Facebook pixel Margo Rocconi (JD '91) Sworn in as a Federal Magistrate Judge - Surf Report | Pepperdine Caruso School of Law Skip to main content
Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Margo Rocconi (JD '91) Sworn in as a Federal Magistrate Judge

On Friday, March 19, 2021, Pepperdine Caruso Law alumna Margo A. Rocconi (JD '91) was sworn in by Chief Judge Phillip Guiterrez as a federal magistrate judge for the Central District of California. Judge Rocconi filled the vacancy left by Judge Patrick Walsh. Her close friends and family members were in attendance at the ceremony, which was also live-streamed remotely.

Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. (JD '91), a fellow classmate of Judge Rocconi's at Pepperdine Caruso Law, spoke at the ceremony. "Margo was and is smart, friendly, engaging, fair, and relentless," said Judge Birotte, before presenting her with the robe of their mutual friend, the late Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell (JD '90) to wear for the ceremony. He explained that all three Waves had been friends since their time as students at Pepperdine Caruso Law. The late Judge O'Connell's husband, Dan O'Connell (JD '90), wanted Judge Rocconi to be enrobed in Judge O'Connell's robe due to their close personal connection, which started in law school many years ago.

Judge Rocconi then spoke and shared her gratitude for her colleagues at the Federal Public Defender's Office for their many years of service together. She thanked her many friends and future colleagues, and her husband, attorney Jordon Harriman. Judge Rocconi also thanked her four sons who then enrobed her near the close of the ceremony.

Dean Paul Caron said, "We are so proud of Judge Rocconi for all she accomplished in her career at the Federal Public Defender's Office, and look forward to watching all she will do as a Magistrate Judge for our own Central District of California. It is truly an honor to be chosen to serve in this way, and I am confident she will excel in the position. It is personally meaningful to witness her lifelong connections to fellow Pepperdine Caruso Law alumni: Judge O'Connell, Dan O'Connell, and Judge Birotte. Congratulations to our newest alumna on the federal bench."

Dan O'Connell (JD '90), a member of the Board of Advisors at Pepperdine Caruso Law, said "Margo is yet another Pepperdine Law alum, who will be a real asset to the federal bench, so it was only appropriate that she took the oath wearing Beverly's robe. Margo and I first got to know each other while attending Pepperdine's London Program, where we shared a flat with three other students. Later we worked together at Sedgwick, Detert, Moran, and Arnold, where we had been hired specifically to handle a complex death penalty federal habeas corpus matter. Through those experiences I came to know Margo fairly well. She has always had a strong moral compass and cares deeply about others. That, combined with her commitment to justice and the rule of law, will make her an excellent magistrate judge. There's no doubt that she will do Pepperdine proud."

From the United States District Court of the Central District of California:

Before her appointment as a Magistrate Judge, Judge Rocconi served for over 25 years with distinction as a Deputy Federal Public Defender in the Central District of California. She was the first lawyer hired to staff the Central District's Capital Habeas Unit in 1995, which opened in 1996 and is now the second largest Capital Habeas Unit in the country. Judge Rocconi became a supervising deputy in 2006. For the past six years, she served as Chief of the Capital Habeas Unit. Her experience includes capital and non-capital habeas litigation and appeals, and some criminal trial work. She also chaired the Capital Habeas Attorney Panel Advisory Committee. She served as the training chief for the Capital Habeas Unit and the panel, and has trained lawyers nationally, most recently on the effects of Proposition 66, capital clemency, litigation under execution warrant, and mediation and settlement of capital cases. Before joining the Federal Public Defender's Office, Judge Rocconi worked in a civil law firm. Prior to that, she worked in Washington, D.C. as a Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. Scholar on the retired Justice's private legal archive, known as The Brennan Papers.

In addition to her work for the Federal Public Defender's Office, Judge Rocconi served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Loyola Law School teaching a Death Penalty Clinic encompassing all aspects of capital habeas litigation. In January 2018, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye appointed her to the 22-member Proposition 66 Rules Working Group, which was tasked with the impartial creation of proposed court rules implementing a voter initiative regarding the death penalty. She also co-founded a national Diversity and Inclusion Task Force for Public Defender offices with Capital Habeas Units and co-founded the California Capital Clemency Working Group. She is a member of the Los Angeles Criminal Justice American Inns of Court as a Master of the Bench, the Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, and the Federal Bar Association. She is also a member of the Italian American Lawyers Association and is bilingual. Judge Rocconi has volunteered as an advisor and judge for Cathedral High School's academic decathlon and mock trial teams.

Judge Rocconi received a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a Juris Doctor from Pepperdine University School of Law, and a Master of Laws from Georgetown University School of Law.

Including the position now occupied by Judge Rocconi, the Central District of California has 24 authorized full-time Magistrate Judges and one part-time position. The Central District of California is comprised of the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The District serves approximately 19.6 million people – nearly half the population of the State of California.

The complete announcement may be found here.