MICHELLE CICCARELLI LERACH has dedicated her life to fighting for those without enough voice, from fighting for immigrants’ rights as a young law student to serving as partner/Of Counsel to one of the nation’s largest plaintiff’s firms, representing shareholders, workers, and consumers in a broad range of complex and class-action litigations for fraudulent business practices, human rights abuses, and labor and employment violations.
After graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law, Michelle served as law clerk to the Honorable Sara Walter Combs, Kentucky Court of Appeals, and practiced law in Lexington (Newberry, Hargrove & Rambicure, PSC) and Louisville (Greenbaum, Doll & McDonald, LLP) before relocating to California in 1999. She is a member of the Kentucky and California bars.
In California, she joined Milberg Weiss and was a lead litigator in many cases, including Does I v. The Gap, Inc., Case No. 01-0031 (D.N. Mariana Islands), a case on behalf of approximately 25,000 sweatshop workers against leading clothing manufacturers, which successfully concluded with a $20 million settlement and a precedent-setting Monitoring Program to oversee labor and human rights practices in Saipan’s garment factories. During her time at the firm, she also worked on cases on behalf of the Sierra Club & the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (cross-border trucking), as well as a number of high-profile securities class actions such as Enron ($7.3 billion recovered) and coordinated private actions like WorldCom. In 2008, before leaving the firm, she received the Consumer Attorneys of California, Women's Law Caucus Award as Outstanding Consumer Advocate.
Her passion for law intersects with activism both in her pro bono work and in her teaching: she worked as a consultant to the Liberian Ministry of Gender & Development with respect to that country's proposed constitutional revisions, specifically as relates to gender neutrality; an outspoken critic of current GMO labeling policy, she was involved in the 2012 California ballot initiative to label GMOs (Prop 37), organizing university forums and debating opponents of the measure in San Diego, and served on the steering committee of Californians for GE Labeling, which spearheaded the renewed effort to achieve GMO labeling in California in 2016; and she is an advocate for sustainable farm internship programs, and was chosen as one of San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch 2011 for this work.
She speaks regularly at a number of institutions, including previous presentations at the Buchmann Faculty of Law at Tel Aviv University (regarding the recently adopted Israeli class-action statute), Cornell University Law School (Joint JD/MBA Program), the University of Kentucky College of Law (Randall-Park Colloquium), and most recently the University of San Diego, moderating panels on Ethical Eating and Water Matters (in conjunction with the Changemaker Challenge) and Soil Matters at the University of California at San Diego. She is also the host of the Future Thought Leaders series on behalf of the Berry Good Food Foundation on UCTV, for which she has received four San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. She was the author of “Improving Corporate Governance Through Litigation Settlements,” Corporate Governance Review.
Today, she serves as the Vice Chair of the Board of the University of California Press Foundation, and a member of the trade committee, focused on progressive scholarship; a member of the Advisory Board of the Women Peacemakers Program at the Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice at the University of San Diego; an Advisor to Kiss the Ground, devoted to promoting regenerative agriculture, connecting sustainable agricultural practices to the larger issue of climate change, and Executive Producer to a documentary film of the same name slated for release 1/18; and Founder/President of the Berry Good Food Foundation.
Michelle lives in La Jolla, California, with her husband, parents, dogs, goats, chickens and other avian family members.