MIA ROSA Spotlight On
Senior Deputy District Attorney (Orange County, California)
Adjunct Law Professor
As one of California’s top district attorneys, Beth Costello works tirelessly to ensure that justice is properly served. She is equally passionate about teaching aspiring lawyers how best to interpret criminal justice laws as an adjunct professor.
Beth is often in the spotlight as the prosecuting attorney for some very big criminal cases. Today, we at MIA ROSA are excited and proud to place her directly into our own Spotlight, so that others can read and embrace what it means to have passion, drive and commitment to their life’s work.
- What prompted you to become a prosecutor?
At a very young age, I was always intrigued by crime stories and loved reading mysteries. But even by the time I was eighteen, I still had no idea how our criminal justice system operated or that the job of a district attorney even existed. When I was a freshman at UC Irvine, my major was criminal justice and we read Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. I was fascinated by the book and the characters. It was at this point that I knew I had to be a prosecutor.
- What does a typical day look like at the DA’s office? Or, is there such a thing?
There is definitely no such thing as a typical day at the DA’s office. This is what makes the job so exciting and fun. Every case is different; we meet new people all the time, work with various defense attorneys, appear in front of many different judges throughout the county and get to work with the law enforcement community. I feel very blessed that, after 22 years, I still learn something new every single day.
- Are there any particular cases that stand out, that you were especially proud to have worked on?
I was a trial attorney in our Sexual Assault Unit for almost 8 years. I was prosecuting the most heinous child molestation cases in the county. I had a very high profile case, involving a married couple who had committed the most despicable crimes with a very young girl who was in their care. It was horrible and very emotional for all involved. It took more than two years to get to trial. Both defendants were sentenced to over 50 years in prison.
- Did being one of the only female prosecutors in the DA’s office when you started out make you feel like there were additional challenges you had to overcome?
Actually, when I was hired in 1994, I believe we had about 150 attorneys and this was the first time there was slightly over 50% women in the office. Today, we have about 275 attorneys and about half are women.
- How long have you been teaching and how does that experience compare to what you have done for over 20 years as a prosecutor?
I have been an Adjunct Professor at the Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law for 8 years. My class incorporates many topics involving criminal procedure. As a Deputy District Attorney, part of my job is to interpret the law for jurors. We need to possess the skills of a teacher in order to adequately convey information in a way that is easy to understand. Becoming a professor was an exciting extension of my “day job.” I really enjoy working with young students and attorneys to share my passion for the criminal justice system.
- Was there anyone you looked up to as a mentor or someone in the public eye who inspired you?
I was fortunate to have two amazing women in management who I admired and respected. They have both since retired but they were strong, confidant women who I still adore today.
But, the person who has inspired me the most in my life is my mom. She is an amazing woman who is passionate about life, determined, loving, AND has the best sense of humor. She is my own personal, Lucille Ball!
- From a career perspective, is there one “MIA ROSA moment” that stands out in your mind? Something that had a long-lasting effect or left an indelible mark?
From a career perspective, I had a personal goal of completing 100 jury trials. I made that goal for myself when I was 26 years old and just starting my career. I don’t know why I picked that number, or any number. I think I decided that once I had reached 100, I would feel that I had accomplished what I had set out to prove to myself. My 100th trial took place in 2014 when I was a Gang Prosecutor and the crime was conspiracy to commit murder. It was a very complicated and difficult case. My team of police investigators and I worked diligently on the case and we obtained convictions. I did not know that this would be my last trial. Coincidentally, I was asked shortly thereafter to move into an entry level management role where I have been for the last two years. I now, very happily, supervise the younger attorneys in my office and LOVE the job!
- What advice would you give to any young female entrepreneur or recent college graduate as they move through their early career?
My advice is to follow your heart and your gift of intuition. Do what makes you happy and proud. But make sure to maintain a good work/personal life balance. We work because we need to earn a living, but our priority is our family and friends. Make sure to make time for those people in your personal life because time is precious. Enjoy each day to the fullest by loving your job AND your family. And, last but not least, have confidence in what you do.
- Your work seems to be quite stressful. What do you do to relax and take the edge off of those kinds of days?
Exercise! I found a sport that I’m obsessed with about 6 years ago and its pole fitness. I have now been an instructor at two studios in Orange County and encourage all women to give it a try. Truly, it has changed my life in so many ways. The pole community is so supportive of each other and the women are very close. It is a sport that lets a woman be a woman – you can let your femininity shine in a safe environment. It has given me confidence in who I am and to love myself for who I am. It is way more than a workout. It is a safe haven where a woman’s soul can thrive!