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No Substitute For EXPERIENCE

Founder of Monder Law, Vik Monder’s personal experience as key witness for the prosecution of a violent crime propels him to fight with everything he has…for those accused of a crime.

“I am not like other criminal defense lawyers who were former prosecutors, or the new phenomenon of cops who decide to fight for the rights of the accused. I have seen the injustice in our criminal justice system first hand.
I was once the key eyewitness to my best friend’s murder,” says award-winning attorney Vikram (Vik) Monder, who has achieved extraordinary results for his clients and in doing so, has established himself as one of San Diego’s most highly
regarded, educated and awarded criminal defense attorneys.
In fact, he just recently agreed to represent Tieray Jones, who has been charged with killing his 2-year-old stepson in 2002 in what some are calling the most high-profile cold-case murder in San Diego history.
But years before he was defending high-profile cases, Monder was a 19-year-old Pre-Med student attending Syracuse University, when he witnessed the murder of his best friend.
Obviously, the trauma of witnessing such an event would have a lasting impact on Monder, yet not in the way that many might assume. “I watched my best friend get shot in the face in the middle of the night,” he says. “And I saw how our criminal justice system worked.”
In Monder’s experience, the criminal justice system failed not only his friend, but also failed him personally in the way he was handled as a witness, let alone how the accused would be treated. In fact, Monder says the appalling way he was treated by law enforcement made it crystal clear to him, that the odds are not only stacked against alleged criminals, but in many cases, even witnesses are victimized by those eager to close a case.

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UP CLOSE & PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH VIOLENT CRIME
“I have seen the injustice in our criminal justice system first hand. I have sat in the interrogation rooms that my now clients talk so much about. I have seen professional police work take a back seat at the beginning of these investigations. What people don’t know is that police treat every case just as a number, and want to get on to the next one regardless of the consequences or significance it will have on another person’s life. I have sat there in a cold interrogation room for hours on end being questioned about my motives while every single interaction in my life was being scrutinized. I was called a liar when my statements did not fit the theory of the detective’s case, and they even attempted to subject me to polygraph testing. At times I was told to just pick someone out of a six-pack lineup even when I was not 100% certain who had done it,” Monder recalls.
“I wasn’t even the accused; I was merely a witness and I was pushed into a corner, coerced and treated like a criminal, when I’d done nothing wrong. The police had their theory, and they weren’t interested in anything that didn’t align with their case theory. I saw for the first time how easy it could be for people to provide faulty eye-witness statements. It was as if I was the defendant, instead of the one key witness who could help the prosecution.”
This experience was so impactful that Monder, who admits he was more or less pursuing a career in medicine because his father was also a physician, immediately knew that his passion lied elsewhere. This realization would cause Monder to eventually change the direction of his professional career, in order to speak up for those who needed a voice during a terrible time in their life. In time, he set his sights on the law, armed with the conviction that “I would rather see 1,000 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man go to jail,” he says.

SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY TO FORTIFY EXPERIENCE WITH EDUCATION
Before long, Arizona native Monder relocated to San Diego, and earned his law degree. “I am a first generation American, and I watched as my father, who was a physician in India, struggled to find work here because of the language barrier. He worked tirelessly at mastering the language, and did everything possible to ensure that I had every opportunity available to me here, beginning with an incredible education.”
Watching his father lead by example further fueled Monder’s growing conviction that those charged with crimes ranging from DUIs to Federal charges needed precisely the type of educated and passionate attorney that Monder was on his way to becoming. “My father couldn’t excel early in his career in the U.S. because of the language barrier. He needed to build a strong voice, and he did. Today, he has the largest endocrinology practice in Arizona. I also needed to make sure that I developed a strong enough voice of my own to represent those who most need the advocacy of a criminal defense attorney who knows firsthand what both the accused, and often times even the witnesses are up against,” he explains.
As such, after earning his J.D. from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Monder went on to earn his LL.M in Criminal Trial Advocacy from California Western School of Law. “I earned my LL.M. and I practice criminal defense exclusively because I wanted to make sure that I learned everything there is to know about the rules of criminal evidence and procedure,” Monder says.
Along the way, Monder also says that he was fortunate to find a mentor in fellow criminal defense attorney Marc Carlos. “Marc didn’t need to teach me how to be a lawyer, but he has certainly provided support, and structure, and has shown me how to grow professionally. So many lawyers dabble in criminal defense. They come and go, but they don’t last. This practice area has a lot of turnover; I think because people try to practice criminal defense as just another practice area. That doesn’t work. Your clients have everything riding on you, and if you can’t give it everything you’ve got, you’re going to find that managing client expectations is tough, and lack of familiarity in the different courthouses, and insufficient trial experience can and does result in State Bar complaints. Attorneys who have a lasting career in criminal defense, like Marc, know that to be a good criminal defense lawyer, you have to dedicate everything you have to the practice,” he says. Continuing he says with a laugh, “That’s why I don’t have hobbies. My life is 100% criminal defense, even on the weekends.”

21

PROVING HIS DEDICATION TO PROTECTING CLIENTS
“In life, we have to choose sides and that is why I could never be a prosecutor and accept whatever facts are given me as true. People provide statements under extreme situations, or when they are intoxicated, or exhausted from being interrogated and we are supposed to believe all of those statements are true,” Monder says. “I will always question everything until I get to the truth.”
To that end, Monder says that it is a false assumption that criminal defense attorneys condone criminal behavior, or only represent ‘bad’ people. “Most of our clients are hardworking everyday people that have made a mistake. This practice is not about getting people off who have committed a crime. It is about seeking the truth and humanizing one another,” he explains.
“When people contact me, they are going to hear the reality of their situation. We will discuss exposure, we will discuss whether or not the prosecution can prove the case, and I talk to them like I’m their friend. They don’t want to hear all about
me. They want to hear whether or not I can help them. In some cases, I need time to do a little more research before I can answer them honestly. In those cases, I let them know that I will need to conduct more research into the case on my own
before I commit. I’m not going to take someone’s money unless I believe that I truly can help them.”
Monder’s devotion to being relentlessly honest with his clients does mean he is selective about the cases he takes. “I have to believe that I can truly help a client before I invest myself in to their case; that’s another way we distinguish ourselves, and our clients are happy with our results. We are not a high volume firm. We are focused on providing individualized attention to each and every client,” he adds.
Monder’s clients deserve everything he has, because many clients are facing a whole lot more than just criminal charges.
“Clients who face immigration consequences because of the criminal cases can be deported even when they have spent their entire lives here in the United States. For a lot of people, being torn away from your family is worse than being put in jail for something you didn’t do. This is one of the biggest issues we face in San Diego, being so close to the border,” he says.
Because of this issue, Monder, who has been named to the Top 100 National Trial Lawyers list, been named a top 40 under 40 National Trial Lawyer, maintains a superb rating on Avvo, and has been named a 2015 and 2016 Criminal Defense Super Lawyer®, along with being named to the Best of the Bar lists in both 2015 and 2016, is continuing to build upon his firm’s complimentary immigration practice. “I am focusing on putting more attention towards these types of cases where individuals are looking at collateral consequences in light of being dragged into criminal court.” It is no surprise then, that Monder’s firm includes Spanish-speaking colleagues, to ensure “that nobody slips through the cracks even if cultural assimilation or language appears to be an issue,” says Monder.
Finally, Monder’s relentless dedication to making sure that all defendants facing criminal charges (and their families) know that they have rights is evidenced through the free Crash Course Manuals Monder makes available to anyone by offering free downloadable copies from his firm website.
“Most people or their families have no idea what to expect when they are charged with a crime. These manuals provide answers to so many questions. That way, they will already know a lot about how the basics of how the criminal justice system works and we can then have a more productive and efficient dialogue from the very start,” Monder says. Currently he offers both a DUI Crash Course for Dummies manual as well as a Criminal Crash Course for Dummies manual. Monder says that he plans to have both translated into Spanish and is already working on another manual providing tips for choosing a criminal defense attorney.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE MATCHED BY TRIAL EXPERIENCE
Of course, Monder’s greatest asset to clients lies in his vast trial experience. “I am not afraid to go to trial and we often take cases to trial last minute,” he says. “Practicing criminal law exclusively has given me a lot of trial experience, that attorneys twice my age have never had.”
A perfect illustration of just how invaluable his trial experience is can be seen through a recent victory by way of a not guilty verdict on all 7 counts of serious felony charges Monder’s client was facing. Monder had been hired just one week before the trial. “The judge in the case only gave me a week to prepare the case for trial and I had less than a week to go over the entire discovery. But I am always up for a challenge, if I know I can help,” he says firmly.
Even more recently, Monder together with attorney Alex Ozols have been retained by Tieray Jones, who has been charged with killing his 2-year-old stepson Jahi Turner in 2002. At the time of Jones’ arrest, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said, “Jahi’s disappearance rocked the community to its core 14 years ago. It’s without a doubt one of the highest profile unsolved cases here in San Diego County.” Monder acknowledges that the high profile case will surely be covered extensively in the media, and says he is prepared for the fight, and looks forward to telling his client’s side of the story. “There are holes throughout the prosecution’s theory of the case. But Tieray Jones has retained the best legal team to bring those holes to light. We strongly believe in his innocence and we will fight until the end so he does not fall victim to our criminal justice system,” Monder says.
With such passion for helping others, it is no wonder Monder often remains friends with those he’s helped long after their case is closed. “I have had my own experiences where I have hired an attorney that never answered my phone calls and did not care about my case. I never want someone to ever feel like I did not care. I try to help as many people as I can, even after their cases are over. If someone is on probation and is having a hard time getting a job, I often take it upon myself to terminate their probation early, get reductions in their cases and expunge their records to get them back on the right path.”
“At the end of the day, my job is to protect people as if they were a family member in a very difficult situation. I get to know my clients, and often their families very well. This is a very personal relationship, and I’m glad to still go to lunch with many of my past clients.”
Continuing Monder says, with noticeable passion in his voice, “Everyone is part of this community and the moment someone is charged with a crime it seems like society wants to strip them of their dignity. That’s why I plan to continue growing in auxiliary practice areas, but I have no desire to grow a large firm, where a client runs the risk of becoming just a number.
“That’s what those accused of crimes become in the criminal justice system, just a number. We see reports every day in discovery packets and are told to treat them as truths or facts by the court. I will never accept that, when I have personally gone through the experience I had, when I saw my friend murdered. I certainly wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone, but it made me the person I am today.”

22» EDUCATION

  • California Western School of Law—L.L.M
  • Thomas Jefferson School of Law—J.D.
  • University of San Diego—Bachelors in Finance

» AWARDS

  • Top 100 National Trial Lawyers—2016
  • Top 40 Under 40 National Trial Lawyers—2016
  • Superb Rated Criminal & DUI Attorney by Avvo—2016
  • Superlawyers in area of Criminal Defense—2015, 2016
  • Attorney Magazine—Best of the Bar—2015, 2016
  • SuperLawyers—Rising Star—Awarded to 2.5% of attorneys—2015
  • San Diego Daily Transcript—Top Attorney—2013, 2014
  • American Law Institute—Client Satisfaction Award—2014
  • Client Satisfaction Award by Institute of DUI Attorneys—2014
  • San Diego Daily Transcript—Top Young Attorneys Nominee—2012
  • South Asian Bar Association—Member of the Year—2009

» CURRENT MEMBER & ASSOCIATIONS

  • DUI Attorneys of California
  • Criminal Justice Association
  • Federal Bar Association
  • State Bar of California
  • San Diego Bar Association
  • South Asian Bar Association of Southern California
  • California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
  • Consumer Attorneys of San Diego

Contact
Vik Monder
Monder Law Group
www.monderlaw.com
vik@monderlaw.com
619.405.0063
424 F Street
San Diego, Ca 98101

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Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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