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Author Photo Copyright © 2012 Victoria Friend

About the Author

Retired judge Lise Pearlman has lived most of her adult life in Oakland, California where the Black Panther Party was headquartered and where the State of California tried Huey Newton three times for the death of Officer John Frey and wounding of Officer Herbert Heanes following an early morning shootout in West Oakland in October of 1967. Born and raised in Connecticut, Pearlman attended the University of Pennsylvania for two years before transferring in 1969 into the first class at Yale University to graduate women. That brought her to New Haven at the same time as Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale faced murder charges there and an international spotlight focused on Yale President Kingman Brewster's statement that he doubted a black revolutionary could get a fair trial anywhere in America.  In the spring of 1970 Pearlman volunteered among the students canvassing local neighborhoods for residents' views on the presumption of innocence. After receiving her degree in Classics, she moved to Berkeley in 1971 to attend law school at U.C.'s Boalt Hall, which coincided with the Black Panther Party's other co-founder, Huey Newton, facing his third trial in that county for the death of Officer John Frey. While in law school, Pearlman accompanied her older brother to a session of the extraordinarily high security Marin County pretrial proceedings against San Quentin inmate Ruchell Magee. (Magee was then facing charges for alleged conspiracy with Communist lecturer Angela Davis in the August 1970 kidnap and murder of a judge and wounding of two other hostages at the Marin County Courthouse in order to force a hostage exchange for Black Panther and Soledad Brother George Jackson--the infamous bloody incident in which Jackson's younger brother Jonathan and two escaping San Quentin inmates also died).  In her third year of law school, Pearlman served as an extern for Justice Mathew Tobriner (a  Gov. Pat Brown appointee on the California Supreme Court), who performed her wedding to fellow classmate Peter Benvenutti the weekend the pair graduated in 1974. Pearlman later clerked for California's Chief Justice Donald Wright (a Gov. Ronald Reagan appointee)  and served as a teaching fellow at Stanford Law School for a year before beginning civil litigation and appellate practice in Oakland, where she had moved during law school and remains to this day.
A highlight of Pearlman's law practice was appearing before the United States Supreme Court as co-counsel in the landmark class arbitration case of Keating v. Southland. In 1984, Pearlman received widespread publicity as the first woman managing partner of an established California law firm. Five years later she was selected as the first Presiding Judge of the California State Bar Court, appointed by the California Supreme Court to oversee the pioneering panel of specialized judges handling attorney discipline cases statewide.  Since her term ended in 1996, Pearlman has served as a private judge arbitrating and mediating civil cases through Alternative Resolution Centers (www.arc4adr.com) and as a judge pro tempore and mediator for the Alameda County Superior Court.  From 1997 to 2000, she served on the newly created Oakland Public Ethics Commission, chairing it from 1998 to 1999. A frequent lecturer and panelist on programs for practicing lawyers, Pearlman co-authored her first book in 1985 on writing jury instructions in plain English. She also taught professional responsiblity as a guest lecturer at Boalt Hall and Santa Clara University  law schools. For 25 years, Pearlman has  played a leadership role in community organizations and fund-raising efforts in the East Bay for the benefit of youth at risk and promotion of access to justice, in recognition of which she received an award from the Bay Area Minority Bar Coalition in 2006. She and her husband have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.
Pearlman got the idea for this book comparing the 1968 Huey Newton trial to other famous trials of the 20th century after researching the life of  the attorney who won Newton's freedom, Fay Stender, a co-founder of California Women Lawyers ("CWL")  in whose name CWL gives an award each year to an attorney who emulates Stender's courage and commitment to the representation of women, disadvantaged groups and unpopular causes. Pearlman later served as a regional representative on  that same statewide board and anticipates publishing a biography of Fay Stender in the near future.