LAWYERS PROTECTING YOU
Sylvia is a fearless and tenacious trial lawyer, deeply rooted in civil rights and social, racial, environmental, and economic justice. For decades, Sylvia has fought for the most oppressed and underserved, litigating against the toughest odds and winning. Harvard University and UC Berkeley Law educated and a reputation as a force for justice, Sylvia has achieved exceptional results in federal, state, criminal, and civil cases and over forty federal trials.
Sylvia’s scope of work at the Parris Law Firm includes class-actions, mass government torts, qui tam (whistleblowers), employment, and personal injury.
Sylvia was the ACLU‘s Director of Education Equity. She successfully sued the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Riverside County, and she was the lead supervising trial counsel in a class-action lawsuit prevailing against the United States’ Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE). She obtained a $171 million settlement for LAUSD’s highest-need students. She also obtained $7,000,000 for Riverside County Community Based Organizations to provide important resources and opportunities for youth as well as achieving a historic change giving youth important legal rights.
Appointed twice by Governor Jerry Brown, Sylvia served as his Special Counsel and as the state’s first Latina General Counsel to run the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board. As its chief prosecutor, she revitalized the agency, boldly litigated against the worst and largest offenders of unfair labor practices, and sought justice for California’s 800,000 farmworkers. As the agency head, Sylvia led the team and provided the highest level of service to ensure agricultural workers received fair and just treatment and the best representation.
Prior to her appointment to the ALRB, for nearly two decades, Sylvia demonstrated her litigation, investigation, and negotiation prowess as a deputy federal public defender in the Central District of California. Sylvia tried approximately 40 federal cases and represented thousands of indigent clients. She successfully tried several high-profile cases, including the first federal prosecution of an internet hate crime in the country.
Her commitment to public service and community extends beyond the courtroom. She has led as President of the Latina Lawyers Bar Association, Vice-President of the Mexican American Bar Foundation, and co-chair of the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Commission on the Status of Latinas in the Legal Profession. She was an appointed member of the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness. She taught trial advocacy at Loyola Law School and in the Dominican Republic and Peru. She traveled to Venezuela and trained lawyers and judges during the country’s transformation to an adversarial judicial system. She also teaches at the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College.
In 2018, Sylvia received the California Lawyer Attorney of the year (“CLAY”) award by the California Daily Journal. She also received the Latina Lawyers Bar Association Luminarias Award in 2017. In 2015, Sylvia was named the State Bar of California’s Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year. She was selected as an honoree for the oral history project, “Groundbreaking Personal Stories of Los Angeles Lawyers and Judges” by the Los Angeles Law Library in 2015. She also received the President’s Award by the Ventura County Mexican American Bar Association Education Foundation in 2014, the Mexican American Bar Association’s Benito Juarez Attorney of the Year Award in 2012, and the California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. Community Leadership Award in 2011. She was among the California Daily Journal’s Top Women Lawyers in 2012.
Sylvia was born and raised in Boyle Heights to Mexican immigrant parents. She earned the first college degree in her family, graduating from Harvard University with an A.B. in Government. After Harvard, she worked at the Center for Law in the Public Interest in Los Angeles. In 1992, she graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. While in law school, she worked at the Berkeley Community Law Center, the Contra Costa County Public Defender’s Office, and Morrison & Foerster, LLP.
- The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Berkeley, CA J.D., 1992
- Harvard-Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA A.B., Government, 1988
- Admitted to practice in California (1993)
- United States District Court for the Central District of California (1993)
- United States District Court for the Northern District of California (2018)
- United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (2018)
- United States District Court for the Southern District of California (2018)
- Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (1993)
- United States Supreme Court (2011)
- Harvard Law School: Selected as a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow (2019-2020 academic year)
- Rockwood Leadership Institute: Selected as a 2019 Lead Now California Fellow
- California Daily Journal: 2018 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year (“CLAY”) award
- Latina Lawyers Bar Association: Luminarias Award (September 2017)
- Orange County Women Lawyers Association: Keynote speaker (September 2017)
- State Bar of California: Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year (September 2015)
- Los Angeles Law Library: Selected as honoree for oral history project, “Groundbreaking Personal Stories of Los Angeles Lawyers and Judges” (October 30, 2015)
- Ventura County Mexican American Bar Association Education Foundation: President’s Award (October 17, 2014)
- California Daily Journal: Top Women Lawyers 2012
- Latina Lawyers Bar Association: Celebrating Latinas in the Legal Community (March 21, 2012)
- Mexican American Bar Association: Benito Juarez Attorney of the Year Award (February 4, 2012)
- California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc (CRLA): Community Leadership Award (September 17, 2011)
- Trained judges and lawyers in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic in all areas relating to criminal proceedings.
- Taught Latin American attorneys and judges oral advocacy skills at California Western School of Law, Institute for Criminal Defense Advocacy (ICDA)/ACCESO Capacitación – Academia de Destrezas en Litigación and Curso Internacional de Alta Especialización Sobre Técnicas de Litigación Oral Avanzada. Classes conducted in Spanish in San Diego, California (Feb. 2015, 2016, 2017) and Lima Peru (Nov. 2017).
- Faculty member at the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College from 2011 to present.
- Rockwood Leadership Institute – Art of Leadership, Women in Racial Justice: 2017.
- Oakwood School Parent Organization – Vice President of the Middle School: 2020-present.
- Latina Lawyers Bar Association – President: 2009-2011; Vice President: 2008-2009; Member: 2005-Present.
- Mexican American Bar Foundation – Vice President: 2009-2011; Board Member: 1995-2011.
- Hispanic National Bar Association – HNBA Commission on the Status of Latinas in the Legal Profession – Co-Chair: 2010-2011; HNBA Board Member: 2009-2011.
- The State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness – Appointed Committee Member: 2010-2013.
- American Bar Association – Member: 2012-present.
- Member during the course of my legal career (dates varied from 1993 to present): California Attorneys for Criminal Justice; California Public Defenders Association; Los Angeles County Bar Association; Mexican American Bar Association; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Multicultural Bar Alliance; Harvard Club of Southern California.
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