Alameda County Public Defender Roz Silvaggio / Louis Goodman

Roz Silvaggio/ Louis Goodman Transcript

[00:00:00] Louis Goodman: Hello, and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer where we talk to real lawyers about their lives in and out of the practice of law, how they got to be lawyers and what their experience has been. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the show, and yes, I’m a lawyer. Nobody’s perfect.
She is a rising star in the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office.
She is equally at home with a busy pretrial calendar, a jury trial or preliminary exam. She exudes confidence in the courtroom. She’s been known to relax with a good glass of fine wine, and she is the mother of two children. Roz. Silvaggio welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Roz Silvaggio: Thank you so much. I love that intro.
Louis Goodman: Well, it’s true. Isn’t it?
Roz Silvaggio: A hundred percent. I mean, the part about the wine and the kids, definitely everything else. I don’t know.
[00:01:00] Louis Goodman: Find out. Are you going to the office these days? Are you strictly working from home?
Roz Silvaggio: I’m actually not working at all at the moment. I’m home with my two kiddos, Brooklyn and Rocco.
And Mr. Rocco, as we call him is just nine months old. Yeah. I’m changing a lot of diapers. And I got to tell you, it’s a lot harder being home than being anywhere in the courtroom.
Louis Goodman: You live, where in San Francisco? And where are you from originally?
Roz Silvaggio: I’m from San Luis Obispo. Originally.
Louis Goodman: Is that where you went to High School?
Roz Silvaggio: I did. I went to high school at SLO High, but I actually did my last year of high school, on the East Coast at Cushing Academy, which is a co-ed boarding school outside of Boston.
Louis Goodman: How was that experience for you?
Roz Silvaggio: It was good. I think I needed it. I needed to be away from my small town and have a little bit of independence and it definitely changed my perspective on things.
It really was a life [00:02:00] changing experience for me. And I kind of regret that I wasn’t there all four years of high school.
Louis Goodman: Did you notice like a real difference in terms of being on the East Coast versus being on the West Coast.
Roz Silvaggio: And, you know, I’m married to a New Yorker and people always think that I’m the New Yorker, which I think is a huge compliment, but really I’m from small town, San Luis Obispo, California.
So yeah, there’s definitely a different vibe and a different way of life.
Louis Goodman: Where did you go to college?
Roz Silvaggio: I went to UC Santa Barbara back home. I mean, I miss California in a lot of ways. I’d like to the weather no more, you know, frosty, freak days as I called them on the East coast, because that those winters are super brutal, especially, you know, outside of Boston.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. I Like California, you know, I grew up on the East Coast, but once I got to California, I didn’t develop a lot of interest in going back. How was UC [00:03:00] Santa Barbara?
Roz Silvaggio: That’s great. I mean, it’s a fun school. I still have dear friends who I’ve known since college and the beautiful places. I mean, it’s really, probably one of the most idyllic campuses in the country in terms of being right there on the beach and just riding your bikes through IV and through the campus.
Yeah. How could it get any better than that?
Louis Goodman: Yeah, I’m not sure that it can, at some point you made some decision to apply to law school. When did you first start thinking about being,
Roz Silvaggio: You know, it’s funny. I kinda thought I would. I always thought I’d be a lawyer when I did, you know, I think the people in my town who I thought were really smart were the lawyers that it seems interesting.
I always liked television dramas around the law. One of my favorites is, this will definitely Reveal my age, but when I was again, [00:04:00] kiddo, my mom would let me stay up and watch LA Law, which I thought was very exciting. And there was always kind of an issue, you know, that came up. That was interesting.
And it kind of would weave it into the story. So I tried to, I didn’t know really what it meant to be a Lawyer, and I certainly didn’t know what it meant to be a Public Defender. But I thought maybe I would be a trial lawyer of some sort. I grew up in a very outgoing, artistic family. So, you know, my mom was dance teacher and she had a ballet company.
She put on all kinds of productions. We were all as a family on a part of that. So. I was never really shy and I kind of thought some sort of performance would be how I spend my life.
Louis Goodman: So you see practicing law as some kind of performance?
Roz Silvaggio: I mean, there is some, there’s definitely an aspect of performance [00:05:00] in trial work isn’t there.
Louis Goodman: Oh, I agree. Completely. Yeah. And I think that I also would say that judges who have a sense of performance feel really comfortable being judges because they’re sitting there facing that audience and judges who are really uncomfortable performing, I think are very uncomfortable as judges.
Roz Silvaggio: Yeah. And there are certain judges that can really turn it on, you know, who are just so charismatic.
I hate being in front of those judges for trial, because I want to be the one getting all the attention. I don’t want the attention.
No, gosh, no only in Christ. I want them, the jury to adopt my version of what’s happening, the jury, stop, how I, the lens through which I see the case. And in order to do that, I think they have to be with me, you know? So sometimes when a [00:06:00] judge is super charismatic and you know, when the judge really draws in the jury, I feel like the jury kind of look for the judge’s thoughts about the case.
Louis Goodman: You go directly from Santa Barbara to Law School? Did you take a little time off? You went directly? Yes. Okay. Where did you go to Law School?
Roz Silvaggio: University of San Francisco, right up the street from where I live.
Louis Goodman: Were you excited to make the transition from Southern California to Northern California?
Roz Silvaggio: Yeah. I always loved San Francisco. San Francisco is the place that I would visit as a teenager.
Louis Goodman: How did you find USF as Law School? Did you enjoy going to Law School?
Roz Silvaggio: I really enjoyed it. I probably enjoyed it too much. For me it was fun socially. You know the things that I like are still the things that I liked. I really enjoyed, you know, the Criminal Law Clinic that I did. I enjoyed Moot Court. [00:07:00] I enjoyed, you know, Criminal Law, Constitutional Law, Evidence, all of that was super interesting to me.
Louis Goodman: So what was your first legal job?
Roz Silvaggio: So my first legal job was a summer at the State Public Defender’s Office.
Louis Goodman: Now that deals more with Appellate work, is that correct?
Roz Silvaggio: Yeah. Yeah. Direct appeal and, you know, really was not my thing at all. It was very isolated. It was very, the people there were brilliant. But, it was a different personality type than you see in the Public Defender’s Office. Interestingly, while I was there, I had an assignment and I can’t remember what the assignment was now.
It was related to Alameda County, but I had to contact a few different lawyers who had worked on death cases. And I ended up calling a lawyer by the name of Michael Fox. He at the time was at [00:08:00] the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. And he literally said, and of course this is not probably the most appropriate language these days I would be very turned off, but he said, well, you seem like a smart girl. Why don’t you come work for me? And that was how I got my first internship at a Public Defender’s Office.
Louis Goodman: First job, where you were actually a Deputy Public Defender was in Los Angeles? How did you decide to go in California?
Roz Silvaggio: Well, so when I graduated Law School, there was a pretty significant hiring freeze.
I mean, nothing compared to the economic distress, we’re all in now, but their offices weren’t hiring. And San Francisco, when I had worked for Michael Fox, he was a Kimiko Burton hire. And Jeff Adachi came in shortly thereafter. Then out of nowhere, I got a phone [00:09:00] call from LA and I had applied to LA, but kind of forgot about it.
I didn’t have any connections to the office. I didn’t know anything about it. And they said, yeah, we’d like for you to come in for a second interview. And the first interview I had was like a performance exam. It was sometime in the past, I really kind of put it out of my head. So I show up for the second interview. And if you know anything about LA, which I didn’t, you know, the second interview is just to sit down with the Public Defender where he offers you the job. So I flew down to LA, I had like my questions prepared, including, is there any concern you have that would prevent you from offering me a position that was like going to be my closer?
And he just like looked at me when I asked that question, but no, I’m offering you the job. I was like, okay. So [00:10:00] I had to make the decision basically on the spot. And I lived in San Francisco, worked in Contra Costa. But I also felt like I needed to get my career going.
Louis Goodman: How was the experience in Los Angeles?
Roz Silvaggio: Well, Oh, LA’s an incredible place to practice, you know, when you come, when you leave LA and go to another jurisdiction, it feels like you’re in the city. Like even in Alameda County, But the sheer volume size of the buildings that you’re in it, you know, the energy, the number of cases going on, you know, the 19 floor courthouse that you started, you know, in downtown LA it feels heavy and it is heavy they’re heavy cases.
Louis Goodman: Yeah. Do you have one, one good story from your early years in the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office?
Roz Silvaggio: My God, I have a million stories. One of my favorite stories is this trial I did [00:11:00] in East LA and it was called, we called it the Best in case the Best back then was a really, really not so nice motel where a lot of parolees would live, when they got released from prison and believe it or not in these small jurisdictions outside of, you know, LA proper.
They have a lot of volunteer police officers. They did at the time, these very small police agencies outside of LA proper, and these cops would go to the back end and they would just literally just see what they can see, find something to happen. They did this Monday night with my client who was super sweet and they beat the living daylights out of him. And I got the case, the client had tattoo across his head. I mean, he was a scary looking dude, but very, [00:12:00] very sweet. And he was in potentially on a parole based on that. So the case was set for trial and I walked into the hallway and there are these four police officers who were involved in my client’s case.
And they were literally reenacting, beating the ever loving crap out of my client right there in the hallway, right there in the hallway. So I walked up and I introduced myself and I said, hello, I’m Ms. Silvaggio. I represent Mr. Saucedo, if you’ll excuse me, I got to go downstairs. And I looked and I pointed to the video cameras that were above the doors the courtroom. So I went downstairs and the search for like, no, so those don’t record, but no matters. And this will also date me. So during the trial on every cross examination of every cop, [00:13:00] I held in my hand, a VHS tape and I had the clerk like wheel in a TV and VCR. And of course I had nothing. But those cops all had to basically admit what they had done to my clients.
They’re way more twists and turns, but that’s a short version of a nice, not guilty with a really scary looking client from really dirty cops. So it was fun to, you know, it was, it’s always fun to win and it’s really fun when you know you’re on the right side.
Louis Goodman: Do you think the system is fair?
Roz Silvaggio: Of course not. I don’t think this is fair.
Louis Goodman: What, if anything about it would you change?
Roz Silvaggio: Oh, it’s hard to even to boil that down. I mean, look, we know that more black and brown people get wrapped up in the system. It’s impossible to boil down. What about the system is [00:14:00] unfair, because there are just so many aspects of it and it’s bigger than that.
Of course, it has to do with our whole society. It has to do with education. It has to do with opportunity.
Louis Goodman: Before this whole COVID thing hit, you would travel quite a bit. You and your husband and one of your children.
Roz Silvaggio: Yeah, my daughter. Yeah. We’d love to travel well to go, to do at least one big international trip every other year, but we spend a lot of time in the airplane.
Now, if you asked my now five-year-old daughter, she would say her favorite place is Las Vegas.
Louis Goodman: All right. Good for her. What about your favorite place?
Roz Silvaggio: Oh, my favorite place to visit is probably Mexico. I love the people and that the food I love how close it is. I love how it makes you feel like you are on the other side of the globe in just a couple hours, margaritas. So, Hey, what can I say? [00:15:00] That’s probably my favorite place.
Louis Goodman: Well, what about recreational pursuits? Like, you know, now that you’re pretty much limited to being in really the Bay Area, I guess, do you and your family like to get out and do anything?
Roz Silvaggio: Definitely. We visit lots of parks, so I mean, literally this is what we’ve been doing the last several months.
It’s just being outside. And someone said, Oh, you look really tan. It’s like, I’m outside all day with these kiddos. And there’s so much beauty here and the parks are so incredible. And now that the playgrounds are starting to open up, of course, that is wonderful to put my, you know, on a swing, but just get outside.
Louis Goodman: Interesting. If you couldn’t be a Lawyer, there’s some other job or profession that you think that you would like to do?
Roz Silvaggio: I would love to sell real estate? I love real estate. Thank you. My husband says that too. I think he wants to stop working so [00:16:00] hard. I love real estate. I think it’s super interesting.
I like to look at properties all the time and all different places. Imagine myself, living there imagine, you know, renovation, construction that would make it interesting or more livable what the neighborhood would be like, what it would be like to live in New Britain. You know, San Francisco is unique.
And I think if I weren’t a public defender, I think I would sell real estate. It would be such a strange thing to make that change, but I think I would enjoy it.
Louis Goodman: What sort of things keep you up at night lately?
Roz Silvaggio: I’ve had a real, you know, I think a lot of people I’ve read articles about this or having a really hard time sleeping with this COVID stuff.
And I’m no exception.
Louis Goodman: If you came into some real money, a couple of billion dollars, what, if anything, would you do differently in your life, your real money? So that, that money was just not [00:17:00] an issue in terms of making any decisions about anything that you did.
Roz Silvaggio: I would make my husband stop working. That’d be the first thing I would do.
He says that he’s legal officer for a wine company eventually, maybe sooner than I would otherwise. I really liked what I do.
Louis Goodman: I get that sense that you like what you do.
Roz Silvaggio: Yeah. Yeah, I really do. I think I would still work. I would still work. At least for a little while longer while I still love it.
You know, I want to work while I love it. Well, I’m good at it when it stops being joyful. You know, when it stops being fun, I’m not going to work anymore. That’s for sure. I will find something else to do with my time. And maybe it will be so real estate. So stay tuned.
Louis Goodman: Is there anything that you wish you had known before you became a Lawyer or before you became a Public Defender that you know now.
Roz Silvaggio: You know, I [00:18:00] frankly wish I had known how much I was at like the work. And I think I would have focused the focus in a little bit better on preparing myself
Louis Goodman: Roz Silvaggio,> thank you so much for joining me today on Love Thy Lawyer. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you about your life and your career.
Roz Silvaggio: Louis, Thank you so much for having me and letting me be the first Public Defender currently employed Public Defender on your podcast. Was really fun as usual talking to you. And I’m really honored that you picked me.
Louis Goodman: Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you when we all get back to court.
Roz Silvaggio: At a better in-person time.
Louis Goodman: That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer, many thanks to my guests who have contributed their time and wisdom and make the show possible. Thanks as always to Joel Katz for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. [00:19:00] I’m Louis Goodman.
Roz Silvaggio: I would, you know, come up here and cause trouble. So I, I grew up coming to San Francisco all the time. This is, you know, I mean, you could either go to LA or go to San Francisco.

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