Discovery with Steven G. Churchwell

The Sacramento attorney, who has been lead counsel on a score of statewide initiative and referendum measures, reveals his inner Elvis

Published in 2016 Northern California Super Lawyers — August 2016

I can’t go a day without … iced tea. Tejava straight from the bottle works fine.

If you were in my office, you’d … echo. Our offices are concrete and glass because someone told me millennial associates like that. 

My colleagues would be surprised to know that … I am having so much fun, I would work for free.

The lawyer I most admire is … C.M. “Bud” Starr II. Bud lost his eyesight to Type 1 diabetes [in 2002] and was offered a full disability retirement. Instead, he has continued to try felony cases in the Kern County District Attorney’s Office in addition to mentoring young lawyers.

The quality I most like in a lawyer is … never forgetting that we are human beings first.

My career high point (so far) has been … arguing a constitutional case in the California Supreme Court. The seven justices made me feel like we were enjoying a good conversation over dinner. 

If I weren’t a lawyer, I’d be … a “substitute” guitar/keyboard player for 1970s rock bands on tour. I could fill in for a few dates whenever a band member was away due to the birth of a grandchild or a surgical procedure. (I play both badly. Since I was 7. So improvement not likely.)

A different practice area that intrigues me is … aircraft repo law. I have a pilot’s license, and there is something alluring about getting to combine something mind-numbingly boring, like reviewing a secured lease, with getting to “steal” a Citation jet.

I can’t believe more people haven’t read … A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. You suddenly find that you understand particle physics, and it wasn’t even painful. 

I can do a pretty good impersonation of … Elvis. I grew up 2 miles from Graceland and attended grade school with one of the King’s stepbrothers. A friend ran the projector at Memphian Theater, and he would call whenever Elvis was scheduled to watch a movie there with his entourage, known as “the Memphis Mafia.” Elvis always sat in the same seat, with his name on the back. 

My fictional hero is … In Rumpole of the Bailey, Horace Rumpole was an eccentric, ethical and effective criminal defense lawyer. He could quote the Oxford Book of English Verse in the middle of any cross-examination. He had no desire to “take silk” as a Queen’s Counsel, whom he considered to be pompous blowhards.

On weekends I … try to find time to turn the television volume down and sneak in a nap on the sofa. (I find that baseball or golf are best for this purpose.)

The talent I wish I had is … playing the mandolin. Not enough time, not enough ability.

The most fascinating person I ever met is … my wife, Holli. She was born in the middle of the Vietnam War and almost left on a dock at age 4 during her family’s escape to Guam and eventually the U.S. Holli makes me feel like most of what I consider problems are, in reality, pretty insignificant.

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