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“We have one focus, one responsibility, one loyalty: our client.”

Cris Arguedas

Cristina C. Arguedas

Cris Arguedas is recognized as one of the finest criminal defense lawyers in the United States. In her 20-plus years in private practice, she has represented high-profile clients in some of the most visible cases around the country, as well as many little-known clients on relatively routine matters that never make the nightly news.

Cris is equally adept at handling complex white-collar cases, sensational murders, and the full range of less serious criminal cases. She works closely with other ACHG lawyers as well as a team of investigators, jury consultants and other top experts she has assembled over more than two decades.

Singled out for her thorough preparation, shrewd strategizing, and impressive courtroom skills, Cris has been named the lawyer other lawyers would hire if they got arrested (California Lawyer), one of the 10 best lawyers in the Bay Area (San Francisco Chronicle, Northern California Super Lawyers), one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in the United States (National Law Journal), one of the 100 top lawyers in California (San Francisco Daily Journal, The Recorder), and one of the five most promising women lawyers in the country (Time). She was named to “The International Who’s Who of Business Crime Lawyers 2010”, is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, and in 2010 was inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame of the Litigation Section of the State Bar of California (an honor shared by only 20 other attorneys in the State).

Cris’s expertise also makes her a highly sought-after lecturer, teacher, and advisor to public officials in both major parties. She has served on advisory committees for the District Attorney of San Francisco and for the current and two past United States Attorneys for the Northern District of California. At the statewide level, she has been appointed to several commissions on judicial standards by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Cris has also headed U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer’s Federal Judicial Selection Committee, which recommends nominees for the federal judiciary and for the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.

Cris’s admirers include judges (“She comes into court with ‘solutions, rather than problems’”—unnamed judge, The Recorder) and prosecutors (“She has an excellent reputation as a very good attorney and a very straight shooter”—Alameda County District Attorney Thomas J. Orloff, San Francisco Daily Journal). Among defense lawyers, her fans include some of the most experienced attorneys in the Bay Area and the country. (“She’s one of the most marvelous cross-examiners you’ll ever see.” —S.F. federal public defender Barry Portman, California Lawyer. “She’s got great judgment. And she is known as a good person to work with.” —John Keker, Daily Journal.)


A New Jersey native, Cris graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School in 1979. She came West to work on landmark battered-women’s cases, helped defend one of Patty Hearst’s kidnappers, and then landed a plum job as an assistant federal public defender in San Francisco—almost unheard-of in an office that had its pick of far more experienced lawyers. At 26, she stunned the federal court by filing suit, in conjunction with the Larry Layton-Jonestown massacre murder trial, to have the local grand jury selection process declared unconstitutional on racial grounds. While still a public defender, Cris met Penny Cooper, a Berkeley attorney who was a legend in the Bay Area criminal defense community, when they were trying cases in adjacent courtrooms. Both won, and in 1982, they decided to team up.

In the past two decades, Cris has represented dozens of high-profile clients—many of whom prefer to remain anonymous—charged with public corruption, securities fraud, intellectual-property theft, environmental offenses, sex crimes, drug manufacturing and trafficking, and murder, as well as hundreds of lesser-known individuals accused of far less serious crimes. In many instances, she’s been able to persuade prosecutors not to bring charges against a client or to drop the charges before—or even during—trial.

In recent years, Cris has made a specialty of defending corporate officials at such companies as Enron, Tosco, British Petroleum, Avant!, and Critical Path. In 1995 she was invited to join the “Dream Team” defending O.J. Simpson on double-murder charges. Her job was to put Simpson through a grueling mock cross-examination to help the defense team determine whether he should testify in court. (He didn’t.)

Honors and Awards

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Teaching and Lecturing

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