William E. Gagen Jr.

  • Retired
Photo of William E. Gagen Jr.
Photo of William E. Gagen Jr.

As the firm's senior trial counsel, William E. Gagen, Jr. has earned local, state and national recognition as a Chronicle Top 25 attorney, a Top 100 Attorney by California Super Lawyer and an elected Fellow of the elite American College of Trial Lawyers. Known as a straight shooter who is trusted by lawyers, judges and prosecutors, he is widely regarded as a formidable force in the courtroom. A 2005 profile in The Recorder called him a "fearless articulate trial attorney and occasional hero" who zeroes in on the weakness in his opponent's case "like a laser beam." As the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in May, 2003: "If you get in trouble with the law in Contra Costa, who do you call? Those in the know say it's Bill Gagen." Perhaps the most telling accolades come from his opponents in the trenches who have learned first hand why The Recorder profile characterized him as the "Defense King" of Contra Costa County:

"I think it would be safe to say that he is the preeminent private criminal defense attorney in the county," says Robert Kochly, longtime District Attorney in Contra Costa County, who calls Mr. Gagen "very, very well respected" and "someone whose word you could trust absolutely."

Mr. Gagen brings his mix of straightforward professionalism and passionate advocacy to every case, whether it's a teenager's minor indiscretion or a headline-making homicide. In four decades of practice, he has taken on more than his share of high-profile defendants. One of his first cases was defending Symbionese Liberation Army member Joseph Remiro, accused of the attempted murder of a police officer. He tried the case in a bullet-proofed Los Angeles courtroom, living out of a nearby hotel room for six months. The jury ultimately deadlocked and the case was dismissed. In the 1980s, he defended Bradley Page, a UC Berkeley student accused of killing his girlfriend Roberta "Bibi" Lee on an Oakland hiking trail. After he succeeded in tearing apart Page's "confession," which was later recanted, the jury deadlocked. More recently, Mr. Gagen has made the news defending priests in Clergy sex abuse cases, a Norteno gang member accused of murder and an auto parts executive targeted by the Attorney General in a multi-million dollar unfair business action.

Yet he considers some of his most gratifying accomplishments the victories that didn't make the headlines: getting felony drug charges dismissed against a local business owner with a medical marijuana prescription or helping a troubled 15-year-old assault suspect avoid incarceration by working with the court and counselors to address his undiagnosed learning disabilities. As he told The Chronicle, he finds his work particularly gratifying when he helps good kids who have made a bad mistake. They often visit years later to thank him. "That's a nice feeling," he said. "It's a nice way to make a living."

  • California, 1969
  • Contra Costa County Bar Association, President, 1981 to 1982
  • Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers Association, President, 1979
  • California Trial Lawyers Association, Experienced Trial Lawyer, General Personal Injury & Criminal
  • California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
  • Eugene O'Neill Foundation
  • De La Salle High School, Board of Regents
  • Diablo Bank
  • Phi Delta Phi
  • Criminal Law, California Board of Legal Specialization
  • University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Berkeley, California
    • J.D., Doctor of Jurisprudence - 1968
    • Honors: Moot Court
  • Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia
    • A.B., Bachelor of Arts - 1965
  • Fellow, American College of Trial Lawyers