The firm has four lawyers from widely different backgrounds: Cliff Gardner, Lazuli Whitt, Luz Valverde and Daniel Buffington. Each case which comes into the firm is handled by at least two of these lawyers.
In over 35 years of practicing criminal law, Cliff Gardner has developed extensive experience representing clients in post-conviction proceedings, including both appellate and habeas corpus representation. Mr. Gardner's post-conviction experience includes representing clients at all levels of the state and federal systems. In addition to handling many cases before the intermediate appellate courts in California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, he has briefed and argued several cases in the United States Supreme Court; he has also argued more than 20 times before the California Supreme Court. Mr. Gardner has published numerous articles about post-conviction practice, spoken at various national conferences on appellate and post-conviction issues, and successfully represented capital defendants in California, Idaho, Montana and Arizona. He has been an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of California's Boalt School of Law since 2008. In 1999, Mr. Gardner co-authored Proposition 36 -- the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000 -- which was approved by 61 percent of California voters in the November 2000 election. Mr. Gardner graduated from UCLA School of Law Los Angeles, California, in May, 1980 (Order of the Coif). His undergraduate degree in Anthropology is from SUNY at Binghamton Binghamton, New York B.A., June 1977.
Lazuli Whitt has been been associated with the firm since 2002. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Lewis & Clark College in Portland Oregon in 1995. While attending Lewis & Clark, she spent two semesters abroad in Kenya and Ecuador. Lazuli received her Juris Doctor from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 2002.
Honors: Graduated Magna Cum Laude; McAuliffe Honor Society, 1999-2002; Law Review, 2000-2002; CALI Award for Excellence in Torts, Civil Procedure, Property, Wills and Trusts, and Death Penalty Law; Research Assistant to Professor Peter Jan Honingsberg (researching juvenile death penalty law), 2002; Queen's Bench Agnes O'Brien Smith Scholarship; Douglas Raskin Memorial Scholarship. Internships: United States District Court, Northern District of California, Judge Claudia Wilken, 2001; The Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center, 2001, 2000; Center for Capital Assistance, 2001; Habeas Corpus Resource Center, 2000. Publications: "The California Death Penalty: Prosecutors' Use of Inconsistent Theories Plays Fast and Loose with the Courts and the Defendants," 36 University of San Francisco Law Review, Summer, 2002, pp. 853-906 (co-authored with Professor Steven F. Shatz).
Luz C. Valverde
Luz Valverde has been associated with the firm since 2008. Before then Luz was with the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s office as a Capital Law Clerk on complex and high profile death penalty trials. Luz received her Bachelor of Arts with honors in Chicano Studies from University of California at Berkeley in 2002. Luz received her Juris Doctorate from University of California School of Law at Berkeley (Boalt Hall) in 2005. Prior to becoming an attorney, Luz enjoyed a 12-year career as an American Sign Language interpreter in the fields of education and mental health.
Honors: Boalt Hall Bridge Fellow, 2005; Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, Editor in Chief 2003-2004; Berkeley Law Foundation Phoenix Fellow, 2002-2003; Teaching and Curriculum Committee Student Representative, 2002-2003; Honors Thesis: Embodied Disruptions: Intersectionality in Constructions of Race, Disability & Gender, 2002; Rhodes and Margaret B. Trussell Human Services Scholarship 1998-2003. Internships:; Alameda County Public Defender’s Office, 2005; National Center for Lesbian Rights, 2005; San Francisco City Attorney’s Office (exclusive work on same-sex marriage cases), 2004; Protection and Advocacy, Inc., 2003; Third Woman Press, 2001. Activities:; East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association, Board Member 2006-2008; Marriage Equality, “Children of LGBT Parents” Outreach Director, 2006-2007; California Attorneys for Criminal Justice & California Defenders; Association Capital Case Defense Seminar, Volunteer, 2007.
Daniel Buffington has been associated with the firm since 2016. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Washington. He received his law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law with a certificate in Public Interest and Social Justice Law. Prior to law school, Daniel worked as court clerk for the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years in rural Costa Rica, volunteered as an inmate tutor at King County Jail in Seattle, and worked as ballboy for the Seattle Supersonics basketball team. Daniel Buffington joined the firm in 2016.
Honors: Top 15% of law school class; Dean's List for academic years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016; B.T. Collins "Captain Hook" Scholarship Recipient; Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellow CALI Awards for Excellence for top grades in Legal Analysis, Research, and Writing, Community Property, and Interviewing and Counseling; Witkin Awards for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law and Legal Professional Ethics. Internships: Post-Bar Law Clerk at Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender; Clinical Student at the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law; Student Counsel for the Ninth Circuit Immigration Appellate Clinic at Santa Clara University School of Law; Legal extern at the United States District Court, Northern District of California, Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins; Legal extern at the United States District Court, Northern District of California, Pro Se Department; Legal intern at the Office of the Federal Defender, Eastern District of California, Capital Habeas Unit.