Hon. Tamiza Hockenhull / Louis Goodman – Transcript

Hon. Tamiza Hockenhull – Transcript

Louis Goodman 00:05
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!

Tamiza Hockenhull serves as an Alameda County Court Commissioner, but not for long. Tamiza is running unopposed for an open seat on the Alameda County Superior Court bench. Before taking the bench in 2016, Commissioner Hockenhull’s law practice included civil litigation, estate planning, family law, and criminal defense. She served on the Board of Parole Hearings, the Fair Employment And Housing Commission and taught at the University of California Hastings College of Law. Her Daily Journal bar profile is entitled, “Her Best Self”. Tamiza Hockenhull, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.

Tamiza Hockenhull 01:16
Thank you for having me, Louis. I’m very happy to be here.

Louis Goodman 01:20
It’s an honor to have you. You’re going to be one of our newest judges among a new crop that’s going to be coming in in January and right now you’re, as we discussed, sitting as a commissioner, where are you speaking to us from right this minute?

Tamiza Hockenhull 01:37
Well, right this minute, I’m speaking to you from my home, where I actually am presiding over a court from my home remotely as a result of COVID.

Louis Goodman 01:48
What court are you sitting in?

Tamiza Hockenhull 01:50
I’m sitting at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland.

Louis Goodman 01:53
What’s your assignment?

Tamiza Hockenhull 01:54
My current assignment is traffic.

Louis Goodman 01:57
How’s that going?

Tamiza Hockenhull 01:58
It’s going well. You know, I like the fact that people can appear remotely. People are appearing from their homes, their places of work, parks, their cars parked alongside somewhere. They’re appearing from everywhere and I think that’s really great. I think it improves access to justice. But I will say coordinating it all, managing it all can be quite challenging, but I actually think it’s worth it. So it’s a lot of work, but it’s good.

Louis Goodman 02:28
Do you think going forward as we start coming out of COVID, seems that we’re coming out of COVID, that the courts are going to continue using BlueJeans and video conferencing even without the COVID hammer hanging over all our heads?

Tamiza Hockenhull 02:45
Well, I think we’re hoping that we’ll be able to keep some aspects of remote hearings, but to be very honest with you, it’ll depend on the legislature.

Louis Goodman 02:55
Where are you from originally?

Tamiza Hockenhull 02:56
I’m from right here. Actually, I was born in Hayward, Kaiser hospital in Hayward. So I am a Bay Area woman through and through.

Louis Goodman 03:06
Somehow Hayward always comes into play.

Tamiza Hockenhull 03:10
Yeah. Yeah. And I currently live in Hayward as well, so kind of full circle, but I began school on the island of Guam.

Louis Goodman 03:19
Really? Is that where you went to high school?

Tamiza Hockenhull 03:22
Oh no, no. That’s just actually where I began elementary school.

Louis Goodman 03:26
And why were you in Guam?

Tamiza Hockenhull 03:27
Because my dad was a Naval Lieutenant and we were there for two years.

Louis Goodman 03:32
Where did you go to high school?

Tamiza Hockenhull 03:34
I went to James Logan high school in Union City.

Louis Goodman 03:37
What was that experience like?

Tamiza Hockenhull 03:39
It was great. I did everything I could. So James Logan high school at the time I went in the late eighties, I graduated in 89. It was wonderful, it was absolutely wonderful. It was a very multicultural experience, a very diverse experience. And I got involved in everything. I was in the honors and AP classes, but I also matriculated with all the other students. And I ran track. I did the hurdles. I was in musicals. I actually was of the charter members, the starting members of the James Logan speech and debate or forensics team that began while I was there. I think it began the year of 88 to 89 with Dr. Tommy Lindsey. And so it was awesome. I don’t think you could have a more fun time in high school than, you know, than it was offered to us at that time.

Louis Goodman 04:35
When you graduated from Logan, where did you go to college?

Tamiza Hockenhull 04:39
I went to UC Berkeley.

Louis Goodman 04:42
And what was that experience like?

Tamiza Hockenhull 04:44
It was even better. I say it was better because I actually think it was my first real opportunity at independence. My parents, particularly my mother, were, I don’t want to say strict but much was required. And so I pretty much had to tow the line to do what I, what was expected of me. And I think I did the same in college, but it was also just, I was on my own. I felt more on my own and I felt like the decisions were really up to me. And I actually really enjoyed Cal Berkeley. I felt like I got a fine education there. I really enjoyed my time at Berkeley. I even did a musical there, West Side Story.

Louis Goodman 05:25
Oh, well, I hope you’re not judging the one that’s now on Netflix too critically.

Tamiza Hockenhull 05:34
No, I actually, I haven’t even checked it out cause I’m quite, I really love the original. I haven’t checked out the new one yet.

Louis Goodman 05:43
At some point you decided to go to law school. Where did you go to law school?

Tamiza Hockenhull 05:47
I went to law school at Golden Gate University School of Law.

Louis Goodman 05:51
Did you go directly to law school or did you take some time off between college and law school?

Tamiza Hockenhull 05:57
Well, I attempted to go directly. Actually, I did not originally apply to Golden Gate. I actually applied all over and ended up at Howard. Howard Law School in DC, which is, you know, a African-American. Predominantly African-American school of law.

Louis Goodman 06:14
Historically black college.

Tamiza Hockenhull 06:16
Thank you. Historically black college. And that was quite an experience. And I have to say coming from UC Berkeley, and then going to an historically black college, I was amazed at. People came from, you know, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, all the different colleges, including the Ivy League schools intentionally came to Howard because of the history of Howard Law School.

Louis Goodman 06:45
I want to back up just a minute and ask you, when did you first start thinking about being a lawyer?

Tamiza Hockenhull 06:53
A while. I have thought about it probably since I was, probably since I was a kid and I’ll explain why, but I was actually in a pretty bad accident, terrible car accident with my, not with my mother. My brother and I were actually visiting my dad who was stationed in South Carolina. And unfortunately my mother got this call. The call, no parent wants to get, and immediately flew out to us. But the result of that was there was a case. And so I actually was in a courtroom in South Carolina before a jury testifying as a child. Yeah, probably at the age of, I think I was 10 or 11. And so I think that’s when I really started thinking about it. I didn’t know at the time I was a child, so I didn’t know that some of our records have been lost or weren’t, or that the attorney in South Carolina did not have all of our medical records. He didn’t have everything he needed. And so his angle or his was more of an emotional story trying to talk about these kids. You know, and I remember as an 11 year old sitting there going, I don’t, I don’t think this is the right way to go. This is not persuasive. This is what I’m thinking. As a child in this courtroom, watching the faces of the jurors and just not feeling like we’re bringing our strongest. That’s probably when I decided.

Louis Goodman 08:16
So basically at the age of 11 you were involved in litigation and testimony. And as a result of that experience, you felt that you could do a better job than the attorneys who were actually in court on your behalf so you decided going to law school would be a good idea?

Tamiza Hockenhull 08:35
Yes. I believe it truly made an impression on me. Yes.

Louis Goodman 08:40
So you said that you went to Golden Gate, correct?

Tamiza Hockenhull 08:45
Yes. Yes.

Louis Goodman 08:46
But before you went to Golden Gate, you went to Howard. So how did that go? I mean, you went to Howard and then…

Tamiza Hockenhull 08:54
Yeah. So I went to Howard and to be honest with you, I don’t think I really wanted to go to school out of state. I mean, it was a good experience. I learned a lot, met really great people. I even worked at a law firm called Hogan & Hartson in DC. You know, it was a good experience, but it’s not really what I wanted. And so I ultimately came back to California where I’m from and reapplied. And so I picked Golden Gate with the intent of beginning full-time, if I had to drop down part-time I would do that, but I was going to begin and finish, see it through.

Louis Goodman 09:29
How much time did you spend at Golden Gate?

Tamiza Hockenhull 09:32
I only spent two and a half years there. It turns out I was very capable of juggling being the parent of a young child and then a new wife and all the things that go with all of that and doing my law school work. I really enjoyed law school. I really enjoyed Golden Gate. I actually felt like Golden Gate gave me an excellent education, prepared me to practice law.

Louis Goodman 09:58
At some point you did some work for some other people, but then you opened your own law practice.

Tamiza Hockenhull 10:05
I kind of inched out into opening my own practice. When I left the City Attorney’s office, I had just started teaching at Hastings. I was on the board for the Fair Employment And Housing Commission. I was on that commission. So I was kind of easing out because I was nervous about starting my own practice, but I finally took the big leap and did it. And I’m really glad I did, because it did give me more, frankly, more of a balance. I felt like I was able to be a more present parent, to control my calendar more. I was actually able to go to some of their games and events. So it worked for me. I would say financially, I wasn’t in it to make a lot of money. I was in it to help people, hopefully be able to keep us afloat, but I definitely wasn’t, the focus wasn’t the money. The focus was the balance for me.

Louis Goodman 10:54
I personally think that any attorney who goes into it for the money is making a big mistake. No, really. I mean, no matter what sort of practice, I mean, even, even the people who’ve made really big money. Let’s say, you know, some of these superstar personal injury attorneys, what do they do with it? They end up plowing it right back into the firm, right back into the next case. And in order to get a multi-million dollar verdict or a multi-million dollar settlement, you end up spending several million dollars invested in the case in order to prepare it.

Tamiza Hockenhull 11:32
Right. And yeah, I agree. I agree.

Louis Goodman 11:38
Yeah. And so I think, I think what you say makes sense. And I think that to some extent, all of us who practice law have had some sort of a calling to it, as opposed to just simply, you know, well, you know, “I need a job”.

Tamiza Hockenhull 11:52
Right. And I’ll be honest, my mother and I had a conversation probably when I was in college when I was very clear that I was going to go to law school. And at this point I had started studying Thurgood Marshall and Charles Hamilton, Houston. You know, I started looking at, you know, the legacy and how I want it to be a part of it. And I remember having this conversation with her, I said, you know, I just really want to help people. And you have to keep in mind my mom is a school teacher. She taught in Guam, she taught in Oakland, she’s taught in the Bay Area. My dad was in the military. These are public service positions. So I come from that. And I even sat in the back of my mom’s classroom as a kid, when I was out of school, she brought me to work with her. And so I’ve always just wanted to help people. And I think along with trying to find a work-life balance in my own life, personal life, you know, part of my career has been about how can I help? How can I make it better? And that’s why, again, I think the money wasn’t a focus.

Louis Goodman 12:52
What do you think is the best advice that you’ve ever received? And then what’s the flip side of that? What advice would you give to a young person just starting out in a legal career?

Tamiza Hockenhull 13:05
Okay. The best advice I got, and it was really interesting because it was from a professor. And so the advice she gave me was, you need to treat this like a job. Just like the other mothers are dropping their kids off and going to work, so are you, you know, drop your daughter off, you know, put in eight hours, like it’s a job, even though your classes are over at to stay, you know, study, read, do your briefs and all of that. And then go pick up. And, you know, and funny enough, my daughter preferred that because she actually used a tantrum when I would pick her up because she wanted to stay.

Louis Goodman 13:45
So you both stayed, and it worked out for both of you. And what advice would you give to a young person starting a legal career?

Tamiza Hockenhull 13:54
My recommendation would be, if they have any interest at all in becoming a really good trial attorney, my recommendation would be to begin their career in either the Public Defender or District Attorney’s Office.

Louis Goodman 14:08
Now you are currently sitting as a commissioner and going to be a judge very soon. I mean, to me, they’re very closely related fields. When did you start thinking of that as a career move?

Tamiza Hockenhull 14:21
I’ll be honest, Louis. I always knew I wanted to be a judge. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer and I knew I wanted to be a judge. And the influence of that was Thurgood Marshall, to be honest because I studied his cases. There was always an influence there. If anyone went back and looked at what I did in college or things I wrote as I was graduating, I wrote that I wanted to be an attorney and the judge way back when. So as I started to hit that 10 year mark and so forth, I started paying attention. I started talking to judges who have been mentoring me about their work, but one thing that began to ring clear. I remember going to the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro. I was appearing before a judge there. And I actually remember talking to that judge at some point about the fact that I wanted to become a judge or judicial officer. And he was so supportive. He was like, “You absolutely should.” And in fact, that same judge, I’ve been an administrative law judge. And I mentioned to him, I used him as a reference. He was like, “That’s fine, but when are you going to become a judge? When are you going to do that?” When I used him as a reference to become a commissioner, he was like, “That’s great, I’ll support you, but when are you going to become a judge?”

Louis Goodman 15:34
Well, now you have an answer to that question.

Tamiza Hockenhull 15:36
I do. I do. And he knows, that particular judge knows. He’s retired, but he knows.

Louis Goodman 15:42
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Tamiza Hockenhull 15:44
That’s a tough question. It’s tough. It could be fair if we could level the playing field. I do have a concern that there are laws written with bias and then they’re also applied differently. So it’s such a loaded question, Louis. I don’t know. I don’t know, but I think each one of us can do our part to try to make it more fair.

Louis Goodman 16:13
I’m going to shift gears here a little bit. What’s your family life been like, you’ve touched on it, but how it’s practicing law and being a judicial officer fit into being a mother and a wife and a parent?

Tamiza Hockenhull 16:28
And now a grandmother. Yes, I’m a grandmother. I’m a grandmother.

Louis Goodman 16:33

Tamiza Hockenhull 16:34
Thank you. I’m a grandmother of a four year old little girl who’s the spitting image of my daughter and a one-year-old little boy who I would love to say as a spitting image of me, but he’s not, but no. Two beautiful children that make me think a lot of my kids, my two eldest ones when they were young. And I actually also have a third child, the only one who’s home with me now who just turned 10. So I have a very full family life, very full to the point where I think sometimes they are a bit jealous of the fact that I’ve got to work.

Louis Goodman 17:11
How about travel experience? Any place you’ve been that you’ve enjoyed?

Tamiza Hockenhull 17:15
Yeah. Yeah. Love to travel. Love it. And I think it probably because having been a Navy brat, been all over, so when we were in Guam, we used to vacation in Hawaii. So I’ve probably been to Hawaii more times than most people. Love visiting Europe, I loved Paris. Let’s see where else. Oh, been to South Africa, did a cruise in 2017 where I was off the coast of South Africa and got to see Egypt and really enjoyed Johannesburg, really enjoyed Johannesburg and seeing all the different things about Nelson Mandela. So I love to travel, both my parents love to travel. And so that was kind of one of the deals my husband was marrying me, we actually got married in Maui and he was kind of like, you know, he didn’t come from sort of this traveling family. So he’s from Berkeley. And so, yeah, so he’s had to adjust to, “we like to travel”.

Louis Goodman 18:13
Let’s say you came into some real money, 3 or 4 billion dollars. Yeah. What if anything, would you do differently with your life?

Tamiza Hockenhull 18:30
Wow, I’m going to tell you, even though I feel like my work is aging me a little bit, because it’s a lot, you know, it’s a lot. I love it. I love the work I do. So I think I would still work, but I would try to create things that I think are, or create things that I’d want there to be more of. For example, I mentioned I have a son with autism, so I could see wanting to start some type of nonprofit that supports young people with autism and how, what can we do? You know, what more can we do? When I was at the Board of Parole Hearings, before I became a commissioner as an administrative law judge there, I saw how a number of nonprofits, the way rehabilitation happens is because there’s a lot of nonprofits, a lot of volunteers who go into the prisons and provide opportunities for rehabilitation. And so I would probably want to increase programs or create programs that assist in rehabilitating those in prison, because it matters. It’s so important. And a lot of it is, we rely on these agencies and nonprofits to do it, to do the real heavy lifting.

Louis Goodman 19:53
If 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?

Tamiza Hockenhull 20:00
A lot about the way our country and our laws and everything have come about, it was built on this caste or race system. And if I could remove all of that with one wave of my magic wand, I would.

Louis Goodman 20:18
Let’s say you had 60 seconds on the Super Bowl, somebody gave you a 60 second ad on the Super Bowl, what message would you want to put out to the world?

Tamiza Hockenhull 20:31
Live each day to its fullest and the other would be help someone.

Louis Goodman 20:35
Stacey Guillory, are you there?

Stacey Guillory 20:39
Hi. Yes, I am.

Louis Goodman 20:40
Great. Do you have a question or a comment for Judge Hockenhull?

Stacey Guillory 20:46
Sure. I’m actually really curious and thank you so much, this has been a wonderful program, it’s really nice to kind of get to know our judicial officers a little bit better, but I’m actually really curious. I know you said that you really wanted to be a judge and you knew that for a long time. I’m curious as to why you decided to go the ALJ and then also commissioner route. If you can explain that.

Tamiza Hockenhull 21:05
Sure, thank you for that question. I think I was, so what, and it’s relevant in the sense that I’ve had an application, a judicial application in probably since whenever Brown took office, Jerry Brown took office. So in essence, I’ve had a judicial application in for practically 10 years. So first for both of the Brown administrations, meaning, you know, and now with our current governor, okay. And so, you know, I keep updating and sending it in so forth and I probably didn’t do it all the best way, meaning I didn’t always update maybe when I should have and all of that. So part of my career has been trying to gain experience to hopefully one day qualify me to become a judge. And so, let me explain what I mean by that. One of the first things I did, um, even before, before becoming an administrative law judge was I was a judge pro tem and I was a judge pro tem for Alameda County Superior Court, as well as San Francisco Superior Court. I was actually sworn, you know, sworn in and participated at beginning in 2014. And of course I had a judicial application in, but I didn’t really know what judging or being a judicial officer was all about really until then. And I did it for free and I did it every Monday and Friday, I was available to the point where my mother was like, “Are you getting paid for this?” No. “Well, maybe you should just limit it to like, maybe a couple of times a month.” I was like, I had the bug. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I loved it because it was hard because I had to make a decision. I didn’t always felt like I did it perfectly or right, but it was such a challenge for me and enjoyable challenge. And so that’s when it really solidified for me that I wanted to become a judge, even though I had the back of my mind as a young person, I think that want to do this, but that’s what really did it. In fact, I had this daydream, especially when I was in Alameda County Superior Court that maybe a commissioner would suddenly retire and then they would walk into the courtroom while I was finishing up and say, Hey you, Tamiza Hockenhull, can you take over?

Louis Goodman 23:26
Thank you. Thanks Stacey.

Brenda Sands 23:29
My name is Brenda Sands.

Louis Goodman 23:30
Hello, Brenda. Welcome.

Brenda Sands 23:32
Yes. And Ms. Hockenhull knows me. She’s going to be Judge Hockenhull. I knew her as Commissioner Hockenhull from the DLC program, they have court as the mediator. So I wanted to get to know her more because I miss her. I happened to be a mediator with her.

Tamiza Hockenhull 23:53
Well, thank you. Thank you. I miss you as well. I enjoyed that assignment. That was small claims and civil harassment assignment.

Brenda Sands 24:01
Yes, we do miss you and we wish you a lot of luck.

Tamiza Hockenhull 24:04
Thank you so much. Thank you.

Louis Goodman 24:08
Thank you, Brenda Sands.

Brenda Sands 24:11
No problem.

Louis Goodman 24:13
Well, Judge, I know that you have another meeting that you have to get to so let me say Commissioner soon to be Judge Tamiza Hockenhull, on behalf of the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

Tamiza Hockenhull 24:35
Thank you so much for having me.

Louis Goodman 24:38
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and subscribe to the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. I promise I’ll respond. Take a look at our website at lovethylawyer.com, where you can find all of our episodes, transcripts, photographs and information.

Thanks to my guests and to Joel Katz from music, Bryan Matheson for technical support. Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Tamiza Hockenhull 25:17
I actually call myself sort of an island girl. I love to vacation on islands or coastal places.

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