ABOUT SAVANNAH BLACKWELL
Savannah Blackwell is Of Counsel and part of the Workplace Investigations team. She also assists in other areas of the firm’s practice. Ms. Blackwell has experience litigating constitutional and statutory issues involving free speech and freedom of religion, civil and consumer rights, municipal liability and qualified immunity, class action, unfair business practices, and fraud. Further, she has a background in criminal defense. Before becoming an attorney, she was an award-winning journalist who covered government and politics for 17 years. Her strengths are researching and writing briefs and appeals, and conducting investigations. As the Writing Tip columnist for the Bar Association of San Francisco’s monthly Bulletin, she advocates for the Plain English approach to legal writing.
Ms. Blackwell has ample civil advocacy experience. For six and a half years, she represented a publishing company in its efforts to mail copies of its criminal justice magazine to county jail inmates and expand circulation. This work included researching and writing briefing to the United States District Court, Eastern District of California, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and authorship of a successful brief to the United States Supreme Court. She served second chair in a federal district court trial and, later, as Associate Counsel in an Orange County Superior Court case where she represented two attorneys prosecuted by 5-hour Energy drink.
After completing an externship with San Francisco Superior Court Judge Teri L. Jackson, Ms. Blackwell gained experience on the other side of the bench while working in the San Francisco Public Defender’s office as a post-graduate fellow. She researched and wrote dozens of motions and trial briefs, argued motions in court, handled clients’ appearances, conducted evidentiary hearings, examined witnesses, and served second chair in jury trials. Her successes there include convincing a San Francisco court to reduce a demand for $92,000 in restitution from an indigent client to $32,000. After leaving the public defender’s office, her research and writing skills helped free two people wrongfully accused of attempted homicide and one wrongfully accused of murder.
As a Deputy Public Defender in Solano County, she handled the briefing in a death penalty case and researched and wrote a writ to the First District Court of Appeal in that matter. Other appeals she has researched and written involving criminal law issues include an appeal of denial of request for return of property that implicated the free exercise of religion clauses of the state and federal constitutions.
Ms. Blackwell has a strong, working knowledge of government, political, legislative, and regulatory affairs. Before attending law school, she was a political and investigative reporter for various newspapers and media organizations, including the Daily Journal legal newspaper. For more than a decade, she covered the inner workings of San Francisco City Hall, influenced public policy, and investigated matters concerning privatization, campaign finances, government contracts, and community choice aggregation. On the state level, she exposed an agreement between California legislators and three major, private electricity providers to force consumers to cover the companies’ joint $28.5 billion losses from investment in nuclear power plants.
Ms. Blackwell’s interest in public affairs predates her journalistic endeavors in San Francisco. As a reporter for the Valley Times, the Tallahassee Democrat, and The Philadelphia Inquirer, she covered government, politics, environmental issues, and regional growth and development.
For almost a decade, Ms. Blackwell regularly discussed the latest news in San Francisco government and politics on a live television show. In addition, she has led community forums and trained interns to help cover municipal affairs, and taught journalism at San Francisco State University.
See www.savannahblackwell.com for examples of Ms. Blackwell’s journalistic work.
HONORS AND AWARDS
- Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice and Boalt Hall’s recognition for “Commitment to Social Justice,” Class of 2009
- More than 20 national, state, and local awards from organizations recognizing superior investigative and writing skills, including the National Newspaper Association, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, and Investigative Reporters and Editors
- Certificate of Honor from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors “in recognition of tireless efforts in reporting on local politics and government … and contributions to journalistic integrity … and the political and civil life” of the city
- Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship: the “highest award the school bestows on a graduating student,” which Ms. Blackwell used to report on the efforts of indigenous communities in Mexico to sustainably develop their lands
- Robert Harron award for “excellence in reporting and kindness to fellow students”
- Echols Scholar, Robert C. Byrd Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Tau Delta, Golden Key International Honour Society
- University of California at Berkeley School of Law, JD
- Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, MS
- University of Virginia, BA
ADMISSIONS AND COURTS
- United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- United States District Court, Eastern District of California