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- State Bar of California (1992)
- Santa Clara County Bar Association
- American Bar Association
- United States District Court, Northern Division
- Juris Doctor
Santa Clara University
- BA, Sociology
University of California, Davis
Maria Bellafronto’s practice focuses on real estate litigation and dispute resolution, trust and estate litigation, and complex litigation, including commercial and trade secret claims. She has extensive experience in jury and non-jury trials and serves as a Judge Pro Tempore for the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
Strategies and Tactics
In the beginning of a case, Maria looks for major weaknesses in her opponent’s position and then focuses on the attack. “I attempt to thoroughly investigate the facts at the intake stage,” Maria explained, “so I can craft discovery strategically.” Maria’s approach to litigation is partly a product of her relentless inquisitiveness. It should come as no surprise, for example, that she put herself through law school working as a private detective. Maria also honed her investigative skills prior to joining Hopkins & Carley when she worked as an associate for a law firm handling insurance fraud claims and as in-house counsel for Farmers Insurance Group. At the end of the day, having the best facts and legal arguments on our side will get our clients the result they choose – whether it is a good settlement or victory in court.
- Maria represented a commercial landlord of a shopping center whose anchor tenant, a major grocery chain, ceased operations, abandoned the premises and ceased paying rent and other sums due under its lease. The grocery store tenant tried to argue it had no liability under an assignment it executed with another grocery store business which also defaulted. With both grocers in default, the landlord filed a civil suit for breach of contract and obtained a $1.2 million writ of attachment before proceeding with a mediation where the case settled for $3.5 million, representing the unpaid base rent, additional rent and significant consequential losses, including commissions for re-leasing the space as well as loan penalties and fees from the landlord’s inability to timely refinance the property.
- Arguing lack of capacity and undue influence, Maria prevailed in a probate court trial against her client’s sister. The sister had their father, who was suffering from dementia, execute a durable power of attorney to gain control over the father’ $2 million worth of assets. Her client was the administrator of the father’s estate who successfully invalidated the power of attorney on grounds of lack of capacity. As Maria explained, “We were able to set aside all transactions done pursuant to the power of attorney which resulted in our client getting half of the estate, whereas before, she was completely disinherited.”
- After a large retailer opened a mailing kiosk in its store, the landlord’s other smaller tenant within the shopping center, Mailboxes, Etc., sued the landlord for breach of an exclusivity provision in its lease. Mailboxes, Etc. argued that the landlord hurt its business operation by allowing the large retailer to compete for mailing services. “I did a little digging when I deposed the owner of Mailboxes, Etc.,” Maria explained, “and discovered that he had been divorced. When I looked into the public record of the divorce proceeding, I discovered documents he signed under penalty of perjury where he had stated that his mailing center was a financial loser from the beginning.” The jury agreed. It determined that while Maria’s client had in fact breached its lease, the Mailboxes, Etc. business could not prove any actual damages. “I sought and got good information from the deposition and then hammered it.”
- In a binding arbitration that took place in September 2012, Maria obtained an award in favor of her client against his former girlfriend who refused to repay him the quarter of a million dollars he spent improving her property. The ex-girlfriend raised different contractual issues, ultimately claiming no contract existed, but after the arbitration, Maria’s received an award in her favor which included a right to recover all her fees and costs. Not only did the client recover every dime he paid, but he was awarded 95% of all his fees and costs incurred in the collection process after a contentious motion.
- CREW (California Real Estate Women)
- ICSC (International Council of Shopping Centers)
- SVBA (Silicon Valley Bar Association)
- Board Member, De Anza Force Soccer Club
- Judge Pro Tempore, Santa Clara County Superior Court