Representing Clients in California and in Federal Courts Throughout the United States

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Scott A. Sugarman





Scott Sugarman has unusually broad experience as a criminal defense attorney over his more than 50 years as an attorney. He is respected and very well regarded not only by the California and federal judges before whom he has appeared, but has the well-earned respect of the prosecutors who have been his opponents in the courtroom.

Scott Sugarman graduated from the University of Rochester in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts with Highest Distinction in political science and history. He was awarded his law degree from Stanford Law School in 1975. He is currently a member of the bar of the State of California and various federal courts, including United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, and the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

After he graduated from Stanford Law School, he worked as an associate in litigation for a large law firm in Washington, D.C. From 1977 to 1980, Scott served as the Supervising Research Attorney for the Chief Justice of California, Rose Elizabeth Bird. In that position, he was responsible for researching and drafting opinions for Chief Justice Bird, and supervising the preparation of opinions and memoranda by other law clerks for the Chief Justice.

He then served for seven years as an Assistant Public Defender in Alameda County. During that period, he represented defendants charged with all types of crime, from petty theft and driving under the influence of alcohol, to robbery and residential burglary and rape, to capital murder. With another attorney, he conducted a five-month capital murder trial for a client accused of capital murder in the killing of a police officer. In addition to the many clients that he personally represented, he supervised and trained younger attorneys working as public defenders. Scott also developed, researched and wrote impact or test case litigation intended to benefit large number of criminal defendants, including the preparation of writs and appeals to the California appellate courts.

In 1989, he created Sugarman & Cannon with his law partner Christopher Cannon. In the 30-plus years since they established Sugarman & Cannon, Scott has represented clients charged with nearly every type of crime, including complex white collar crimes, murder, sexual assault and child molestation, possession of child pornograghy, tax fraud and evasion, robbery, and domestic violence.

Scott's representation of clients in the trial court includes:

  • acquittal after four and one-month federal trial of client accused of many counts of fraud and conspiracy
  • securing a sentence of probation for client charged in the largest heroin seizure in United States history
  • dismissal of charges of child sexual misconduct in trial
  • securing a life sentence for a defendant convicted in a capital case of the murder of a police officer
  • acquittal of client accused of attempted robbery and other crimes during a street encounter with the complaining witness.
Most clients charged with a criminal offense choose not to proceed to trial and have relied on Scott to secure the best possible settlement, including in some cases a dismissal of the charges. His tenacharge cious battle on his clients' behalf has resulted in many cases in which his client was able to admit a less serious charge, be placed on probabtion rather than be sentenced to jail, or be placed in a residential treatment program rather than be sentenced to county jail or prison.  

For more than 45 years, Scott has been actively involved in representing clients in appeals, pre-trial writs, habeas corpus proceedings and other post-conviction proceedings. His work on behalf of these clients includes:

  • reversal of appeal of all the defendant's convictions arising from an alleged, complex fraud conspiracy;
  • the successful reversal on appeal of five defendants charged with conspiracy to commit murder and murder arising from the attempted robbery of a business;
  • the successful reversal on appeal of a client convicted of two murders based on a violation of the client's Miranda rights;
  • securing reversal of eight of ten counts of fraud and related offenses arising from a dispute over ownership of a residence;
  • the successful appeal in a federal habeas corpus proceeding resulting in the reversal of his client's murder conviction based on a violation of the client's constitutional right of confrontation and cross-examination;
  • successful appeal in a federal habeas corpus proceeding of the district court's refusal to order the prosecution to retry his client where the prosecution failed to comply with Ninth Circuit's order following the previous successful appeal of the client's murder conviction
  • the successful appeal of client's felony conviction and state prison for shooting at police officers based on the trial court's failure to give adequate jury instructions.

In addition to his law practice, Scott has been very active in organizations involved with criminal defense and as a seminar speaker on topics of criminal law and procedure.

Beginning in 1989, he has been a member of the Board of Governors of California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ), the largest organization of criminal defense attorneys in California. He served as treasurer of CACJ in 2012, vice-president in 2013 and president in 2014. He was invited by the California Supreme Court to deliver an address to that Court on the occasion of the Court's Memorial to Chief Justice Rose Elizabeth Bird. He was selected by the Judges of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in 2001 to serve a three-year term as a Lawyer Representative from the District Court to the United States Court of Appeals to the Ninth Circuit. From 2003 to 2011, the Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California selected Scott to serve on the Court's Criminal Justice Working Group.

He has been actively involved in analyzing and reviewing legislation on criminal law topics pending or proposed in the California Legislature throughout his tenure on the Board of CACJ, and prior to that, for the California Public Defender's Association and the Alameda County Public Defender Association. He has testified before various legislative committees and submitted analysis and criticism of pending bills to legislators, Senate and Assembly committees and their staffs.

Current Employment Position

  • Partner

Published Works

  • 'Coming for Your Phone, Again', Daily Journal, October, 2017
  • 'States Clash on Warrantless Searches of Cellphones', Daily Journal, 2013
  • 'Time for a Change: Irrational Interpretation of Drug Laws', Daily Journal, 2013
  • 'Penal Code 288.5 and the Dilution of the Constitutional Requirement for Jury Unanimity,' California Defender, Fall, 2012
  • 'Basics and Latest in Pitchess Discovery', Criminal Defense Seminar: What You Need to Know, 2004
  • 'Pitchess Motions: Getting the Goods on the Cops', 2003
  • 'Police Misconduct: Pitchess, the Second Inning,' Police Misconduct, 2001
  • Editorial Consultant, California Drunk Driving Law, 2004