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An Executive Interview with Silver & Wright Partner John Fujii

Jun 17, 2020

Q: What’s your background?

I graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a degree in Animal Physiology. I was accepted into a science Ph.D. program, but my heart was not in it. I took two years off to travel to Japan for 6 months and then work for an environmental consulting firm. It was there that I decided to pursue environmental law. I went to law school at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall, and graduated in 1994. My first job was at a 1,000-attorney international law firm in San Francisco. I then worked for a 100+ law firm in Los Angeles.

Q: How did you transition from environmental to municipal law?

I saw a job offer for a Deputy City Attorney position at the City of Huntington Beach and applied on a lark. I got it. My wife and I started a family, and I worked in the City Attorney’s office in Huntington Beach for over 18 years.

Q: How did you connect with Silver & Wright?

While in law school, Matt Silver interned in the City Attorney’s Office in Huntington Beach. We got along well and kept in touch. Years later, he invited me to lunch and asked me to be a partner at Silver & Wright. I retired on my 50th birthday and came to work with Matt and Curtis Wright. I already had experience defending the city against federal civil rights lawsuits and state tort actions. It was a natural progression.

Q: How does your experience as a former city attorney add value for your clients?

Having worked for a city for 18 years, I understand how city attorneys can benefit from and collaborate with outside counsel. I also understand how politics can play into decisions.

Q: On what types of cases do you work?

At least two thirds of my practice involves representing public entities and their employees in federal civil rights litigation, including representing police agencies and sheriff’s departments. I also have significant appellate experience in both state and federal courts, so I often handle the appeals for Silver & Wright’s cases.

Q: What is special about your practice area?

Silver & Wright is mainly a plaintiff-side firm that handles prosecutions of municipal code violations on behalf of cities and represents cities and counties enforcing laws to abate dangerous nuisances and code violations in their communities. I defend cities and counties when people sue them over claimed constitutional or civil rights violations. My practice dovetails with the firm’s plaintiff-side practice when an individual sues a city or county over a code enforcement or nuisance abatement matter. 

Also, most of the lawsuits Silver & Wright files are in state court. Most of the lawsuits I handle are in the federal court because the plaintiffs are asserting federal civil rights or constitutional claims.

Q: Do you have a recent win about which you’re excited?

Last year, we handled a lawsuit regarding a suicide that occurred in a jail. Our client was sued for millions of dollars, and we were able to obtain a dismissal very early and with very little discovery.

Q: What’s your 30-second elevator pitch for a prospective client?

I have over two decades of experience doing this. I’m highly successful at what I do. If you hire me, I will oversee the case at the ground level. Being sued or threatened with a lawsuit causes anxiety; you want to be able to reach your attorney at all times. I share my cell phone number with clients so that they can call me after hours or on weekends.

Q: How do you envision continuing to build your practice?

I see two avenues: First, to further existing relationships with clients. The municipal agencies who have turned to Silver & Wright to support their code enforcement efforts also can turn to me to defend those officers and employees facing retaliatory lawsuits from violators. We offer not only prosecutorial resources but also defense support. Second, to go out and meet with new clients, new cities, and new counties.

Q: In which professional organizations are you involved?

I am currently a Co-Chair of the Community Outreach Committee of the Orange County Bar Association. I also just finished serving six years as a director of the Orange County Asian American Bar Association and am currently a Co-Chair of its Membership Committee.

Q: Why is mentorship important?

Mentorship is huge. I always tell young attorneys to find somebody in their firm who is looking out for their interests and build a mentor-mentee relationship. I mentor both law students and junior attorneys. I had the fortune of having three great mentors. I want to continue to pay it forward.

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THE OCBA’S COMMUNITY outreach committee assists THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

The Community Outreach Committee is the community volunteer arm of the Orange County Bar Association. The Committee’s goal is to assist the local community in various volunteer efforts by providing community service opportunities to the OCBA and its members. In some ways, the Committee members are the face of the OCBA as perceived by residents in Orange County. It is our hope that the Committee’s volunteer work will help to create a positive image of the OCBA and the legal profession among those in the community.