M.C. Sungaila, a partner at Haynes and Boone LLP, has been named to the Top Women Lawyers in California list by the Daily Journal, California's largest legal newspaper, for the ninth year in a row.
The Haynes and Boone appellate litigator has briefed and argued issues including Article III standing, attorney disqualification, class action certification, arbitration, unconstitutional gifts of public funds, will interpretation, and an Establishment Clause challenge to yoga in public schools. She has handled cases regarding free speech challenges, asylum protection for transgender and gay immigrants, access to justice issues raised by the absence of official court reporters in civil cases, and choice of law issues in a Holocaust art theft appeal.
"I keep busy enjoying myself in my work and having an impact," she said.
Her influence on appellate law flows in part from her service on the amicus committees of three national organizations: the American Bar Association, the National Association of Women Lawyers and the International Association of Defense Counsel.
In February, she sought to clarify an important issue in family law: A court considering whether a marital settlement agreement unfairly advantaged a spouse should have taken into account a history of domestic abuse. Sungaila argued in briefing before the 3rd District Court of Appeal in a case out of San Joaquin County that petitioner Leah Chavez was wrongly denied the benefits of a divorce agreement because a court commissioner voided the deal — without factoring in the years of domestic violence Leah had endured — after concluding Leah unduly influenced the agreement by having her then-husband Rudolfo arrested.
"When determining whether Leah secured an advantage from the [settlement agreement], the trial court did not consider any of the disadvantages she was enduring because of the abuse or any of the advantages Rudolfo was reaping from the abuse," Sungaila wrote in pro bono amicus briefing for the Family Violence Appellate Project. The case remains at the appellate briefing stage. Chavez v. Chavez, C080202 (Cal. App. 3rd Dist., filed Sept. 3, 2015).