— William O’Connor has joined Cooley as a partner in the litigation department. O’Connor previously headed Morrison & Foerster’s San Diego litigation department and chaired the firm’s unmanned aircraft systems/drones group and airports and aviation practice. O’Connor’s broad experience includes commercial disputes, trials and arbitrations with a focus on product liability, aviation disputes, patent license agreements, supply contracts, partnerships, real estate and insurance coverage.

“As our global litigation bench grows in stature, we’re strengthening our core by adding talented and proven next-generation trial lawyers,” said Mike Attanasio, chair of Cooley’s global litigation department. “Bill fits this profile perfectly. He has a stellar record of client service paired with significant trial experience, having first-chaired matters covering all aspects of complex commercial litigation.”

O’Connor’s practice includes commercial litigation, product liability and cutting-edge aviation-related litigation and regulatory matters. An experienced pilot, he also understands the technical aspects of aviation litigation.

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Aubree Green and Leah Strickland have been made partners at Solomon Ward Seidenwurm & Smith LLP.

“Aubree and Leah are impressive attorneys with extensive, diverse legal skills,” said Daniel Gardenswartz, Solomon Ward’s managing partner.

Strickland, who became a partner on Jan. 1, is a member of the firm’s litigation practice group. Her practice focuses on business litigation, employment litigation and intellectual property disputes. Strickland is currently a member of the San Diego County Bar Association’s Legal Ethics Committee and Appellate Practice Section. Green, who will join the partnership effective July 1, is a member of the firm’s business and corporate and real estate practice groups. She also represents clients in land use and other regulatory matters relating to real estate development.

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Ballard Spahr and Lindquist & Vennum have completed their merger, according to Ballard Spahr Chair Mark Stewart. The combined firm — which retains the name Ballard Spahr — has more than 650 lawyers in 15 offices across the United States. The merger strengthens client offerings at Ballard Spahr — particularly in the area of private equity and strategic merger and acquisition transactions — and provides the practice depth and expanded industry capabilities of an Am Law 100 firm to clients of Lindquist & Vennum.

J. Anthony Girolami has been promoted to partner at Stoel Rives LLP. Girolami is one of four Stoel Rives attorneys who became new partners at the firm effective Jan. 1. Girolami’s promotion continues the firm’s commitment to grow its San Diego office through a focus on client value and diversity.

“I am pleased to welcome this talented group of diverse and dedicated lawyers to partnership,” said firm Managing Partner James E. Torgerson.

Girolami focuses his practice on corporate and energy-related transactions with an international focus. Prior to joining Stoel Rives LLP, Girolami worked at international law firms and spent time in New York City, Mexico City and São Paulo, Brazil.

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You have read here about the legal struggles that often follow victims of sex trafficking, and how recent legislation is giving prosecutors and public defenders a tool to resolve this legal quagmire. It is working. Free to Thrive, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, and San Diego County Public Defender recently put the new law to use.

One petition involved a young woman from San Diego who was trafficked by force for several years in and around San Diego County. At 16, she was lured away from her family and sexually exploited for the benefit of her traffickers, who used narcotics as a means of coercion and control. After nearly six years of exploitation, this courageous victim finally escaped from her traffickers and began the long road of healing. She eventually obtained her G.E.D. and went to college, where she is now on the Dean’s Honor List.

She had been convicted of felony drug and theft charges during her victimization. Those convictions prevented her from getting her life fully back on track. A vacatur petition drafted by attorneys at the nonprofit Free to Thrive was submitted to the District Attorney’s Office for review and was granted a few weeks ago by San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael T. Smyth. This was the third such “vacatur petition” granted by a court in San Diego County, among the first petitions granted in the state of California.

“Victims of human trafficking who were prosecuted for offenses committed while they were manipulated, controlled, and abused by their traffickers have criminal records which create barriers to employment, housing, education, and other forms of civic engagement,” said Chief Deputy Public Defender Kate Braner.

“This young woman is working to move forward with her life and hit numerous roadblocks due to her criminal record. She had received numerous job offers, but each time a potential employer learned she had a criminal record the offer was rescinded,” said Jamie Quient, president and managing attorney of Free to Thrive.

The local nonprofit organization that empowers survivors of human trafficking has announced the successful use of a new law designed to clear convictions off the records of individuals who were victims of human trafficking. SB 823, passed in 2016, provides for vacating nonviolent convictions suffered by a victim of human trafficking, which occurred as a direct result of their victimization.

“The best approach at giving survivors of sex trafficking a true second chance is to implement laws like this one that recognize their victimization and help them move on with their lives,” said Stephan. “The fact that these petitions are starting to be granted is an excellent example of collaboration between our office, the Public Defender, and community groups that support victims like Free to Thrive.”

And an excellent example of the legal system working to protect citizens.

Randy Frisch is in-house counsel for the National University System. He can be reached at rcfrisch@msn.com.