Denisse O. Gastélum is the founder and principal trial attorney at Gastélum Law, where her practice focuses primarily on civil rights/police misconduct, sexual assault, wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, representing plaintiffs in state and federal courts throughout the State of California. During the early years of her legal career, Denisse worked as a defense attorney, where she specialized in public entity defense. She primarily handled cases on behalf of the County of Los Angeles regarding civil rights claims, including excessive force, freedom of speech, and familial association. This experience provides her with the unique ability to analyze a case from both a defense and plaintiff’s perspective. The experience also provides her with an invaluable skill: the skill of objectivity. This skill has proven to be a reliable tool which has sharpened Denisse’s effectiveness in litigation and in the courtroom.
In 2021, Denisse was recognized by the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) with the prestigious Top Lawyers Under 40 Award. After a rigorous review process, the HNBA Awards Committee selected Denisse from a large pool of highly qualified candidates from across the country for her outstanding professional achievements combined with an exceptional commitment to service. In 2020, Denisse was recognized as being Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers, a recognition that is extended solely to a select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who demonstrate superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature and public profile. Denisse has also received the Top 100 Civil Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyers recognition by the National Trial Lawyers.
Denisse is a proud graduated from the Trial Advocacy Project through the Los Angeles County Bar Association. As the lead trial attorney, she prosecuted six misdemeanor/felony criminal trials during a seven-week span; the charges included terrorist threats, domestic violence, prostitution and assault with a deadly weapon. Denisse was single-handedly responsible for all aspects of trial proceedings, including trial strategy and theme, jury selection, opening statement, direct examination, cross-examination, and closing argument. Denisse also completed the three-month long Plaintiffs’ Trial Academy through the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles. At the Academy, Denisse was trained by an elite group of trial attorneys. Showing great promise as a trial attorney she received individualized mentoring to ensure that she mastered her craft.
Denisse served as the 2018 President of the Mexican American Bar Association (MABA), and the 2019 President of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association. She is a founding member of the LLBA Young Lawyers Committee. Denisse currently sits on the Board of Directors for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), the California La Raza Lawyers Association (CLRLA), the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), and the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA). She is actively involved in police reform through her legislative work with the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) Bane Act Reform Committee and the CAOC Civil Rights and Police Reform Committee. She has also served as a mentor for Motivating Our Students Through Experience (MOSTe), a non-profit organization geared towards mentoring young girls enrolled in middle schools and high schools located in underserved communities.
Denisse was born in East Los Angeles into an immigrant family from Chihuahua and Sinaloa, Mexico. Having come from humble beginnings, her commitment to advocating and protecting civil liberties comes naturally. Denisse completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she majored in Psychology and minored in Political Science and Education. She then embarked upon her legal studies at Loyola Law School. When not fighting for justice and serving as a zealous advocate on behalf of her clients, Denisse enjoys traveling, volunteering and spending time with her husband, Isidro Pánuco, and their two Austrian Shepherds, Ginsberg (“Ginsey”) and Barack (“Barry”).
Denisse is fluent in Spanish. Being her first language, Denisse effectively communicates with her Spanish-speaking clients in writing, reading and speaking.
Denisse O. Gastélum, The Civil Rights Issue, Advocate (February 2021), Associate Editor, http://onlinedigitaleditions.com/advocate/archive/web-02-2021/html5/.
Denisse O. Gastélum, “Securing the Universe of Documents in Civil-Rights Actions,” Advocate (February 2021), https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2021-february/securing-the-universe-of-documents -in-civil-rights-actions.
Denisse O. Gastélum, “Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act – Litigation 101,” Advocate (April 2020), https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2020-april/elder-abuse-and-de.
Denisse O. Gastélum, “So, You Want to Be A Federal Practitioner?” Advocate (March 2020), https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2020-march/so-you-want-to-be-a-federal-practitioner.
Denisse O. Gastélum, “Claims Presentation Requirements Under the Government Claims Act,” Advocate (November 2018), https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2018-november/claims-presentation-requirements-under-the-government-claims-act.
LLBA Platica “Believing in the Power of You: Navigating Life as a Latina … Family, Culture, Love & Profession” featuring Denisse O. Gastélum, Latina Lawyers Bar Association (2021).
Litigating Police Abuse Cases from Pleadings through Trial: Nuts, Bolts, and the Secret Sauce, Consumer Attorneys of California Annual Convention, San Francisco, California (2021).
Litigating Civil Rights Cases, California Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada (2021).
Civil Rights/Police Brutality Case Analysis Series, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (2020).
Strategies for Advancing & Reforming Civil Rights, Mexican American Bar Association, Los Angeles, California (2020).
Law Enforcement Misconduct: Litigating Police Shootings & Jail Suicides, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (2020).
Obtaining Discovery: Meet and Confer through Motion to Compel, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California (2020).
Does Racial Bias Still Exist in the Courtroom? Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada (2019).
What Makes America Great? Los Angeles Minority Bar Associations’ Roundtable Discussion, Los Angeles, California (2017).
Racial Injustice in the U.S., Los Angeles Minority Bar Associations’ Town Hall Discussion, Los Angeles, California (2016).
Supreme Court Review, Mexican American Bar Association, Los Angeles, California (2016).
México Criminal Trial Reform Conference, Mexican American Bar Association, Capítulo México, Jalisco, México (2014).
American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California Board of Directors; Board Member (2020 - Present)
National Police Accountability Project; Bylaws Committee Co-Chair, Bane Act Reform Committee Member (2020 - Present)
Consumer Attorneys of California; Civil Rights/Police Reform Committee Member (2020 – Present); Board Member (2019 – Present)
Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles; Diversity/Inclusion Committee Chair (2020 - Present); Board Member (2018 – Present)
California La Raza Lawyers Association; Board Member (2019 – Present)
Biden/Harris Campaign National Voter Assistance Hotline; Captain (2020)
Latina Lawyers Bar Association; President (2019); Executive Officer (2016 – 2019); Board Member (2015 – 2019); Young Lawyers Committee Founding Member (2011 – 2016)
Mexican American Bar Association; President (2018); Executive Officer (2015 – 2018); Board Member (2014 – 2018); Civil Rights Committee Member (2020 – Present)
HONORS & AWARDS
Volunteer Spotlight, Forum, Consumer Attorneys of California Annual Convention (2021)
Top Lawyers Under 40, Hispanic National Bar Association, Los Angeles, California (2021)
Top 40 Under 40, National Trial Lawyers, Dothan, Alabama (2020)
Top 100 Plaintiff Lawyers, National Trial Lawyers, Dothan, Alabama (2020)
Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles, Presidential Award, Los Angeles, California (2018)
Distinguished Alumna Speaker, Mexican American Bar Foundation, Los Angeles, California (2018)
Hispanic Heritage Honoree, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Los Angeles, California (2018)