From its roots in the late 1980s, California Appellate Defense Counsel (CADC) has grown into a highly professional association, comprised primarily of lawyers who handle indigent appeals by court appointment in criminal and dependency cases. CADC is generally considered to be “the voice of the panel.” Through strong leadership by its presidents, other officers, and board members through the years, along with the critical participation of countless members and other volunteers, CADC has become a very effective organization, respected by other stakeholders in the court-appointed counsel system.
CADC began in the late 1980's, after the creation of the current project/panel system, with the formation of regional groups of panel attorneys. After meetings of the leaders of these groups, a statewide organization initially called Independent Appellate Attorneys for Justice (IAAJ) was founded. The early founders of IAAJ, led by Catherine Aragon, met most famously at the Burbank Airport (hence the “Burbank Award” given annually to a member who has made significant contributions to CADC) and at other locations around the state, in order to create the foundation upon which CADC was built. IAAJ began actively pursuing its goals, seeking to improve the lives of panel attorneys and formally incorporated as CADC in the early 1990s. By then, the organization was fully operational, led by a statewide board of directors, reaching out to other components of the system in pursuit of its goals. CADC celebrated its 25th Anniversary in 2014.
CADC succeeded in being recognized as an important part of the court-appointed counsel system in the mid-1990s. In 1995, First District Justice Gary Strankman, who had chaired the committee which became the Appellate Indigent Defense Oversight Advisory Committee (AIDOAC), was a guest speaker at the CADC Annual Conference in San Francisco. At about the same time, CADC members began having periodic meetings with the directors of the court appellate projects to discuss matters of mutual concern and CADC also began to have similar dialogues with the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) staff who oversaw the court-appointed counsel system.
After early struggles to be recognized as an institutional voice to be heard, CADC has evolved into its current position as a major player in the system. Through its Court and Project liaison, a group of CADC members meets periodically with program-related AOC personnel to discuss matters of mutual concern, working towards improvement of the system. Although CADC does not have an official “seat” on AIDOAC, historically the panel attorney member of AIDOAC has always been active in CADC. In the Legislature and at the AOC, CADC’s professional lobbyist vigilantly works with CADC leadership to seek compensation increases and other process changes benefitting CADC and its members, as well as resisting any efforts which would be to the detriment of the court-appointed appellate program.
Over the years, CADC has developed a positive working relationship with the appellate projects, the AOC, the Administrative Presiding Justices, and the AIDOAC, for the good of CADC members and for the justice system as a whole. CADC has also developed a modern Internet forum system for regular communication in various areas among its members, and maintains a highly useful brief bank for the sharing of resources.
CADC’s system of local and regional chapters, together with its Annual Conference -- which rotates between Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento, and the San Francisco Bay Area -- provide opportunities for information-sharing, education, and dialogue among colleagues. Periodic statewide retreats provide leaders with the opportunity to build a long-range vision for CADC, so that the organization can continue its positive evolution to serve its members and the court-appointed counsel system.
The future doubtless will bring challenges, and a strong CADC will help to assure the well-being of its members and the court-appointed appellate counsel program in California.
Our Past Presidents
- Patricia Lai (2021-2023)
San Jose, CA
- Tonja Torres (2019-2021)
- Jeralyn Keller (2017-2019)
Los Angeles, CA
- Meredith Fahn (2015-2017)
San Jose, CA
- Randi Covin (2013-2015)
- Linda Conrad (2011-2013)
- Walt Pyle (2009-2011)
- David Goodwin (2007-2009)
Los Angeles, CA
- Patricia Scott (2006-2007)
- Kyle Gee (2004-2006)
- David Lampkin (2002-2004)
- Sarah F. Pattison (2000-2002)
- Roberta Thyfault (1999-2000)
San Diego, CA
- Wesley A. Van Winkle (1998-1999)
- R. Clayton Seaman (1996-1998)
- Gordon S. Brownell (1994-1996)
St. Helena, CA
- Stephen Temko (1992-1994)
San Diego, CA
- Catherine Aragon (1989-1992)