In the Courtroom, Southern California’s top Trial Attorney, Catherine Lombardo is a force. When she walks in, chatter stops, cell phones are pocketed, heads look up and all eyes are focused on Lombardo. Having served as a Judge Pro Tem, in both Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties since 1996, and also selected by The Federal Bench in the Central District of California as an appointee on the CJA panel for indigent defendants, Lombardo has earned the respect of her peers – if wagering a bet, Lombardo is the favorite with more than 300 wins in the Courtroom.
For the Las Vegas Massacre victims, Lombardo is their Analise Keating.
For the FBI, Lombardo is their worst nightmare.
Lombardo filed the first Class Action lawsuit following the Massacre. Among the Plaintiffs are a recent bride who performed surgery during the chaos at Route 91, removing bullets from her groom’s buttocks. Numerous heroes who used their bodies as shields to protect complete strangers.An off-duty officer who ripped a hole in a chain-link fence freeing numerous attendees who were trapped.
Lombardo will allow their stories to be told. Most important, Lombardo will help the victims get answers.
VENTS caught-up with Lombardo as she exited a Las Vegas courtroom.
VENTS: What attracted you to the legal profession?
LOMBARDO: I did not grow up in the legal field . I grew up in the insurance industry. But I became a musician. My first degree is in classical vocal performance. I started training at the age of 10 in New York City. By the time I was 22, I realized that my friends, who were all musicians, did not receive compensation consistent with their talents and worth. I became a lawyer so that I could help, advocate and fight for people who are taken advantage of by the industry. That initial desire turned into a lifetime career of defending, and then later on in my career, fighting for victims.
VENTS: Which case in your career helped shaped your career today?
LOMBARDO: In the mid-1990s, there was a string of young teenage girls giving birth in secret all around the country. These girls hid their newborn babies. My client was one of those first few. It was probably the most controversial case of its time. I was thrown into that controversy when I represented this teenage girl. The public perception and reaction was brutal and unsympathetic. I fought hard during my representation of this scared, young mother. I got her criminal case dismissed, and I got her custody of the baby. This was a very good result. Afterwards, my client and I were guests on the Montel Williams Show. Even though the case was over, the audience was ready to condemn and hang my client. I had done mock jury testing during the prosecution of that case, and I learned a lot. I learned that people can be very judgmental and unsympathetic. I learned that I needed to convince a jury to “walk in the shoes” of my client. That helped me through the next 23 years of being a trial attorney, understanding my prospective jurors, anticipating their judgments, prejudices, reactions and ultimate verdicts.
VENTS: How do your determine which cases to accept?
LOMBARDO: My law firm has a criterion for accepting new cases. But that criteria get stretched and expanded on a daily basis. You can blame me for that. I am the attorney in my firm that occasionally tells my partner and staff that I want to take a particular case that does not meet our protocol and criteria. Despite the fact that we would normally reject the case, my team is very gracious, and they support me once the decision is made to help that client and take that case. It gives us all personal satisfaction.
VENTS: You are Lead Counsel representing the La s Vegas Massacre victims; how did that happen?
LOMBARDO: My law firm got involved in the Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival Concert shooting from the very beginning. I first started working on this case on October 2, the day after the shooting. I woke up to the horrible news, rushed to the office, and started fielding phone calls. I launched my investigation immediately. I called in experts to my office that very day, and we dove in. We filed the very first Class Action lawsuit in Los Angeles. We intend on enacting change. And getting our clients financial compensation, as well as personal satisfaction to aid in the recovery and healing process. Some of my clients do not want money, so I suggest to them that when I get them money at the end of this case, they can choose to donate it to a charity or whatever. This always excites them, and they join the lawsuit. Empowering my clients, the victims of the Mandalay Bay massacre, is my top incentive and priority. The money will come after.
VENTS: Give us the latest update – we want answers!
LOMBARDO: In the past four months, we have accomplished so much so quickly. I am very proud of our work and what we have done for the victims. We secured a restraining order against MGM, the owner of Mandalay Bay, from touching the concert venue, and from touching the shooters hotel room suite on the 32nd floor. We gained entry into the concert venue last October, and spent the entire day from sun up to sun down on the grounds with our group on investigators, photographers, 3D mapping and engineering experts, security experts, and lawyers. The next day, MGM started dismantling everything. We will be going into the hotel suite soon, when we are ready. Also, we secured the estate of the shooter, Stephen Paddock, in Probate court, and we stopped his family from getting that money. This was really important and required fast aggressive legal maneuvering. I am especially proud of that. I look forward to the day when that money gets handed over to the victims. That will be fun.
–Why did the Las Vegas shooting drop from the news cycle within days? People come up with all sorts of theories, from blaming the government on controlling the news, to conspiracy theories, to foreign terrorists owning all of the news outlets. My answer is simple; the shelf life of a current news story is short. Something else happens the next day, and now reporters are chasing that new, fresh story. Fortunately, there have been many people, reporters, networks who have kept this story in the daily or weekly news. Local Las Vegas tv reporter Craig Fiegener was a champion to uncover the truth of this shooting, and Tucker Carlson had a weekly segment about the updates. But, as time goes by, it will die off. However, whenever I develop new evidence, or we go to Court, I will make sure to get it out there in any way that I can!
VENTS: With the #MeToo Movement underway, tell us about your own experiences in a male-dominated industry.
LOMBARDO: Being a woman in a male dominated profession is not a problem for me. I remember being a young lawyer, walking into the Courtroom every day, and realizing that I am the only female lawyer in there. It was not lost on me. In the past 26 years, I have worked hard to overcome, simply by ignoring it when it was blatant, and finding a way into the game. The end result for me is a long resume of service and experience. As a former Police Commissioner, Judge Pro Tem, Federal Panel attorney, Trial attorney with wins from all over the country, sworn into the United States Supreme Court by Chief Justice Rehnquist, I have proven myself as a lawyer who can do the job. In today’s legal field, especially in California, I no longer experience resistance because I am a women. If it is there, I don’t notice it. I am too focused on winning.
VENTS: Give us some closing thoughts regarding the Las Vegas Massacre.
LOMBARDO: The 22,000 victims of the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay massacre want answers. It is my goal, and my job, to investigate this case and get them answers. My clients have told me that they don’t really want to know WHY it happened, because the shooter is dead, and they know that the reason why he did it died with him, but they want to know HOW it was allowed to happen. I felt relief when they revealed this to me. I have consistently heard this from the victims. America is frustrated and now, very angry, that Mandalay allowed this to happen. If you want to know how I am investigating this for them, just look at the video that we exposed on the news, walking into the Mandalay Bay, into the Service Elevators, up to the 32nd floor, over and over again, unimpeded, never questioned, never stopped. Almost four months AFTER the shooting, and MGM still had not changed their security protocol! Happily, the day after my video exposed this, they finally placed a security guard at the service elevators. Too little, too late. If Stephen Paddock had come back to life, and wanted to do it all over again, he could have! By the time we are finished with this case, yes, America will know what happened.