Douglas Horngrad is renowned as one of the best criminal defense lawyers in the Bay Area.  Mr. Horngrad started his career in the Marin Public Defender's Office and worked there for nine years, ultimately as Chief Deputy Public Defender.  He has been the principal of his own law office since 1989, and he has had dozens of high-profile cases and clients. 

Mr. Horngrad has tried over seventy-five cases to verdict.  Mr. Horngrad has represented over fifty people accused of murder, and over 100 people facing life in prison.  Of those 100 people, only four received a sentence of life in prison--and Mr. Horngrad had one of those sentences reversed on appeal, and the case was ultimately dismissed. 

In addition to his client work, Mr. Horngrad is an instructor and judge in Stanford Law School’s trial advocacy program. 

Mr. Horngrad is AV Preeminent peer review rated through Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating, and has been recognized by Super Lawyers as part of the top five percent of criminal defense lawyers since 2009.

  • Golden Gate University School of Law, J.D.

  • Suffolk University, B.A.

Representative Cases

Mr. Horngrad became a nationally recognized expert in repressed memory in the early 1990s in a case in which the defendant had been accused of the 1969 murder of Susan Nason in San Mateo County.  Mr. Horngrad represented the defendant from the time of his arrest until his eventual release after all charges were dismissed.  He was initially convicted, and then the case was reversed on appeal.  When set for retrial, the prosecutors concluded they did not have enough evidence to retry him.  A Law and Order episode featuring repressed memory issues was based on this case.  


Mr. Horngrad was featured on the cover of The New York Review of Books for this case.  Several books were written about this case, including Once Upon a Time by Harry N. Maclean.

Mr. Horngrad spoke about this case at a San Francisco Public Defender’s Justice Summit.

Once-Upon-A-Time - Eileen-Franklin Case-Douglas-Horngrad.jpg

Mr. Horngrad represented a 14-year-old girl in Alameda County juvenile court in another prominent Bay Area case.  The case was featured in the bestselling book A Question of Innocence.  The minor's four-year-old sister had died under ambiguous circumstances, possibly medical.  After being found guilty of second degree murder when represented by Melvin Belli, Mr. Horngrad won a motion for a new trial based on Mr. Belli's incompetence.  The case ultimately ended in a directed verdict of acquittal.  For decades, Mr. Belli had been one of the most prominent attorneys in the United States.  After the diary case, Mr. Belli never practiced criminal law again. 


Mr. Horngrad has represented environmental activists, including an Oscar winner and people accused of terrorism.  He represented a well-known actor who climbed the Golden Gate Bridge to protest logging next to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.  His representation of Earthfirst activists was featured in the New York Times when his client was not charged in a car bombing in Oakland.

Mr. Horngrad represented a California artist and teacher in the famous “suspicious watch” case.  The Alameda County District Attorney declined to file charges against the defendant, who was arrested at the Oakland airport for wearing a watch that allegedly looked like a timing device for an explosive.  Mr. Horngrad also won a motion for factual innocence and had the arrest records sealed.


The New York Times featured Mr. Horngrad’s representation of the defendant in the San Francisco “Picasso thief” case, negotiating a reduced sentence for burglary and grand theft charges