After earning his undergraduate degree in economics at the University of California at Berkeley and his JD at L.A.’s Southwestern University School of Law, Sernel served as a law clerk to the Hon. Stanley N. Barnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1985 and thereafter to the bars of the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and U.S. District Courts for Northern and Southern California.
Beginning in 1986, he worked at the South Coast Air Quality Management District and held various legal environmental positions, engaged in both civil and criminal prosecutions, and was responsible for teaching administrative hearing judges as well as conducting annual training workshops throughout California. He retired as a senior deputy district prosecutor in 2010.
Sernel is a financial supporter of a number of LGBTQ+ organizations. He served three terms on the board of Lambda Legal, the largest and oldest national LGBTQ+ legal-rights organization, from May 2010 to May 2017, serving on variously the executive, development, and governance/nominating committees.
He has also served on the board of the Solomon Leadership Foundation, whose mission is to educate and engage people from underserved and minority communities, as well as the Los Angeles–based Center Theatre Group, one of the largest not-for-profit theater companies in the country.
He lives with his partner of 10-plus years, Larry Falconio, and their two dogs. They live primarily in Palm Springs, California, and enjoy spending time in Los Angeles and New York City, where they also have homes.