Jenica Maldonado has dedicated her professional life to public service, having started her career in government over twenty years ago. She is an experienced municipal law and employment attorney, equally comfortable litigating and providing advice and counsel. Prior to joining the Renne Public Law Group, Jenica served as a Deputy City Attorney in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office for almost seven years. She values the camaraderie that comes with practicing with dedicated attorneys and the trust that forms with one’s long-term clients.
What was your path to law school?
My path to law school started early based on my upbringing. I grew up in Marin County, California. I was raised in a Catholic family and taught the importance of social justice values. In addition to his faith, my father was passionate about coaching youth basketball, including at a YMCA in Richmond, California. Many of my formative years were spent playing and watching basketball with my teammates from Richmond in gyms all over the Bay Area. Although my outside shot certainly improved during this period, more importantly, I learned critical lessons about segregation, inequity, and racism that have stuck with me to this day. What I learned in church and on the court set the stage for an earnest interest in equal rights and a desire to create a fairer and more just world.
With this foundation in mind, I gravitated towards public service. In my senior year of high school, I interned for the Executive Director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. At MUNI, I worked on a pilot bus pass program for City College students. I remember how satisfied I felt when my hard work actually panned out. While later experiences in government certainly did not come as easily, this initial “win” gave me the boost of encouragement I needed to pursue public service professionally.
While at Santa Clara University, I interned for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and for Senator Dianne Feinstein in her Washington, D.C. office, and volunteered on state and federal political campaigns. These experiences confirmed that many of my particular political interests were legal in nature. Law school felt like the natural next step in my career.
What led you to focus on labor and employment at the beginning of your career?
I began to focus on labor and employment law while in law school. While taking an employment discrimination course, I discovered a number of parallels between state and federal employment protections and constitutional law issues—another subject that captivated my curiosity. My employment discrimination professor encouraged me to pursue labor and employment law professionally. I landed a position in private practice and decided to join the firm’s labor and employment group after my summer clerkship. I was hooked—I found the practice to be people-oriented, relatable, and as providing meaningful opportunities to collaborate with clients.
After several years in the private sector, what drew you to work in the public sector?
One of my career objectives was to work in the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office. During law school, I had worked as a legal intern for the Office’s Government Team and knew that I wanted to return some day. After five years of private practice, I joined the Office’s Labor Team as a Deputy City Attorney. I felt like I had come full circle—returning to the City after I had first interned at MUNI almost 15 years earlier.
Can you discuss your move to the Ethics and Elections team at the City Attorney’s Office?
After a decade of practicing labor and employment law for public and private sector clients, I joined the Ethics and Elections Team. The position provided a unique opportunity to support the Department of Elections in administering local election contests and to provide advice and counsel to the City’s Elections Commission and Ethics Commission. These City agencies provide fundamental services to the public—ensuring free and fair elections and maintaining integrity in public service through regulation and enforcement, respectively. I am honored that the City Attorney entrusted me with the responsibility of supporting these clients in their pursuit of these objectives.
What were some particularly interesting projects you worked on during your time on the Ethics and Elections team?
I enjoyed many projects on this team, but one particularly interesting role was advising the Ballot Simplification Committee. This committee includes a group of journalists, writers, and other professionals who prepare the ballot digest for the City’s local ballot measures, based on a draft provided by the City Attorney’s Office and input from the public. The committee takes often complex propositions and summarizes them into short, concise and understandable summaries, which are printed in the voter information pamphlet. Serving as the Committee’s ex officio member was my primary responsibility the last three election cycles. It’s a unique experience since San Francisco is the only jurisdiction in the State that prepares its ballot digests in this fashion.
What drew you to RPLG?
I was drawn to RPLG based on the caliber of its work and its reputation amongst its clients throughout California. RPLG provides me with the unique opportunity to advise and counsel cities, counties, and special districts from across the State regarding municipal and employment law matters. In addition to being excellent lawyers, RPLG’s attorneys are universally known for their collegiality and commitment to an inclusive firm culture. I knew that if I were to return to private practice, I would want to join a tight-knit group of likeminded, experienced lawyers dedicated to serving the public with exceptional legal service. RPLG is that place. I am honored to join the firm and look forward to working collaboratively with my colleagues on the tough issues facing our clients.
RPLG practices throughout California, advising and advocating for public agencies, nonprofit entities, individuals and private entities in need of effective, responsive and creative legal solutions.