Law Offices of M. Gerald Schwartzbach, P.C.
CLASS OF 1966
When M. Gerald Schwartzbach attended W&J, diversity was almost nonexistent. In fact, he remembers that the all-male school only had two fraternities that would accept Jews or African-Americans. Those experiences helped to make him what he is today—a lawyer recognized by his peers as one of “The Best Lawyers in America ” and a tireless champion against injustice.
Schwartzbach returned to W&J to speak as part of a legal forum during Homecoming 2006. It was his first visit in 39 years. He very much appreciated the College’s changes, particularly in the area of diversity. One thing that has not changed is the intimacy of the College, where students interact with the professors who help to train their minds and mold their values, he says.
Schwartzbach’s love of sports ran deep at W&J. “I played on both the basketball and baseball teams,” he remembers. Later, he attended George Washington University Law School . After law school, he joined VISTA and moved to Detroit before leaving for California in 1972.
Many of his trials have become civil rights landmarks. In 1972, he successfully argued that the state of Arkansas ’ penal system violated the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In 1978, he persuaded the California Supreme Court that all California felony defendants have a right to a preliminary hearing, whether prosecuted by indictment or by complaint. In 1981, he helped pioneer the Battered Women’s Syndrome Defense in his successful defense of Delores Churchill. In 1982, he convinced the California Supreme Court to establish the presumptive right of defendants in capital murder cases to have two court-appointed attorneys. In 1986, he obtained an acquittal of civil-rights attorney Stephen Bingham, who was charged with conspiracy and multiple murders in an internationally publicized case. In 1995, he won judgments of sex discrimination and retaliation against the City and County of San Francisco . In 2003, Schwartzbach won the release of Glen Buddy Nickerson, who had been wrongly convicted and incarcerated for 18 1/2 years. And, in 2005, Schwartzbach obtained the acquittal of actor Robert Blake in a highly publicized Los Angeles murder trial.