“Having a JD from Pepperdine has opened doors that would have otherwise been closed to a child of immigrants.”
Christine Rodriguez Tyler was born and raised in Culver City, California by her mother and grandmother who fled the communist regime in Cuba in 1969. Having arrived in Florida with a small suitcase of belongings and no money, Christine’s mother was the first one to find a job and attend night school in order to learn English and help the family survive. Christine grew up hearing accounts of individuals arrested in the middle of the night for expressing opposition to the government and being ordered into forced labor camps without the benefit of a trial. From an early age, she was exposed to the sacrifices people make for freedom and it instilled in her a sense of justice and the importance of speaking on behalf of others who do not have the ability to speak for themselves. It was her mother and grandmother’s unfettered demonstration of perseverance and hard work that motivated Christine to seek personal and professional excellence, allowing her to concentrate on making her dream of becoming a lawyer a reality.
With her grandmother and mother proudly at her side, Christine graduated from Pepperdine Caruso Law in 2002. Just two weeks before she started her job at the Public Defender’s Office, Christine’s grandmother passed away from complications from Alzheimer’s disease. Christine says, “I carry her spirit of resilience and determination into the courtroom every day.” She joined the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office in 2004 and has handled misdemeanor, juvenile, and felony cases throughout the County of Los Angeles.
Christine is now the Vice President of Public Defender Union Local 148 where she seeks to use the collective voice of its members to amplify the influence Public Defenders have over critical issues facing its clients on a daily basis, specifically society’s tendency to criminalize poverty. Christine explains, “We force people to decide between losing their job and going to trial; we lock individuals in cages who need treatment and medication; we release people from prison without providing them with job skills or education and expect them to successfully reenter society. It is my duty as a Deputy Public Defender to fight for my clients and ensure their constitutional rights are protected. It is my duty as a member of society to help the most vulnerable succeed.”
With a pervading perception that the primary goal of most lawyers is to make as much money as possible, Christine feels that as a Pepperdine Caruso Law alumna, she has a responsibility to demonstrate a commitment to public service. She adds, “I went to law school to help those in my community and have made it my life’s work to fight injustice wherever I find it. Having a JD has opened doors that would have otherwise been closed to a child of immigrants. The power of education is transformative and the bridge needed to overcome our differences.”
Christine credits her professors for their influence on her career in public service. Professor Chris Chambers Goodman, who joined the law community during Christine’s last year in school, made an immediate impact in her Race and Law course which, Christine says, presented issue in a deliberate and critical manner which up to that point had never been addressed in any other class. By analyzing the pivotal case Mendez v. Westminster, Christine notes, “Professor Goodman taught me the role Latinos played in ending segregation in the United States and intensified my passion for social justice.”
As Caruso Law embarks on a new chapter in its history, Christine hopes to see the school bolster its commitment to nurturing the future leaders in social justice work. By subsidizing public interest fellowships, Caruso, she believes, will show the community that it is a committed partner in ensuring justice is accessible to all.