Joseph “Joe” Piasta has extensive experience as a civil trial lawyer. He has successfully handled a variety of complex civil disputes, and is an expert in the area of elder financial abuse litigation. Joe received his Bachelor of Arts in Government cum laude from the University of San Francisco in 1973. He served as President of the Associated Students. He then attended USF Law School where he was selected to the McAuliffe Honor Society, and graduated in 1976. In 1981, he obtained a Master of Law (LLM), summa cum laude, from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., emphasizing administrative and land use litigation.
In 1977, he joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, and while serving on active duty he served first as a prosecutor (trial counsel) and then as Senior Defense Counsel at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Upon release from active duty in 1981, Joe moved to Santa Rosa and joined the Spridgen Law Firm as a civil litigator for the then oldest and largest law firm in the North Bay. He then practiced as a litigation partner in the first of two successor law firms, James, Gack & Freeman and then in 1985, O’Brien, Sawyer, Watters & Davis.
Since graduating from the JAG School in Charlottesville, VA in April 1977, Joe’s first love has been trying challenging cases, especially in front of juries. He especially has loved litigating cases in different judicial and administrative venues, the more difficult the better. These have included prosecuting fraud and breach of fiduciary duty cases, and especially elder financial abuse cases as well as defending prominent military officers, clergy, government officials and small entrepreneurs. His most notable cases include the successful defense in federal court of a local male official court reporter against charges by a female co- worker court reporter of hostile work environment and sexual harassment before two juries, of which about 70 percent of the members were women; the successful civil defense of the late Bishop of Santa Rosa against false charges of sexual abuse against another priest; and the successful defense of an Army judge against allegations of sexual abuse. Wearing his plaintiff ’s hat, Joe also obtained sizeable judgments on behalf of victims against elder abusers, spousal abusers, child sexual molesters and a high tech company that committed fraud on a merger & acquisitions broker. He is now using his years of experience obtained over a long military career to defend Soldiers and Marines on serious charges.
Mr. Piasta is a co-author (along with the Hon. Gary Nadler and the now retired Superior Court Judge William L. Bettinelli and former Chairman of JAMS) of the California Discovery Practice Handbook, (West, 1991). He has also served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at his alma matter, USF Law School, since 1996. He teaches both the basic course on Civil Discovery and the advanced Discovery Practice Seminar. He has co-taught law school classes with Judge Nadler and Adrian Driscoll of the San Francisco Bar. In addition to teaching at USF, he has continued his long association with the school in other roles. In 1995, he was President of the Board of Governors, Alumni Society.
Mr. Piasta has served as the President of the Redwood Empire Trial Lawyers (RETLA) (1988), President of the Catholic Professional and Business Breakfast Club (1992 and 2007), and as a member of the Board of Directors (1989 to present). In 1994, Mr. Piasta was the President of the St. Eugene’s Cathedral Parish Council, served on the Executive Committee for over ten years, and has served on the St. Eugene’s Cathedral Finance Council. He is also Chairman of the Board of Free to Be. He is a member of the St. Thomas Moore Society.
Mr. Piasta holds bar memberships in California, the District of Colombia, U.S. Supreme Court, various federal district courts, and the U.S. Court of Military Appeals (COMA). In 2006, Mr. Piasta was selected for membership in the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), San Francisco Chapter. Also, Mr. Piasta has been selected for Super Lawyers for Northern California for eight years and running.
In 2007, Mr. Piasta retired as a U.S. Army Colonel after 30 years of service in the JAG Reserve. Joe and his wife Kathy met as USF undergraduates. They have seven children and two young grandsons. The oldest two children, Mary and Edward, are also USF trained lawyers. Daughter Ann is a pediatric oncology nurse at Columbia New York Presbyterian Children’s and daughter Theresa is at JP Morgan in San Francisco. Joe has also had the distinct privilege and honor to swear in three of his children as U.S. Army officers. Both Ed (also a JAG) and Theresa (a Chemical Corps Officer) are also Army Captains, each of whom served 15 month tours in Iraq during the 2007-2009 “Surge.” Son Frank (Infantry) is an Army Ranger and served in Afghanistan. Youngest daughter Joan just graduated summa cum laude from her parents’ alma mater, USF, and will be graduating from Penn Law this year. The youngest, John, is at UC Davis where he plays men's varsity soccer.
The family is growing most recently with the marriage of Frank to Christina Mendoza. Ms. Mendoza works for former President George Bush. Theresa is married to Jeffrey Otto who now is at Salesforce in San Francisco. Edward married attorney Kristie Edenfield who works as an in house attorney helping children in Georgia. Mary is married to Anthony Valluzzo, attorney, they practice law together in Sonoma County.
Joe was called from his private law practice to active duty for almost a year at the beginning of the Iraq War (2003) and served with distinction as the Staff Judge Advocate of the 91st Division (Training Support). He was awarded the Legion of Merit.