Stephen was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, educated at San Jose State (BS 1964) and the University of California, Berkeley – Boalt Hall (JD 1967). He was admitted to the bar in 1967. He spent three years as a prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorneys Office prosecuting criminals. In 1970, he joined the firm of McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Coyle & Best (later named McCormick, Barstow, Sheppard, Wayte & Carruth). At McCormick he specialized in a civil tort practice trying over one hundred and twenty-five jury trials.
His experience involved trials in the areas of general negligence
actions representing both plaintiffs and defendants, flood damage,
employment representing both plaintiffs and defendants, fire,
electricity, professional liability, crop damage, law firm dissolution,
governmental entities, the defense of day-care centers, premises
liability and products liability actions. He has defended several judges
in matters before the California Commission on Judicial Performance. He
has served, by appointment of the court, as Chair of the Defense
Steering Committee for the 1994 Dust Storm suits, the largest motor
vehicle accident in the history of the United States. He has appeared in
the United States District Court, the Fifth District Court of Appeal
and before the California Supreme Court.