1/11/2018 – Blog Post #23 — Official Announcement of our New Office 

This is our official announcement for the new law office.  We are letting the community know about our recent change of address and that we have added Heidi Holmquist Wells to the firm.  We sent paper copies of this to as many folks as we could.  However, in this day and age, we do not always have regular US Mail addresses so we are also posting an electronic version. Please come by and say hi.




12/29/2017 – Blog Post #22


One of the things I have always valued is justice. When people say that the world isn’t fair, my response is that’s because we aren’t trying hard enough to make it that way. Our society works because as individuals we all have the right to seek justice in the courts of our communities. Whether a person has to file a lawsuit to recover damages, or fight the charges against them at trial, having access to the courts is one of our most important rights.

When my new partner Zach Zwerdling initially approached me to join his practice, one of the first things he told me was that he had heard how dedicated I was to my job at the Public Defender’s Office and wouldn’t want to leave. And that is true; I had not considered doing anything other than criminal defense at the time he approached me. But what drew me to him and his civil practice was the type of work he does- representing individuals who have been injured and are attempting to seek justice.

When a person is injured, whether or not the person doing the injuring meant to or not, there is a vacuum of medical bills and pain and suffering that must be remedied. In the world of insurance companies, an unrepresented person has very little chance of recovering a just amount for the injuries they have suffered. Just as a criminal defendant finds him or herself up against the power of the government, a plaintiff will often be up against a large insurance company or governmental entity, with a team of lawyers ready to fight even the most legitimate of claims. As I have begun my journey into civil practice with his guidance, I have found it not so different from the criminal justice world I have been surrounded by for almost a decade. It is about finding out what the client’s needs and goals are, and fighting ethically and resolutely for a just result against an entity that may have infinite resources and little concern for the individual involved.

What I found in Zach is a person who keenly understands the civil justice system, and who wants to help this community and the people in it. At The Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP, we want to make a difference, person by person. Whether you find yourself the defendant in a crime, or a victim of a crime or accident, we are uniquely qualified to help. With years of civil and criminal experience, we are able to navigate clients through some of life’s most difficult challenges.

-Heidi Holmquist Wells,

Partner at The Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP


11/20/2017 – Blog Post #21


In recent weeks, the news has been inundated with disturbing stories of powerful men committing sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood, the business world, and politics.  The public outcry to these accusations seems to be ushering in a watershed moment in American society where victims are unwilling to stand by silently and perpetrators are finally paying serious consequences.  One op-ed in the New York Times labeled this sea-change “the Post-Weinstein Moment.”

However, sexual assault continues to be prevalent; for instance, the number of campus sexual assaults is rising steadily and stories of these assaults often do not make the national headlines.  In fact, according to a recent federal study, conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Justice Department, reports of sexual assault on college campuses have increased dramatically over the past 15 years.

With these statistics in mind, the Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP would like to let the community know that there are strong remedies available to obtain justice against abusers.  While any type of sexual assault can trigger criminal prosecutions initiated by the District Attorney (which can result in incarceration), it also gives rise to a civil cause of action for damages.  Such damages can include monetary compensation for any emotional and/or physical harm suffered, and in many cases the victim can also seek punitive damages against their abuser. Our firm prides itself on our ability to seek justice for those who have been through traumatic and damaging circumstances, at no up-front cost to the client.

The Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP also handles workplace sexual harassment or workplace sexual assault matters.  Sexual harassment cases often happen in workplace environments.  Employees have the right to be protected from any form of sexual harassment while on the job. Employers legally and ethically have to take all steps possible to protect employees from sexual harassment and to firmly discipline employees who are found guilty of sexual harassment against other employees.  If a civil lawsuit is brought for the emotional injuries suffered by the victim, the victim’s remedies may include reinstatement (if the victim lost their job), back pay (if you suffered a financial loss or did not receive a raise), damages for emotional distress, and attorney fees and court costs

At the Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP, we are here to help, and everything you tell us is strictly confidential. Our team of attorneys are easy to talk to, and you will find yourself in an environment where you will can feel safe and protected. We will help you determine what your options are, and how best to proceed in your case. If your abuser is currently facing criminal charges, we can help walk you through the difficult process of the criminal justice system and represent your interests as the case proceeds.

If you or someone you care about needs an attorney to help their voice be heard, please call the Zwerdling Law Firm for a free consultation.


10/26/2017 – Blog Post #20 


You have been arrested. You are scared. And the truth is, your fear is warranted. The power of the government to arrest and convict can seem boundless. In this stressful time, you need someone who is on your side. Someone who knows the law, the system, and the parties that you are up against. Someone who can help you understand the consequences, who can fight for your rights, and if necessary, can ultimately convey your side of the story to a jury of your peers.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney can seem intimidating. Will the attorney think I am a bad person because I have been arrested? If the allegations are of a violent or sexual nature, will the attorney not want to deal with my case? These are natural feelings to have, but at The Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP, we are here to help.

Heidi Holmquist Wells has shaped her method of criminal practice to her clients. As a Deputy Public Defender for over seven years, she has (almost) heard it all. She has seen every type of criminal case, from simple DUIs to the most heinous of homicides. She approaches cases with a focus on the individual client’s needs, and with a hope of making the process of a criminal proceeding less scary. Her partner, Zachary Zwerdling, started his legal career as a Deputy Public Defender and successfully litigated several homicide cases before focusing on personal injury law. Coming from a similar background, they share a dedication to fighting for justice on behalf of their clients.

The reality is, as humans, we all make mistakes. The Zwerdling Law Firm, LLP is here to help people through those mistakes, while protecting their rights and fiercely advocating for a just result. There are always two sides to any story, and hiring an experienced attorney ensures that your side will be heard.

If you have been arrested or are facing criminal charges, please call today for a free consultation regarding your case.

  • Felony Charges
    • If you are charged with a felony, you are facing a serious amount of jail or prison time if convicted. Not only that, if convicted you can lose rights, including your right to carry a firearm, be deported, and potentially be excluding from future employment opportunities. It is therefore in your best interest to have an attorney who is on your side and willing to fight for you. Someone who will help investigate the case on your behalf, and be willing to say that law enforcement and the District Attorney got it wrong.
    • Our system of criminal justice isn’t perfect, but a competent and dedicated defense attorney can help make it fair. When the potential consequences of a conviction can take away your freedom and your rights, there is nothing more important than finding an attorney who will listen to your side of the story, and tailor the type of defense required to your situation and needs. Heidi Holmquist Wells is here to listen, to explain, and to protect your rights.
    • Given the consequences related to felony charges, it may be necessary to take your case to trial. Heidi Holmquist Wells has litigated four homicide trials in Humboldt County, including one lasting over three months. Of those four trials, only one trial resulted in a conviction (to lesser charges). At a young age, she has extraordinary experience in serious criminal litigation, and a remarkable track record of success in the courtroom.
  • Misdemeanor Charges
    • While a misdemeanor charge is not as serious as a felony charge, it can still have a huge impact on your life and future. A misdemeanor conviction can affect your driver’s license, be seen by future employers, and affect your rights, including your right to carry a firearm. It is therefore vital that you have an attorney on your side who can analyze the facts of the case from your point of view, and help you determine the best course of action.
    • If you find yourself facing misdemeanor charges, Heidi Holmquist Wells can walk you through the court process, appear on your behalf, review the investigation for errors and incompetence, investigate the case with an eye towards innocence rather than guilt, negotiate with the District Attorney and present your side of the case to the judge.
  • Driving Under the Influence
    • A DUI charge is one of those crimes that (hopefully) no one means to commit. From college students to professional athletes, it is unfortunately a crime that occurs on a daily basis. Given the level of potential danger involved in this conduct, the laws that are in place can punish harshly in a variety of ways, from large fines and jail time to suspension of your driver’s license. Driving is an important part of daily life, and not being able to drive can affect your entire family, your job, and your ability to function on a day-to-day basis. If you have been arrested for a DUI, contact an attorney immediately, as you only have 10 days to contest your license suspension.
    • While you may think that you don’t have a defense if you are arrested for a DUI, hiring an experienced attorney is still important. You may have a defense you weren’t aware of, there may be evidence that should be suppressed, or you may have significant mitigating factors that need to be presented to the District Attorney and Court. By hiring an attorney, you can be assured that you will be protected from a system that processes hundreds of people a day, and that your side of the story will be heard.
  • Cannabis Defense 
    • In Humboldt County, the production and sale of marijuana is an ever-changing area of law and business. Having an experienced attorney on your side in a marijuana-related prosecution can save you money in the long run and help you navigate the rules of this emerging area of law.
    • Cannabis charges can range from felonies to misdemeanors, and can have significant consequences as described above. County Code violations related to marijuana can bring enormous fines and strict obligations that need to be complied with. Do not wait to contact an attorney if you have been cited or arrested on cannabis related violations.

10/4/2017 – Blog Post #19 

Heidi Holmquist Wells – New Partner at the Zwerdling Law Firm

As a former Public Defender, Heidi Holmquist Wells has taken on some of the county’s toughest cases with a smile. She knows that hard work and dedication to her clients is the way to success in the courtroom.

Heidi Holmquist Wells is a local attorney who has been winning cases in Humboldt County since 2010. Whether it is a simple DUI where the client just wants the fairest deal possible, to a murder case with complex litigation issues, Heidi always treats her cases and clients with the highest level of care and diligence. Her trial experience and love for the law are perfect precursors to her new partnership at The Zwerdling Law Firm, where she will seek justice not only for those accused of crimes, but for those injured by forces out of their control. She loves Humboldt County, with all its quirkiness and beauty, and looks forward to assisting its citizens in their times of need.   Ms. Wells was featured in the cover story of the May 2016 North Coast Journal – “The Defender.” 

Recently, Thaddeus Greenson at the North Coast Journal wrote this great article about the situation at the Public Defender’s office. Ms. Wells was interviewed for this article. In it, she demonstrates her solid commitment to the law and to her clients.

Heidi Holmquist Wells was featured on the May 2016 edition of the North Coast Journal


Ms. Wells grew up in Southern California and moved to Northern California to attend college. She graduated from the University of California, Davis in three years with a degree in Political Science and a minor in English. She graduated from The University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 2009 with an emphasis in Trial Advocacy. While at McGeorge, she was a member of the Competitive Mock Trial Team and represented the school at national competitions. She passed the California Bar Exam in 2009 and became a licensed attorney at the age of 24. After interning at the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office during law school, she found a home at the Humboldt County Public Defender’s Office, where she spent over seven years defending the rights of society’s most vulnerable. She has been the Co-President of the County Attorney’s Association, and a local member of the local Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), an organization dedicated to educating law enforcement about mental health issues and teaching tactics to help keep all members of the community safe.

While at the Public Defender’s Office, she litigated four homicide trials and represented several other clients charged with murder. Of those cases, two homicide trials resulted in full acquittals, one was a hung jury where no conviction entered, and another three-month trial resulted in a conviction of lesser charges of second degree murder. In another homicide case that never saw trial, Ms. Wells was successful in convincing the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the case early in the proceedings because evidence pointed to another individual. After years of fighting, she finally succeeded in a motion for finding of factual innocence in that case, proving to the court that her client was absolutely not the person who had committed the crime.

In her free time, Ms. Wells enjoys the outdoors with her new husband Kevin Wells, a local accountant and owner of Humboldt Bookkeeping Company. She loves kids, dogs, horses, and everything that beautiful Humboldt County has to offer.


9/18/2017 – Blog Post #18 


Special thanks to Bob Doran of the Mad River Union for writing an article on Lawnstock 2017 called “Healthy Lawns” in the MRU’s “The Hum ~ Peaches in the Summer Wind” on September 6, 2017.  Bob does a great job explaining the history of Lawnstock and describing the event.  We also want to report that Lawnstock 2017 itself was a great success and we are already thinking about Lawnstock 2018.  Anybody who would like to be on our mailing list for event planning, updates, etc., please shoot Zach an email at contact@zwerdlinglaw.com.

Last but not least, we want to thank the wonderful musicians, volunteers, sponsors, silent auction donors, and the City of Blue Lake for the tremendous support.

Bob Doran’s article is pasted below:

“Healthy lawns

We’re all just a catastrophic visit to a doctor away from potential financial ruin because of the failures in the American medical/insurance system. I’ve never talked about the oft-fatal flaws in our healthcare with the local lawyer Zach Zwerdling; I can only guess where he stands on the subject. We’re usually talking music, since he plays guitar on the side and his son Nate plays music too.

For the last few years, Zach and co. have been throwing a small private benefit affair they called Lawnstock on his front lawn at his place above Arcata. He’d get his friends’ bands together and typically ask those who attended to make a contribution to help out some family in need. It was big fun.

There was always a limit on how many could come since there was scant room to park by his place, so he’d shuttle folks to and fro. But for Lawnstock 2017, this Saturday (Sept. 9, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.), Zach and company took the benefest to the next level, moving the show to a much bigger lawn, the one in Perigot Park in Blue Lake.

Ghost Train on a train, Zach is second from the left…

They’ve expanded the event into an all-day festival with the requisite silent auction, vendor booths, bbq, beer, etc. and music galore including Ghost Train (Zach’s in the soul/rock band), Dynasty One (a funk big band fronted by C-Baker and including Zach’s son Nate, also playing later (9 p.m.) @ the Logger), plus more local faves The Detours, The YokelsThat Buckin’ String BandRachel Beccaria, and special guest, Amanda Fields, here from Nashville.

The event will benefit a young girl named Kiarra Plante, daughter of Alisha Watson and Mike Plante. Kiarra was diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening medical condition, something beyond Humboldt’s inadequate hospitals and doctors, so she’s been traveling for treatment. Lawnstock is partnering with Hope for Healing a Cause for a Cure Inc., a local nonprofit that assists locals who have a life-threatening illness or injury offering help with financial hardship, including travel costs, medication, medical supplies, food and unreimbursed time off work for parents. That’s what neighbors do, we help each other.”


9/8/2017 – Blog Post #17

Zachary Zwerdling founded this event 7 years ago. In years past, the event was held at Mr. Zwerdling’s home. This is the first year it will be held in a public location. We hope to have as many people as possible join us. Please check the event page with details about the artists, silent auction, and beneficiary.

Zwerdling Law – Lawnstock 2017


8/28/2017 – Blog Post #16  

Bill Connell’s Memorial 

Zachary Zwerdling and other attorneys after Bill Connell’s Memorial. Attorneys standing from left: Judge John Feeney, Greg Rael, Zachary Zwerdling, Alan Chalfey, Steve Weiss, Jim Steinberg, Neil Sanders; Sitting from Left: Duke Diehl, Bill Bragg

Last Friday, Zach Zwerdling delivered remarks at Bill Connell’s courtroom memorial service.  Mr. Connell was the Chief Public Defender of Humboldt County from 1965 to 1997.  A video of the memorial service can be found here.  Mr. Zwerdling’s remarks are pasted below.

To the members of the Bench assembled today for this proceeding, members of the local Bar who are present and especially to the family of Bill Connell, I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to speak at this memorial and express to Erezia and Lucas, and the rest of Bill’s family, my deepest condolences for your loss.

My relationship with Bill Connell began when I graduated from law school and came to Humboldt County looking for work. I interviewed with Bill in the Fall of 1976. I was very excited to receive a phone call from him the day after the interview extending an offer to work for him as a Deputy Public Defender.

I worked as a Deputy Public Defender under Bill for approximately two years and then went in to private practice. I continued to handle criminal cases after I left the Public Defender’s office and in fact worked with Bill on several matters, including a homicide case. To a large extent because of Bill’s hard work on the case, it was tried and resulted in an acquittal.

It became clear to me fairly early on while working closely with Bill that he was not only an excellent attorney, but a wonderful human being as well.

For those of you who have not worked as a Public Defender, I want to say that it is one of the most challenging and difficult types of legal work. Public Defenders have to deal with unsavory individuals who are often mentally ill and hostile to the fact that they are being represented by a Public Defender. In addition, presenting a case to a jury on behalf of an indigent criminal defendant can be a challenge, since it is often the case the defendant is not a very likable person and most juries assume that they are guilty to start with. Bill accepted the challenges of being a Public Defender with grace and dignity. He was proud of the work we did and never uttered a negative personal comment about any of our clients.  

Bill had an uncanny ability to find and hire great lawyers. For example, he hired one of the best lawyers I have ever known in my career, Steve Weiss. Steve Weiss is here today from Santa Rosa. I worked with Steve on many cases before I left the Public Defender’s office. He was a consummate professional and to this day a great mentor. During the same time period Larry Mussitelli, Tom Peterson, Bill Bragg and Greg Rael worked in the office. Each of these talented lawyers also brought amazing dedication and skill to the difficult job of being a Public Defender. As a result, our office had an extraordinary success rate. At one time, it is my understanding that our office was beating the D.A. offer in approximately 50% of the cases that we tried.

After I left the Public Defender’s office, Bill continued to hire excellent attorneys who worked with him until his retirement in 1997, when another of the finest attorneys I have ever known, Jim Steinberg, was hired by Bill. Jim became Public Defender upon Bill’s retirement. Few lawyers I have encountered in my career have the extraordinary intellectual gifts that Jim brought to this work. Jim’s hiring was yet another example of Bill’s masterful ability to find and hire great lawyers.

Another attorney I partnered with later in my career, Duke Diehl, who is here, was hired by Bill and worked in the Public Defender’s office before I started there. Duke as well had great skill as a trial lawyer. He was tough, smart and ethical.

Bill Connell had the ability to see past our resumes and figure out that we were, first of all, committed and dedicated to defending indigent criminal defendants.

I have met very few attorneys in the 38 years since I left the Public Defender’s office that, as a group, compare to the lawyers I worked with in Bill’s office.

Bill’s management style was unique. Bill was not a task master. He would come in to our offices on a regular basis and hand us files. From that point on we would take over the case. Bill was always available to discuss strategy and legal issues. He was not the type of person though that would tell us what to do. His typical response to a question about how to deal with a particular problem was to discuss options and let us make the final call on how to proceed. I think this was an excellent way to manage the office. Among other things, it forced us to work as a team. In the course of working on cases we ended up covering all the necessary bases and did a professional and thorough job defending our clients.  

Bill also had wonderful personal qualities. He was not only my boss and my mentor, but he was also a good friend. He attended my wedding in the Bay Area in 1978. He regularly attended birthday and retirement parties for attorneys in the office. Bill was very interested in and supportive of our families.

Lastly, I want to just say a few words about Bill’s courtroom skills. Bill was affectionately referred to by attorneys, Judges and Court staff as the Silver Fox. I always thought that was a great way to describe him. The silver probably came from his gray hair, but the fox came from his uncanny ability to spot issues in a case and to deal with them in a quiet but effective fashion that, more times than not, resolved the issue and led the way to a great result for his clients either in terms of negotiating a deal or trying the case.

Bill was also a gentleman. I only remember him showing anger on one occasion. He tried a felony case with a Deputy District Attorney who had a reputation for not complying with “in limine” orders regarding introduction of evidence or references to prejudicial information. This Deputy D.A. would regularly violate “in limine” court orders and, as a result, those of us who tried cases against this attorney were always careful to prepare and file “in limine” motions that were very specific about the areas that we felt should not be allowed in as evidence. The Deputy D.A, who, by the way, would have been fired by Maggie Fleming if she was D.A. at the time, did it yet once again during his trial with Bill. Once Bill calmed down he managed to talk the Court into threatening to dismiss the case and thereafter obtained a great disposition for his client.  

Over Bill’s last few years we did not interact as much as I would have liked. I did see him at several Bar functions and talked to him at Bar luncheons. He always had a smile on his face and was incredibly charming and witty.

I feel like Humboldt County has lost one of its great courtroom lions.

7/31/2017 – Blog Post #15

Fence With A Hostile Insurance Company

The Zwerdling Law Firm was recently retained by an individual, Sarah, who suffered severe injuries after she was struck in a crosswalk at the intersection of I and 4th Streets in Eureka by an inattentive and negligent driver.

Sarah’s injuries require that she be limited to a wheelchair for the foreseeable future.  She is otherwise an active, outdoor oriented person who loves to walk, hike and kayak.  Sarah is a middle aged mother of two sons.  Because of the other driver’s unfortunate negligence, Sarah is now facing substantial medical treatment, future pain & suffering, medical bills that will need to be paid outside of her insurance, and unknown future consequences caused by her injuries.

Sarah sent us an email about whether she needed an attorney.  She reported that when she read an account by local media of the incident and read that the driver, who was responsible, was trying to blame her, she decided that:

“I think it would be enormously helpful to have someone on my team looking out for my interests, rather than me in my addled, post-concussion state trying to fence with a hostile insurance company. Also, I have no idea how to evaluate my claim and thinking about it makes my head spin. I have decided my focus needs to be on the recovery.”

We urge all people who have suffered serious personal injury to retain the services of a highly experienced personal injury attorney to handle their claim and not attempt to “fence with a hostile insurance company” themselves.  We look forward to working towards a successful outcome for Sarah.


7/14/2017 – Blog Post #14

Highway 299 Multiple Fatality Case 

The Zwerdling Law Firm has been retained to represent Kevin Orcutt, husband of the late Janine Orcutt, in a personal injury and wrongful death action arising out of a tragic motor vehicle incident that occurred on April 17, 2017, on Highway 299, two and half miles east of Blue Lake.  The Zwerdling Law Firm will also represent Stephanie Capoeman and Thomas Perry, who were passengers in Mr. Orcutt’s vehicle.  Details regarding this incident are set forth in the Lost Coast Outpost, Kym Kemp’s “Redheaded Blackbelt,” and John Chiv’s “Words Worth.”

According to the CHP report, the driver of the other vehicle in this incident, Ms. Yecenia Wood, “for unknown reasons….allowed her vehicle to veer to the right of the roadway onto the shoulder.”  Ms. Wood, who was traveling westbound, turned hard to her left, lost control of her vehicle, crossed over the westbound lane into the eastbound lane, and subsequently collided with Mr. Orcutt’s vehicle.  There was nothing our client, Mr. Orcutt, who was traveling eastbound, could have done to avoid the collision.  As a result, Mr. Orcutt’s vehicle veered off the roadway, traveled down an embankment, and ultimately collided with a tree.  Janine Orcutt passed away from injuries caused by the collision.

Mr. Orcutt, and the two other passengers in his vehicle, Stephanie Capoeman and Thomas Perry, all sustained serious bodily injuries.  Ms. Wood was traveling with her five children and we sympathize with the tragic losses suffered by the Wood family.

As reported in yesterday’s Times-Standard, the CHP has forwarded the matter to the District Attorney’s office to investigate whether to file potential criminal manslaughter charges against Ms. Wood.

If anybody reading this post either witnessed the incident or has experienced problems maintaining control of their vehicles at or near this section of the roadway, please call us at 707.798.6211 or send us an email to office@zwerdlinglaw.com to discuss.

6/14/2017 –  Blog Post #13

Zane Middle School Bullying Victim

The Zwerdling Law Firm is investigating the circumstances surrounding a school bullying incident that occurred on May 19, 2017 at Zane Middle School.  Here is our client/victim, a 6th grade student, being interviewed on KCRW New Channel 7.  A video of the assault was posted many times on social media and went viral locally.

California has very strict laws that require schools to protect students from bullying.  Some of the statutes that could possibly apply include the following: (1) “The Safe Place to Learn Act (Seth’s Law),” Cal. Ed. Code Secs. 234-234.5, and (2) Cal. Education Code Section 220 (which prohibits discrimination against anyone protected by Penal Code Sec. 422.55).

The Zwerdling Law Firm intends to conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether those laws have been violated.  If they have, we will take appropriate legal action on behalf of our client.

School bullying is a major problem and it is very important that schools do everything within their power to protect students from bullies.

5/9/2017 – Blog Post #12

Preliminary Hearings in the Kitchen Case

The Zwerdling Law Firm is honored to represent Joe and Jevin Kitchen for the wrongful death of Kiya Kitchen.  Here is some coverage of the preliminary hearings currently underway in the criminal case against Marci Kitchen:


5/4/2017 – Blog Post #11

Throwback Thursday: Protesting Vietnam in Humboldt County featuring Zach Zwerdling

As highlighted in today’s Times-Standard, Zachary Zwerdling has deep roots in Humboldt County.  Forty-five years after his involvement as a Humboldt County resident in anti-Vietnam War protests, Mr. Zwerdling continues to be dedicated to both social justice and zealous legal advocacy for his clients:

Peaceful protests in May 1970 were a life turning point for one local resident.

As for Zachary Zwerdling, who now owns Zwerdling Law Firm in Eureka, he was out lobbying and peacefully protesting the Vietnam War. According to a May 11, 1970, report from the Times-Standard, “Pickets March at HSC,” Zwerdling was an active member of the College of the Redwood’s student council. At 19 years old , he was one of 25 student leaders chosen from campuses across the nation to lobby and met privately with former Sen. J William Fulbright, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time.

“I was pretty active in the anti-war group in Humboldt County. I remember I wasn’t allowed to speak at the Arcata City Council — if you can believe it, the council used to be very conservative back then,” Zwerdling said with a laugh. “Afterwards, the city attorney came up to me and said it was very cool that I tried to speak at the meeting.”

Zwerdling, who later attended Stanford University and the University of Santa Clara to study law, said he went to law school specifically because of the Vietnam War.

“I thought if I became a lawyer I could help from the inside,” he said. “Now I’m still very committed to social justice and feel that those days really guided me to who I wanted to be.”

In May 1970, about 200 Humboldt State College — the name of the school from 1935 to 1972 — students were protesting the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. The report said about 50 percent of students attended class, while the others were out on Arcata Plaza participating in “college community peace activities.” The report said 60 faculty members had also pledged to strike leaving some classrooms completely empty.

4/20/2017 – Blog Post #10  –

$4,541,632.15 Judgment for a Crime Victim

The Zwerdling Law Firm recently obtained a judgment in a case where we represented a young woman who was shot in the face by her then boyfriend.  Currently, the defendant is incarcerated in a California prison serving a sentence for attempted murder.

We took this case pro bono because we felt strongly that the victim needed as much support as possible to help her cope with the horrible injuries she suffered in this incident. We realized that it was unlikely that the defendant had sufficient assets to pay a Judgment and the victim was unable to hire counsel.

Our client was awarded the sum of $4,541,632.15 against the defendant.  If the defendant ever comes into any assets, we will aggressively seek to enforce the Judgment against him.

Representing this victim was very important to the Zwerdling Law Firm because we strongly believe that we have an obligation to the public to take on cases where justice needs to be done even when there may be no compensation for our work in the matter.

4/13/2017 – Blog Post #9

The Zwerdling Law Firm just received this testimonial after Mr. Zwerdling appeared this morning in Humboldt County Superior Court and obtained an important win for our client, Savanah McCarty:

“Today, after two months of court, my stay away order against my biological mother was granted to hopefully stop the stalking and harassment of myself and the Wild Souls Ranch Organization that has been happening since the production of the Wild Souls Documentary last year. Thank you to Zachary Zwerdling and Zwerdling Law Firm for all of the amazing work that was done to help me on my case. When you go through the court system with a biological parent as a small child, it is hard to re-visit those feelings and events as an adult and terrifying to go through the court system again against them. Thank you Zach for not letting me go through this process alone, providing guidance, and the most wonderful support. Because of you, me and the Wild Souls Ranch Organization now have safety, and peace of mind.”

4/5/2017 – Blog Post #8 

The Zwerdling Law Firm just settled a case against the State of California for $1.95 million.  The case involved our client, a 44-year-old male, who sustained major orthopedic injuries when he was struck by a California Highway Patrol vehicle that had lost control and crossed the center line on U.S. Highway 101.  The officer had been texting prior to losing control of his vehicle.

4/4/2017 – Blog Post #7

Mr. Zwerdling just received another anonymous testimonial. Whoever you are, thanks!

3/17/2017 – Blog Post #6


The Zwerdling Law Firm is investigating a case where a Good Samaritan stopped at an accident scene, then proceeded to turn his vehicle around so his headlights would illuminate the accident. Unfortunately, the lights blinded an oncoming vehicle driven by our client.  Because of the blinding light, our client struck accident-related debris on the roadway, lost control of his vehicle, and suffered serious injuries.  Our office is faced with the legal question of whether we can file suit against the well-intentioned good Samaritan for causing injury to our client.  It should be noted that our client was a totally innocent bystander in this situation.

The Statute

For public policy purposes, California’s Good Samaritan laws encourage bystanders to provide free emergency or non-emergency assistance at the scene of emergencies without fear of legal repercussions if they actually end up harming the person(s) they are helping.   These laws are designed to shield the Good Samaritans who act out of the goodness of their own hearts and offer care for an injured fellow citizen from legal liability in emergency situations.   In fact, the relevant statute, California Health & Safety Code Section 1799.102, states that “it is the intent of the Legislature to encourage other individuals to…assist others in need during emergency, while ensuring that those volunteers who provide care or assistance act responsibly.”

Section 1799.102 provides that “No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.” In 2009, the Legislature amended the code section to include protection for Good Samaritans who provide both medical and non-medical emergency assistance.  Notably, the law specifically explains that a person cannot be held liable for civil damages unless their actions or omissions qualify as “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.”

Gross Negligence

One interesting aspect in the Good Samaritan law’s language is ascertaining what in fact constitutes “gross negligence.”  According to the California Civil Jury Instruction #450B, gross negligence is defined as “the lack of any care or an extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation.”  As such, in order to find that a Good Samaritan-Defendant acted with gross negligence, a jury would need to determine that the Good Samaritan’s actions in attempting to offer emergency care substantially deviated from how the normal, ordinarily prudent person would act.  This extreme lack of care is a high burden to meet, but not quite as extreme as “willful or wanton misconduct.”

Willful or Wanton Misconduct

“Willful or wanton misconduct,” on the other hand, is defined as a “conduct by a person who may have no intent to cause harm, but who intentionally performs an act so unreasonable and dangerous that he or she knows or should know it is highly probable that harm will result.”  As such, an irresponsible Good Samaritan who acts with willful or wanton misconduct must have had reason to know that their rescue attempt was dangerous and would most likely cause further harm to the person in need of emergency assistance.   This is a rare situation.  Gross negligence is by far a more common and probable occurrence in Good Samaritan situations.

With this law in mind, well-intentioned, non-professional rescuers should always be aware that they could be legally liable for injuries if a jury finds they acted with gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.


2/28/2017 — Blog Post #5


We just received this nice “5.0 star” testimonial from Mr./Ms. Anonymous on our Avvo page. Whoever you are, thanks for the kind words:

Zach is an incredible lawyer to consult with. He brings to the table a wealth of professional knowledge and years of experience. He is kind and considerate, truly investing in your case and loves nothing more than to help in anyway he he can. I recommend him all the time. As well as in his work, he is constantly supporting the community and has made a reputable name for himself that citizens aspire too. We are all lucky to have a man of such character available to us.”

Posted by anonymous


1/26/2017 — Blog Post #4

The Zwerdling Law Firm Aggressively Protects Victims of Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Discrimination 

In March 2011, Mr. Zwerdling had the honor to represent a young woman in a lawsuit arising out of alleged repeated sexual harassment from an assistant manager at the Ingomar Club.

The Zwerdling Law Firm strongly believes that all employees have the right to be protected from any form of sexual harassment while on the job. Employers legally and ethically have to take all steps possible to protect employees from sexual harassment and to firmly discipline employees who are found guilty of sexual harassment against other employees.

This case took a number of years to achieve justice for the plaintiff in the form of a significant confidential settlement.  Unfortunately, as a condition of settlement, the Ingomar Club required that the amount not be disclosed. However, plaintiff felt that justice had been served with the final settlement offer.

The Zwerdling Law Firm would be happy to offer free consultation to anybody who feels they have been the victim of harassment based on gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation and other forms of discrimination.

1/11/2017 — Blog Post #3 


The Zwerdling Law Firm is proud to represent James and Norma Gund in a personal injury case arising out of a horrific event that occurred on March 13, 2011 in Kettenpom, CA – a remote area of Trinity County.  A deranged individual named Thomas Gouverneur attacked and murdered two neighbors of the Gunds.  These neighbors lived in a house approximately a quarter-mile away from the Gund residence.  In the late afternoon, a 911 dispatcher received a distress call originating from the residence of the two neighbors.  On the tape a voice is heard whispering “help.”

The CHP dispatcher thereafter made a call to the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office to report the distress call that had just been received.  A Trinity County Sheriff Deputy allegedly requested that Mr. and Ms. Gund go “check on Kristine,” the neighbor who resided at the home from where the distress call originated.  The Gunds allege that the Deputy asked the Gunds to check on the 911 call since it was “likely a phone malfunction due to the recent inclement weather.”  The Gunds allege that the Deputy relayed nothing to them regarding the whispered distress call.  The Gunds, acting as good neighbors, drove to Kristine’s residence.   They entered the house and discovered two slain bodies.  Gouverneur then attempted to murder the Gunds.  Gouverneur slashed both Norma and Jim’s throats, and tasered them multiple times.  The Gunds fought back as hard as they could and were able to escape.  Later that day, Gouverneur drove his vehicle into a tree at a high rate of speed and died while being chased by law enforcement near Willits, CA.

In December of 2011, Mr. Zwerdling filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Gunds in Trinity County Superior Court.  In the complaint, the Gunds allege that Trinity County and the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department were negligent for sending the couple without any warning to their neighbor’s residence where it was obvious something was seriously wrong.  The case proceeded through litigation. Unfortunately, a visiting Superior Court Judge granted a summary judgment motion in favor of Trinity County that forced the Gunds to file an appeal in California’s Third District Court on June 24, 2014.

This matter has been sitting at the Court of Appeal for 30 months while the Gunds wait for an opportunity to argue the legal issue involved.  Needless to say, this has been a very difficult time for the clients.  They need closure in this matter.  We strongly believe that we will win on the legal issue involved and then proceed to trial as soon as possible against Trinity County.

The Gunds lawsuit is based on the theory that the Sheriff’s Department violated law enforcement standards by negligently sending private citizens into a known dangerous situation.  Police can be held liable for sending citizens into a dangerous situation.  When police send citizens into a dangerous situation where those citizens are injured, the law clearly allows those injured persons to recover for personal injury.

The legal question centers around whether the Sheriff’s Department owed a duty to the Gunds not to send them into danger, and whether the danger of sending unarmed citizens into the home of someone who made a 911 distress call for help is foreseeable.  There are immunity laws that protect the government from being sued in some situations; however, exceptions to these rules exist.  If the jury accepts the Gunds version of what occurred, we believe that the Sheriff’s Department and the County of Trinity will be held liable for the personal injury they caused.


12/27/2016 — Blog Post #2


These words from Thomas Jefferson remind us that our unique civil justice system, in which all individuals and organizations, regardless of how powerful they are, can be held accountable for misconduct. There are constant efforts to “reform” the tort system, led by those who wish to deprive individuals of their right to a jury trial and instead require the use of Arbitration.

Arbitration is conducted usually by one person who may do lots of work for insurance companies or large businesses. Arbitrators often do not fairly balance the rights of injured individuals with these large businesses or the government. The Zwerdling Law Firm strongly recommends that individuals who are asked to waive their right to a jury trial only do so if absolutely necessary. It has been shown time and time again that jurors are more impartial and fairer to litigants than Arbitrators.


12/13/2016 – Blog Post #1

Hello.  This is my first Zwerdling Law Firm blog post.  I am not sure where to begin but it does seem like a good time to let everyone know that this law practice is off and running.  It is exciting and challenging at the same time to start a new law firm after practicing for 40 years but I am enjoying every minute of it.  Working with Nate and my great staff makes the job even more rewarding.

I plan to periodically post blogs about interesting cases, advice on handling personal injury cases, observations about the legal system, and random pearls of wisdom from a seasoned courtroom warrior.

Stay tuned.