501 W Broadway, Ste 1510, San Diego, CA 92101, US

(619) 236-8300

Criminal Law

State and Federal Criminal Defense

Federal Law

Habeas Corpus, Trials and Appeals

Trials & Appeals

Criminal Defense


Kurt David Hermansen

Before opening his law office, Mr. Hermansen dedicated five years to helping his clients and honing his skills as a Trial Attorney at the nationally renowned Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., five years as a research attorney for the federal court, and two years for the state court. As a federal public defender, Mr. Hermansen represented hundreds of clients in federal court from initial court appearance, through trial, and on appeal against felony criminal charges involving mostly border related crimes such as drug smuggling, people smuggling and illegal entry after deportation. He also represented clients accused of aggravated assault, bank robbery, and complex matters involving wiretaps and charges of fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. Besides handling his heavy caseload of trials and appeals, Mr. Hermansen also helped train new trial attorneys and supervised them during trials and motion hearings.

Mr. Hermansen attended Loyola Law School where he served on the Law Review as the Chief Note and Comment Editor, and authored a published law review comment denouncing the military’s anti-gay exclusionary policy. While attending law school, Mr. Hermansen also summer clerked for a civil law firm in Los Angeles and for the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, he was active in the National Lawyers Guild and Lawyers for Human Rights.

After graduating from Loyola Law School in 1993, Mr. Hermansen garnered valuable experience as a criminal research attorney for the San Diego Superior Court. He then expanded his knowledge of criminal law and procedure as a staff attorney handling hundreds of habeas corpus matters for the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. While at the district court, Mr. Hermansen was instrumental in helping the judges implement an efficient system for handling the large volume of habeas petitions to ensure that meritorious petitions got the time, attention and careful consideration they deserve. Not many attorneys can say they have five years of habeas corpus experience, but Mr. Hermansen can. And, he can put his extensive habeas, trial, and appellate experience to work for his clients.



Trial, Habeas, & Appellate Attorney 

(Dec. 2005 to present)

Focus law practice on state and federal trials, appeals, and habeas corpus. Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist, California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization, since 2009. Recognized as a Super Lawyer in San Diego every year from 2008 to the present, and as one of the Top 50 attorneys overall in San Diego in both 2017 and 2018. In addition to representing clients at state and federal felony jury trials, frequently argue before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the California Courts of Appeal. Have argued before an en banc Ninth Circuit panel, the California Supreme Court, and the United States Supreme Court.


Adjunct Professor (LL.M. in Trial Advocacy Program) 

(2009 to 2016)

Prepared LL.M. candidates for federal trial practice by training them on everything from writing and arguing motions to conducting mock trials. The LL.M. program combined classroom instruction on substantive federal law, trial skills training, and client representation in a federal defender or Criminal Justice Act attorney’s office. Taught both the Trial Skills and Motion Practice courses.


Trial Attorney 

(Dec. 2000 to Dec. 2005)

Represented clients in federal court from initial court appearance through trial in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California, and on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, against felony charges involving mostly border-related crimes such as drug smuggling, people smuggling, and illegal entry after deportation. Also represented clients charged with bank robbery, aggravated assault, narcotics distribution, firearms offenses, multi-defendant conspiracies, and fraud. Trained new trial attorneys and supervised them at trials, motion hearings, and new arraignments. Served on all-attorney-training and intern committees.


Staff Attorney (Pro Se Law Clerk) 

(June 1995 to Dec. 2000)

Provided judges and law clerks with advice on habeas corpus law and procedure; assisted chambers in managing over two hundred non-capital habeas corpus cases annually, from initial screening through final disposition; researched law; reviewed pleadings and transcripts; drafted orders for district judges and magistrate judges; advised judges during evidentiary hearings; maintained outline on habeas corpus law and procedure; and supervised pro se writ clerk.


Research Attorney 

(August 1993 to June 1995)

Drafted bench memoranda for criminal law and motion judges, criminal presiding judge, criminal writs panel judges, and small claims appeals judges. Advised civil presiding judge on all civil forfeiture cases.


  J.D. June 6, 1993

    Law Review Chief Note and Comment Editor and Executive Board Member 1992–93

    Law Review Staff Member 1991–92

    Published Law Review Comment listed below under publications

    Bureau of National Affairs Law Student Scholastic Achievement Award (recognizing the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the field of law during the final school year by a member of the class of 1993)

    Hobbs District Attorney Clinic included two components: (1) a semester of intensive advocacy training specifically focused on preparing for the types of courtroom work involved in serving the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office as a Certified Law Student Intern, and (2) actual courtroom experience, which included:

    conducting 31 felony preliminary hearings in the downtown L.A. Criminal Courts Building;

    first-chairing two juvenile adjudications in Compton Juvenile Court, and working on many others; 

    gaining about 230 hours of in-court experience and about 130 hours of out-of-court trial and preliminary hearing preparation experience.

 B.A. Political Science with specialization in International Relations 1988. 

 Dean’s List. Includes study at University of Florence, Italy.


   People v. Woodall, 216 Cal.App.4th 1221, 1238 (2013)

(rejecting facial and as-applied constitutional challenges to the probation revocation procedures set forth in section 1203.2; “constru[ing] section 1203.2 to impliedly require a probable cause hearing if there is any significant delay between the probationer’s arrest and a final revocation hearing.”)

People v. Perez, 214 Cal.App.4th 49, 59–60 (2013)

(upholding sixteen-year-old Perez’s 30-years to life sentence for a one-strike sex offense and finding the sentence is not cruel or unusual)

United States v. Rodriguez-Castro, 641 F.3d 1189, 1193 (9th Cir. 2011)

(“The district court did not clearly err in finding that Rodriguez did not meet his burden to prove he had a minor role in the offense, and it did not abuse its discretion in declining to award Rodriguez the minor-role reduction under § 3B1.2(b).”)

Roberts v. Marshall, 627 F.3d 768, 773 (9th Cir. 2010)

(finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Roberts an evidentiary hearing, and affirming the denial of equitable tolling of the AEDPA’s statute of limitations despite some evidence of mental incompetence)

Slovik v. Yates, 556 F.3d 747, 755 (9th Cir. 2009)

(reversing conviction [and life sentence] on federal habeas because “the trial court’s limit on Slovik’s ability to cross-examine Featherstone had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.”)

People v. Hernandez, 180 Cal.App.4th 337, 345–46, 348–50 (2009)

(acknowledging that appellate courts may review any instruction given, refused or modified, even where no objection was made below, but finding that Mayberry and unanimity instructions were unwarranted)

In re Jose C., 45 Cal.4th 534, 547–50 (Cal. 2009)

(finding that juvenile wardship proceedings that entail adjudication of whether a federal criminal statute has been violated are not expressly preempted by 18 U.S.C. § 3231; finding that 8 U.S.C. § 1329 poses no jurisdictional preemption; finding that 8 U.S.C. § 1324 does not preempt states from substantively regulating immigration matters)

In re Angel R., 163 Cal.App.4th 905, 911–15 (2008)

(finding that stickers are “marking substances” (i.e., graffiti tools) proscribed by section 594.2(c)(2); construing the plain language of section 654k, which defines when a knife becomes a proscribed switchblade)

Woods v. Carey, 525 F.3d 886, 890 (9th Cir. 2008)

(reversing district court’s dismissal of Woods’s petition for being barred as successive under 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b) because the district court should have construed Woods’s pro se petition as a motion to amend the habeas petition that was still pending before the district court when the new petition was filed)

Harrison v. Ollison, 519 F.3d 952, 958 (9th Cir. 2008)

(concluding that appellate courts cannot require that a habeas petitioner obtain a certificate of appealability following the denial of a petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 where such a petition qualifies for § 2255’s escape hatch)

Estrada v. Scribner, 512 F.3d 1227, 1237 (9th Cir. 2008)

(“Although ‘having to ignore the most direct evidence of prejudice — [i.e., the jurors’] testimony that [a juror] relied on the extrinsic information — lends an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ quality to the discussion … the weight of authority and sound policy reasons support this view [of Fed. R. Evid. 606(b)].”)

United States v. Zepeda-Martinez, 470 F.3d 909 (9th Cir. 2006)

(concluding “that the Apprendi error committed by the district court was harmless” under Neder v. United States, 527 U.S. 1 (1999))

United States v. Bahamonde, 445 F.3d 1225 (9th Cir. 2006)

(reversing conviction; finding that 6 C.F.R. § 545(a), “as applied in this criminal prosecution, violates due process by failing to provide reciprocal discovery” as required by Wardius v. Oregon, 412 U.S. 470, 472 (1973); finding that the district court failed to weigh countervailing interests before excluding agent Rodmel’s testimony; finding that Bahamonde  “need not reveal the nature of his anticipated defense testimony [from agent Rodmel] in order to challenge the regulation that improperly requires him to reveal such testimony.”)

United States v. Mays, 430 F.3d 963, 965–60 (9th Cir. 2005)

(finding that district courts have jurisdiction to impose post-judgment garnishment orders on criminal defendants even after supervised release is terminated if the defendant fails to pay a judgment of restitution imposed by the court)


• California State Bar No. 166349 (Dec. 6, 1993).

• United States Supreme Court (Oct. 11, 2000)

• U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (May 1, 2001)

• U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (Dec. 10, 1993)

• U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (July 13, 2006)

• U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California (June 10, 2013)

• U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (May 5, 2014)

• California State Bar No. 166349 (Dec. 6, 1993)

• Certified Specialist, Criminal Law, California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization (Mar. 1, 2009 to present)

• American Inns of Court, Hon. William B. Enright Chapter (July 27, 2016 to present)

• Federal Bar Association, San Diego Chapter

• San Diego County Bar Association

• California Attorneys for Criminal Justice

• San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Club

• San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association

• Tom Homann LGBT Law Association


SUPER LAWYER in Criminal Law in San Diego every year 2008 to present. In 2017 and 2018, I was one of only three or four criminal defense attorneys to be included in the Top 50 lawyers overall in San Diego. Super Lawyers rates outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations.

2018 APPELLATE ATTORNEY OF THE YEAR AWARD San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association (March 27, 2018).

E. STANLEY CONANT AWARD for benefiting the San Diego legal community and demonstrating exceptional and unselfish devotion to protecting the rights of the indigent accused, presented by the Board of Directors of Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., and Appellate Defenders, Inc. (April 2016).

OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD for dedication and service to the association and the community, presented by the Tom Homann LGBT Law Association (May 1999 & May 2001).

THE BNA LAW STUDENT AWARD recognizing the most satisfactory scholastic progress in the field of law during the final school year by a member of the class of 1993, presented by the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., and Loyola Law School (June 1993).


• Criminal Law Section Executive Committee to the California State Bar. Appointed by Board of Trustees to serve from Oct. 2, 2016 to Sept. 15, 2019. (Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the State Bar Sections became the California Lawyers Association (CLA)).○ Community Defenders Inc. (CDI) Program at University of San Diego Law School. Serve on a five-person committee that oversees using CDI funds for continuing legal education scholarships and programs for criminal defense attorneys. Each year we plan and produce a top-notch, full-day seminar focusing on a specific area of law. We also review law student bar-examination scholarship applications and attorney applications for reimbursement of certain continuing-legal-education costs (2012 to present).

• Ad hoc San Diego Superior Court criminal exhibits advisory committee reported to Assistant Presiding Judge Peter C. Deddeh regarding how best to preserve or dispose of criminal exhibits given space constraints in the new courthouse. Advisors included: (1) Kristine P. Nesthus, San Diego Superior Court Director of Legal Services/General Counsel; (2) David Greenberg, Chief Deputy District Attorney; (3) Elaine A. Alexander, Executive Director, Appellate Defenders, Inc.; (4) Michael Roddy, Superior Court CEO; (5) Alexander Simpson, California Innocence Project; (6) Julie Garland, Senior Assistant Attorney General; (7) Julie Gibson, Deputy Public Defender; and (8) Kurt Hermansen for the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association, and San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Club (2016–17).

• United States District Court for the Southern District of California, Prisoner Litigation Committee chaired by the late U.S. Magistrate Judge David H. Bartick (Committee Member 2015–16).

• San Diego’s Criminal Defense Bar Association (President 2015–16) (Vice President 2014–15) (Secretary 2013–14) (Treasurer 2012–13) (Board member since 2009).

• Criminal Law Advisory Commission to the California State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization. Reviewed, graded, and developed criminal law specialist examination; developed strategies for continuing education; performed outreach (Chair 2014–15) (Commissioner Oct. 2011 to Oct. 2015). 

• California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (board member 2011 to 2016).

• Lawyer Representative to United States District Court for the Southern District of California (2009–12).

• California State Bar’s Committee on Federal Courts (2001–04).

• California State Bar’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination (Chair 1998–2000) (Vice-Chair 1997–98) (Committee Member 1996–2000).

• Volunteer Instructor for Spanish Trial Skills Academy at California Western School of Law’s ACCESO program. Lecture and lead learn-by-doing workshops in Spanish for attorneys and judges from Argentina, Columbia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru (2009 to present).

• Tom Homann LGBT Law Association (Co-President 1997–99) (Secretary 1994–96) (Founding Board Member 1993).

• San Diego County Bar Association’s Individual Rights and Responsibilities Committee (Chair 1997–98) (Member 1996–98). 

• Southern District of California Civil Rights Conference. Served on diverse planning committee, chaired by then Assistant United States Attorney (now superior court judge) Amalia Meza (1997).

• Loyola of Los Angeles Law School’s Lesbian & Gay Law Union (Co-President 1993).

• Lawyers for Human Rights (Los Angeles, CA). As the youngest member of the board, I authored a resolution opposing the United States military’s anti-gay exclusionary policy (Board of Governors 1992–93).

• National Lawyers Guild, Loyola of Los Angeles Law School Chapter (Founding Member 1991–93).


• (May 11, 2018) Supreme Court Update, by Tarik Adlai, Benjamin Coleman, Kurt Hermansen, and Jonathan Schneller. Annual Appellate Practice Seminar. Central District of California CJA Appellate Panel Training at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.○ (Sept.10–15, 2017) Coached and trained military Judge Advocates at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot on how to litigate sexual assault cases; the training included plenary lectures and small group learn-by-doing breakout sessions.

• (Sept. 28, 2017) Criminal Federal Legal Specialist Examination Preparation Webinar, by Kurt Hermansen, for the California State Bar and available through the California Lawyers Association.

• (May 19, 2017) Supreme Court Update presented by Tarik Adlai, Benjamin Coleman, Kurt Hermansen, and Beth Richardson-Royer. Annual Appellate Practice Seminar. Central District of California CJA Appellate Panel Training at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

• (May 17, 2017) Federal Pro Bono Panel Presentation, by Hon. Janis L. Sammartino, Karen Beretsky, Melissa Bobrow, and Kurt Hermansen. Diego Chapter of the Federal Bar Association.

• (Jan. 26, 2016) Winning with Concise Persuasion, by Kurt Hermansen and Devin Burstein. Criminal Defense Bar Association.

• (2009 to 2016) Adjunct Professor for Trial Advocacy LL.M. Program. Taught Federal Trial Skills and Federal Motions Practice courses at California Western School of Law.

• (Jan. 23, 2016) Federal and State Gang Motions and Case Law Update, by Kurt Hermansen and Jane Kinsey. Attacking State and Federal Gang Cases: Motions, Emotions, and Trial Tactics. Community Defenders, Inc., and University of San Diego School of Law.

• (Jan. 25, 2014) Competency, by Kurt Hermansen and Dr. Bruce Yanofsky. Mental Health Meets the Courts: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.  Community Defenders, Inc., and University of San Diego School of Law.

• (April 30, 2013, Jan. 25, 2011, Jan. 27, 2009) Gender and Sexual Orientation Bias, by Rebecca Jones and Kurt Hermansen. Criminal Defense Bar Association.

• (March 19, 2013) Supreme Court Practice and Procedure — The View from the Ground, by Kurt Hermansen, Jonathan Libby, and Brianna Mircheff. Annual Criminal Justice Act Appellate Panel Seminar at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


• Kurt D. Hermansen, Habeas Corpus: Scope of the Writ, Ch. 9, in APPEALS AND WRITS IN CRIMINAL CASES (CEB University of California forthcoming 2018).

• Kurt Hermansen, 1996 Habeas Corpus Reform, in NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FED. LAW OF HABEAS CORPUS (Matthew Bender, pub. for Fed. Jud. Ctr. Sept. 1996).

• Kurt D. Hermansen, Comment, Analyzing The Military’s Justifications For Its Exclusionary Policy: Fifty Years Without A Rational Basis, 26 Loy. L.A. L. Rev. 151 (1992). Comment cited for its “particularly thorough and insightful analysis,” Meinhold v. United States Dep’t of Defense, 808 F. Supp. 1455 (C.D. Cal. 1993), and cited in over thirty law review articles.


•   Proficient in Spanish and Italian.


CA State Bar Profile for Kurt David Hermansen