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Silicon Valley Attorney — Charles J. Smith

Telephone: (650) 568-2825
Facsimile: (650) 568-2823

Founding partner

Charles J. Smith is a founding partner of Hartnett, Smith & Paetkau. Mr. Smith has been one of the leading trial lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area since the late 1970s. He began his career with the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office in 1978. In 1980, he was elevated to the Major Crimes Unit, where he tried 15 homicides. He then practiced insurance defense as an associate with Ropers, Majeski, Kohn, Bentley, Wagner and Kane, where he tried and won five civil jury trials in a 14-month period. Mr. Smith began his own practice in 1991.

He tries at least five to 10 cases a year in both the civil and criminal courts of this state, from Crescent City in Del Norte County in the north to Indio in San Bernardino County in the south, achieving victory after victory on behalf of his clients. Mr. Smith has tried cases as varied as the defense of Silicon Valley venture capitalists being sued for $20 million on a fraud claim to defending a former U.S. Army captain who was acquitted of mandatory prison charges based on a PTSD defense. Mr. Smith enjoys the variety of cases that he has taken to trial. As in the British system of solicitors and barristers, Mr. Smith believes that a trial lawyer should be able to try any dispute where a question of credibility exists. His qualities of hard work, thorough preparation, intense energy and devotion to his client's cause are the hallmark of his trial practice.

Redwood City, Bay Area and national attorney Chuck Smith was elected to the American Board of Trial Advocates as an associate in October 1992. Over the course of his career, he has tried more than 200 jury trials to verdict, taking multiple jury trials to verdict every year. In one year alone, he tried 14 jury trials to verdict — seven criminal, seven civil — probably more than any private attorney in the State of California.

Mr. Smith holds an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell® and has been invited to provide expert legal commentary for both the Bay Area and national press. He has appeared as a legal analyst on CNN, CBS, Larry King Live and Good Morning America. He speaks to lawyers’ groups on trial practice and volunteers his time to the local high school community as a teacher and coach in the statewide Mock Trial Program.

Areas of practice

Admitted to practice

  • California, 1976
  • California and U.S. District Courts, Northern District of California

Awards and honors


Professional memberships

  • San Mateo County Bar Association
  • Santa Clara County Bar Association
  • Associate, American Board of Trial Advocates
  • Elected to American Board of Trial Advocates, October 1992

Professional experience

  • Judge Pro Tem: Santa Clara County and San Mateo County
  • Partner, Smith, Bentley and Hartnett; now Hartnett, Smith & Paetkau, 1993–present
  • Associate, Ruocco and Saucedo, 1988–1991
  • Associate, Ropers, Majeski, Kohn, Bentley, Wagner and Kane, 1987–1988
  • Deputy district attorney: San Mateo County, 1978–1987
  • Major Crimes Unit (Homicide), 1982–1987
  • Legal Analyst:  CNN, CBS, Larry King Live, Good Morning America
  • San Mateo County District Attorney's Office, 1978–present