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Mary Ellen Attridge '87 Announces Retirement from Storied Public Defense Career

Mary Ellen Attridge ' 87 | © Charlie Neuman/San Diego Union-Tribune via ZUMA Wire

One of the most well-known public defenders in San Diego, California Western School of Law alumna Mary Ellen Attridge '87 announced her retirement after a 27-year career during which she defended more than 1,000 cases—several of which earned national attention.

On Saturday, the San Diego Union-Tribune paid homage to Attridge's service, demeanor, and success. "Mary Ellen Attridge is rather extroverted, sometimes brash and occasionally unfiltered," the article states. "She is also one of the fiercest criminal defense attorneys around, and for the last 27 years, she has devoted her services to those who can't afford to pay for a lawyer on their own."

As a public defense attorney, Attridge didn't get to choose her cases, but provided top-notch legal representation whether there was national interest or little attention from the public at all. Attridge represented one of three teens accused of killing 12-year-old Stephanie Crowe in 1998, and a man accused of killing a professional surfer in a case that came to be known by the "Bird Rock Bandits" moniker in 2007.

What's next for Attridge? The New York native, known for her outspoken disposition and sarcastic wit, is keen to embrace wholly different areas of practice for now. "The future is open," she says. "There will be some sailing, some hot yoga, some wine, plenty of cooking, and certainly some family time."

Even though she is set to retire, Attridge is not entirely done with the legal profession. In a decade-old case, prosecutors re-charged one of Attridge's clients in light of new evidence. Attridge's client—in custody since fall 2016—has agreed to continue sitting in jail, rather than have anyone else take his case.

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