Melissa (Missy) O'ConnellOn January 8, 2024, Melissa “Missy” O’Connell ‘03 was sworn in as a judge in Contra Costa County Superior Court after having been appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Dec. 7, 2023. O’Connell joined the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) in 2010 and most recently served as Interim Co-Legal Director, and previously as Staff Attorney and Policy Liaison. She was a Lecturer at Santa Clara University School of Law from 2010 to 2023 and earned her JD degree from Santa Clara Law, where she was a clinical student in one of the first NCIP cohorts. 

O’Connell was a Sole Practitioner in 2009 and an Attorney at Cooper Law Offices from 2007 to 2009. She served as a Deputy Public Defender at the Solano County Public Defender’s Office from 2004 to 2007 and was a Staff Attorney at Fresh Lifelines for Youth from 2003 to 2004.

NCIP leaders shared the following statements:

 “Missy represents everything a judge should be. Her absolute commitment to justice, ability to consider all sides, thoughtful approach to legal issues, great intellect, and deep compassion make her the ideal judicial appointment. The Northern California Innocence Project and Santa Clara University will greatly miss her and all that she gave her colleagues, our students, and our clients. The State of California will be lucky to have her on the bench.” 

-Linda Starr, NCIP Co-Founder and Clinical Professor of Law 

“I am truly overjoyed to witness the well-deserved appointment of my longtime colleague and friend Missy O’Connell as a judge. Missy’s unwavering commitment to justice, her keen legal acumen, and compassionate approach to the law have always stood out. I am confident she will continue to uphold the principles she so passionately championed at the Northern California Innocence Project and that her wisdom and sense of fairness will have a positive impact on the judicial system.” 

Todd Fries, NCIP Executive Director

“Working with Missy has been one of the great joys of my career. She is brilliant, kind, hilarious, and cares deeply about doing good, and doing it well. We have long joked that her one flaw is that she is too fair, which of course will make her a wonderful judge.”

-Paige Kaneb, NCIP Interim Co-Legal Director and Associate Clinical Professor of Law