The WTJ Barrels and Bites Open House was a success! We were so grateful to open our new building to clients, family, and friends while enjoying live music, conversations, and treats on Thursday, April 21. Cheers to everyone who attended and helped us make the night a special one. To those who couldn’t make it, we hope to see you at our next event.
The Business Journal has recognized WTJ Law this year in the top 20 of its women-owned businesses list for the San Joaquin Valley. Our firm has been very focused since its inception in striving for excellence not only for our clients but also for our own team.
Two female attorneys were elevated in 2021, bringing the total ownership by women in the firm to four out of seven. Internal promotion and support are not the only things that make WTJ a great firm. It has only been four years since we opened our doors, and our personal commitment to clients, community members, and our staff continues to grow.
WTJ started with only five attorneys and two staff members and has expanded to what we are today. We are so proud that The Business Journal has noticed and recognized our firm for these accomplishments!
WTJ celebrated its four-year anniversary on Thursday, February 10, with a staff lunch on the patio. They say, “time flies when you’re having fun,” and none of us could believe it had already been four years! WTJ has accomplished so much in the last several years that it is hard to list every single milestone, but on our anniversary, we did reflect on:
- More than tripling the number of attorneys and staff we started with in February 2018;
- Expanding enough to occupy our very own building;
- Successfully trying countless court and jury trials for our clients;
We can’t wait to see what the next four years will hold for this dynamic team we are so proud to have built.
WTJ said goodbye to Jamie Webb, the Transactional team’s long-time secretary of nearly two decades. Jamie retired on February 2, 2022, and celebrated the big milestone with a champagne toast with her team earlier this week. Jamie looks forward to spending her time exploring her hobbies. Cheers, and enjoy retirement, Jamie!
Since the Summer of 2019 when Anna Barcus Allen came to WTJ from Baker, Manock and Jensen, Anna has been an essential part of the WTJ transactions team. She is extremely knowledgeable in many areas, with extensive experience counseling clients and negotiating through various matters pertaining to business, real estate, employment, agriculture, corporate governance, finance, and healthcare. Anna’s achievements were affirmed in 2018, when she was first selected for inclusion in the Northern California Rising Stars list. She has been selected every year since. There is no question that Anna is a leader in her areas of practice, someone clients trust, and an attorney WTJ is proud to call a Partner.
Outside of the Office
When Anna isn’t hard at work helping her clients, she serves as Director and Vice President of Katey’s Kids—a foundation dedicated to helping children in the community through literacy, education, and community development. She is also the Director of Exceptional Parents Unlimited—an organization created to provide services for the parents of children with special needs. She has also served as President of Fresno County Young Lawyers’ Association. In her free time, Anna enjoys traveling, wine tasting, relaxing on the Kings River with her husband and spending time with their dogs.
We are excited to announce Anna as a Partner at WTJ, and we look forward to many more years of her dedicated service to our clients. Congratulations, Anna!
After a long and prestigious career, Presiding Justice James A. Ardaiz is retiring from the active practice of law and from WTJ, the firm where he spent his final years as a highly successful litigator, mediator and arbitrator. Prior to returning to the courtroom as a litigator, he retired from a longstanding career in public service as Chief Deputy District Attorney in charge of Homicide prosecution in the District Attorney’s Office, a trial judge and ultimately as Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal where he served as one of only six Administrative Presiding Justices governing the state appellate courts. During his tenure as an appellate jurist, he helped craft several monumental, impactful and highly regarded decisions. Mr. Ardaiz returned to private practice with a zeal and intellectual tenacity that thrust him into the upper ranks of trial attorneys who handle significant, complex cases, achieving several of the largest verdicts in the Central Valley of California. WTJ was extremely fortunate and honored to have had such an experienced, distinguished attorney as part of the team.
During his decorated, 30-year career as a judge, Justice Ardaiz served at every level of the state judiciary, including as Pro Tempore Justice of the Supreme Court on multiple occasions. Early on in his career, he was one of the youngest lawyers in the State of California to achieve the designation of Chief Deputy District Attorney in charge of homicide cases. Elected to the Municipal Court in 1980 at the age of 32, he served as a trial judge with two terms as Presiding Judge. In 1985, he was appointed by Governor Deukmejian as a Superior Court Judge, where he served as a general trial judge with one term as Criminal Presiding Judge. Then, in 1989, he was nominated by Gov. Deukmejian to the Fifth District Court of Appeal. In 1994, by the nomination of Gov. Pete Wilson, he became Administrative Presiding Justice of the Fifth District Court of Appeal. During his tenure, he authored more than 2,000 appellate opinions and participated in over 6,000 cases. Justice Ardaiz served on the California Judicial Council, including a term as Chair of the Executive Committee of the Judicial Council replacing Ronald George upon his appointment as Chief Justice. He was selected as California Jurist of the Year for his successful negotiation with over 120 unions of legislation to create a new personnel system for the trial court employees of California which Chief Justice George proclaimed as “a monumental achievement” necessary to securing a system of trial court funding for the 58 counties of the State judicial system.
Private Practice & Continued Service
Justice Ardaiz retired from the judiciary in 2010 and re-entered private practice as an arbitrator/mediator, ultimately acting in the role of general counsel to a major California-based developer and farmer, in addition to continuing to build his dispute resolution practice. In 2015, he advised on a matter for that client on an appeal from a $78 million verdict. The appeal on which he advised resulted in a complete reversal for the client. He acted as co-counsel of Sweetwater Unified School District v Gilbane before the California Supreme Court resulting in successful resolution on behalf of his client, Sweetwater and as consultant on Bolger v Amazon resulting in application of product liability against Amazon. In 2016, he reentered the courtroom as a trial lawyer and, with his co-counsel, obtained a $25 million bad faith title insurance judgment (Top 100 Verdicts in America, 2016). In 2017, he went on to litigate an eminent domain matter for a client wherein he obtained a settlement with the State of California resulting in an aggregate award worth $59 million, including a $40 million monetary settlement and $19 million valued property resolution. In short, his “retirement” from the bench led to an extremely successful civil practice wherein he participated successfully in litigating several high dollar matters for some prestigious California clients.
Justice Ardaiz went on to join WTJ in 2019, bringing decades of experience in a variety of areas including business, personal injury, governmental policy, dispute resolution and land/water use matters. In 2021, he book-ended his career by co-trying two major cases to verdict successfully alongside WTJ Partner Marshall Whitney and another of his former law partners. His final trial resulted in a jury verdict of $88,800,000.
Over the years, Justice Ardaiz also dedicated his time to education, serving as a frequent instructor at the California State Judicial College at Berkeley, CA, teaching judges on the subjects of trial practice, judicial decision making, evidence, and administration. He also served as a lecturer at the national level in judicial administration and evidence, as well as acted as a consultant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation with respect to DNA evidence. In addition to his judicial and legal accomplishments, Justice Ardaiz found time over the years to become a published author in the field of law, non-fiction, and fiction, authoring one work of non-fiction, and three works of fiction as well as co-authoring a text on California evidence. He has also drafted numerous articles on legal policy and legal humor, acted as a frequent speaker on judicial policy, and in his remaining free time paints for leisure and spends time with his adult children and grandchildren.
A Lifetime of Service
As Justice Ardaiz steps away from WTJ, he is excited to spend more time with his family, his wife of 51 years, Pamella , his three children and five grandchildren. On top of all of his accomplishments and recognitions, he is also a trained oil and watercolor artist who creates portraits and still-life artwork in his free time. He is looking forward to the opportunity to spend more time on his art and continue writing. WTJ is honored to recognize Justice Ardaiz for his incredible career and wish him the very best in his retirement.
The WTJ team stepped out of the office on Friday, December 3, 2021, to celebrate our own Jessica Thomason. She passed the California Bar Exam and was sworn in by retired Justice Stephen J. Kane in front of her friends, family, and colleagues. Jessica’s passion and dedication to our clients make her an integral part of our team of attorneys. We look forward to her continued success with our firm. Congratulations, Jessica!
WTJ is fortunate to be comprised of people who are wholeheartedly committed to serving clients and supporting colleagues. As our firm continues to grow and evolve, it is our privilege to elevate the members of our team who have become respected leaders in the community and industry, in addition to being leaders in our office. WTJ is therefore proud to announce Courtney McKeever and Kristi Marshall as its newest equity partners.
This means that WTJ is now the only boutique business law firm in the Central Valley that is majority-owned by women, which is an especially significant milestone considering three of the four female equity partners are under 40.
Meet Kristi Marshall
Prior to joining WTJ, Kristi was a Partner in the Professional Liability and Business Litigation Practice Groups of McCormick Barstow where she started her legal career as a Summer Associate in 2009. Kristi has successfully taken several cases through arbitration, trial, and appeal on behalf of her clients and truly enjoys being in the courtroom.
Kristi has handled a variety of matters and focuses heavily on civil litigation. Her main focuses are on professional malpractice defense, public entity representation, and commercial litigation, including trade secrets, fraud, defamation, breach of contract, unfair business practice, corporate and partnership dissolutions, as well as land use matters. Kristi also regularly advises government and private entities on legal issues in an effort to help clients implement litigation prevention strategies.
Kristi’s favorite pastime is spending time with her four children and husband, Ryan, who is also an attorney in town. On any given weekend, you can catch the whole family spending time outside—usually traveling, boating, hiking, skiing, attending sporting events, or wine tasting.
Meet Courtney McKeever
Courtney McKeever came to WTJ after more than seven years at Baker Manock & Jensen, PC, where she was a Partner. Prior to that, she worked in the corporate and securities department for a large international firm. Courtney’s areas of expertise include real estate, general business law, ag business, entity formation, and business sales and acquisitions. She regularly assists her clients with the sale, acquisition, and/or lease of agricultural, commercial, and industrial properties. Courtney has represented clients in large and small business sales and mergers. She also helps her business clients with day-to-day business contracts of all types.
In her free time, Courtney loves running and spending time with her husband and kids hiking, playing at the beach, or wine tasting.
WTJ was proud to welcome two hardworking Central Valley natives, Brodie Surfus and Jaskarn Chahal, as Summer Associates between May and August of 2021. We are even more excited to announce that both accepted full-time post-bar offers at the end of their summer tenure.
Brodie grew up in Visalia, and has been attending UCLA School of Law. He is on track to graduate in the spring of 2022, and will then take the California Bar Exam.
Originally from Fresno, Jaskarn (“JC”) Chahal is currently attending Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. He is currently finishing up his law classes as he prepares to take the California Bar Exam after graduating in the spring of 2022.
Both Brodie and Jaskarn plan to practice business litigation and will re-join the WTJ team after completion of the summer 2022 bar. We are thrilled to welcome Brodie and Jaskarn permanently to WTJ in 2022!