Wednesday, January 14, 2004
Rita Gunasekaran Named by Haight Brown & Bonesteel As New Chair of Firm’s Appellate Practice Group
By DAVID WATSON, Staff Writer
Rita Gunasekaran, a veteran appellate lawyer and Haight Brown & Bonesteel partner, has been named to head the firm’s appellate practice group.
Gunasekaran, 60, is a certified appellate specialist, a member of the California Academy of Appellate Lawyers, and a former chair of the Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission of the State Bar of California.
In a statement, Haight Brown managing partner Peter Ezzell called Gunasekaran an “ideal leader for the practice group.” He added that her “depth of knowledge in appellate issues is unbeatable.”
Gunasekaran told the MetNews she was “very honored” by Ezzell’s selection of her.
“We’ve done appellate work for a long time in our firm,” she said. “We have a terrific group of appellate attorneys in our department, and to be picked to chair that group I think is a real honor.”
The Indian-born Gunasekaran earned her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Madras in the early 1960s. She explained that she practiced briefly in India before marrying and coming to the United States with her husband, an engineer, for what was initially supposed to be a short visit.
Living in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, she found that her law degree did not qualify her to take the Pennsylvania bar exam, Gunasekaran noted. In fact, she added, even her high school diploma was regarded as worthless.
But when she and her family came to California in the 1980s, she found the rules of the State Bar of California to be less restrictive.
After passing the California bar exam in 1983, she was a research attorney with this district’s Court of Appeal until joining Haight Brown in 1986.
She was elevated to partner in 1992.
As a child, Gunasekaran trained in the traditional Indian dance form of Bharatha Natyam, and appeared in dance recitals all over the world, including—at the age of 11—at Carnegie Hall in New York. She explained that she stopped dancing after her daughter was born.
Her friends, family and dance colleagues were “very surprised when I decided to go to law school, since I had pretty much established myself as one of the top dancers in our country,” Gunasekaran commented, adding that she believed she could have a much longer career as a lawyer than as a dancer.
“That has turned out to be true,” she observed.
She served on the JNE Commission from 1993 to 1996 and was its chair during her last year. From 1997 to 1999 she chaired the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Appellate Courts Committee.
She is a current member of LACBA’s Board of Trustees and a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
The firm’s statement Thursday announcing the appointment noted that Gunasekaran has filed more than 150 appellate briefs and writ petitions and has handled more than a dozen appeals which resulted in published decisions by the California Court of Appeal.
She replaces Roy Weatherup and Jules Zeman, who had served as co-chairs of the practice group, Ezzell said yesterday. He noted that Weatherup recently left the firm.
The firm also elevated appellate attorney J. Alan Warfield, 38, to partner. Warfield, a 1996 graduate of the University of San Diego law school, is a civil appeals specialist who was honored in November by Public Counsel for his work on the firm’s consumer law project.
Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company