Ezekiel E. Cortez is a Board Certified Federal Criminal Law Specialist certified by the California State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. He has dedicated his law practice to federal criminal defense and related federal criminal matters, for over thirty six years and is a veteran trial and appellate lawyer.
Emerging from law school as a career federal criminal defense attorney, Mr. Cortez has devoted himself to the zealous defense of those under attack by the Federal Government and is deeply committed to the underdog, the persecuted, the voiceless, and the outnumbered in federal courts nationally. He began his federal criminal defense career as a federal criminal defense lawyer in 1983 at the then nationally preeminent Federal Defenders of San Diego, Inc., vigorously defending people who could not afford to hire a lawyer.
As a highly experienced and determined defender of constitutional rights, Mr. Cortez regularly handles difficult cases in the notoriously difficult area of post-conviction Habeas Corpus litigation. Since 1988, he has handled unique cases involving a variety of legal defects, including prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, lawyer malfeasance, and other constitutional violations. In this difficult area of last resort, he has successfully accomplished the vacating of life sentences in three separate difficult cases that had been considered lost causes. Because of his recognized creative and vigorous commitment to criminal defense, Mr. Cortez is often the attorney to whom clients turn when they believe they have run out of options.
Mr. Cortez also handles selected federal civil matters, asset forfeiture matters and serves as a consultant to lawyers in the creation and direction of case strategy in federal criminal matters and select federal/state civil matters that involve constitutionally significant federal issues.
Mr. Cortez’s legal ability and ethical conduct have been rated as AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®. For decades, Mr. Cortez has been recognized by The Best Lawyers In America — the preeminent standard of excellence for the legal profession. The prestigious, national, yearly survey of the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Lawyers/Best Law Firms has selected Mr. Cortez’s law firm for this distinguished honor for almost two decades, including the 2020 Edition. He has been listed annually in San Diego Magazine’s “Best Lawyers In San Diego” since 2001, and the magazine once described Mr. Cortez as one of only a handful of elite criminal defense lawyers that other “attorneys would go to if they needed a [federal criminal defense] lawyer.”Mr. Cortez has also been selected by Super Lawyers continuously since 2007, including 2020, in the White Collar and Corporate Counsel categories and described there as one of the “Seriously Outstanding Top 5%” in his field. He is also a member of The National Trial Lawyers, Top 100 Criminal Defense.
As an ambassador for his profession, Mr. Cortez was twice awarded Fulbright Scholarships in 2004 and in 2005 by the U.S. State Department to teach the American system of adversarial jury trial techniques to Chilean defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges at the University of Concepción, in Concepción, and in Temuco, Chile. Mr. Cortez has taught Criminal Justice Administration at San Diego State University and assisted in the same academic area at Moscow University (MGU) in Moscow, Russia. He has also taught trial skills and techniques as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law and California Western School of Law, and has taught advanced trial techniques to experienced trial lawyers for CACJ, NACDL, ACCESO and various trial institutes.