Founder | Trial Lawyer Gastélum Law, APC
Denisse O. Gastélum is the founder and principal trial attorney at Gastélum Law, APC, where her practice focuses primarily on civil rights/police misconduct and sexual assault, representing plaintiffs in state and federal courts throughout the State of California. Denisse was born in East Los Angeles into an immigrant family from Chihuahua and Sinaloa, México. 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, where she served as a mentor for the Academic Support Program, a debate coach for the Johnnie Cochran Middle School Debate Program, a member of the review team for For People of Color, Inc., and a law clerk for The Cochran Firm. Following law school, she served as a Public Service Corps Fellow for the Honorable Teresa Sánchez-Gordon.
During the early years of her legal career, Denisse worked as a defense attorney, where she specialized in public entity defense. 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.
In 2015, Denisse 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. In 2017, Denisse 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). Throughout her tenure, Denisse served as the President-Elect, Vice President, Treasurer, and Trustee and served as a Committee Member on the Civil Rights/Immigration Committee, Judicial Endorsement Committee, Political Endorsement Committee, and the Federal Judicial Externship Program. The accomplishments of her tenure include building coalitions with minority/ethnic bar associations to organize townhalls geared towards providing community leaders with tools to protect vulnerable communities under the Trump Administration; securing a partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, wherein volunteers provided free legal services through legal clinics and naturalization/Know Your Rights workshops; facilitating meetings amongst multiple stakeholders from the ACLU of Southern California, the District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office to ensure that criminal defendants were fully briefed of the immigration consequences; and introducing the MobileCause fundraiser, which has proven to be a reliable means to raise funds necessary for MABA’s Federal Judicial Externship Program and High School Scholarship Program. In 2014, Denisse was invited to participate as a lecturer and mock trial participant during the MABA México Criminal Trial Reform in Jalisco, México. Prior to 2014, trials in México were solely conducted in writing through affidavits. Denisse is extremely proud of the work MABA accomplished through these lectures and mock trials given the significance of cross-examination and oral testimony in a justice system.
Denisse served as the 2019 President of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association (LLBA). Throughout her tenure with LLBA, she served in the capacity of President-Elect, Secretary, Dinner Chair and Scholarship Chair. She is a founding member of the LLBA Young Lawyers 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 is the current President of the California La Raza Lawyers Association (CLRLA), and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the National Police Accountability Project (NPAP), the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), 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 NPAP Bane Act Reform Committee and the CAOC Civil Rights and Police Reform Committee. Over the years, Denisse has been a speaker on various panels regarding the practice of law and career advice.
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 Australian Shepherds, Ginsberg (“Ginsey”) and Barack (“Barry”).