Reading Cathy Bennett’s list of accomplishments is intimidating. When asked about how she is able to contribute so much to our community, Cathy reported to the Paralegal Association: “I do not have a husband or children. Non profits are my children.” Cathy’s goal has been to help shepherd non-profit organizations to excellence.
Over the years, Cathy has looked for organizations that do things that Cathy believes are important—and that she is passionate about. She then works within that organization, often as a board member, and works toward achieving leadership within that organization (often becoming president), all with the goal of helping to shepherd the organization.
Cathy was on the CASA board for a number of years and later president. She was motivated to help CASA as an organization that helps children who have been abused, and find themselves in the system through no fault of their own. She noted that in Kern, there are horrible problems with abuse and neglect of children and CASA plays an important role. Cathy followed the same course at GBLA finding their mission important and critical in our community. She charted a similar course at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
Currently, Cathy is very passionate about her work with the Taft College Foundation. They have a Transition to Independent Living (TIL) program which helps developmentally disabled and autistic young persons who come to live in Taft and learn to live independently. The program serves 40 plus students a year ages 18-25. The participants live on campus the first year (living in special dorms) and attend classes on cooking, cleaning, money management, job skills training and more. In the second year of the program, the students live in homes that Taft rents for them. All of the students get jobs! Cathy sees this as a very valuable program and is excited to be a part of building and expanding the TIL program.
As pro bono counsel for Marley’s Mutts, Cathy says “I am an absolute believer in adopt—don’t shop!” Cathy holds a special affection for dogs. All of Cathy’s dogs are rescues: Brittney is a mini dachshund (14 years old), Olive is also a mini dachshund (10 this year), and Winnie came from Marley’s Mutts (4 years old). Cathy states: “Between the non profits and my dogs, I have children. Some of them require more care and feeding than others!” Cathy has told her friends who have children: “I’m lucky! Dogs come with their own clothes. And they don’t complain if you feed them the same thing every day!”
Certified Appellate Specialist
Cathy has a deep affection for writing and enjoys the challenges associated with complex law and motion as well as appellate practice. While Cathy attended Cal Pacific law school, she loved participating in Moot Court and the Roger Traynor competition. She participated for two years. She credits Moot Court with helping to build many of her skills. Bud Starr was Cathy’s coach for Moot Court. She reports that Bud worked hard with them on writing, stage presence, and overcoming nerves. In Cathy’s third year of law school, they made it to the quarter finals. In Cathy’s fourth year, they tied with Davis for second place for best brief.
After law school, Cathy worked closely with David Cooper at KDG on a few appeals. She enjoyed the deep legal analysis and “…found it fulfilling.” She then gravitated more and more toward appellate work and became a Certified
Appellate Specialist in 2012. A listing of Cathy’s published cases appears in the box entitled “Cathy’s Published Cases.” Today, in Kern County there are two Certified Appellate Specialists in private practice, Cathy and Josh Wilson. Two others are on the bench (Susan Gill and Jennifer Thurston).
Cathy’s favorite thing about appellate law is analyzing the problem and figuring out the best legal authority. Her favorite quote from Bud Starr is “The law is a river of facts.” Cathy has built on Bud’s quote with Cathy’s Corollary: “And you don’t want to be swimming upstream!”
Many have trained under Cathy’s writing tutelage. She noted that one time a young associate came in to her office and handed her his work product and stated: “I got it. The work is great!” But Cathy reports that the written work product still needed quite a bit of work. The young lawyer stated: “I live for the day that you review my work and say it’s great and no edits are needed.” Cathy immediately fired back: “Don’t live for that day—it will never happen.” Cathy notes that even when writing is great, it can still be improved. She added: “Everyone needs to recognize that everyone needs an editor!”
When asked if she has any tips for arguing an appeal, Cathy stated she has two rules: (1) Be prepared! You need to know your argument, the law and the facts—and not bring any papers with you to the podium (she uses an Ipad with just a few key words to remind her of the key arguments); and (2) Answer the Justices’ questions. They don’t like it when you tap dance and don’t answer their questions.
Background, Education, and Family
Cathy received her B.A. in Psychology from CSUB in 1980. She received an MBA from CSUB in 1991, followed soon thereafter by her studies at Cal Pacific. She received her J.D. and passed the Bar in 1995. During her gap years, she had many endeavors but spent many of those years working at Greenlawn. Cathy was inducted in the CSUB Alumni Hall of Fame in 2015. Cathy has been with KDG since she received her J.D. and is currently Senior Counsel at KDG where she handles complex law and motion as well as appeals. She also has helped and trained quite a number of lawyers at KDG with their writing, and of course has trained many others in writing as a professor at Kern County College of Law. Cathy has been recognized as a Southern California Super Lawyer in Appellate Law every year since 2012.
Cathy’s number one hobby: her dogs. She also loves cooking and enjoys preparing traditional Chinese dishes, co-hosting Chinese New Year feasts at her home along with Nancy Oehler. Cathy moved to Bakersfield with her parents when she was 3 years old. She is very close with her parents Bob and Ellen, who are in their 80’s. And she is also very close with her younger brother Michael (three and one half years younger) who often accompanies her to various events.
It is not possible to talk about Cathy without mentioning Rotary. “I am a Rotarian through and through!” Cathy reports. Cathy has been a member of North Rotary since 2008 and is currently the President Elect Nominee (to serve as President in 2020-2021). Cathy is a Paul Harris Fellow and received a Paul Harris Service Award in 2016. She enjoys Rotary because of the fellowship of people from different walks of life, and because of the dedication to community service. She serves on the North Rotary Foundation Board and appreciates the good works of the Foundation in the North of the River Community.
Cathy has of course held various roles in the Kern County Bar Association, serving on the Board for a number of years and serving as President. She has also served as a Board member of the Kern County Bar Association Charitable Foundation since 2008, and has been Treasurer since 2012.
Looking at Cathy’s resume and community involvement, she has worked on so many causes, all designed to improve the lives of others. When asked if there are any past community activities that stand out, Cathy responded by stating: “That is like trying to decide which of your children is the smartest or the best.” Cathy sums up her level of involvement in the community by stating: “I feel an engaged citizen need to be engaged—for the betterment of our society.” Cathy lives by those words and inspires others to follow her example.
Author: Barry Goldner is a partner at KDG and lives in fear of Cathy reviewing his prose.
Cathy Bennett’s Published Appellate Cases
Jimenez-Sanchez v. Dark Horse Express, Inc. (2019) 32 Cal.App.5th 224
Salazar v. Thomas (2015) 236 Cal.App.4th 467 In re Marriage of Burwell (2013) 221
In re Est. of Thomas Edde (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 883
Schwartz v. Schwartz (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 733
Michael v. Denbeste Transportation (2006) 137 Cal.App.4th 1082
Park v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (2003) 108 Cal. App. 4th 595
Quotes from Bench and Bar About Cathy Bennett
“When you need assistance, you can call Cathy and she’s always there to help. I think that’s really commendable in light of her significant professional duties. Above all else, she never asks credit for all these things she achieves, when you interact with her it’s always, ‘What can I do for you today?’” Judge Lorna H. Brumfield, Kern County Superior Court
“Cathy is wonderful and amazing, and I am in awe of her command of grammar and punctuation. Not only does she have impeccable talent in these areas, but she is training other lawyers to master these skills; and, thus, she is my hero.” Judge Susan Gill, Kern County Superior Court
“I cannot think of anyone who has supported the KCBA and other bar related activities with such commitment and accomplishment.” Jay Rosenlieb, KDG
“With her long list of accomplishments, Cathy Bennett is an excellent choice for the KCBA Bench and Bar Award. Apart from being an exceptional attorney, she is also a recognized leader amongst her colleagues and has unselfishly dedicated her time to bar organizations throughout the state to provide access to legal services for the downtrodden. In our county, Cathy Bennett has worked tirelessly to close the justice gap, and this prestigious award is proof that her good deeds have not gone unnoticed.“ David Torres, Law Offices of David Torres
“Cathy is exceptionally deserving of this prestigious award. She is an outstanding litigator who brings credit to our profession by exemplifying remarkable analytic accomplishment and unparalleled ethics. Cathy has dedicated countless hours of service to the Kern County Bar Association, including invaluable contributions to the Charitable Foundation, the Kern County Women Lawyers and pro bono work for GBLA. She has truly demonstrated extraordinary service to the administration of justice and the legal profession.“ H.A. Sala, Law Offices of H.A. Sala
“My real knowledge of Cathy and what she does dates back to when she joined Bakersfield North Rotary. Without anyone asking, Cathy has become such an integral part of this organization. When asked to take the role of President Elect Nominee, she agreed without reservation. Considering the size of the club and the duties that accompany it, this role comes with a lot of obligations. Cathy does more than I would ever think about doing, all while fitting a busy schedule on top of it.” Bob Brumfield, Law Offices of Robert Brumfield
"It has been said that ‘Success is not the key to Happiness. Happiness is the key to Success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.’ Cathy loves being a lawyer and helping people which is why she is successful at both. She’s a lawyer’s lawyer who enjoys a stellar reputation with members of the bench and bar.” Retired Justice Stephen Kane, Fifth District DCA