Law Academy mentor. He is married to longtime MABA member Shelly Torrealba and is honored to serve on the 2015 Board.
R. Ivan Hernandez
R. Ivan Hernandez has worked as a Deputy Public Defender for the County of Los Angeles for the past three years and is currently specializing in juvenile law out of the Eastlake Juvenile Center. Prior to that, he practiced labor and employment law, with a focus on wage-and-hour class actions for about two years. Having graduated from Dartmouth College in 2003 and Harvard Law School in 2009, he returned home to Los Angeles. Ivan currently lives in Glassel Park with his wife and their one year old daughter.
Maria Torres was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a young child with her immediate family. She was raised in the community of Echo Park in Los Angeles, California. As an undergraduate at California State University, Northridge, she majored in Psychology with a minor in Sociology. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in June 2006 and was invited to attend the Honors Convocation as a Cum Laude graduating student. Subsequently she became part of the MABA family as the Executive Administrator in 2006. In May of 2011 Ms. Torres obtained an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, cum laude. During the course of her enrollment in the Clinical Program she became involved in the Child and Adolescent Assessment Clinic where she provided diagnostic psychometric assessments and evaluations of children referred for suspected Learning Disability/Dyslexia, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and their associated learning and behavioral issues.