For over a quarter of a century, Coleen Cusack has defended those accused of wrongdoing by the government and has pursued principled advocacy to make changes to the law and to improve our community. Ms. Cusack wears many hats (and shoes) as a criminal defense attorney, policy advocate, professor, curriculum developer and mother.
As a private attorney, Ms. Cusack has represented persons charged with infractions, misdemeanors and felonies in state and federal court at the administrative, trial and appellate levels. Throughout the years, Ms. Cusack has also accepted court-appointed misdemeanors and appeals in state court and court-appointed felony prosecutions in federal court.
During her legal studies, Ms. Cusack was a writer and editor for Law Review and, represented her school nationally on the National Appellate Advocacy Competition team, placing third. Ms. Cusack was a judicial extern for Presiding Judge Kremer of the Fourth District Court of Appeal where she drafted memoranda opinions and screened habeas filings.
In 1993, Ms. Cusack participated in class action litigation which compelled the California Bureau of Prisons to provide due process in its parole revocation proceedings. In 1999, Ms. Cusack filed a 15-page motion in limine that rhymed and presented the opening statement in the bank fraud case in rhyme.
In 2001, Ms. Cusack with Attorney Arthur Tait successfully challenged the Red Light Photo Enforcement Program resulting in the suspension, reform and ultimate termination of the program and the dismissal of over 400 clients’ cases. Ms. Cusack has testified before the California Senate and was responsible for enacting legislation that regulated companies engaged in the operation of camera enforcement technology. Ms. Cusack’s closing argument and research was cited and relied upon by then-House Majority leader Dick Armey (R-Tx).
In 2003, Ms. Cusack was hired to write the criminal justice curriculum for University of Phoenix for use in their nationwide undergraduate degree program. Also, in that same year, Ms. Cusack represented a dozen police officers from Mt. Arlington, NJ and through her policy advocacy, prevented their small department from being disbanded and outsourced to neighboring jurisdictions.
From 2005 – 2007, Ms. Cusack served as the Bail Project Director, a government-funded project, where she trained and supervised law students to interview inmates charged with felonies immediately after they were booked into jail and then appear on their behalf at a subsequent bail hearing to argue for a reduction of bail in suitable cases. From 2014 – 2017, Ms. Cusack served as the Supervising Attorney for the Pro Bono Traffic Court Clinic, an experiential learning opportunity for law students to practice their criminal defense advocacy while representing, for free, persons charged with infractions.
In 2017, Ms. Cusack launched a challenge to City of San Diego Municipal Ordinances that, individually and together, acted to criminalize homeless persons for their status as unsheltered. In conjunction with this litigation, Ms. Cusack secured the exoneration of her wrongfully convicted client and pursued consequences for the police officer who was determined to have testified falsely in the proceedings.
Ms. Cusack is a Know-Your-Rights trainer and Constitution Day presenter with the San Diego American Civil Liberties Union, a legal observer with National Lawyers Guild, a community advocate with Planned Parenthood and a member of San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance. When she is not tirelessly advocating for social justice, Ms. Cusack competes in chess, performs stand-up comedy and sings karaoke.
"Having never been in trouble with the law before I was very frightened. Not able to request referrals from anyone I knew personally because of the embarrassment, I turned to the internet. Thomas Matthews has a website that seemed to..."