In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, we are highlighting stories from DA employees and what inspired them to pursue a career in public service. Meet the Assistant Chief of the DA’s Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division Luis Mendez, who has been with the DA’s Office since 2008.
Luis was born and raised in El Centro, CA, which is a small agricultural town about 110 miles east of San Diego and about 10 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. His mother was born and raised in Calexico, CA, which is right on the border with Mexico. His father was born and raised in Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico.
Shortly after graduating from law school, Luis was initially hired at the DA’s Office as a Temporary Expert Professional. He then worked at the San Diego City Attorney’s Office in the Criminal Division for two years before being hired as a Deputy District Attorney at the San Diego County DA’s Office. He is currently the Assistant Chief of the DA’s Insurance Fraud and Workplace Justice Division, where he is involved in the day-to-day operation of the division, which includes approving case issuing and rejects, settlement offers and oversees special projects. He also maintains a caseload of auto insurance fraud and workers’ compensation fraud prosecutions. He covers court appearances including readiness conferences, preliminary hearings, jury trials, grand jury proceedings, and sentencings, while also providing trainings on the topic of insurance fraud prosecution.
Luis has three children and spends most of his spare time with them. When he is away from the kids, he enjoys attending concerts and music festivals. He is also a member of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association.
What inspired you to choose a career in law enforcement/at the DA’s Office?
“Helping victims: Several cases early in my career allowed me the opportunity to interact with victims in Spanish. It felt satisfying to speak to the victims in their native language and assist them by obtaining a measure of justice on their behalf. Doing what is right: While in law school I interned at the San Diego Public Defender’s office and a small federal defense firm. When I began prosecuting it felt good to know that my allegiance was not a specific client, but to do what is right in a given case. Comradery: The closeness of the office feels like an extended family. I met my wife while working at the East County Branch in 2011, so I am not just speaking figuratively.”
What is your favorite part of the job?
“I really enjoy the community outreach aspect. I have volunteered with Project LEAD yearly since 2016. Through this program I mentor a fifth-grade classroom at Laura Rodriguez Elementary in the Logan neighborhood. These students are presented with lessons focused on topics related to the criminal justice system and responsible decision making. In 2021 I began coaching mock trial at Sweetwater High School in National City. My commitment to outreach is rooted in my desire to give back to the Hispanic community, to show the students that someone with a similar background was able to succeed in the legal profession, and to inspire them to achieve academic and career goals. At Laura Rodriguez Elementary there are often migrant students who speak Spanish exclusively. I especially enjoy connecting with these students and presenting the lessons in their native language.”
What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? Why is it important?
“Personally, this month serves as a reminder that I represent a community in a field where its members are underrepresented. It is a time to reflect on the efforts made by many Hispanic families to give their children the opportunity to succeed in the United States, and I personally feel gratitude that I was given that opportunity. The Hispanic community consist of people of various national origins and race. This month is an opportunity to celebrate and recognize the many ways this community elevates American culture and our shared experience.”