Hon. Scott Jackson / Louis Goodman Podcast

Hon. Scott Jackson / Louis Goodman Podcast

Louis Goodman 0:07
In collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association, this is Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk with members of the ACBA about their lives and legal careers. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association. He successfully ran for the position of Judge of the Alameda County Superior Court in 2017. He’s taught law at Golden Gate University School of Law. I first met Judge Jackson when he served as a Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County. After leaving the District Attorney’s Office, he became a partner at Donahue Fitzgerald, Judge Scott Jackson, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.

Scott Jackson 0:57
Thanks, Louis. Thanks for having me. One correction, was actually elected in 2016 and was sworn in in 2017.

Louis Goodman 1:06
Very well, we will note that for the record, thank you. Where are you sitting right now?

Scott Jackson 1:12
I am at the Juvenile Justice Center.

Louis Goodman 1:17
How long have you been at the Juvenile Court?

Scott Jackson 1:19
Five years now.

Louis Goodman 1:20
So are you going to be pretty much dealing with juvenile? I mean, is that kind of where you want your judicial career headed?

Scott Jackson 1:28
I do. I’m a teacher at heart and love working with the kids, especially our youth here in Alameda County.

Louis Goodman 1:35
Where are you from originally, Scott?

Scott Jackson 1:37
I’m from Chicago. Windy City.

Louis Goodman
Is that where you went to high school?

Scott Jackson
I went to school K through 12. Same school.

Louis Goodman 1:46
What high school did you go to?

Scott Jackson 1:48
That was the Francis Parker School in Lincoln Park in Chicago.

Louis Goodman 1:53
When you graduated from there, where’d you go to college?

Scott Jackson 1:56
I went to a small liberal arts college on the East Coast called Williams College in Massachusetts.

Louis Goodman 2:02
Williamstown? Well, I think fortunately, by the time you got there, it was a co-ed institution.

Scott Jackson 2:09
It definitely was.

Louis Goodman 2:12
What did you take up in college? What did you sort of enjoy studying?

Scott Jackson 2:17
So I was a double major in Political Science and History. I was a baseball player. I played four years of baseball winners.

Louis Goodman 2:25
What position?

Scott Jackson 2:27
I was our carrier/closer believe it or not. I was the shutdown guy at the end of the game.

Louis Goodman 2:33
Now, after you graduated from Williams, you ultimately went to law school. Did you take some time off or did you go directly to law school?

Scott Jackson 2:41
I did. I taught at a boarding school called the Williston North Hampton School. On a side note, our fearless leader of the Alameda County Bar Association, Miss Chalmers, she went, she actually attended school. We did not overlap, but we did discover that about each other. So I taught History, Civil Rights History, and was the head baseball coach for two years before going into law school.

Louis Goodman
Where did you go to law school?

Scott Jackson
George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Louis Goodman 3:13
Well, that was quite a change going from the small towns in Massachusetts to the capital of the United States. And one of the places where you walk out your door in the morning and you feel like you’re at the center of the universe.

Scott Jackson 3:27
Yeah, that was, it was quite a change. You know, as I said, I grew up in Chicago, big city had done the New England thing for six years. It was time to move back to a city. My cousin was actually a law professor at George Washington. Someone who you’ve probably heard of his name is Paul Butler. You see him on MSNBC all the time and things like that. He’s a professor there. He’s now at Georgetown. We talked and he said, You should come and go to George Washington. So that’s why I ended up there.

Louis Goodman 4:02
How was your experience at George Washington? Did you enjoy being there and going to law school?

Scott Jackson 4:06
I loved being in DC, in fact that I found my wife and married my wife, who was also a law student at George Washington, but I hated law school.

Louis Goodman

Scott Jackson

Louis Goodman

Scott Jackson
Absolutel hated it. Well, it’s, you know, to me, I was a little bit older than some of the people that were there, they were definitely a lot more gung ho and fired up about you know, being in law school. To me felt more like a trade school.

Louis Goodman 4:37
Do you think that having taken some time off between college and law school and working in an academic environment got you to a point where you were able to focus more clearly on the academic work that was required?

Scott Jackson 4:55
Yes. Law school was, I wouldn’t say it was easy, but the work I could easily manage the work and for me it was sort of a means to an end. You know, I wanted to go, I thought I was going to go into civil rights, some sort of civil rights practice, but some dominoes fell. I’m sure we’ll talk about it at some point that led me to end up being in the Alameda County DA ‘s Office.

Louis Goodman 5:21
What did prompt you to originally start thinking about being a lawyer and applying to law school?

Scott Jackson 5:29
Well, when you come from, you know, an African American family, whose parents are professionals and your dad is a professional, you’re kind of forced into that sort of order. It’s encouraged and you go into that, some of the fields or the professional fields.

Louis Goodman 5:48
Yeah, your dad’s a dentist, you told me just before we actually started recording.

Scott Jackson 5:54
Yeah. So he had a really great practice. He was started on the south side and then moved. Downtown had a big practice. He actually started the Headstart Program in Chicago, the dental portion of it, and actually the dental and the medical portion of it. And in the 60s, and so we as kids were always kind of involved in that in the community. I used to tutor kids in the Headstart Program. And so we were always sort of involved.

Louis Goodman 6:24
Now, as I mentioned, I first met you when you were an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney. I’m wondering how you got to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office from George Washington.

Scott Jackson 6:36
Yeah. So it’s actually an interesting story. It’s just talk about fate. My legal research and writing teacher was an Adjunct Professor who was working in the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice. She really liked my work and hired me as an intern. So I actually interned at the Department of Justice in that section for two years while I was in law school. One of the lawyers, there was a woman named Francesca, who you probably know and Francesca had been a District Attorney in Alameda County. And she had told me that there’s this wonderful summer program in Alameda County where you get to basically be a DA for the summer, you get to try cases, and you get to live in the Bay Area. So I said, why not? I think I’ll try that.

Louis Goodman 7:37
What sort of work did you do in the Alameda County DA’s Office?

Scott Jackson 7:41
Well, I did the regular rotation start with misdemeanor trials. I did work in Juvenile while I was here, which is one of the reasons why I really did do love the word trial staff. And then eventually, I actually was the first African American appointed to do the writs and appeals in the office. So I did all the writs and all the appeals in the office for about two or three years.

Louis Goodman 8:09
How long were you there?

Scott Jackson 8:11
I was in the DA’s office or red circles in the DHS office, 14 years.

Louis Goodman 8:14
Wow. And at some point, you left the DA’s Office and went into private practice. Is that right?

Scott Jackson 8:24
I did. I felt it was time for change. A new administration had come into the office, O’Malley had taken over for Orloff and I just figured this might be a good time to try something new.

Louis Goodman 8:37
He went to a very prestigious firm of Donahue, Fitzgerald, what sort of work did you do there?

Scott Jackson 8:42
I did Business Litigation. I did Employment Discrimination cases, just various litigation work.

Louis Goodman 8:51
What did you think about the civil world as opposed to criminal practice?

Scott Jackson 8:55
Obviously the worst there’s nothing civil about civil law. I’ll tell you that much. But it was you know, it was a good experience. I was really bad at it. I mean, I was a good lawyer. Actually, the last case I tried was there and I won, but the work that the business development stuff, the hustling for clients, that stuff that was not in my bailiwick.

Louis Goodman 9:19
Now you also did some teaching at Golden Gate. Tell us about that.

Scott Jackson 9:24
Yeah, while I was at the firm, one of the lawyers there had been or was an Adjunct at Golden Gate and asked me if I was interested in coming over and doing some adjunct work. So that’s how it started. I was an adjunct doing mostly litigation, teaching evidence, professional responsibility. Then the head of the litigation department left and he asked me if I wanted to take over that spot. And I was hired to take over that spot. But as you know, as fate would have it, as soon as they hired me, this spot on the bench opened up and I ended up running and successfully winning.

Louis Goodman 10:09
I want to get back to that judicial campaign in a couple of minutes. But first, I want to move over and ask you what advice you would give to a young person who is thinking about a career in law?

Scott Jackson 10:19
Think hard. They think really hard about it, you know, the amount of debt that these kids are coming out with now is exorbitant. I mean, we thought we came out with a lot of debt. But, you know, I just think that if you are thinking about going to let you know, the days, I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I’m going to go to law school. I think those days are over.

Louis Goodman 10:43
Yeah, I think those days are over.

Scott Jackson 10:44
Yeah, I mean, you have to go, you got to go in with a plan, this is what I want to do. And then I would strongly suggest sort of matching a school to that plan. So for example, you know, if you’re thinking about working in government or something like that, I don’t think it’s necessary that you need to go to the best law school, go to the school that gives you the most money. That’s what I would suggest.

Louis Goodman 11:12
I’ve kind of a double pronged question here about expectations. How did practicing law actually meet or differ from your expectations? And then how does being on the bench meet or differ from your expectations about that?

Scott Jackson 11:29
So the practice of law? Well, I’ll divide that up into the practice of law and the DA’s Office definitely met my expectations because I kind of knew what was happening going in, especially, you know, trying cases and things like that. So I kind of knew what to expect there. And I definitely met my expectations, the civil firm that did not meet my expectations. I thought there would be a lot more legal work to be done. And there was less legal more biz dev to be done on my own.

Louis Goodman 12:04
When you say biz dev, business development?

Scott Jackson

Louis Goodman
So like talking with clients, meeting clients.

Scott Jackson 12:10
Exactly. Hustling for business, that sort of, tthat really like I said, that’s not in my comfort zone. And so that was new for me.

Louis Goodman
What about on the bench?

Scott Jackson
So far so good. I really, it’s met my expectations. I love working with like I said, I love working with my staff, I love working with the kids, a level of the attorneys are great. We’ve got a great bar, not only the public defender’s, but our court appointed attorneys are fantastic. So you know, it’s a good environment.

Louis Goodman 12:46
What prompted you to start thinking about getting to the bench?

Scott Jackson 12:51
Well, you know, I’d always had some judges and I’ve had some colleagues at the DA was always sort of putting that in my ear. And I got a call from one of our Judges, the great Gordon Branco, he actually reached out to me and said, Hey, you know, there are a couple of seats open, I think you should run for one of them. And that’s how I found out about the open seat. And that’s why I ended up running.

Louis Goodman 13:20
What did you think about running for Judge, about getting endorsements, raising money, just candidacy thing? As you well know, I ran for judge not as successfully as you did, but I’ve kind of been down that road myself, and I’m just sort of wondering how it felt for you, because I certainly have some thoughts on my own about it.

Scott Jackson 13:43
So, you know, my mantra has always been if you want to know who your friends are run for office. It’s just one of those things where, you know, people get divided up into camps. I had run against a former colleague of mine, so there was that awkwardness of it. And campaigning, I actually enjoyed meeting a lot of people. I’ve met a ton of people, you know, throughout the entire county, get a good pulse of what the county, the people are looking for in their judges. You get a good sense of sort of the politics of the community of what’s going on. I loved all of that. I hated raising money. I hated it. And, frankly, as you probably know this, Louis, when you run for judge, you can’t make any promises. The only promise you can make is that you’re going to be a fair judge.

Louis Goodman 14:45
Do you think the judicial system is fair?

Scott Jackson 14:48
I think it’s as fair as the people that are dispensing the justice in it. Think that on paper, you know, that the system is fair, but you know, if you think people come in with their own biases and things in perceptions of the world, I think that can lead to imbalance that can lead to unfairness. But that said, I do think that our bench officers, by far, throughout the state, and I’ve met a bunch throughout the state, they strive to be fair. There’s always some union movement, we’re taught this, people have implicit biases, and things like that, when they bring that over bring their personal experiences to the bench. So that can lead to some imbalances. But I think everyone strives to be fair.

Louis Goodman 15:39
I’m going to shift gears a little bit here. Judge, what’s your family life like? And how is practicing law and being a judge affected that? I’ve had the privilege of meeting your wife, and I see pictures of your family on social media, but tell us a little bit about that.

Scott Jackson 15:59
So I’ve got three awesome kids, one followed in my footsteps and went to Williams, another one is down at CMC as a freshman, or first year. And then I have another one just started high school. So we’re just, we’re plugging along growing as they were growing up, typical overscheduled kids, helicopter parents. We’ve set high expectations, and they’ve met all those expectations. And we’re just very proud of them.

Louis Goodman 16:31
How about recreational pursuits, anything that you do to kind of clear your head?

Scott Jackson 16:35
Yeah, I’ve got a little hiking group, that we go out and hike with our dogs throughout the Oakland Hills and do that once a week or so. Same group tries to play tennis a few times a month as well. But because having young kids for so long, I’m just getting used to only having one in the house. It’s hard adjusting to my life now without, you know, three or four soccer games on a weekend.

Louis Goodman 17:02
Let’s say you and your wife came into several billion dollars, you had $3/$4 billion? That’s just slightly more than your judicial salary, but what if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Scott Jackson 17:17
Well, I probably wouldn’t have become a lawyer, I probably would have done more sort of social work, you know, for communities and things like that. My dream, having worked in juvenile for so long now, I just feel like, there’s so much to be done for our kids. You know, when I say our kids, I mean, our kids of Alameda County. Bringing after school programs back, I would love to feed kids three square meals a day, I think that would be sort of my main goal, right now.

Louis Goodman 17:51
Let’s say you had a magic wand and there was one thing in the world that you could change the legal world or the world in general, what would that be?

Scott Jackson 17:59
I would hope to get people to see each other again, and not just perceive what they are. I think we are all living in our own little echo chambers now. And the world is becoming this very tense place.

Louis Goodman 18:19
I have one more question. And then we’ll open it up a bit. Let’s say that you had 60 seconds on the Superbowl, you say whatever you wanted to a very large audience with a very big megaphone. What sort of message would you like to give to the world?

Scott Jackson 18:40
My running theme is just treat everyone with dignity and respect. We don’t all have to agree on every single issue. But we also don’t have to hate each other. Get out of your echo chambers and go and talk to people, new people. I would just hope that we could see people for who they are, and we can come back to a more civilized society.

Louis Goodman 19:09
Well, thank you Judge. We have a few people that have some comments and some questions. So let’s start with Erica Deming.

Scott Jackson 19:17
I know Erica Demming, this is a ringer.

Erica Demming 19:20
You don’t know that Mr. Goodman will just call on people. Hi, Judge Jackson, or Scott, as I know you. Good to see you. Thank you so much. And I want to thank Mr. Goodman, again for doing this because I’ve attended as many as I can. And I find this to be a really terrific opportunity to get to know the people who are making decisions in our community. So thank you for that. I think what I wanted to ask is just, you talked about some people who kind of planted the seed in you about being a judge. And then that Judge Branco mentioned to you that there was a seat that was open, what did you find the most challenging about going through that process? I’m not sure if it’s different than or maybe you could explain it if it was different than going to an applying to be appointed or if you know about that process.

Scott Jackson 20:16
Yeah, I do actually know about the process. And I know a bunch of people will tell you that the big difference is that you feel like you’re in control when you run. There are so many other factors out there, when you apply to become a Judge who you know, what your connections are, how people perceive you in various offices, etc, where you work. And so you go through that process, and you just sort of sit out there in the ether and wait. Whereas when you run, you at least feel like, you know what I you know, 100 flyers today, I shook, you know, 500 hands today.

Louis Goodman 20:59
Helen Hoefler? Well, I see that you have a question?

Helen Hoefler 21:02
Yes, I do. Thank you. Thank you judge Jackson for being here today. I’m interested in what it’s like to be in Juvenile Court? What you find frustrating, you know, what you like about it? And also, how did you end up there? Did you seek it out? You know, just your general thoughts?

Scott Jackson 21:21
Yeah. So I did seek it out. I wanted to be in Juvenile since I actually was running. And my plan was always to be in Juvenile Court, because it’s, you know, it’s the teacher. I mean, I love working with our youth. And what I find most rewarding, I wouldn’t say is affecting a kid’s life. I can tell you just a couple of stories. When I first got on the bench, I had a kid who had just finished a program who had never finished a program before, but he had just finished one. And I said to him, I said, you know, Hey, I just want to tell you, I’m really proud of you for finishing our program. I know it was pretty tough, but we got through it. And he looked at me, the first time he looked at me in lies, and he kind of welled up and he said, you know, no one has ever said that to me before. No one has ever told me that someone was proud of me. So now I tell every kid, I’m so proud and proud of you. But it’s just you know, it’s amazing to have that feeling of being able to affect a kid’s life. And it just another story. When a kid is dismissed for probation. I do a little ceremony in the courtroom where I have them walk up and shake my hand when I give them a little piece of advice and a pat on the back. And it means so much to him or her. And it also means a lot to the families. It’d be surprised how many photos they take me shaking their kids here upon their graduation from probation.

Louis Goodman 22:56
Shannon Wolfrum.

Dorothy Proudfoot 22:58
Good afternoon. Thank you so much for being here Mr. Goodman and Judge Jackson. I am wondering, I’m an attorney in Contra Costa County, but I love listening to these things. I was wondering, what is one of the best parts of being a judge? What do you really enjoy?

Scott Jackson 23:10
There was exactly what I just said, just make it a real, you know, having a real effect on these kids and their families. And, you know, I’ve got people send me that, I’ve written Believe it or not, I’ve actually written a college recommendation, too, for both of you for a couple of kids. That’s just such an honor that they would actually reach out to me and say, Hey, Judge, can you write a college recommendation and they send me you know, graduation photos, I’ve got graduation photos on my bench for some of the kids and it’s just awesome.

Louis Goodman 23:49
Jason Leong?

Jason Leong 23:50
Thank you. Judge Jackson, how would you explain to folks, sort of what the role of the Judges and why they should elect you given those constraints?

Scott Jackson 23:59
Yeah, that’s a really good question. So I think really, what you have to do is, you actually have to speak with people, they have to get a sense of who you are, and whether or not they want you to be someone that’s on the bench. You know, one of the things that my wife used to say on the campaign is, Scott’s the type of person you’d want if you were the victim of a crime, but he’s also the type of person that you’d want on the bench if you were the defendant in the crime, as well. You know, that you can be fair to all sides, that you’re going to listen, but you’re going to treat everyone with dignity and respect. I do also think that it did help that I am African American. I think there is a sense, definitely out in our community, that African Americans were underrepresented on the bench. And that since most of our deals, especially in the Criminal Courts in the Juvenile Courts, most of the people that are affected by the justice system are African American or Latino. I think people are looking for more representation along those lines.

Louis Goodman 25:24
Dorothy Proudfoot.

Dorothy Proudfoot 25:25
Thanks so much for doing this Lou. Judge Jackson, I really appreciate your background an all of your different experiences. My question that I’ve had to quickly formulate, because Louis just called me is, What is the challenge that you have faced since taking the bench that you had to employ different skills than what you learned as an advocate and as a professor? And how did you come about those skills?

Scott Jackson 25:49
I would say, I think I have always been a good listener. But when you’re an advocate, you’re constantly advocating, obviously, you’re talking, you know, you interrupt each other, the fight that’s in the trenches, I have, obviously, had to take off my advocacy hat and just sit and listen and be patient and process and come up with a good decision. Where did I get that from? I got that from my grandmother, who owned a beauty shop on the south side of Chicago. I would spend hours and hours and hours of sitting there listening to a bunch of African American women talking about everything. And I was better seen and not heard. So I just learned to live. And I think that’s where I get it from.

Louis Goodman 26:46
Jason Holder. Are you with us?

Helen Hoefler 26:48
Good to see you that Jackson, good to see you in a long time. When I last saw you, I was new to fatherhood. And my question is, how has your role as a father influenced your role as a Judge for juveniles?

Scott Jackson 27:03
It’s actually less as being a father. Because I mean, my kids just haven’t dealt with the traumas, the experiences that our youth that are coming before me and my court, but it is being sort of, I was a dumb knuckleheaded teenager, just like a lot of these boys are that appear in front of me. And sometimes I just look at him, and I’ll look at a kid and I’ll go, yeah, I might have done that. Or I might have thought about doing, I didn’t do it, but I might have thought about. So I think what helps me empathize a lot with some of the kids is just sort of knowing where they’re coming from, like how their mind is working. And I would say, especially with my son, you know, when I see something, you know, shall we say knuckle when he’s being a knucklehead? You know, I definitely understand sort of that teenage brain and where it’s coming from.

Louis Goodman 28:07
Taylor Moudy

Taylor Moudy
You advise as being as sort of an effective trader quality and a defense counsel for juvenile cases? What advice would you give to somebody new or pursuing that type of practice? And in terms of what to expect and how to effectively represent youth?

Scott Jackson 28:09
Alright, that’s a good question. Because you are actually advocating for the minors stated interest. So I am working on what’s in the best interests of the child, along with, you know, not only what’s in the best interest of the child, and in relation, also, what’s best for the safety of the community. But as an advocate, you have to understand even if the parents are paying for your services, the client is still the minor, and you need to make sure you are representing his or her stated interests, that’s very important. Now that said, there are ways to do that even if you don’t believe that it is the been the best interest of the minor. But I would say a good attribute is to be able to listen to the kid to be able to be the adult in the room, even though you are there to advocate for his or her state of interest. Some kids really don’t understand what the process is. Make sure that they understand the process, keep the families informed of what’s going on. And so, you know, make it easy, plain for them to understand what’s going on. Just keep them informed and the families informed of everything that’s going on.

Taylor Moudy:
Thank you.

Louis Goodman 29:58
Okay, well, we are just about out of time. Judge Scott Jackson, thank you so much for joining us today at the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

Scott Jackson 30:12
Thank you all. Thank you for having me today. I hope some of you are interested in not only joining the bench, I’m here to chat with anyone who’s interested, maybe running for or applying either one. And I also would encourage everyone to take up some juvenile cases we need good lawyers in juvenile. We have a lot of good lawyers, but we can always use more. And it’s just such rewarding work. And I really hope maybe you all will take a shot at it. And Lou, I’ll see you in the gym. Good to see you.

Louis Goodman 30:53
Thanks, Judge. That’s it for today’s edition of Love Thy lawyer in collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association, please visit the Lovethyllawyer.com website, where you can find links to all of our episodes. Also, please visit the Alameda County Bar Association website at ACBAnet.org where you can find more information about our support of the legal profession, promoting excellence in the legal profession and facilitating equal access to justice. Special thanks to ACBA staff and members. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Mathison for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Scott Jackson 31:55
I’m a long suffering cubs fool.

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