Clifford Michael Ganschow

Date of Birth

August 18, 1945

Date of Death

May 16, 2012

City of Death

Santa Barbara

Born August 18, 1945, died May 16, 2012 of complications from leukemia. Michael was a devoted father, brilliant attorney, and a passionate enthusiast about a range of things, including cars—especially BMW 2002s—precision timepieces, theoretical physics, human evolution, music, language, philosophy, sports, and cats. He was the oldest child in a Marine Corps family that moved frequently when he was growing up, but eventually settled in California where he went to high school. He attended Stanford University on a full scholarship as an undergraduate, and particularly enjoyed spending most of his sophomore year in Beutelsbach, Germany where he formed lasting bonds with his classmates. He went on to attend Stanford Law School, and was hired by the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office in 1974. There he met Karen Atkins, another Deputy Public Defender, and the two later became long time partners. Michael and Karen decided to move together to Santa Barbara in 1978, when they were both hired by the Santa Barbara County Public Defenders Office. They had two children, Hogan and Romy Ganschow, and worked together for many years, except for a brief period from 1988-91 when Michael was in private practice.

Michael was a fierce advocate and represented many of the most marginalized, disabled and impoverished members of society. His sharp wit and vast vocabulary were effectively employed to disarm his opponents and endear his supporters. He challenged the system to be more fair and just, by representing countless individual clients with unique ferocity, and by attacking the systematic ways in which minority residents were excluded from local jury pools. He enjoyed training new lawyers and brainstorming cases, often inveighing his colleagues to “Never Give a Inch.” Michael was also a capable auto mechanic and loved spending time in his garage working on his cars while listening to sports on the TV, with a cat or two keeping him company. His greatest joy was his two children who, emulating their father, are also pursuing careers in law representing the poor and marginalized: Hogan as a Deputy Public Defender, and Romy as a staff attorney for Brooklyn Legal Services representing tenants.

In addition to Karen, Hogan and Romy, Michael leaves his two sisters Kathleen Handschuch, Barbara Ganschow, brothers-in-law Henry Handschuch, Steve Green, Mark Siegel, Robert Siegel, Saul Levy, sisters-in-law Susan Siegel and Thalia Siegel, many nieces and nephews, as well as countless friends, colleagues, and clients who will miss him, but will be inspired by his exceptional example and legacy. A memorial service will be held at the Courthouse Mural Room on Sunday, June 10, at noon.


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