Susan Gellman

Susan Gellman is one of the most experienced criminal defense attorneys working in Placer County today.  A passionate and relentless advocate for her clients, Susan says, “I practice holistic criminal defense. The prosecution wants the story to be about what happened in one given moment.  The truth is always much more nuanced and much deeper. I leave no stone unturned in defense of my clients, and I force the criminal justice system to see the whole story.”  

Susan found her calling in law school when she interned on the graveyard shift with the Defender Association of Philadelphia.   They hired her out of law school and trained her in all aspects of criminal law and litigation in a high volume, high-pressure environment.   With great mentoring and training, Susan developed the work ethic that she proudly stands by to this day, “Every case, every client, every day.” 

In Philadelphia, Susan tried more than 75 felony jury trials to verdict and hundreds of bench trials.  She had one of the best acquittal records in the city of Philadelphia, including a case of mistaken identity in the robbery of an off-duty police officer, several sexual assaults and numerous other serious felony matters.  Talent and hard work earned Susan a spot in Special Defense and Homicide, an elite and specialized unit where she handled cases that garnered heavy media attention.    

The next phase of Susan’s career took her to Florida and Alabama, where she litigated capital murder cases.  In one case, Susan’s relentless filing and litigation of motions forced the District Attorney of Lauderdale County to drop the allegation of capital murder, allowing her client to resolve his case with the possibility of someday getting out of custody.  

In 2004 Susan moved to California and began working for the El Dorado County Public Defender. There Susan handled the most serious cases in the office, including several homicides and a high-profile child-abduction case that gained national attention:  the Jaycee Dugard case.

Susan’s skills make her a hot commodity for law schools teaching trial advocacy.  She has been an adjunct professor for Temple University School of Law, The Philadelphia Center, and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Susan joined the Cohen Defense Group in August 2018.  According to founding partner David Cohen, “Susan Gellman is a true warrior.  Adding her to the Group in 2018 brought a multitalented advocate to the team.  Susan’s background includes near-daily trials in Philadelphia at the start of her career, death penalty defense throughout the South after that, and a storied career in public defense in El Dorado County where she handled the most high-profile case in the office’s history.  Susan returns to private practice with an arsenal of legal tools in her briefcase and has quickly emerged as a force in the local courts.”

Susan has served on the Board of Directors of Summitview, an agency that provides mental health treatment to youth and conserved adults, since 2007.  She is a member of the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association, California Public Defenders Association, and the Pacific Juvenile Defense Center.  She is certified in defense-based mitigation and serves as a sentencing and mitigation consultant. 

When she’s not working Susan enjoys playing guitar and hiking in the Sierra with her dog.  She was active in the El Dorado High School Speech and Debate Team as parental support for her son.

Susan was born near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  She is licensed to practice law in California, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Alabama.  Education: the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (B.A., Cum Laude); Temple University School of Law, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (J.D. 1986; Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Award); National Alliance of Sentencing Advocates and Mitigation Specialists (Certification in Fundamentals of Defense-Based Mitigation and Advocacy).  Member: El Dorado County Bar Association, Placer County Bar Association.

Susan Gellman’s Reviews