by MICHELLE TREMBLAY | photos by Alan Smith Photography

Speaking Volumes

faces_orfield2It was only by chance that Michael Orfield did not become a doctor. After graduating from Grossmont High School, Michael obtained a B.A. in Biology from the University of California San Diego. “I wanted to be a doctor, but 51 medical schools decided I should do something else with my life,” he joked. “I spent a graduate year at Duke University in microbiology and immunology before deciding that I needed a more public-oriented profession.”

It was at this time that Michael decided to pursue a law degree, graduating from California Western School of Law in 1977. Less than 10 years after obtaining his J.D., Michael was appointed to the San Diego Municipal Court. Two years after that, he became a San Diego Superior Court judge. “I spent my Superior Court career at the Vista Courthouse,” said Michael. “My last seven years as a Civil Independent Calendar Judge.”

In 2009, Michael retired from the bench, and, in another twist of fate, his career path took an unexpected turn. “My youngest daughter graduated from Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) in 2012. She had taken me to a CCA swap meet in 2011 where I noticed a table set up for the Speech and Debate Club. I struck up a conversation with the club president and ended up leaving my card if they ever needed any volunteers to help out.” Soon after their encounter, the club president reached out to Michael to let him know that the current coach was leaving and see if he would be interested in applying for the job. “I decided that would be a marvelous way to interact with the kids and so I applied,” recalled Michael, who had fond memories of being a part of his own high school speech and debate team.


Michael started coaching the CCA Speech and Debate team in 2012 with just 10 kids. Today, his roster includes over 130 students. The team has qualified for the State Championships each year since 2013 and has qualified for the last four National Championships. They have also qualified for the Tournament of Champions at the University of Kentucky three times. “CCA has qualified for the National Individual Events Tournament of Champions in Denver,” added Michael. “And not just qualifying, but succeeding, going nine rounds deep into the tournament in Dallas, top 60 in the Nation at Salt Lake City, and a fifth place overall at the TOC in Kentucky.”

Name: Hon. Michael Orfield (Ret.)
Community: Huntington Heights
Profession: Retired judge, arbitrator, lecturer, speech and debate coach
Family Information: Born in San Diego in 1949. Mom and Dad came here in 1942 from Minneapolis.
Hobbies & Interests: Trains and travel
Favorite Local Spots: Katana Sushi, Rendezvous in Del Mar, Broken Yolk in Del Mar

faces_orfield3The team’s growth has been so significant that Michael has recently brought on an assistant coach, Gherty Galace, who is also a credentialed teacher at CCA. “Together we intend to expand the ranks of our speech and continue to grow the debate side,” shared Michael. “We are hopeful of qualifying more students each year to the Championship Tournaments, as well as expanding our outreach programs in the community.”

Michael also recently learned that he has reached the Diamond level of coaching from the National Speech and Debate Association, by receiving one point for every 10 merit points earned by the students. He will be honored with fellow Diamond coaches at the National Championship Tournament in Fort Lauderdale, FL in June. “This is an absolute tribute to and accomplishment of the Canyon Crest Academy Speech and Debate competitors, to whom I am eternally grateful,” he said.

Michael is grateful to have been given the opportunity to spread the word about the value of speech and debate programs and about the benefits of being able to communicate in an intelligent and confident manner. “Students cannot fully appreciate, on this side of their lives, just how much of a benefit they obtain, how much better off they will be, how much more successful will be their endeavors with these skills by their side.”