There is enormous value in understanding your opponent in any negotiation, and Ryan Couzens knows this only too well. He spent sixteen years on the other side of the courtroom, prosecuting cases for the Yolo County District Attorney’s Office. As an Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney, Ryan supervised Yolo’s felony trial teams, Case Charging Unit, and Major Crimes Unit before deciding to move into criminal defense. His insight into prosecution strategies is invaluable to his clients, but even more important is Ryan’s motivation for changing sides.
Ryan came to the Cohen Defense Group because he wants to help people, individual people, facing real, specific obstacles in their lives. As Ryan says, “When you’re a prosecutor, you’re representing the interests of the community at large – the People of the State of California. When you’re defending, you’re representing that person sitting right next to you in court, and only that person. I want to advocate for that person who is in trouble and help them move past it.” According to founding partner, David Cohen, “Ryan had a reputation in Yolo as a compassionate but tough-as-nails DA who gave his all to every case, working hard, using bold tactics, and checking every detail. He was a fierce and respected prosecutor. Yet his transformation to criminal defense has been rapid and seamless. I knew he would be great with legal analysis, courtroom presence, and trial and negotiation tactics. What I couldn’t see coming was his remarkable ability to work with his clients. Ryan is patient, makes himself available, listens to his clients, explains things clearly, and truly cares about their fate. He has been a tremendous addition to the Cohen Defense Group.”
Ryan has the law in his veins. He is a third-generation attorney whose father, J. Richard Couzens, served on the Placer County bench for years. Ryan was raised understanding the gravity of the law and the impact that it has on people’s lives. He sees law as a profession of service to the community and acts to better the justice system wherever he can. For instance, Ryan cares deeply about mental health issues, which stems in part from raising two severely disabled children, for whom he is a constant advocate. This led to him contributing to the definitive guide for the State’s new Mental Health Diversion program (Penal Code 1001.36). As a prosecutor, Ryan created a “Harm Reduction” policy diverting those caught with drugs into treatment instead of prosecution. In an effort to make the criminal justice system more transparent and unbiased, Ryan authored Penal Code section 13370, the Justice Data Accountability and Transparency Act (JDATA), and Penal Code Section 741, requiring prosecuting agencies to implement race-blind charging in criminal cases. The adoption of Ryan’s proposed legislation into law is a testament to both his legal expertise and his concern for the welfare of the individual.
One of Ryan’s greatest strengths as a defense attorney is the experience he gained from his years in the DA’s office, where he did 46 jury trials, including multiple homicides, drug conspiracies, domestic violence, DUIs, robberies and other crimes. “I was a prosecutor for 16 years, so I have perspective on what motivates DA’s, what drives their decisions. I know what it takes for them to prove a case.” That means Ryan also sees the shortcomings in the DA’s case and that’s where his passion for the law comes in. Ryan sees litigation as a battle and puts in the work to prepare accordingly. He spends hours researching case law, writing briefs, and preparing arguments. Ryan’s experience coupled with his enthusiasm for the work make him a powerful advocate and an exceptional defense attorney.
Ryan attended McGeorge School of Law where he was at the top of his class in Criminal Law and received the American Jurisprudence Award. He received his Juris Doctor degree from the prestigious Boalt Hall at U.C. Berkeley, where he extern-clerked for the California Supreme Court and went on to a federal clerkship in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. Before he found his calling in criminal law, Ryan practiced civil litigation for four years, including for the prestigious global law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP, where he worked on cases for clients such as the City of San Diego, Chevron and the National Football League.
Ryan served in the United States Navy for five years where, in his free time, he did civic activities such as “Project White Hat,” helping terminally ill children and their families in Chicago, Illinois. When he isn’t working, Ryan spends time with his family and engages in activities that support his children, including participation in special needs sports.
Born and raised in Placer County, Ryan was admitted to the California Bar in 2001. Education: University of Maryland, Asian Division; (B.S., Information Systems Management, 1996); McGeorge School of Law (First Year of Study, 1998); Boalt Hall, University of California, Berkeley (J.D., 2001). Member: Placer County Bar Association.