Professional Panel - Hon. Carla Bonilla (Ret.)
If mediation can be described as an art form, then Carla Bonilla is a busy, productive, accomplished painter with a colorful palette of skills ranging from preparation to dedication, conviction to compassion, hard work to a seasoned and earthy sense of humor, from criminal to civil to family law.
In Sonoma County, Superior Court Commissioner Bonilla's name has long been synonymous with fairness. She brings to Resolution Remedies considerable civil expertise plus 30 years' experience dealing head-on with divorce and child custody issues. Opposing parties and attorney colleagues alike universally applaud Bonilla's innate ability to bring calm and common sense to high-conflict mediation tables seething with emotion.
Says fellow Santa Rosa attorney Chris Andrian: "I watched Carla for years during her work as a judicial officer, and I can vouch that her most compelling attribute is how she handles and diffuses the most volatile situations. Her reputation is one of intelligence, honesty, compassion, and, most importantly, her patience in allowing those before her to feel as though they had been heard."
Bonilla herself is humble, attributing her people skills to having been raised in the heart of working class San Francisco, where she earned her way into Lowell – the "Harvard of High Schools" – and became an acute observer of human behavior.
"I believe I have a natural talent for mediation," she explains in her clipped, very Irish San Francisco accent. "Listening is absolutely crucial, and I listen to people with every fiber of my being. When people in conflict realize that someone is actually listening to them actively – dispelling all prior misconceptions or perceptions – then they feel a whole lot better about themselves and become much more willing to work toward mutual resolution. Being a hard-working Mom who has always met life's challenges soberly and responsibly," she adds with a charming twinkle in her eye, "doesn't hurt, either."
Veteran Santa Rosa attorney Maureen Faria sums up Bonilla's fitness as a mediator: "What strikes me about Carla is her extraordinarily quick wit and her unassuming and outgoing personality. But what impresses me most is her ability to couple all of that with the highest standard of integrity and respect for those with whom she deals, especially in high-conflict cases. She is smart, insightful and fair -- essential ingredients for successful mediation."
Bonilla admits she is something of a perfectionist when it comes to thorough preparation, especially in family disputes. "What we are dealing with in family mediations," she says, "are people's lives and holdings, their children and their aspirations, their mistakes as well as their futures. I take my role extremely seriously but always with a warm, humane touch that is a constant reminder that I am here to help, not to badger or intimidate."
Serving the Community
Developed first supervised visitation program for family law matters in Sonoma County. Director of Valley of the Moon Children's Home – instigated and coordinated the complete refurbishing of the housing for abused children. First woman in Sonoma County hired to prepare sentencing reports and deal directly with male felons, in custody and out.
Instructor, Santa Rosa Junior College – Communication Skills, Probation. Consultant and Teacher for Advanced Learning, Inc. Taught an eight-hour State-certified course that trained administrators and staff how to avoid lawsuits (basic labor law and torts). Hosted, helped develop and taught MCLE courses, both as an attorney and as a commissioner, on custody, evaluations, mediation, and dealing with children in the divorce process. Trained agencies like Social Services how to properly prepare a civil harassment restraining order or domestic violence restraining order. After Three Strikes was implemented, trained entire Probation Department in this new area of law that had to be understood and encompassed in all felony investigation reports.
MEMBERSHIPS and SPECIAL HONORS
J.D., Empire College of Law
B.A., San Francisco State University