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Yesenia Sanchez – Transcript

Louis Goodman 00:05
I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. Today, we’re talking with Yesenia Sanchez. She’s not a lawyer, but she’s very involved with law enforcement and is currently running for Sheriff of Alameda County. Born in Hayward, and now living in Livermore, she has deep roots in Alameda County.

She started as a Sheriff’s Technician in 1997 and worked her way through the ranks as a Sheriff’s Deputy, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and now serves as a Division Commander overseeing the Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin. Yesenia Sanchez, welcome to Love thy Lawyer.

Yesenia Sanchez 00:49
Thank you for having me.

Louis Goodman 00:51
I am thrilled to have you. Where are you talking to us from right now?

Yesenia Sanchez 00:57
I’m talking to you from home.

Louis Goodman 00:59
And that’s in Livermore?

Yesenia Sanchez 01:00
Yes, correct.

Louis Goodman 01:01
And where are you from originally, Hayward?

Yesenia Sanchez 01:04
Yes, I am from Hayward. My parents are from, well, my father is from Jalisco, Mexico. My mom is from San Antonio, Texas. My father immigrated to Oakland, California when he was roughly 12. That was back in 1965. And my mother came from San Antonio to Oakland when she was 6 in 1959. And so they got married and moved to Hayward and that’s where I was mostly raised.

Louis Goodman 01:31
Did you go to high school in Hayward?

Yesenia Sanchez 01:33
I didn’t actually, they moved us to a little town called Patterson. So I went to Patterson High, graduated, came back to Hayward.

Louis Goodman 01:43
So when you graduated from high school in Patterson and you moved back to Hayward, what did you do?

Yesenia Sanchez 01:50
I was at a point in life, myself and my siblings and my mother, we were all three of us or all four of us were actually looking for a place to stay. We lost our house, so it was basically living out of my car. So all my valuables were in my car. I lived out of a Rubbermaid tub that had all my stuff in there. I worked three jobs when I moved back to the Bay Area and I was working Monday through Friday 8 to 5 at a San Leandro used car lot. And during the evenings between 9:00 PM and 3:00 AM at the Oakland airport loading Federal Express cargo planes.

I would also work at McDonald’s doing shifts there. So I really didn’t have much time to spend, you know, with anything else that was recreational, but definitely was work and no play during that time.

Louis Goodman 02:42
What was your path to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department?

Yesenia Sanchez 02:46
I put in interest cards at city government offices and the county. And I got a mailer at my grandmother’s house for an entry-level position in the Sheriff’s Office. So I put in for it and that’s how I started my career in law enforcement.

Louis Goodman 03:03
So that was really your first thought about law enforcement? You hadn’t given consideration to that before?

Yesenia Sanchez 03:09
You know, that wasn’t even a thought in my mind that the Sheriff’s Office would have an entry-level position for me. When I applied, I just thought I was going to get a county job behind a desk, something where I would be able to start getting some clerical experience.

Louis Goodman 03:23
What did your friends and family say when you said, “Hey, I’m working for the Alameda County Sheriff’s department”?

Yesenia Sanchez 03:29
So they were, they were happy that I was going to get a county job. I can’t say that the excitement was behind getting a job with the Sheriff’s Office, to start. No one in my family is been a law enforcement officer. My family is not like big pro law enforcement folks, even still today. Come talk to my mom and she’ll tell you everything that’s wrong with law enforcement, but I’ll agree with her sometimes, but not all the time.

Louis Goodman 03:53
Now, you were in the Sheriff’s Department for about four years. And then you made a decision to become a sworn peace Officer. What was that thinking about?

Yesenia Sanchez 04:05
So once I was able to work around the Sheriff’s Office and work a couple of assignments, I started off at the jail in Oakland as a Sheriff’s Technician and then I got reassigned to the patrol substation, the Eden Township substation in San Leandro.

And I saw how much more I could do. I wanted to become the Deputy now that’s working with the public and engaged and they seem to really love it. I loved working around them. So that really inspired me to take the next step and put in for the academy.

Louis Goodman 04:40
How’d that go?

Yesenia Sanchez 04:41
It was challenging.

Louis Goodman 04:43
I mean, the academy is hard.

Yesenia Sanchez 04:44
Yeah, it’s definitely tough. And when you’re a short female, it’s a little tougher. You have to get over a six foot wall, which was challenging for me, but I was able to do it.

Louis Goodman 04:54
But what did you think of being a law enforcement officer?

Yesenia Sanchez 04:58
It was very rewarding for me to work in the jail and be able to engage in conversations with the females who were incarcerated, their life stories, what led them to becoming incarcerated, their family life, kids that they had at home.

And then when I started working on patrol and I would run into the same females who were incarcerated, but they were now out in the community and then being excited to see me to show me pictures of their family and how they’ve turned their lives around and their success stories.

Louis Goodman 05:32
As I mentioned in the introduction, you worked your way up through the ranks of the Sheriff’s Department, being a Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain. Can you talk a little bit about that progression?

Yesenia Sanchez 05:45
When I first started, I worked female housing as a Deputy, then I worked in our booking area. Then I got transferred out to patrol, working for contract law enforcement services with AC Transit police services. I worked out there for almost three years, and that was a really fun assignment, to be honest with you.

I like working the night shifts. And so I was allowed to work midnights and swing shifts out there where it was highly active. And then I got transferred to the city of Dublin, another contract law enforcement service where I worked on patrol and was selected for an investigations assignment. And in Dublin, it’s a pretty small unit. I mean, we only have one investigations unit there and they capture every type of investigation and we did everything.

So it was definitely something that was a benefit to all of us that were able to work in Dublin because we were able to investigate a variety of crimes. So I got promoted out of there to Sergeant, I went back to the jail, worked as a watch Sergeant and then an administrative Sergeant in admin. And then I was able to go back to AC Transit as a Patrol Sergeant and then to Dublin, as an Investigation Sergeant. From there, I got promoted to Lieutenant.

Louis Goodman 07:00
Well, let me just ask you a question about that. When you say you got promoted to Sergeant, you’ve got promoted to Lieutenant.

Yesenia Sanchez 07:05
How does that process work?

Louis Goodman 07:07
Well, I mean, it’s not just a matter of somebody kind of picking you out and making you a Sergeant or making you a Lieutenant, you have to actively apply for these things, isn’t that correct?

Yesenia Sanchez 07:18
That’s correct.

Louis Goodman 07:20
And there’s tests that you have to take and you have to show certain proficiencies?

Yesenia Sanchez 07:25
Correct.

Louis Goodman 07:27
Just tell us a little bit about that process because most of the people who listen to this podcast have a lot of contact with law enforcement in a very positive way, I would say, but most of us don’t have much understanding of what really happens behind the scenes in law enforcement as a career. And I’m wondering if you could tell us a little bit about that?

Yesenia Sanchez 07:50
Yeah. So if you are looking to promote up the ranks, you definitely have to show interest by application and these positions don’t pop up all the time. There isn’t this regular ongoing tests for Sergeant. The tests come up as positions are needed.

So when they do open up, if you are seeking advancement, you put in your application. And the interview process is developed in a way where you’re supposed to draw from what you’ve done in your career. When you’re talking about a test for a Lieutenant or a Captain position, because those are management positions, you’re looking at a pretty stressful day.

They have four hours, five hours sometimes where you’re there and you’re moving from one assessment to the next. So you get assessed with a reality-based scenario where you might be the Watch Commander or the commanding officer that’s in charge of a active shooter scenario or whatnot, a critical incident. But there’s definitely a process, it’s not easy.

The selection process for how people are selected, the Sheriff has the option to pick from a roll of five. So if there’s 10 people on a list, and if they’re trying to fill a position, he can get to number seven. If he’s able to select like the one or the first two or whatnot.

Louis Goodman 09:16
So, I mean, the process is designed to get a slate of candidates and then the Sheriff can pick from that slate of candidates amongst several potentially qualified people.

Yesenia Sanchez 09:31
Correct.

Louis Goodman 09:32
And that was the process that you went through in order to get to these higher ranks of the Alameda County Sheriff’s department?

Yesenia Sanchez 09:39
Correct.

Louis Goodman 09:41
What do you really like about law enforcement as a career?

Yesenia Sanchez 09:45
Wow. I mean, it definitely is not a Monday through Friday, every day is the same, right? There is something new each and every day. It doesn’t matter if I have the same meetings scheduled, there’s something new that always pops up. There’s always some unforeseen circumstance that we’re trying to manage with the consent decree that we have going on right now, those are present day challenges that I’m working through in my current assignment. We are working through some construction that will renovate some of our cells. We call it softening of cells. It definitely has an element of making sure that we have enough staffing in the jail and that’s why, that’s the main reason why we’ve seen ourselves fall into this consent decree.

The jail has long been ignored, it is not been prioritized with staffing. Staffing has been an issue there for a number of years and for the Sheriff’s Office, we have to onboard 250 sworn Deputies and then 72 non-sworn civilians, such as Sheriff’s Technicians to make sure that we have enough folks in the jail to allow for additional programming and then facilitating some of the mental health treatments that will go along with it.

Louis Goodman 10:59
I imagine that it’s hard to recruit really qualified people to be sworn peace officers and to be Sheriff’s Technicians, especially right now.

Yesenia Sanchez 11:12
Yeah. It’s definitely very difficult. We talk about it all the time at our meetings where we used to have hundreds of people show up for an opening for a Sheriff’s recruit just to get into the academy. And now we’re lucky if we get a hundred, and that’s just a hundred people who are applying. That doesn’t mean that they’re all going to move on to the next process, you know, such as an interview or whatnot, or even getting into the academy.

There’s definitely multiple layers before you can become Deputy or law enforcement officers. There’s the written, there’s the interview, there’s the physical, the medical, the psych, you name it. And it’s just, it’s a lengthy process. So that alone is something that is one of our obstacles, trying to expedite the process for hiring, but one of the things that we always lose sight of, and I shouldn’t say always, but I feel we have lost sight of as an agency is the retention of our folks to make sure that we are not, we’re not building any reason for them to leave.

And so we’ve been under a mandatory overtime program with the Sheriff’s Office for roughly three years already. And mandatory overtime programs are temporary solutions, but it has become a permanent. So that creates burnout and so what we need to focus on is taking steps so that we can reduce the number of hours that they’re forced to work. And that’s something that I’ll be focused on.

Louis Goodman 12:44
Now, despite some of the issues, would you recommend law enforcement to a young person who is thinking about a career choice?

Yesenia Sanchez 12:51
Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 12:52
Why?

Yesenia Sanchez 12:53
Absolutely. It’s been very rewarding for me. I know that there’s so many new things and legislation that is calling for more transparency with regard to police records and whatnot.

If you are coming into this line of work, you should expect that you’re going to be held to a higher standard than most. And you shouldn’t be afraid to enter into a field, in fear that someone’s going to catch you doing something wrong because your role is to do right, regardless of whether anybody’s looking or not. And so, you know, we’ve entered into an era where you’re always watched as a cop.

You’ve got body-worn cameras, you’ve got cameras in the jail, you’ve got cameras everywhere. So it shouldn’t be something that should turn people away. You know, the high level of oversight that we are working under now. Because if you’re doing the job for the purpose that you set out for, and that’s to help people, very likely, I’m hoping that that’s one of the reasons why then it shouldn’t be concerning.

Louis Goodman 13:59
Two part question. What’s the best advice that you ever received and what advice would you give to a young person starting a law enforcement career?

Yesenia Sanchez 14:10
Don’t give up, don’t give up. The hard work and the effort that you put in will pay off. It may not pay off as fast as you want it to, but it will pay off because people will see your effort, people will see your drive, your determination. And it will be rewarding in the end when you achieve success in whatever your endeavor is. It will be worth it.

Louis Goodman 14:37
You’re currently running for Sheriff of Alameda County. When did you start thinking about that as a career move? Have you always wanted to be the elected Sheriff? Have you thought of yourself as an elected official, as opposed to someone working in government and working specifically in law enforcement?

Yesenia Sanchez 14:55
So, no, never did I ever think that I would run for Sheriff. It wasn’t something that I really thought that I would be considered for.

Louis Goodman 15:08
What prompted you to run for Sheriff?

Yesenia Sanchez 15:10
Oh, okay. So what prompted me to run was now that I’m a Division Commander and listening to how decisions are made and the mentality behind the “us versus them” is very frustrating. Being a Division Commander, you would think that I would have more authority to make decisions over the division that I manage, and I don’t. The agency is very heavily micromanaged.

It must be a lack of trust because if we are put into positions of management and leadership, you should trust the person that you put in there. And it seems like there’s decisions that have to go all the way up to the Sheriff before we can actually do anything.

And so it’s frustrating to know that you can’t make decisions without them trickling all the way up to the Sheriff for approval.

Louis Goodman 16:06
How many Division Commanders are there in the Sheriff’s Department?

Yesenia Sanchez 16:10
There’s six.

Louis Goodman 16:11
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has a very diverse series of responsibilities.

What I mean by that is, as you mentioned, there’s the jail, there’s AC Transit, there’s Dublin, there’s patrol of unincorporated areas. I don’t know, there’s other things too, there’s the Coroner’s Office and that’s different than most police agencies. I mean, most police agencies, for example, if you’re the Chief of Police in Pleasanton, that is a job that has very specific responsibilities. And even though police work covers a number of different areas, it isn’t the same kind of global presence that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has within Alameda County. So I’m just wondering if you’d comment on that?

Yesenia Sanchez 17:07
Yeah. So, you know, just like you mentioned for city law enforcement agencies, their focus is law enforcement services in their jurisdiction. And that includes patrol, that includes community policing, that includes investigations. With the Sheriff’s Office, we encompass a very large county and we also provide mutual aid through our office of emergency services to not only Alameda County, but for a number of counties across the state.

Louis Goodman 17:38
Well, how’s the campaign going? And what do you think of campaigning? And what do you think about raising money and how’s raising money gone? And as I’ve mentioned before, I ran for office county-wide and I know something about what it takes, and I am empathetic with you, if nothing else.

Yesenia Sanchez 18:02
Yes. So campaigning is definitely different. It is a different world altogether. It’s tough asking people for money. And you know a county-wide race is pretty damn expensive. Hopefully I can say that.

Louis Goodman 18:18
Yeah, sure you can say it’s expensive. I mean, what do you think that it takes to run a county-wide campaign? I mean, how much money are we talking about?

Yesenia Sanchez 18:27
We’re talking to at least $250,000. At least, you know?

Louis Goodman 18:31
Yeah, no, I agree. I think at least $250,000.

Yesenia Sanchez 18:34
When you’re talking about getting mailers out to our voters, it’s a lot of money and especially what the postage being the way that it is right now and the cost of it. It’s $85,000 roughly. And that’s an estimate, but it’s pretty close to that.

Louis Goodman 18:49
And that’s for one mailer to households with two voters who voted in the last three elections or something, right? I mean, it’s not like you’re getting something out to absolutely everybody. I mean, it’s a pretty targeted audience and it’s still $85,000. You could get one piece of mail out. Yeah, no, I know it’s expensive.

Yesenia Sanchez 19:13
That’s not all that’s involved. I mean, you talk about digital campaigning, phone banking, volunteers, you know, people knocking on doors and the printing behind the materials that go out when people are knocking on doors and whatnot. So it’s an effort for sure.

Louis Goodman 19:29
Do you have a 30 second elevator speech?

Yesenia Sanchez 19:32
I kind of do. I mean, I think it’s more than 30 seconds, but you know.

Louis Goodman 19:38
Let’s hear it.

Yesenia Sanchez 19:39
Okay. Well, you know, I started working for the Sheriff’s Office at 19 and we talked about this. I worked patrol investigations, jail operations, and administration. I’ve supervised in all of these areas. But now that I’m a 25-year veteran, highest ranking female in the agency, my role has changed, but the way that I treat people has not.

And you can’t shift the culture of an agency as large as the Sheriff’s being a leader by fear. You definitely have to be one who understands the concerns of the agency, but not only the agency, the community. And you have to establish relationships. And a shift of culture must be done in partnership and that partnership and those relationships are built from trust and credibility that doesn’t develop overnight.

But as a woman of color, I have the lived experiences to understand and recognize bias and how it can lead to inequitable outcomes in our criminal justice system. And my vision is to create a safe and equitable quality of life for everyone.

Louis Goodman 20:37
Well, that came in and just under a minute, so. That works. It just as the elevators are running a little slowly. What sort of pushback have you gotten because you’re running against the incumbent Sheriff who is presumably your boss?

Yesenia Sanchez 20:55
So, you know, there’s always talk within the agency as far as like, people don’t run because they don’t, as far as internal candidates because they don’t want to divide the agency. And when I first announced, and I had the discussion with the Sheriff that I would be running against him. I did not think that I made it, and I still make it a point that I’m not asking anyone to support me. I’m not asking within the agency, right? Because I don’t want to put anybody in a position where they may suffer any type of retribution against for them supporting me.

So I definitely knew that I would be standing alone for the utmost part. And it definitely is clear that there is a separation, regardless of whether I like it or not. There have definitely been situations where I am left out of information sharing because I’m running against the Sheriff. So it’s definitely been clear to me that the engagement and the communication has been severed between me and other leadership in the agency.

Louis Goodman 21:59
What specifically would you like to change about the way the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department works?

Yesenia Sanchez 22:05
Oh, gosh! So…

Louis Goodman 22:07
Well, there’s probably 20 ways you would like to change, but give me two that you think really you would like to work on immediately.

Yesenia Sanchez 22:19
For sure. So number one is being present and accessible. And I will be available to have those discussions and uncomfortable discussions and conversations. That’s my role. That is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m supposed to be out there walking in the communities and engaging with our communities, not just our community policing units, not just our staff. It’s gotta be me and establishing relationships with our city leadership as well as our law enforcement’s leadership in the neighboring cities.

My number two main point is to rethink how we provide, or we think of crime prevention and crime prevention can start at the jail by allowing for additional services to be provided by our community-based organizations, bringing them into the facility, creating opportunities for people that may have never had opportunities in the environments that they grew up in.

And so bringing career-based opportunities like working with our trades and our partners and with the construction trades and whatnot, we can bring curriculum into the jail.

Louis Goodman 23:32
I started out my law career as an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, and then I’ve been doing really nothing but criminal defense in Alameda County ever since. And I’ve had a lot of experience. You and I have both spent our lives and our careers working around the same populations and dealing with the same issues, if from somewhat different angles. And it’s been my experience, and I’m just wondering what your comment on this is, that the reason most people end up getting arrested is because they’re drinking and drugging and when they are under the influence of substances, they act in a way that attracts the attention of the police.

Yesenia Sanchez 24:19
Yeah, that definitely is one of the main causes that draws people into incarceration and committing crimes, obviously. That brings them into jail. And it’s definitely those who are under the influence of something, but also those who are suffering from some sort of mental health condition. And that’s definitely something that we’ve seen, and we’ve heard calls for diverting people who have mental illness away from incarceration. And I believe that we should, because I know that jail is not a place that will do them any good.

We definitely need to develop or create more centers that would be able to not only house, but provide treatment in-house for those who have mental health conditions

Louis Goodman 25:08
And can some of that be done actually in Santa Rita Jail?

Yesenia Sanchez 25:13
It can if we build a different environment, because a jail cell is not the best for treatment.

Louis Goodman 25:22
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Yesenia Sanchez 25:24
I don’t. I do not. I believe that the legal system is a one size fits all type of system in many ways, in some ways, not.

Louis Goodman 25:38
There’s a lot of talk these days about woke law enforcement, progressive law enforcement. And what’s your take on progressive as opposed to more traditional philosophies of criminal enforcement and prosecution?

Yesenia Sanchez 25:53
Yeah. So woke, I mean it’s kind of a new term for me to be honest with you, but I think that it really goes to law enforcement and even justice partners, such as the DA’s Office and our Judicial Council, being acknowledging that we have racial disparity in policing, and in the justice system, and in education and you name it.

So there’s definitely being woke to that, I guess you could say. There has to be an acknowledgement and then by acknowledging it, what do we do to change the way we apply the sentencing or the law?

Louis Goodman 26:42
I’d like to shift gears here a little bit and ask you what your family life is like and how being a law enforcement officer has affected that and now how running for office has affected that?

Yesenia Sanchez 26:56
Yeah, family life is great. I’m very family oriented and I love spending as much time as I can with my family. But like any other law enforcement household, we’ve had our struggles, throughout the years. My husband is a retired Sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office as well.

So he’s also worked very intense assignments such as internal affairs, patrol and investigations. He was a homicide investigator for a few years. So that means many missed events, we missed birthdays, baptisms, holidays. So now we’ve shifted into this whole campaign and it’s more missed birthdays, more missed events. So we’ve definitely been impacted, you know, with this whole campaign it’s now really engaged.

Louis Goodman 27:39
Let’s say you and your husband came into some real money. 3 or 4 billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Yesenia Sanchez 27:49
Gosh, 3 or 4 billion dollars. Billions, right? I don’t think I would do anything differently, to be honest with you. I would definitely put a ton of money into cancer research, and funding after school programs for school-aged kids. And you would think that after a number of years, cancer is still affecting and impacting so many of us. And so that’s definitely what that would be a focus for sure.

Louis Goodman28:14
Would just still be a cop?

Yesenia Sanchez 28:15
I would still be a cop. Yes, absolutely.

Louis Goodman 28:20
Yesenia Sanchez. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Yesenia Sanchez 28:28
Well, thank you, Louis. I appreciate this. This is my first podcast and you made it very entertaining and fun. I appreciate that.

Louis Goodman 28:36
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. 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.

Yesenia Sanchez 29:15
I’ll have to look it up and get you the right information.

 

Yesenia Sanchez / Louis Goodman - Transcript

 

Greg Ahern / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

 

Greg Ahern / Louis Goodman - Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman 00:05
Sheriff Greg Ahern is a lifelong resident of Alameda County. He served the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department since 1980 when he was hired as a Deputy. He has had a steady rise through the ranks as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Commander and Assistant Sheriff before his election as the 22nd Sheriff of Alameda County in 2006 and taking office in 2007. As Sheriff, he has developed and supported the Youth and Family Services Bureau, drug education, and enforcement, cold case DNA investigations, and a DUI enforcement unit.

He initiated the Urban Shield tactical training exercise for several thousand first responders. And of course, I knew his dad, a successful well-liked and well-respected Southern Alameda County attorney who was long in practice when I was a young prosecutor. Greg Ahern, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Greg Ahern 01:16
Alright, thank you very much. And thanks for bringing up my dad who loved being a lawyer. And it’s nice to know that he’s not forgotten. Thank you.

Louis Goodman 01:26
What is your current position?

Greg Ahern 01:28
I am the Sheriff of Alameda County and Coroner and region 2 director, office of learned service director and sitting on the lottery commission as well. And also sit as chair of the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority.

Louis Goodman 01:47
I would encourage anybody listening to this to go to your campaign website, just to see the incredible list of awards and citations that you have received over the years. It is truly an amazing list of accomplishments.

Greg Ahern 02:11
Thank you very much. I appreciate that.

Louis Goodman 02:13
Where are you from?

Greg Ahern 02:14
Born and raised in the city of Oakland. My father, as you know, is an Oakland resident as well. All of our family grew up in Oakland. Then we moved to San Leandro as a family. Went to Assumption grammar school, then Hayward high school. When I got enough money, I was able to buy a house right at the border of Oakland and San Leandro. Then I was able to move after I got a job with the Sheriff’s Office up to the city of Hayward above Hayward Hills by East Hills Market, above Hayward High School. Then my wife and I got married and we moved to Castro Valley, then after our daughter was born, we moved out to Livermore.

Louis Goodman 02:52
So you went to high school in Hayward, is that correct?

Greg Ahern 02:56
That’s correct. Moreau Catholic.

Louis Goodman 02:58
And what did you study at Moreau Catholic? And what did you do at Moreau Catholic besides just the regular schoolwork?

Greg Ahern 03:05
Well, my dad was a very good athlete. He was a Hall of Fame athlete at both St. Joe’s high school in Alameda and a hall of fame athlete at Santa Clara University when the Santa Clara Broncos were rated number two in the nation, I believe. So he stressed the importance of fitness and athletics. So we went to Merle high school where I played four years of varsity soccer and we won three championships. There I was a fairly good student. Without question my parents told me I was going to college.

Louis Goodman 03:42
Where’d you go?

Greg Ahern 03:43
Went to St. Mary’s college out in Moraga and studied Business Administration and Economics. One of my dad’s best friends, a guy named John Arca was a captain with the Oakland Police Department. I wear his medal today. He told me a lot. I spoke to him, I told him I wanted to be in law enforcement. And he said, “Don’t take criminal justice classes. You need to expand your avenues so you could be successful in law enforcement.” So he’s the one that recommended I take Business Administration and Economics.

Louis Goodman 04:13
What was it about law enforcement that attracted you?

Greg Ahern 04:18
My dad was also a member of the Navy. He was a Navy pilot. Then he became a member of the Naval reserves and spent a lot of time at the Alameda Naval Air Station. And I liked the uniform, I liked the presence, I liked the being around the guys that were in the military. Then I met his friends, a guy by the name of Joe Rodriguez, known as “Lefty” Joe, who’s a Sergeant at the St. Helena Police Department and John Arca. I loved how they carried themselves, I liked how they talked about their work. I’m kind of an active person, so I couldn’t see myself sitting by a desk every day. I just needed to serve the community and I decided that the best thing for me to do was to get into law enforcement and actually wrote a paper on it being a freshman in high school. Well, my dad found out that I was serious about joining law enforcement.

Louis Goodman 05:10
Was your dad happy about that?

Greg Ahern 05:13
Absolutely not. He wasn’t in favor of me going into law enforcement. He did not want to assist me in law enforcement. He wanted that he was frightened that in all the late seventies, that was a very dangerous work at that time, very contentious times in law enforcement. And he was worried that I might be hurt and he didn’t want to help me, so I did it on my own.

Louis Goodman 05:39
And what was your first police job?

Greg Ahern 05:41
I actually worked at a maximum security jail at Santa Rita jail called Greystone. And it was a real hard place, with only maximum security inmates. And it was a challenge. I loved it every day.

Louis Goodman 05:55
And that was as a Deputy Sheriff in the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office?

Greg Ahern 05:59
That’s correct, yeah. So any old timers know the word, terminology, Greystone and the type of inmates that were there. And it was a wonderful job.

Louis Goodman 06:10
You’ve had a very storied career in the Alameda County Sheriff’s department. And I briefly outlined it, but I’m wondering if you could just kind of go through that progression through the office?

Greg Ahern 06:22
Yeah. I was a Deputy Sheriff for six years. I worked in the jail. Then I was able to get transferred to the courts, I worked at the Superior Court. And then in 1982 with the city Dublin incorporated, and I was allowed to join them. I was the first Deputy Sheriff part of that team to be on patrol on the city. First became a, I was a deputy for 14 years. Most of my time was in narcotics and doing street patrol. I got promoted in 1986, went to the back to the center of the jail for a very brief time. And I was asked to go back to the city of Dublin as a watch Sergeant and there they didn’t have very many Lieutenants, so the Sergeant was actually like the watch commander of the shift. And was a Sergeant for about 14 years and one of the cases I had was the John Monego killing at the Outback Steakhouse on December 11th, 1998. And I was the lead investigator in that case where we were able to apprehend the three suspects responsible for that murder and send them to prison. And that’s where I met Sheriff Plummer, saw my work. He was very interested in that case. We gave him frequent updates. He took a liking to me. I then became a Lieutenant and worked at the Eden Township substation where I worked my way up to being the Lieutenant of investigations. Because of the work I did as a Lieutenant, Sheriff Plummer allowed me to stay at Eden Township as a Captain.

I got promoted to Commander. Sheriff Plummer asked me if I’d run for Sheriff as a Commander. When I worked with Sheriff Plumber, he was like my training officer. Every day of work we went to sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for several hours. He showed me and recommended how I should go about being Sheriff. I valued that one-year time. Very important that I was able to learn from his experience. He had 54 years in law enforcement, so it was nice to learn from one of the best, one of the most highly respected officers in all of California. And I got to see how we dealt with major problems. And in 2007 I was elected.

Since that time I’ve worked again to expand the programs of the jail. We doubled the size of the programming there. I started the Urban Shield training, which became one of the region’s best training venues for police, fire, and emergency medical teams. That Urban Shield training expanded to other states. People from around the world

Greg Ahern 09:00
came to see how we did our programming. We have probably half a dozen lifesaving stories behind the training of Urban Shield. We continue to address those five drivers of crime, unemployment, lack of education, poverty, health, and environment. We make sure we address those each and every day through what I’ve been preaching to our teams, which was prevention, enforcement, programs, and services.

So stop the crimes from ever occurring. And want to provide services to the people in the community and make sure we remember that we have to serve the victims of crime and give them the service that they deserve and try to prevent others from being victims of crime or provide them with the best services that we can provide.

Louis Goodman 09:47
What do you really like about being involved in law enforcement?

Greg Ahern 09:47
I worked with some of the best people in the world. They are brave, they’re courageous, they help the community. They have nothing but respect for each other. And I teach and lecture to a lot of classes. I tell them, “You don’t get respect in aisle 5 the safe way. You can’t go buy it at Costco, it doesn’t show up at your front door. The only way you get respect is earned it.” And our people earn their respect, my admiration for the challenges that they face and the manner in which they do their job. And I’m very proud of them. It’s great rewarding work and great people, and we’re doing great things to help our community.

Louis Goodman 10:38
If a young person were just coming out of college and thinking about law enforcement as a career choice, is that something that you would recommend?

Greg Ahern 10:47
I certainly would. We need a great number of people. A lot of the law enforcement agencies in this region throughout the state and even our nation are down in law enforcement are recruiting.

We are down about 230 positions right now. We continue to advertise and attempt to hire qualified people. We won’t lower our standards, we maintain high standards because we want the people we serve to have the finest law enforcement agency responding to their needs. So I won’t lower the standards for our testing although we’re struggling to find those people to willingly come in and work with us. We hope that these college graduates are bold, brave, and brilliant. We want to preach to them that they can be a part of the solution and we can help each community build and get better and improve the quality of life.

Louis Goodman 11:45
How has actually being a peace officer met or differed from your expectations?

Greg Ahern 11:51
The community involvement was a lot more than what I had anticipated and our people today, I told them, “You have to go out and be professional at all times.” I just gave a short speech to our graduating class, the 173rd basic academy just graduated this morning.

Louis Goodman 12:15
Congratulations!

Greg Ahern 12:16
Yeah, it’s nice to have them. We need them. I thank them for joining our troops. I think their families for being supportive of them. And I told them that when they go to work, they have to be professional at all times. It’s a very demanding job, but I said, “Do something nice every day. Every day do at least one thing nice for members of our community so that we can build the trust and the confidence in the community that we serve.”

Louis Goodman 12:47
You’re currently running for reelection as Sheriff of Alameda County. When did you start thinking about being the Sheriff as a career move and have you always wanted to be the elected Sheriff? Have you thought of yourself as an elected official, as opposed to someone just working in the department?

Greg Ahern 13:09
I’m always pretty aggressive in my approach to how I go about things. And I knew I wanted to be Sheriff when I got into law enforcement. That’s why I took the college classes that I did. That’s why I went to the FBI National Academy. When I first got hired one my friend’s mother gave me a dollar. She saw potential in me, she goes, “I’m going to be the first one to contribute you to your campaign when you run for Sheriff.” And that was 42 years ago.

Louis Goodman 13:38
It strikes me that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has very diverse and wide ranging responsibilities. Run the jail at Santa Rita. You patrol unincorporated Alameda County. You have the Dublin Police Department, you have certain duties that the airport, certain duties that the harbor. You’re the Coroner of Alameda County. I think there’s probably some other things that I haven’t even touched on. I know that you’re very involved in supporting out of county agencies when they need help for whatever reason. And I’m, I’m just wondering if you could comment about the breadth of that responsibility?

Greg Ahern 14:25
Yes. It’s a great responsibility and there’s a number of aspects of my job that I really don’t think the other candidates have any experience in whatsoever. So as you mentioned, some of the responsibilities. We’re also responsible for the courts, we provide court security, we have contracts at Highland Hospital and we have contracts at the Oakland International Airport as well. And so there’s a lot to do every day. As Region 2 coordinator is also an elected office that I’ve obtained. As a regional coordinator, you’re responsible for 16 counties for mutual aid from Monterrey to the Oregon border, the 16 counties on the Western part the state. And so we provide services for them when they get overrun by fire, by the dams breaking in Butte County by major events and other areas.

So what occurs is those agencies that need assistance make one phone call and they tell us what they need and then we fill the needs of logistically and for personnel and create operational hours for that response, along with a tactical response and then sending the people that have the experience in these types of events.

Louis Goodman 15:47
Right now, someone from within the department is running against you. I’m wondering if you have any thought or comment about that?

Greg Ahern 15:58
I worked really hard to speak in positive terms. So all just saying that I am by far the most qualified and experienced candidate to be Sheriff. All the awards, the accolades, the training, the experience, I have a proven record, and I think it goes beyond comparison and I’m very proud of my record, and I’m proud of those accomplishments and I’m proud of the number of years. And I have the, the heart and the desire to be the best. And we’re going to make this Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, the best Sheriff’s Office in the nation.

Louis Goodman 16:35
How’s the campaign going? And what do you think of campaigning?

Greg Ahern 16:38
I love being Sheriff. I do not like campaigning. It’s a rough road and the one thing I do like about campaigning is I get to tell people the great work the Sheriff’s office is doing on it. Honestly, a lot of people in the community don’t know about the Sheriff’s Office. They don’t know the extent of the responsibilities, a lot of the public aren’t aware of the number of technologies that we brought on to this agency in recent times to apprehend criminals.

Louis Goodman 17:10
Let me stick with the campaign here for a minute. I ran for judge 10 years ago or so, and I found campaigning to be just really different and really difficult and expensive. And I’m wondering how raising money has gone for you, what you think about raising money and what you think it’s going to cost to run a campaign county-wide for Sheriff, both for the primary, which is coming up fairly soon and going ahead, if we have to have a runoff in November?

Greg Ahern 17:50
Yeah, well, I hope to be successful in June and not have a runoff. And so, like I said, I come from a athletic background. I’ve played a lot of sports myself. And so knowing the advantage of a team. So I built a team. I’ve been building this team for a number of years in the event I were to get on a campaign component. And so my team has been in place for a number of years. I’ve done fundraisers every year to gradually gain money to support my campaign expenses. It’s humbling to me, people do donate money to a campaign for me to retain my job. I appreciate that. It’s really humbling when they do that.

Louis Goodman 18:40
Do you have a 30 second elevator speech?

Greg Ahern 18:42
I don’t know if I got a 30 second elevator speech, but I can go off the cuff and talk about prevention and or programs and service to be the best agency in the United States so that we are successful in everything that we do by allowing my people to be successful, giving them the training, the equipment that they need to go out and do their job. And they go out and do great things because we give them the acknowledgement that they’ve earned. We don’t give anybody anything unless you’ve earned it.

Louis Goodman 19:11
How have the issues facing law enforcement changed in the time that you’ve been working?

Greg Ahern 19:19
Well, most recently we’ve seen a push for defunding the police, which has been unsuccessful in every arena, every big city that you’ve seen. So knowing that, I think law enforcement has to improvise, adapt and overcome to those challenges. And so I wanted the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office to be the example of reform and not a reduction in services. I believe that law enforcement has to work on building trust and confidence in the community.

Louis Goodman 19:51
I want to shift gears here for a moment, Sheriff, and ask what your family life has been like as a law enforcement person and how law enforcement and how running for high law enforcement office has affected or fit in with your family life?

Greg Ahern 20:10
Yeah, it doesn’t fit in at all. It’s a very, multiple hours a day. I put in about 10 hours a day of work, then after work I have to do the campaign stuff where I’m on call with my campaign manager and dealing with all the issues that we’ve said we have to work on. You know, the photographs, the mailers, the terminology, the focused fundraising, the event. My daughter is now 34 years old and she just recently told me that she got nervous every time she heard my car start up and drive away from the driveway. Her bedroom was right above my car.

As a family, I’m lucky to have them behind me. And I see my people do it a thousand times a day, and that’s why we love and respect each other.

Louis Goodman 21:04
What sort of recreational pursuits have you been involved with maybe to get your mind off of law enforcement and unwind a little bit every once in a while?

Greg Ahern 21:14
Well, I used to do a lot of running. I still go to the gym on a regular basis. Recreationally I water-ski. My friend and I are braggadocious no matter where I water-skiing afterwards and we snow ski. I’m a avid golfer. I love to love to be outdoors. I’ve been on four cattle drives. So I love horses and ranches and things of that nature. And so there’s enough time to recreate and take time off.

Louis Goodman 21:41
What keeps you up at night?

Greg Ahern 21:41
Worrying about my people when they respond to events like I used to.

Louis Goodman 21:45
Let’s say you came into some real money, a few billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Greg Ahern 21:53
Well, that’s a great question. I’d probably acquire a ranch, live in peace and quiet, have more dogs, and see if I have enough money to own a boat. I always liked the water. I’ve learned a little bit about sailing and I would see to it that wherever I lived, that police agency had as much donations that I could possibly give them so they had the tools and equipment to do their job so that they could be safe.

Louis Goodman 22:19
Let’s say you had a magic wand, what was one thing in the world, the police world, the legal world, or otherwise, what one thing would you want to change?

Greg Ahern 22:28
The abuse of illegal drugs. I started the D.A.R.E program in 1984. So this isn’t a new thing for me. I saw the damage that drugs do to people’s lives. We’ve had people close to myself and my family that had issues with drugs and it caused them debt. And if we could address the amount of illegal drugs and do away with them, it would be a great thing for millions of individuals throughout this world.

Louis Goodman 23:04
If someone wants to look up some more information about you, donate to your campaign, find out a little bit more about the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, what’s the best way that they can get in touch with you and your staff?

Greg Ahern 23:24
So I have a personal email, [email protected], cause I’m an old school guy, AOL still. So we have MIC, which means “make it count”. So every day I work, everyday I live, I work to make it count. Every day I go to work, I try to make a difference. So that’s how the email started. And remember, this isn’t because I was elected. I started that when it was AOL. So Greg Ahern MIC was in the eighties when AOL first came out.

And AhernForSheriff.com has a lot of information about our campaign. And once again, I’m not asking anybody to donate money, that’s not what… If you learned about me, you would vote for me and you’d have confidence that I’d be your best Sheriff.

Louis Goodman 24:18
Sheriff Ahern, is there anything you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed?

Greg Ahern 24:23
We have a Santa Rita jail and we’ve all really improved the conditions there. We’ve improved the number of hours for out of cell time, we’ve improved the vocational programs. So again, you know, my approach has been enforcement along with prevention, programs, and services. And so with programs, we’ve created a vocational program out of the jail.

We have a carpentry program, so there is a community-based organization that goes out and recovers furniture that would be added toward landfill. That furniture then goes to low-income housing, long-term care facilities, places that can’t afford to get refurbished furniture. So it saves the landfill, it helps the inmates, it gives them a skill and it’s less expensive for the places where we are delivering it.

With that, they went out and created a commercial painting instruction where the inmates learn how to be commercial painters. We also have a farming program where they learn about farming and grow products at the jail. So then when they leave, they can then join our Dig Deep Farms Program. We’re starting our Paws For Life Program.

And that’s where we go and recover animals, dogs that are going to be in and the animal control center and scheduled to be put down. We then are going to recover the dog, bring the dog to the jail. The dog will then be assigned to three inmates under the supervision of a Deputy while they train the dog and get it to be a service dog so they can have the dog go to the community and help somebody in need.

Again, restorative justice that people can look on giving something back and paying back for some of the crimes that they committed and they feel good about themselves. Hopefully they don’t continue with that cycle of recidivism. And I’ll tell you what, the Deputies are happy because they’re working with dogs. The inmates are happy because they have out of cell time and they’re working with dogs and they’re giving back to the community. The people that get the service dog are happy that they get a service dog to improve their life.

Louis Goodman 26:36
Sheriff Greg Ahern, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

Greg Ahern 26:45
That’s been a pleasure to talk to you once again. Thank you for remembering my dad.

Louis Goodman 26:50
That’s it for today’s episode of love by lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email.

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.

Greg Ahern 27:29
We had the 1991 firestorms in Oakland and Berkeley. We wanted to make sure that since we to respond to major events on a regular basis that we worked together and trained together, specifically dealing with terrorism, things like the 9/11 attack.

Roundtable With Nabiel Ahmed and Matt Fregi - Transcript

Roundtable With Nabiel Ahmed and Matt Fregi – Transcript

Louis 00:08
This is Louis Goodman. I’m the host of the Love Thy Lawyer podcast and today I thought we would do something different. Have a round table discussion with a couple of practicing attorneys to discuss some of the issues that are in front of the courts these days. One attorney I’m speaking to is Nabiel Ahmed. Nabeel, welcome back to Love Thy Lawyer. You’ve been here before and we had a great interview. I think you were the first person that I actually interviewed for the podcast.

I also have attorney Matt Fregi on the line. And Matt, we do not know each other. This is the first time that we’ve met and it’s a pleasure to have you and thank you so much for being here. Matt, let me start with you. Can you briefly tell us what sort of practice you have and how long you’ve been doing it and where you do it?

Matt 00:59
I do primarily criminal defense based out of Contra Costa County, but I go all over California. I’m actually beginning a trial in Lake County next Wednesday.

Louis 01:11
And where are you talking to us from right now?

Matt 01:13
Pittsburgh, my home.



Louis 01:16
Nabiel, how about you? Where’s your practice? What sort of do you do?

Nabiel 01:22
Louis, good afternoon and thank you for having me again. It’s certainly a pleasure and I’m glad to be here. My practice this in San Ramon, California. That’s where I’m currently based out of right now. Also I have offices in Oakland, California, and that’s where I basically started my private practice for 2008 to 2019. I consider myself an East Bay criminal defense attorney. That includes Alameda and Contra Costa counties and I’ve expanded my practice a little bit to cover areas slightly outside of just criminal law.

Louis 01:53
And where are you talking to us from right now?

Nabiel 01:56
Well, I’m in my office in San Ramon, California and right behind me as my patio and some of the lovely scenery, the trees that I have behind me. There’s a, I believe it’s San Joaquin Creek is right behind me and we have rooster, all kinds of wildlife. It’s amazing. And when it hails, it’s just absolutely beautiful out here because it looks like it’s snowing and we have views of Mount Diablo as well. So, so it’s, I love it here and happy here in San Ramon, California. I also loved Oakland, California. I’ll probably be back spending half my time, you know, between locations.

Louis 02:31
Before we got on the call, we were talking about DUI cases. I do a lot of criminal defense and it seems that lately the two areas of law that I see the most are DUI and domestic violence. And it’s interesting because the DUI cases are hard to win and the domestic violence cases are hard to lose and neither one goes to trial. So let me start with DUI.

On the DUI cases in general, you have professional police officer witnesses. If a defendant is driving under the influence and if the officer is properly trained, that case gets put together, it gets put together well from a prosecution point of view. And in my view, it is difficult to beat that case in court. Now I know there’s plenty of attorneys out there that will differ with me on that and say that these cases should go to trial. They should all go to trial. You can’t win a case that goes to trial. Every case that you plead is someone who’s guilty. But I find it really hard to look a client in the eye and say, you know, bring in a substantial legal fee, let’s try this case. When I really think that there really are no triable issues. And then you expose your client to the possible of doing some actual jail time if the judge is upset by the way the trial went.

Matt 04:11
it seems to me like the triable cases, I mean, there are some attorneys who have the science down and it’s their niche, it’s what they do. They specialize in it and most of them can, if you could try a DUI case you could try any case. But the triable cases that I’ve had for DUI, I’ve tried a couple, but the real triable ones, they tend to plead out recklessness. And at that point it doesn’t make much sense to risk a trial when you can have essentially a dry offer with none of the negative repercussions that come with, except for the DMV points that come with a DUI conviction.

Louis 04:48
Nabiel, do you have a comment about the DUIs?

Nabiel 04:50
Yeah, absolutely. I believe the last DUI trial I had was a DUI causing injuries, significant injury. It was here in Contra Costa County and it was back in, I believe 2019. My client, he was at one point, he was a principal and at high school in Richmond, mainly an administrator type towards the end and I believe he had some affiliation with the athletic programs there. I think namely the football program. Unfortunately back, it was Halloween, I think 2018 that he was driving to his home after visiting Taco Bell and on his way home he was driving down one of these bane thoroughfares late at night with poor lighting and there happened to be a trailer park that happened to be on the left-hand side of the road, an open trailer park. And unfortunately, an individual who we believe who was under the influence at the time had rode a bicycle out of this particular trailer parking. It was a little bicycle, it wasn’t a bicycle of regular size. My client was driving a larger truck and this man who was actually about my age now about Matt and ours, about 40 years old. And so basically this guy, you know, he’s under the influence, he rides his gosh darn bike right in front of my client’s vehicle and so my guy hits them, smacks them. Significant injuries, life-threatening injuries.

Nabiel 06:16
Unfortunately for this poor individual it was my client’s first real offense. And his first and only offer was jail and jail and jail only. And, but as a misdemeanor, and so you know, I wanted to resolve the case, you know, it was like, “Hey buddy, 15 days, you can hang in there, right?” He was older, he was, you know, 70 plus and he just wasn’t gonna do it. And I believe he got an offer from the judge who I did work with at the time at the Public Defender’s Office, way back when, when I was clerking over there at Contra Costa county, I think he’s just like, “Okay, sir, you know, you’re not going to take this deal with this case is going to trial and best of luck.”

Louis 07:05
So did you go to trial, Nabiel?

Nabiel 07:08
You say again, so not guilty friend, but anyways, so the guy gets off and then some of my kinder colleagues were saying, “Well, the jury just felt sorry for you, because…”

Matt 07:22
What was the defense?

Nabiel 07:24
Well, you know, deer crossing the road.

Matt 07:27
What do you mean?

Nabiel 07:28
Well basically the guy on the bike was just like a crazy deer running across the road, you can’t really blame him for that. He was traveling within the speed limit. And then, you know, the guy was at a low eye level and he was, you know, obviously wasn’t driving. He wasn’t crossing at a crosswalk or anything. So legally he was just drunk, he was high. And unfortunately he wasn’t caring for his own safety, the cyclist.

Louis 07:56
But what about your, what about your client? Was he drinking at the Taco Bell? The last time I was at Taco Bell, they weren’t serving alcohol.

Nabiel 08:03
No, he was at a .10, I think a 101, something like that. And so it was, it was close. It was, it was real close. It was just a little bit over, a little bit over the limit. Maybe it’s just a 10 even, the 1 0 1 1 somewhere around there.

Louis 08:17
And then the jury acquitted him of everything?

Nabiel 08:19
Everything.

Louis 08:20
Well you did a great job there, counselor.

Nabiel 08:23
Well, we’ll thank you there, Mr. Goodman. Now here’s the kicker, so everybody at home knows that, you know, probably part of the reason why this didn’t work out for the prosecution is, and it’s very tough. And a lot of times, you know, when you’re trying a case and you’re talking about the events and it goes back to trying DV cases, when you said that trying DV cases are hard to lose if you’re the prosecution, maybe. But we’ll talk about that. Hard to lose for the prosecution if you don’t have to wait.

And so in this, in this particular case, the guy, he was homeless, addicted, whatever, injured, he never showed up for trial. But his mother did, his mother came and testified for him and described his injuries. That’s how they proved great bodily injury, but we never had the guy. And I think that’s what, perhaps, you know, the jury really kind of took the side of…

Matt 09:22
How did you finesse your way out of the percent count? The 23152(b) visa .10?

Nabiel 09:31
Yeah, we did do that. Excellent question. Excellent question. Excellent question.

Louis 09:36
Well, you were only at the trial, Nabiel. No one’s expecting you to actually remember it. You know, for those of you who are listening to this, you know, it’s audio only. But I can see, as we’re sitting here speaking, the three of us can see each other on the computer and you know, you’ll just look at Nabiel and you go, “How could you vote against that face?”

Now, let me just kind of continue with my thought here, since you’ve proven me wrong on my first thesis. But on the domestic violence cases, I say that they’re hard to lose from a defense point of view, hard to win from a prosecution point of view, because most of the time the victims don’t want to come to court. And when I was a prosecutor, it would drive me crazy that we, you know, we work these cases up. We had sometimes some, you know, relatively serious injuries and the victims would either not show up or they would come to court and ask the judge to dismiss the case. And you know, it would drive me crazy as a prosecutor.

Now, of course, as a defense attorney, you know, that’s great leverage on the case because obviously if there’s no witness, there’s no case. And it just sort of makes me think about the whole domestic violence situation, because as a citizen and as someone who thinks about these things and kind of cares about people, I do see domestic violence as a huge societal problem, but it’s also quite obvious to me that the criminal justice system isn’t very well equipped to really solve that problem.

So I don’t know. What do you guys think? Matt, let’s hear from you.

Matt 11:38
Sure. I do think that the courts are ill-equipped in that it is, a lot of times it’s obviously necessary. There are times when they’re essentially imposing themselves in the private lives of people who, and they’re doing it in a systematic fashion and I think a lot of it stems from the 1994 case, the old OJ Simpson case where you saw it would have definitely needed reform of the domestic violence laws. But as what happens and a lot of the times they over-correct. So now there is no nuance. It’s, you know, they have to arrest somebody if they respond to the scene. The 097 terms, they’re unforgiving. And so a lot of times I do think that they end up causing as much problems as they solve, the law as it is now. And, but again, it’s a necessary evil because the flip side of that is there is a cycle of abuse and people do end up getting hurt and things do end up progressing.

Louis 12:38
Well, let me just follow up and ask about this. There used to be something called domestic violence diversion, and that was something that OJ, as a matter of fact, had taken advantage of, had successfully completed the misdemeanor domestic violence diversion program on an earlier incident and then of course was arrested, acquitted on the murder of Nicole and the other gentleman who was there, Goldman, and that did change the law because people were just so outraged about what had happened. Do you think that maybe going back to some sort of domestic violence diversion program would make some sense?

Matt 13:18
Diversion to some extent, yeah, I do in only that domestic violence will, you know, scarlet letter for an, until you obviously through your 12034, but I do believe they should still have their pound of flesh. But the fact of the matter is we have elected officials sitting as judges and we have an elected official at the DA’s Office. And so everything is going to err on the side of caution. So even people that don’t necessarily know all of the stringent repercussions and then get swept up in it.

Louis 13:49
Nabiel, you got any thoughts about this?

Nabiel 13:51
Yeah, I think that the courts actually, courts and the DA’s Office and the attorneys are in a pretty good position to judge what’s going on. And I think that the amount of cases that they see and the variety of the types of domestic violence that they see does give them, put them in a unique position to being perhaps some of the best judges in terms of what should happen to a particular individual who is perhaps convicted of domestic violence or what should happen to an individual who may have been engaged, arguably in an act of domestic violence and maybe they just should or should not necessarily be run through the criminal justice system just yet. And domestic will not go away at any point in time.

Louis 14:35
So Matt, you have been in a couple of trials recently. Can you, without revealing any state security secrets, tell us what you’ve been trying and how that’s been going for you?

Matt 14:47
Sure. I just finished a two victim child molest. What it was essentially was spanning over 25 years. What were some interesting issues? One of the victims came forward when she was 16 about to be 17, and said, “Mom, I’ve been molested since I was 11.” And then it kick-started the case. They interviewed her, obviously, got her statements, multiple statements. Got a forensic exam done on her and gathered some evidence there.

And then the client was affluent so they posted an ad in the paper, stating in a flier and press release that if any other victims are around please come forward. This gentleman had access to thousands and thousands of children over the past 25 years and out of the thousands and thousands, one came forward from 25 years ago with a story somewhat similar to the recent one. And in the interim winding its way to trial, the most recent victim passed away. So there was some legal issues for the case, not too great factual issues. And obviously the main one was the confrontation clause issues so all other statements were excluded to deceased victim. Went to court and lead in the original statement to her mom, “Mom I’ve been molested since I was 11” and it was six charges based off that one statement and three charges with the Jane Doe from 25 years ago.

Louis 16:17
What did the jury do?

Matt 16:19
There really wasn’t much of a defense fruit for Jane Doe 1, the first one to come forward. With her statement my client, had a three hour interrogation. It didn’t go so well for him, at that time, they had her DNA on his body and there was some text messages, so that that’s that’s grim, but he’s got a great appellate issue there. The Jane Doe 2, the defense ended up being that she wasn’t, the statute of limitations requires her to be 13. There’s only certain crimes that survive a 25 year statute of limitations. And those are the crimes involving the child 14 or under, actually under 14 I should say. And so, during the course of trial it was revealed by the lead detective that either he or one of his fellow detectives told this young lady before interviewing her that we only care about crimes that occurred when you were 13. And so she tailored her story to refer to two instances when she was 13, halfway through, it was somewhat revealed that one of them occurred when she was 14. And so the jury went to deliberate and then they sent back a question that was kind of abstract as to the law and timing. And then the next note came, one of the jurors went home and did some independent research. So we almost had to declare a mistrial. They salvaged it, I suppose. And then they convicted him, but you know, he’s got some really interesting appellate issues.

Louis 17:48
Have you had sentencing yet?

Matt 17:50
No, that will not be for…

Louis 17:55
Was there any kind of pretrial offer that?

Matt 17:57
Yes there was. Credit for time served, go home and this gentlemen turned it down.

Louis 18:03
Why? Do you know why he turned to town? I mean, did he give you a reason?

Matt 18:09
Yeah, he’s not a citizen of the United States and he, immigration consequences concerned him. And so that was the reason.

Louis 18:17
You know, the only case that I ever really lost and I mean, just like really lost was a child molest case where I was offered credit for time served, not even credit for time served, no time, just, you know, plead, register, do some counseling, no time. And my client turned it down because he was kind of like a sports coach and he wouldn’t be able to coach anymore. It wasn’t his profession, it was his avocation, but he really enjoyed doing it. And, you know, maybe for obvious reasons. And the, and we tried that case for six weeks and it was, you know, a very, very serious defense. And at the end of the case, the jury went out, had lunch, came back, convicted of everything and short point a long story the judge gave him 18 years in state prison.

Matt 19:13
I think he’s going to fare better than my client does. But I do think my client has as a very, he’s going to have a very good day on appeal, but our judge basically, during pretrial motions said things along the lines of, “your client has been preying on young women for 20 years.” and “Your client is lucky that this young lady is deceased” and things of that nature. So we kind of knew that, you know, the presumption of innocence from the judge’s perspective had gone out the window very early on. So I think what’s going to happen sentencing wise is a foregone conclusion, it’s a life case, obviously.

Nabiel 19:48
Yeah, those are tough, Louis. That’s tough. 18 years, that’s tough.

Louis 19:52
From no time.

Matt 19:53
How many victims were you dealing with?

Louis 19:55
Just one. Just one.

Nabiel 19:58
What about the evidence against him? Was there a pretext call or anything along those lines?

Louis 20:03
No. The evidence was really thin. He came forward three years after the alleged incident. There was no pretext call. My client did not give a statement. It was kid came in and he was just a good witness, very believable, jury really liked him. And that was that.

Matt 20:21
Well, I found what was toughest about this case was that Jane Doe two, despite the fact that it was clear that she was lying about her age, really had no ax to grind. There was no reason for her to come in after 25 years and make these accusations against my client. I couldn’t think of any potential motive for her to do that, to attack her. However there was, it’s interesting, there was some impeachment material with regards to this Jane Doe, where she would go into car dealerships and sit down with the sales manager, negotiate for a car, agree to pay a large sum down payment, obtain dealer financing, would write a fraudulent check to the car dealership, obtain financing using fraudulent information and drive off with the car. And she did that twice. One time, the car was impounded by the police, this young lady, when she was a young lady, went in and attempted to get the car back from the police. And then when she was asked about this during the current investigation, was untruthful and the court would not allow us to either bring up the fact that she was untruthful with the detective about her past or get into the fact that this was the title of prevaricator she was so she’s definitely capable of coming into a court of law and telling lies.

Nabiel 21:35
Matt, do you, sorry to interrupt. Do you, and I was asking you this Louis, but do you hear from that client that’s been incarcerated over, you know, that got that 18 year sentence? Do your clients that get those long sentences stay in touch? Some of mine do. And whether you like that or not? I don’t know.

Louis 21:54
Well, he’s out now and I have not heard from him since he’s been out. I am grateful about that. He was very angry with me after the case was over and…

Nabiel 22:06
Not talking him into taking the deal? Not being more persuasive about taking the…

Louis 22:12
I spoke to him every single day of that trial about taking the deal and tried to get the district attorney to do something for him but it just wasn’t happening. And I don’t know, I just, I learned a real lesson there about, you know, some of the dangers of going to trial. Well, speaking of which, you know, how do you sort of evaluate whether to plead or to go to trial? What do you think, Nabiel?

Nabiel 22:40
In the beginning it was weird. I used to always feel pressured by a client to go to trial, I think. Some judges pointed out: client control. They told me client control. And I always thought, I do have client control, I’m really telling these guys. I’m really telling these guys, you know, let’s work this out, let’s take a deal. But in the beginning I got pushed a lot, I think because the clients in this field, most clients that will be dealing with attorneys have some base of knowledge before they come to deal with the attorney. And so I had found that the type of clients that I was getting, especially in the beginning of my career, were I don’t want to say professional criminals, but close to it. And they really knew the business and they know the law! And oh my God, do they know the law and they know it well! And so they test you, every phone call, every conversation, every time you talk to them, “But can you do this? Can you do this? Can you do that? Blah, blah, blah.” What about this, that? Did you file this motion? Where’s my discovery? This, that the next thing. And they, I was pushed into jury trials quite, quite frequently into the beginning of my career. I didn’t want to, I mean, I did, I didn’t…

Louis 23:54
But Nabiel, I mean, ultimately, ultimately whether to plead or to go to trial is a client decision. It’s not really an attorney decision, but having said that, I think that there is a lot in terms of clients looking to us for some guidance about what they do.

Nabiel 24:14
I think it’s if they think they could win the case, if they have that confidence and maybe I guess them up too much too, but yeah, if they had the confidence to believe that they could win a case, they’re going to take advantage of that. So if you set the standards appropriately in the beginning, I think that most clients will choose to settle as opposed to litigate, but sometimes you just don’t have that choice.

Louis 24:41
What do you think, Matt?

Matt 24:43
Me personally, or with the clients?

Louis 24:46
Well, I mean, how do you evaluate whether a case should plead or whether it should go to trial? What do you talk to clients about in terms of that? And what sort of feedback do you get from clients? I mean, I know every case is different, every client is different, every attorney-client relationship is different, but I wonder if you just have a sense of it, you could give us?

Matt 25:07

Well, if I feel that I can make a credible argument for this case, this case was an anomaly, the one that I just tried, it was a legal case. There were no real factual origins, but cases that I typically try, I do have a factual defense. And if I can stand up and say that to my clients, like, Hey, you know, this is what we’ll show you throughout the course of this trial. Then I will leave it up to my client. I never blow sunshine or suggest that conclusion is foregone, that we’re going to either win or lose, but I will strongly dissuade clients from trying cases where I don’t feel I can make a closing argument.

Nabiel 25:53
Louis, can I clean up my answer real quick?

Louis Goodman 25:55
Sure.

Nabiel 25:56
No, no. I just want to say, in terms of trying a case, whether to try a case or not to try a case, how do you settle a case? How do you know when to settle a case and not to settle a case? These days for me, and I think in the past too it’s always been, I asked my client, can you live with this particular result not just now, but in the future. And if I know that they are okay with taking 18 years pleading guilty, you know, and taking 18 years or whatever the case may be, if they could live with that now, and they could live with it on the future, then take a deal. If they cannot live with it and I can’t come against them that there’s no other better way than we have to go to trial.

Louis Goodman 26:34
Yeah, well, I mean, I have my own things where I wake up in the middle of the night second guessing myself. I recently had a case, you know, perhaps not unlike yours, Matt, where my client had some immigration issues. It was a child molesting case. The way the case was charged, it was a life top. I got an offer to plead to a three-year top, you know, registrable deportable offense, but a three-year top. And the judge ultimately gave him two years on that sentence and you know, so he’ll be out, you know, probably by Christmas or whatever. And you know, whether he’s out in another country or he’s out here, I guess depends to some extent on immigration, but you have to wonder about that and you think, well, you know, could I have torn that witness apart at preliminary hearing? Could I have convinced a jury something different? And the problem is that you turn down a three-year top and you go for a life case, you might end up with a life sentence. It’s scary, you know, I mean, this business is scary and it’s hard. And I think that sometimes people don’t realize it or they watch TV and they think it’s just some game or something, but you know, we have people’s lives in our hands. I just feel the weight of that responsibility sometimes as a very heavy burden.

Nabiel 28:04
Yeah. Well, Louis, don’t your clients express that to you? I mean, they a lot of times don’t they put that into the forefront of your communications? Like Louis, I’m trusting you with my life. I’m sure you must have heard that more than before somebody wrote you a check for 15, 20, whatever the case may be, you know, before they gave you a nice retainer to say, save me, right? Or what can you do for me?

Louis Goodman 28:27
Well, I don’t get the kind of retainers that you do Nabiel, but I don’t know. I mean, clients, I can’t say that I’ve had a lot of clients say that to me, but I feel it, you know? I feel it, Matt, anything else on that?

Matt 28:39
Yeah, no, just briefly the thing that I’ll tell them is, you know, you’ve got a five-year offer or whatever it is, subtract a good sum, if it’s not a violent crime, but not that much, and just ask him, you know, when that day comes are you be okay having to spend longer than that and you know that day, you’re going to kick yourself in the ass that day if you’re convicted. That’s the day, you know… And that’s their personal choice. Some people don’t, some people just have an impossible time with accountability. I see it a lot more in the end with child molest cases.

Louis Goodman 29:18
Yeah. They’re the worst. They’re the absolute worst for me.

Matt 29:21
I remember a difficult time. Yeah and they, honestly, I’m not sure whether they don’t believe they should be punished or they just can’t grasp the fact that they did what they’re being accused of because a lot of times they despised child molesters and as much, if not more than the rest of society. So I don’t know what the psychology is with them, but yeah. And then you have people who just don’t want to be held accountable for what they did, but it’s ultimately their choice. But again, as far as I’m concerned, if I can’t get behind their case of from trial perspective. I’m not gonna be the one, I’ll pass to somebody else about give them back the entire retainer as well.

Louis Goodman 30:04
Yeah, let’s talk about that for a minute because I’ve lately given back a number of retainers. Full refund. I’ve called the client and I’ve said, “You know, I just think that you need to find an attorney who may be a little better fit for you. I want you to find a new lawyer. I’ll give you back every dime you’ve paid me. I wish you the best of luck in this situation, but I do not feel that I’m the right lawyer for you in this circumstance.” And I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you a quick story about the last time I did that. I had a client charged with some very serious felony cases. The District Attorney around Christmas time, just basically I think, made a mistake and said, well, if he goes to some counseling, we’ll give them a one-year deferred prosecution.

Nabiel 30:57
It was a Christmas offer. They’re real.

Louis Goodman 30:58
It was a Christmas offer, you know? And I call my client. I go, Hey, yeah, there, we get a sweet deal. And he goes, “I’m not doing that. I am not doing that.” And he says, “Well, because going to counseling it’s like admitting guilt and I’m not admitting guilt.” I said, “No, no, you’re not admitting guilt. It’s not even a deferred entry of judgment, it’s just go to some counseling. Everyone could use some counseling. I could use some counseling. You know, let’s, let’s just kick it a year and do some counseling and we’ll get it dismissed.” And he absolutely wouldn’t do it. I said, “Fine. Find a new lawyer. I’ll give you your money back.” How can I do any better than that? I mean, how can you, you know?

Nabiel 31:38
That’s rough. Essentially, the guy’s asking for a trial. He’s just not aware of it.

Matt 31:49
If that client were mine and it was a case and I thought that there was legitimate issues, I’d have no problem taking this money and… you know, I mean, because he’s stubborn and, you know, in case such that he turned that down and he’s an idiot for that, regardless of confidence paying out in the long run. But you know, if it’s a case that’s triable, I mean, was it not a triable case?

Louis Goodman 32:10
In my view it was not a triable case.

Matt 32:13
Yeah. Then I would punt too, I would not do that. I would not walk somebody to their funeral when they have a get out of jail free card. And I say that in the wake of my trial, where my guy had a generous offer and now he’s to be sentenced to life.

Nabiel 32:28
It is those stubborn clients that actually wind up becoming the most memorable cases because it’s those stubborn clients that make us do the most work and where we have to sometimes find creative legal arguments, because those stubborn guys just won’t leave you alone. And I don’t know why sometimes I have clients like that, but I can count on that. Every couple years or so I will have a client who knows how to stay in contact with, who attempts to stay in contact with me 24 hours a day or close to it. And they are highly educated, they’re very intelligent and they kind of pretend to help me with the work. So I will just go with it, but those cases just stick with you. And I can think of a lot of the cases I can remember is because the client was stubborn and the case wasn’t resolved. And we were forced to just uncover every stone to make that step in person go away.

Matt 33:37
I’ve had at least 50 calls from people in custody who have heard from other people in custody or read these things themselves, that there’s all these new laws that that apply to every single case. And, you know, that are going to benefit them significantly. And I’m like, sorry to tell you buddy, but it’s not retroactive in that, in that regard.

Louis Goodman 33:57
Let me move on to another issue, which is right now in Alameda County, we have four individuals who are running to be district attorney and come January 1st, 2023, we are going to have a new DA in Alameda County and all four of them claim to be progressive-minded candidates and say that they will be progressive district attorneys. Now, Matt, you practice in a jurisdiction where there is someone who claims to be a progressive-minded district attorney. And I’m wondering how you think criminal prosecution and the court system is going to look like going forward if we do in fact get a progressive-minded DA or will we even though that’s kind of what they’re advertising themselves as?

Matt 34:57
I think that they have to build themselves as progressive, even if they’re not just because you know, where we’re located. And you know, in Contra Costa at the last election, Paul Graves who was beloved within the District Attorney’s Office. And I mean, and without, I mean, people really respect him, but you had Diana Becton who was a great judge and a good DA, I think, but she’s obviously very progressive.

Louis Goodman 35:23
How is that manifested-self in Contra Costa County?

Matt 35:27
You know, it depends on who you ask. I honestly have no grievances with the way things are being run right now, but I’m also not in the actual DA’s Office. So here there are, you know, there’s always factions that are going to complain about the powers that be and there are people who are very happy with the way things are. I don’t think we filed a death penalty case since DA Becton took over. But I, again, I’m fine with that because death penalty cases are illusory in California anyway, really.

Louis Goodman 35:56
You know, I have a comment about the death penalty while we’re at it, and then I’ll get back to you, Nabiel. You know what my beef with the death penalty is? It’s not so much that I don’t think that there’s certain murderers who deserve the death penalty, but what I really object to is that these dreadful, dreadful criminal are made into martyrs. And all of a sudden you have people who should be considered criminals, be locked up for the rest of their lives and then the government wants to take their life and they become heroes and martyrs. And that’s what really offends me. That’s why I’m against the death penalty.

Matt 36:45
Too narrowly against the death penalty. They’re just more against them at the death penalty does to people who deserve it.

Louis Goodman 36:52
I mean, I don’t think the death penalty does anything in terms of deterrence. I’ve done a lot of research on this. I don’t think it has anything to do with deterrence. I don’t think anybody thinks about it. I think it’s indiscriminately and applied and I think that, you know, clearly there’s this terrible racist factor to it if you look at the whole country and in California, the death penalty is basically a moot point anyway. So the fact that a death case hasn’t been filed, you know, I don’t find particularly interesting one way or the other. But I mean I’m just appalled by the way people put these criminals on pedestals only because of the death penalty.

Matt 37:36
My problem with the death penalty isn’t with the death penalty itself either, but it’s just obviously imperfect. And when the Innocence Project came to fruition, there were a lot of people exonerated off of death row.

Louis Goodman 37:48
Yeah. That’s the huge one, that’s the big, that’s the big thing. Yes.

Matt 37:51
That’s obviously a huge problem because if you know, there’s mistakes made and innocent people are in jail all the time, but that’s, you know, when you can’t ever take back and that’s the problem. So, you know, people say when guilt is without doubt or they’ve confessed, whatever, but even confessions we find out are there are fallible in some instances. So it just doesn’t make sense for me that as a civilized society, we need to put people to death.

Louis Goodman 38:18
Nabiel, what’s your take?

Nabiel 38:22
Yeah. You know, in terms of the martyrdom issue, I was trying to think of a famous example of that. That’s why I was a little bit stumped, but I know, what really jumped out to me were, my thoughts were these guys are spending 20, 30 years on death row, just the daily torture of kind of having that data finality, where these guys are thinking, ok, June 3rd, 2025. That’s it!

Louis Goodman 38:50
What’s your notion about progressive prosecution going forward? I mean, aside from the death penalty, there’s a lot of other things.

Nabiel 38:57
We had progressive prosecutors, in the Bay Area for decades now.

Louis Goodman 39:02
I think Gascón was clearly a progressive prosecutor and I would argue that even though she didn’t really bill herself as such, or doesn’t really bill herself as such, I would argue Nancy O’Malley is somewhat of a progressive prosecutor.

Matt 39:18
I’m willing to say that too but I’m not familiar enough with what’s going on in Alameda. But I would say, yeah, she doesn’t strike me as an extreme conservative.

Nabiel 39:31
Here’s something that I have noticed, on St. Mateo County, Santa Clara County, where it’s less progressive prosecution. Crime is less noticeable, homelessness is less noticeable. Those minor crimes are less noticeable. It’s those cities are a little bit easier sometimes to feel safe in perhaps. San Jose is a big city, it’s one of the biggest cities out there. You feel different walking, you know, of course you don’t walk down the streets of San Jose for fun, perhaps, but you know, you walk downtown San Francisco and before COVID walking downtown Oakland is dangerous. So any prosecutor that we do get, I hope recognizes we can be progressive. And our policies in certain ways, in terms of how much we prosecute people for crimes that we say are beyond their control, such as, you know, you need to steal to eat and survive. I don’t really think we see that that much, but…

Matt 40:39
Right now in San Francisco, cause they’re saying that in San Francisco now they don’t and this is what I heard and I haven’t done any research personally, but they don’t prosecute shoplifting anymore? And I can’t imagine that that’s true, but that’s what I heard. Is that accurate? Is that what you’re referring to?

Nabiel 40:55
Yeah. You know what I mean? It makes it harder. You know, it makes it harder than… I have clients, my clients are store wranglers, okay? And so when they’re getting shoplifted from, and they’re lawfully allowed to carry a firearm behind the register.

And you’re not going to go ahead shooting everybody that’s stealing from the store or shooting everybody that’s crazy and on drugs and causing commotion and vandalizing havoc, you know, destroying that $150 worth of property or less or more within their store. That creates issues, real issues for, for my clients who really are looking to just make a living, protect themselves and we have to deal with, they have to deal with a little bit more. They think they themselves have to become the police in essence, and to effectuate a citizen’s arrest to protect themselves and their property. And we haven’t found that balance yet. And in this county or in any county, apparently when we have these progressive prosecutors, so, I don’t know, I’m all for progressive prosecution, so be it. But you’re going to have to work out both sides of it to protect everybody’s whose interests need to be protected. Be progressive all you want, but people need to be protected all around.

Louis Goodman 42:05
What I’m hearing you say, Nabiel, is if I’m representing the client, be progressive. If I’m the citizen walking on the street, I want some serious prosecution here. And on that note, I think we’re going to have to wrap this up. We had a really fun talk. I’ve enjoyed doing it.

Matt 42:24
I feel like we solved most of society’s problems today.

Louis Goodman 42:27
Absolutely. Matt Fregi, thank you so much for joining Nabiel and me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. Nabiel, thank you so much for being here.

Nabiel 42:40
Louis and Matt, thank you. We’ll see you in court, guys.

Matt 42:42
Thank you very much for the invitation Nabiel and thank you very much for having me, it was a pleasure.

Louis Goodman 42:48
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. 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.

Nabiel 43:24
There’s always room for the wrong person to get caught up, but that’s why we have a system.

Love Thy Lawyer – Michael Meehan – 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!

Michael Meehan is admitted in California, Tennessee, and Kentucky. He supervises the managing attorneys in the Kavinoky law firm, better known as No Cuffs. He supervises the development and cultivation of future firm leaders, and he has personally represented criminal defendants in all stages of the proceedings. He served as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles County and as a reserve deputy sheriff. Michael Meehan, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Michael Meehan 01:03
Thank you for having me, Louis. Pleasure to be here.

Louis Goodman 01:05
I’m very happy to have you. You are intimately involved with a lot of my very serious competition. So maybe I can learn something that’ll help me out here.

Michael Meehan 01:18
Not too much, I hope.

Michael Meehan / Louis Goodman - Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman 01:21
Where are you from originally?

Michael Meehan 01:24
I was born in New York, but at the age of one, moved to the San Fernando Valley down in Los Angeles, and that’s where I grew up.

Louis Goodman 01:31
And where are you talking to us from right now?

Michael Meehan 01:34
River in San Rafael, California. That’s where I live and do most of my work.

Louis Goodman 01:39
Do you have your office in Marin County as well?

Michael Meehan 01:42
I really work mostly from home. Ever since the COVID 19 shutdowns it’s a lot easier to work from home. And I’ve pretty much worked from home my whole career because of my kids.

Louis Goodman 01:53
Can you describe what your practice is?

Michael Meehan 01:56
Throughout the state of California we’re only a criminal defense law firm. We focus primarily on DUIs that we do take any other type of criminal defense cases. And we have offices or lawyers in all the major cities throughout the state.

Louis Goodman 02:10
How many attorneys do you have in the firm?

Michael Meehan 02:13
As of today, we have 18 full-time attorneys that are employees that work and go to court for us. There’s another five attorneys that just do intake calls for the firm.

Louis Goodman 02:25
I know the name, NoCuffs.com. And I know that that is something that you work with, and I also mentioned the Kavinoky law firm. So can you explain like what the relationship there is and how that works?

Michael Meehan 02:40
Our company, the Kavinoky law firm was started by Darren Kavinoky about 20 years ago. About 15 years ago, he obtained the rights to 1-800-NoCuffs, the phone number, and that’s sort of a brand that he uses to market our firm and to get clients.

Louis Goodman 02:57
And how long have you been working with that firm?

Michael Meehan 03:02
About 15 years now.

Louis Goodman 03:03
You said that you were born in New York and then you moved to California. Is that where you went to high school?

Michael Meehan 03:10
I did. I went to Chatsworth high school out in the San Fernando Valley. Growing up, I didn’t realize that Chatsworth was the porn hub of the world, but I found after I moved away.

Louis Goodman 03:22
Well, after you graduated from the porn hub of the world, you went to college. Where’d you go?

Michael Meehan 03:28
UCLA.

Louis Goodman 03:30
And how was that experience for you?

Michael Meehan 03:31
It was great. I couldn’t be more happy with my experience at UCLA, it was my favorite time of my life.

Louis Goodman 03:37
What’d you do there besides take the classes?

Michael Meehan 03:41
Oh, pretty much anything outside of the classroom was my focus. I think mark Twain said, “Don’t let the classroom get in the way of your education.” And I took that to heart. I was very involved in student government orientation, the fraternity system. Pretty much anything you could be involved with at UCLA, I was involved with.

Louis Goodman 03:58
At one point you were actually student body president there.

Michael Meehan 04:01
Yes, I was. My senior year I got elected to be student body president. It was a contentious election, but I ended up serving a full term as student body president at my senior year. I really enjoyed that.

Louis Goodman 04:12
What’s the student body population of UCLA? I mean, there’s a lot of students there.

Michael Meehan 04:17
23,000 undergraduates.

Louis Goodman 04:20
And what made you want to take on that kind of responsibility?

Michael Meehan 04:24
I think it’s, I really liked helping people and I liked getting things done and I felt that. I could help make the student government more focused on the students, was my goal. And so I had been a general assembly person, which is sort of a Senator type person in the student government. And then the next year I ran for student body president.

Louis Goodman 04:43
At some point you went to law school. Did you take some time off between graduating from college and going to law school or did you just go right into law school?

Michael Meehan 04:51
No, I took a break. I’m not big on planning ahead, so when I graduated UCLA, after being student body president, I really didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do next. And fortunately, I got a job at UCLA and I was also, like you mentioned earlier, reserve deputy sheriff, and that sort of drew me in and eventually brought me into going to law school.

Louis Goodman 05:12
How much time did you take off between the time you graduated from college and the time you entered law school?

Michael Meehan 05:18
About 3 years.

Louis Goodman 05:20
And at what point in your life did you decide or know that you were going to be a lawyer?

Michael Meehan 05:27
There was an event that happened when I was on patrol as a deputy sheriff, that sort of kicked me in that direction quickly because what I thought was injustice. Well, I’ll give you the story. I was on patrol in Lenox, which is a sheriff station. It’s the area in LA that Inglewood didn’t want, so it’s not a great area. I was at a domestic violence call and a woman I was trying to talk to pulled out a bayonet and tried to stab me with it. And we eventually were able to get her to drop the weapon and arrest her. And I was in full uniform and had everything an officer would have, I looked like a regular officer. So the gun, belt, everything. And we arrested her for assaulting a police officer and a couple of months later, I never heard from the DA to come testify at the preliminary hearing. So I called the DA and said, “How come you never called me?” And she told me that we would resolve the case. And I thought, okay, well, how much time did the woman get? And she told me she had gotten time served. And I asked her, well, how much time was that? And she said, one day. And I was frustrated or really upset because I thought that I could have killed her, which I’m glad I didn’t. And, but that she only got one day for trying to stab a police officer seemed like that was not reasonable. And so at that point I decided I was going to go to law school, become a prosecutor and make sure that things were treated right. And people were protected. But after becoming a prosecutor, I realized there’s a lot of other factors that go into play when you’re trying cases.

Louis Goodman 07:07
So where did you go to law school?

Michael Meehan 07:08
Loyola Law School down in LA.

Louis Goodman 07:11
What did you think of actually being in law school after having seen the law from a different perspective?

Michael Meehan 07:19
I really enjoyed it. I liked the Socratic method a lot, and I liked being able to argue with professors. I enjoyed that part of it. So I eventually, I didn’t like being cooped up in the classroom as much, so I did a lot of internships when I was in law school.

Louis Goodman 07:35
Do you think that having taken some time off and worked in a legally related field helped you focus once you actually got to law school?

Michael Meehan 07:45
Oh, absolutely. I think it actually gave me a lot more perspective than a lot of the people that came right from college had, because I think you see more of the world than you did when you’re in college so you can see there’s a lot more perspectives that you would have from someone who’d never really been out in the world.

Louis Goodman 08:01
You graduated from Loyola. How did you get to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office?

Michael Meehan 08:07
I did a lot of internships in the LA DA’s office in law school. And my senior year I spent a whole semester there and then summer after I graduated while I was studying for the bar, I worked there also. And then at the end of when I got my bar results, then I was offered a job, which I was very happy and very fortunate for doing, being able to do that.

Louis Goodman 08:31
And what sort of work did you do as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney?

Michael Meehan 08:35
Well, I started out in their main DA’s Office downtown and just did a lot of like handoffs from the other DA’s, like preliminary hearings and minor things. And then I went to an actual satellite courthouse where I handled everything from arraignment all the way through trial, which I enjoyed a lot.

Louis Goodman 08:53
After you left Los Angeles DA, what did you do?

Michael Meehan 08:57
I moved, because of a relationship I moved to Kentucky, and went out there and the goal was to become a lawyer out there and work out there. But I had to take the bar again out there in order to become a lawyer because there was no reciprocity. So during that time I was waiting to take the bar and pass it, I ended up working or starting at a hair salon with my partner at the time and grew that business into a pretty successful company.

Louis Goodman 09:27
So you got some experience being a businessperson.

Michael Meehan 09:32
Oh, absolutely, yes. And working with hairdressers is definitely a different type of employment group than normal, than you generally deal with with lawyers. Much more challenging than lawyers.

Louis Goodman 09:44
Really?

Michael Meehan 09:46
Yes. When people feel that they’re an artist, they don’t always feel like coming to work on time as a good idea, so it’s definitely a challenge for me.

Louid Goodman 09:54
And then you also took the bar in the state of Tennessee at some point.

Michael Meehan 09:59
Actually in Tennessee, I was able to, they have reciprocity with Kentucky, so I didn’t have to take the bar again. I did take the bar again in Arizona and I passed it there, but I never got sworn in because we were moving a lot at the time so I moved to different states, but I did practice in Tennessee for quite some time.

Louis Goodman 10:18
What was the path that led you to your current job?

Michael Meehan 10:23
The current partner, when we were moving out to California, I had quadruplets while I was in Kentucky.

Louis Goodman 10:29
Wow!

Michael Meehan 10:30
Yeah, so when we were moving out to California, I really wanted to stay in criminal law. And so I applied and actually there was a job opening at the Kavinoky law firm.

Louis Goodman 10:42
And what did you do initially at the Kavinoky law firm?

Michael Meehan 10:46
I was a managing attorney, which is what we call the attorneys that go to court. So I was practicing in Northern California with another attorney and doing a lot of different counties up here.

Louis Goodman 10:57
How long have you been with Kavinoky now?

Michael Meehan 10:59
Almost 15 years now.

Louis Goodman 11:00
Wow. So that’s a relationship that’s really working out well for you?

Michael Meehan 11:06
Yeah, I mean, I think for the last 14 years I’ve been telling him how to fix the company and now I’ve just been moved up to a position where I can make the changes. So a lot of times, I think he was just ignoring my suggestions, but now that I’m in management I get to implement them and hopefully make the place a better place.

Louis Goodman 11:24
We’ll have to get him on the podcast and see what he has to say about that.

Michael Meehan 11:28
Exactly.

Louis Godman 11:29
What do you find challenging about managing attorneys?

Michael Meehan 11:36
Well, I think one of the challenges is that everyone does their practice differently and it’s not always different that it’s wrong. I don’t like being micromanaged, so I don’t want to micromanage other people, but oftentimes when I see that there’s a better way to do it, it’s hard for me not to step in and tell them how to do it as much as to let them learn from their mistakes. So that’s a challenge and also I think that everyone has a different work ethic and how much time are they’re going to put into a case or how much time they spend with the clients, and so that’s always a challenge too, because it’s not, there’s a lot of different ways to finish a case or to deal with the case and oftentimes you’ll end up at a good result, but maybe the route’s different. So I find that challenging and then also too, dealing with clients who are complaining about the employees is always a challenge too. When they’re not getting the responses they want or the clients aren’t getting what they expected.

Louis Goodman 12:32
When people call 1-800-NoCuffs, they presumably talk to one of your intake attorneys.

Michael Meehan 12:39
Correct.

Louis Goodman 12:41
Do they actually come in and sit down and have an interview or do you manage to do most of the signups over the phone?

Michael Meehan 12:49
I think most of the signups end up coming in over the phone. I mean, with COVID coming in, it’s been like almost a hundred percent, but most clients, since our main office is located in LA, the phone calls are often the only time they deal with the intake attorney is through the phone. Because a lot of times it’s like a DUI or something that’s more minor that some of the clients have actually moved back to out of state or they were here on vacation and left with a citation. So we deal with it that way but I would say a majority of the clients are all over the telephone.

Louis Goodman 13:22
Do you ever have a problem where somebody talks to an intake attorney, they really like that intake attorney and then they find out they’re being represented by a different individual in court? And how does your firm deal with that?

Michael Meehan 13:38
Well, we’ve had that sometimes, but most of our intake attorneys have been with us for quite some time. One of our main things in our firm is we’re a team. So they’ll tell the client upfront that they’re not going to represent them in court. I think it’s particularly easy for them when I’m the attorney, because they’re in LA and I’m up here. And they can explain it, but it’s oftentimes if they ever have a problem, since they’re attorneys, they can always call their intake attorney who will either help solve their problem or get in contact with me. So there’s never, we don’t break the bond. And the good thing is that they’ve been with us so long that they’re not promising things that can’t be delivered, because they’ll know how we as the managing attorneys will tell them if a particular court has a particular policy so they don’t make a promise, like in one court, you have to plead guilty. They won’t say, oh, you’ll plead no contest or something and discussing the case.

Louis Goodman 14:33
You’ve been practicing law for, you know, a fair amount of time now. What do you really like about practicing law?

Michael Meehan 14:39
Well, I like the being able to help people and get them through the process. I really like the interaction I have with the attorneys in court. I know that you miss it a lot more when the COVID came in and you couldn’t be around people. But I really enjoy that, I enjoy going into court, talking with people, waiting for the case to be called and dealing with the DAs. I really enjoy all that interaction and comradery.

Louis Goodman 15:03
If a young person were just coming out of college and thinking about a career, would you recommend the law as a career choice?

Michael Meehan 15:10
I would recommend it with caution. I would tell them to go work with a lawyer first, because I think a lot of times people have this ideal of what the job of a lawyer is and then they get into practice and they’re so bogged down with debt that they find it’s maybe not for them. I’d rather them see that upfront decide maybe that’s not their career choice.

Louis Goodman 15:31
Well, that kind of leads me into my next question, which is how has actually practicing law met or different from your expectations about it?

Michael Meehan 15:41
Well, I thought all lawyers were really rich, so that differed a lot because it’s not quite the road to wealth I thought it would be. I also think that there’s a lot of, the practice of law is a lot more delayed and it doesn’t seem to me, when I went to law school, I was looking at it from the perspective of a police officer so I thought it was very black and white. They committed the crime, they’re guilty and they’ll get the result. And so I think that there’s a lot more nuance than that, which I think is good from my perspective as a defense attorney, but it’s different than what I thought it would be when I went to law school.

Louis Goodman 16:19
One of the things that I was really interested in, in talking to you is because you’re an attorney who’s really involved in the business of practicing law and the business of running a law firm. And I’m wondering if you could talk about that a little bit, how that’s gone for you and how maybe that met or differed from your expectations?

Michael Meehan 16:42
I think my perspective of owning a business also helps with that. I think that a lot of times when I was doing private practice and representing clients myself as a sole practitioner, you always hope the business would take care of itself. And so you would believe people when they promise to pay you and then they ultimately don’t or they won’t pay you until they get their next case. And I think that you get bogged down. If you trust people too much, you ended up getting taken advantage of. So that, I found was a good perspective. I think I was never good and my strengths was not collecting money from people. So in the sense of when I was working for the firm, I prefer to get a regular paycheck and not have to worry about paying the rent each month. Working in the business in my current position, it’s really important to look at what our standards are and what we expect to collect before we go to court on a case. And it’s a lot more like cut and dry it, rather than you believe more people and take more chances because we have to make sure that we’re paying everybody in the firm. I think it’s good to have that perspective because it’s a lot easier to get stuck on cases that take up so much time that you’re not getting paid enough for them, whereas our firm tries to make it so that we don’t do that.

Louis Goodman 18:03
Yeah. I have a couple of comments about that. Well, one is that I don’t know how I would sleep at night if I had 18 attorneys to worry about paying. I mean, it’s just an enormous responsibility and I take my hat off to you and your partner for being able to run that kind of a business operation. There’s a podcaster named Neil Tyra. I’ll give him a little shout out here and he has a podcast called The Law Entrepreneur, and I think it’s a great podcast for anybody who’s an attorney to listen to. But he really feels that it’s malpractice on the part of law schools to do nothing about educating attorneys in terms of how to run a business. And you’re someone who got some experience running the business with a hair salon, but I’m just wondering if you had a comment about that.

Michael Meehan 18:58
Oh, I totally agree. I don’t think that the law schools talk about what it is to run a law firm or a business or making payroll. And I think that if they did that, I think one, it might discourage people from going to law school because they would understand that it’s a lot more difficult than just being good at your craft because you have to pay people. And it’s also, there’s a decision people make when they want to hire an assistant or hire another lawyer, if they can afford to pay them and they can have a stable job. So I definitely think if people had more of that perspective, they would know it going in because I know when I was practicing at the DA’s office, I got a paycheck regularly, but when I went out on my own it wasn’t there unless I was really working hard to find new cases. And so it just distracts you from doing the law and practicing the law. So I definitely think they should teach that.

Louis Goodman 19:51
Is there anything that, you know now that you really wished you knew before you had started practicing law or started being a managing attorney for a big firm?

Michael Meehan 20:02
I think, yeah. I think that knowing just. WelI, think the one thing that a quote I heard once was “You never think through someone else’s wallet” I’m not sure if that was in law school or somewhere else, but I often feel that people, when they quote someone a price, they think about what they would have could afford to do it rather than what the other person could afford. We did that in the hair salon where we would charge people $40 for a men’s haircut. And I think I wouldn’t pay that, but other people said, oh, that’s no problem. And so you price yourself for what you’re worth, not what they’re willing to pay. And then they’ll make that decision. And I think that oftentimes attorneys underprice themselves because either they don’t have confidence in themselves or they don’t think people can afford it, but there’s people out there who can, and you’re going to do a great job with them. And so I think you should get rewarded for it because we often don’t take into account how much it costs us to go to law school and all of our experience.

Louis Goodman 21:02
What do you think is the best advice you’ve ever received? And what advice would you, or do you give to young attorneys?

Michael Meehan 21:11
You should never sacrifice your reputation for a case or a client. You’re going to be in front of these people again and again, and you really don’t want to have a reputation of someone who’s untrustworthy. And I tell my clients too, to my employees. I said, never promise something you can’t deliver. And never lie to the court. It’s not worth it. And it’ll come back to bite you.

Louis Goodman 21:38
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Michael Meehan 21:40
I don’t think it’s fair because it’s so inconsistent. I think there’s such a big disparity between counties, between courthouses, between DAs that the same conduct in one county will not result in the same charges or outcome as it would in a different county. I think in that sense, it’s unfair. I think there’s a lot of unfairness in, like racial unfairness and other things. But I think that just when I was young and you’d watch like the Dukes of Hazzard, if you got across the county line, it would be, you’d be free to go. Whereas here, if you go to a different county, your charges might go from a misdemeanor or an infraction to a felony, and you don’t really know the difference if you don’t choose where to commit crimes, you would think. But I just think in that sense, it’s unfair that you could end up someplace where you would have a major, serious crime, whereas three blocks over you might not even have a charge filed.

Louis Goodman 22:35
I’m going to shift gears here a little bit. What’s your family life been like? And how has practicing law fit into that?

Michael Meehan 22:43
Well, like I said earlier, I have quadruplets, so it’s affected it a lot because when they were born, they were in Kentucky and I’m in a gay relationship. So me and my partner were raising quadruplets and Kentucky is not the greatest place for open thought and open-mindedness. So, when we moved to California, they were just about to enter elementary school. So it really impacted my practice of law because I wanted to be at home more. And at the time when I first started working for the firm, the manager had come to be and said, “Oh, you have to stay in the office till 5:30 each night” when we had an office in San Francisco. And I told him, “Okay, well, this is my two weeks’ notice cause I’m not going to do that because I’m not going to get home at seven or eight at night.” And then they changed their policy real quickly. So I definitely have tried to make sure that my practice allowed me to spend time going to little league games and spending more time with the kids while they’re growing up. Now that they’re all in junior college, it’s really trying to figure out how to pay for it and do it that way. But I’m less bound to be home at a certain time.

Louis Goodman 23:54
How about a book or a movie that it might be related to the law, or might not be that you would really recommend people read?

Michael Meehan 24:04
I remember before I went to law school, I’ve read One L. I thought that was a great book on getting the idea of how law school was.

Louis Goodman 24:12
How do you define success?

Michael Meehan 24:14
I think success is being happy and content and not having the stress overwhelm you, because I think that if you’re able to pay for things and not have to worry if your check’s going to balance, that’s going to give you some sense of success, but also being healthy and having the ability to appreciate what you have rather than always be striving for the next thing.

Louis Goodman 24:39
Let’s say you came into some real money. You and your partner came into 3 or 4 billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Michael Meehan 24:48
I think I would take more time off. I had some time off before and I wrote a book, a novel that I really enjoyed doing. So I would probably do more of that. I mean, I always tell people I would go buy a lighthouse on the ocean and just write. I think I enjoy going to court, but I probably wouldn’t go as often as I do and be more selective in the cases I handle, but I would probably travel more and I would definitely pay off all of the debt that my family has accrued, like for housing and other things and put that all behind them, cause I think that really limits your opportunities in life.

Louis Goodman 25:23
Tell me a little bit about this book that you wrote and is it available?

Michael Meehan 25:27
Yes. I wrote a book. It was actually, I was visiting my in-laws over several years in West Virginia, and there’s not quite a lot to do there. So, I’d always spent my time reading novels and I thought I could do a better job than that. So over a course of a couple of years, I spent time and I wrote a novel it’s sort of a thriller type novel called Keanu. And I wrote it. I really enjoyed writing it. And then I connected with some high school and college friends who edited it for me. And published it and you can get it on Amazon. It wasn’t picked up by Netflix as the next movie to make me millions and graduate from the law practice but I enjoyed writing it and I would enjoy writing more of them. Just I found that I have less time lately.

Louis Goodman 26:13
Let’s say I had a magic wand. What was one thing in the world, legal world, or otherwise that you could change, what would that be?

Michael Meehan 26:20
I would like to do like wave the magic wand and make everyone have to be empathetic. So when people like, say something, let’s say it’s racist, they would feel how it feels to the person they’re saying it to, or when they’re hurting somebody or doing something else that they would feel it instantly. Because I think that would really stop a lot of the aggression and anger that people feel because they would have to feel it themselves.

Louis Goodman 26:46
If someone wanted to get in touch with you. If someone listening to this wanted to be in touch with nocuffs.com firm or with you personally, how would you go about making that connection?

Michael Meehan 26:59
They could, I mean, look me on the state bar website, they could go call 1-800-NoCuffs and ask for me and that would get routed to me or they could call me. My number is on the state bar website. It’s my cell phone, they can call me directly.

Louis Goodman 27:14
And what’s the website?

Michael Meehan 27:15
1-800-NoCuffs.

Louis Goodman 27:17
Dot com?

Michael Meehan 27:17
Or NoCuffs.com.

Louis Goodman 27:18
NoCuffs.com. Okay, great. Is there anything that you want to talk about that we have not covered?

Michael Meehan 27:25
It’s the one thing that I guess it’s sort of unrelated to the law, but I think there’s a definitely a distinct challenge with people, same sex couples raising children. It’s been a challenge with how people treat them and I think there’s also still a lot of bias when gay and lesbian people in the court, sometimes more so in Kentucky and Tennessee. But I think that’s just something to be aware of. There’s all kinds of different backgrounds of people. And even though it doesn’t affect your ability to practice law, I think sometimes people make judgements based on that part of your life.

Louis Goodman 27:58
I’m wondering if you wanted to talk a little bit about how that may have affected you and your practice or the business that you’re in or the way you’ve dealt with the courts or the way you felt the courts have dealt with you?

Michael Meehan 28:13
I noticed that there’s for the most part, it doesn’t really come up as an issue, but when I had the quadruplets, it was national news because it was the first gay couple to have quadruplets through the use of a surrogate. So, and at the time I was in Kentucky and it became a big issue and a lot of clients would say they didn’t want to hire me because of that. And then I’ve also noticed at some times, if I wear a gay pride pin to court and certain more rural courts in the state, you get a lot of second looks and I just think people make it clear that they don’t appreciate it. So I think in that sense, it’s unfortunate, cause I think that it doesn’t affect my ability to be a good lawyer, but it does affect how people treat you. And I would hate for something like that to cause them to treat my clients worse because that’s really not fair to my clients. But it’s also not something I think I should have to hide nor would I.

Louis Goodman 29:14
Let’s say you got 60 seconds on the Super Bowl. Someone gave you a big microphone, big platform, 60 seconds to speak to the nation, really to the world. What kind of message would you want to put out there?

Michael Meehan 29:31
My boss would want me to promote 1-800-NoCuffs, but I would probably tell people that everyone should take the time to get involved in the elections and vote because everything, every person they vote for, it is going to side with our laws are, and that everyone should serve on jury duty they’re called.

Louis Goodman 29:51
Michael Meehan, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to talk to you.

Michael Meehan 30:00
Thank you, Louis. I really enjoyed it.

Louis Goodman 30:02
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. 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.

Michael Meehan 30:40
But I actually enjoyed, I enjoyed studying in law school a lot better than I did as an undergraduate.

Michael Meehan / Louis Goodman - Podcast Transcript

LTL – Seth Steward – 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!

Seth Steward served in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office under Kamala Harris and George Gascón. He’s tried over 70 cases to jury verdict. A marathon runner, he completed Boston in 2014. Seth joined the United States Air Force and the California Air National Guard. He served as a flight engineer on a combat search and rescue helicopter and completed tours of duty in both Iraq and Kenya. He has taught at Merritt College and at Oakland Technical High School. He served as chief of staff to Oakland City Councilmember Dan Kalb. He is currently running for district attorney of Alameda County. Seth Stewart, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.

Seth Steward 01:19
Good afternoon, happy to be here.

Louis Goodman 01:21
I’m very happy to have you here. I’ve had the privilege of interviewing the other three candidates for district attorney, and I’m happy to make your acquaintance. I know a couple of the candidates pretty well. I’ve never met you before, so it’s a pleasure to meet you.

Seth Steward 01:39
Pleasure to meet you too. Thanks for having me on the show.

Louis Goodman 01:42
Where are you talking to me from right now?

Seth Steward 01:44
This is my house. This is where I live. I live in Oakland, West Oakland.

Louis Goodman 01:48
And are you working these days or are you just running for district attorney?

Seth Steward 01:52
I’m working. I’ve actually had to take a chunk out of my day to make this all work. So yeah, I’m definitely working. It’s an interesting balance. It’s actually not the easiest thing to do, but yeah, we do our best to make it all happen.

Louis Goodman 02:06
Well, having run for office while I was working, I know exactly what you’re talking about and how difficult it is to juggle those responsibilities. So what sort of work are you doing right now? Who are you working for, what sort of work are you doing?

Seth Steward 02:22
So I am the chief of staff for Oakland City Council member, Dan Kalb. And in that role, we do a lot of things. In terms of drafting legislation, reaching out to constituents, addressing issues and concerns.

Louis Goodman 02:34
Well, let me stop you right there, then. How much staff does a council member have, who’s an Oakland City Council member?

Seth Steward 02:43
It’s fairly small, there are four of us that work there. And one of them is part-time, three of us full time.

Louis Goodman 02:48
Councilmember Kalb is my councilmember, so thank you for your service!

Seth Steward 02:55
I was going to say, if you have any questions or issues, feel free to call the office and we’ll do our best to take care of it.

Louis Goodman 03:02
Where are you from originally?

Seth Steward 03:02
I grew up in Portland, Oregon, is where I grew up. I’ll say except for third and fourth grade where I was in Alameda, California.

Louis Goodman 03:12
Did you go to high school in Portland?

Seth Steward 03:14
Yes. Yes, I did. I went to Benson Tech, which is a public high school there in Portland. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 03:19
What did you do in high school?

Seth Steward 03:21
Well, I graduated, which is the most important thing. But I majored, they had majors in my school. Now my technical school, it doesn’t mean tech, like the way we talk about now, like Twitter or Facebook or something like that, it means tech like you could graduate there and be an ASC Certified mechanic, for example, or aviation mechanics, where I did electronic engineering, which are things like transistors and conductors and learning how all of that stuff works. That was my major. There was also a radio major, you could be a medical assistant coming out of Benson. There’s a number of different types of positions.

Louis Goodman 03:57
After you graduated from Benson, where’d you go to college?

Seth Steward 04:01
I went to Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. I played soccer and ran track there, which I also did in high school.

Louis Goodman 04:08
Occidental is quite a different circumstance than being in Portland, Oregon, I would imagine.

Seth Steward 04:16
It is, it is. Occidental is in Eagle Rock, which is the neighborhood there it’s right in between Pasadena and Glendale. And it’s totally different, the weather’s different, the geography is different. Going to college is totally different. Everything’s different. Yeah. Everything was different.

Louis Goodman 04:33
At some point you graduated from Occidental and you went to law school. Did you take some time off between college and law school?

Seth Steward 04:44
I did. I did. I had a four year break between school as it were. I was a choral fellow out of college here in the Bay Area. After that I started working in the San Francisco Mayor’s Office and I worked there for about three years until I went off to law school.

Louis Goodman 05:03
When did you first start thinking about law school and why?

Seth Steward 05:07
I didn’t totally know what I was going to do with my life, but I was working in the mayor’s office when I made a decision to go to law school. It’s actually the same reason I am running for district attorney. I want to make communities safer and more just, is the short answer. The longer answer is, I was in a community meeting and I was giving this presentation at the police station there and Turk and Fillmore Street and having a conversation with people and I explained what the program was, all it entailed, et cetera. I thought it was great in terms of trying to move the ball forward. An older woman, an older African-American woman came up to me and she said, what are you doing about the death of my grandson? I didn’t have a good answer. And that bugged me. I wanted to be able to provide her with a better answer. So I went to law school and I became a prosecutor.

Louis Goodman 06:04
So when you went to law school, did you have prosecution in mind as a career goal?

Seth Steward 06:10
I did. I did. I mean, I thought about potentially, I considered, criminal law was what made sense to me. I thought a little bit about being a defense attorney because I thought that also made sense, but prosecution was where I ended up and that’s where my focus was. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 06:29
Where’d you go to law school?

Seth Steward 06:31
George Washington Law School in Washington, DC.

Louis Goodman 06:34
Now that’s another big move, going from the west coast to really a school that feels like it’s sitting at the center of the universe in a lot of ways.

Seth Steward 06:46
Yeah. Foggy Bottom is a pretty interesting neighborhood. It’s right next to the World Bank, right next to the IMF. I mean, a couple of blocks from the White House, the law school is, so it’s a pretty impressive place to go and to think about law and to learn about law. And it was a great experience. I love Washington DC. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 07:07
Now at some point you ended up back in California at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. And you also had a stint in the United States Air Force. I’m wondering if you could just kind of set up the timeline for those two things?

Seth Steward 07:23
Yes, absolutely. So I was hired to work for Kamala Harris at the time while she was the District Attorney in San Francisco. And so that job was great, I absolutely loved it. And I had an opportunity, there was a transition there. George Gascón became the district attorney and I was still there and I still was having a great time.

I had an opportunity to go back to school. I applied for and got into a master’s in public administration program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. So I moved to Boston for a year. And that program was great. It was outstanding. So I was able to take a leave of absence from my job. It was in 2012, 2013. In April of 2013, April 15th, 2013.

Boston in the state of Massachusetts has a big event. It’s called Patriot’s Day. It’s also called Marathon Monday because it’s the same day that they run the Boston Marathon. Usually there is also a Boston Red Sox game happening. And so it’s a pretty exciting holiday. Two men that year decided to blow up the Boston Marathon.

Louis Goodman 08:37
We all remember.

Seth Steward 08:39
And so when that happened, I decided to run the 2014 Boston Marathon and join. I was old at the time. I was in my mid thirties, kind of old to be joining the military, but I did, I signed up to be a flight engineer on a combat search and rescue helicopter. And that’s what I’ve been doing part-time for the last eight years.

Louis Goodman 08:58
So you’re still doing that?

Seth Steward 09:01
I just got out in January, so I just, just finished. Yeah, just finished. It’s a little bit bittersweet. It’s something that I still miss and I think I’m going to always miss.

Louis Goodman 09:14
How did you make the connection to get into the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office?

Seth Steward 09:19
I applied, I mean, I literally just applied. When I was a summer, let me think again. I think it was a 2L summer in my 2L summer year I interned there. And I literally just walked in and said, “Hey, can I intern? Do you need anybody? You know, you need anybody to do any extra help around?” And they said, “Yeah, we’ll take you.”

And so I was there for a month. I actually split my summer. So for any law students listening to this, I split my summer between the Manhattan DA’s Office and the San Francisco DA’s Office. So, I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I highly recommend if you have an opportunity and you’re thinking about things, if you can split your summer, it was a good opportunity for me.

Louis Goodman 09:59
So you were at the DA’s Office for a couple of years, and then you went back to Boston to do this fellowship. Is that correct?

Seth Steward 10:08
It was a full-on degree program, but because it was for older people, they called it the mid-career master’s program in public administration. So I got a master’s degree out of it and met a lot of people, learned a ton and had a great time.

Louis Goodman 10:24
And then you decided you were going to join the Air Force?

Seth Steward 10:27
Right, which was hard because I was trying to do that and keep my job. So I was able to, but it was not an easy thing. I mean, I was definitely gone for times. I went to Iraq, I went to Kenya and then I was also gone for trainings before that. So there were times, parts of the office where I disappeared for a little while and then I would come back and try cases and get assigned to a unit and do all of that stuff. And so I then I would go back to being a member of the air force. The way the guard works, it’s similar to a reserve status in terms of like it’s one weekend a month, two weeks, a year kind of thing. And so it doesn’t take the place of a full-time job.

Louis Goodman 11:09
But you did spend some time on active duty when you served overseas.

Seth Steward 11:15
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 11:17
What was that like?

Seth Steward 11:19
War is, I think it’s different for each person. I think it’s a hard thing to generalize and then, but there are definitely some things that I think are the same, no matter where you are. My mission is great. What we do is combat search and rescue, you’re in a helicopter, and it’s your job to rescue people.

Louis Goodman 11:37
You’ve had a very varied career doing a number of things. You’re obviously an extremely talented guy. What do you really like about being involved in practicing law?

Seth Steward 11:53
What’s great about practicing law is to me is you’re solving and you’re doing your best to try to make sure that the world is a better place every single day. It should be a better place because of the stuff you did that day.

Louis Goodman 12:07
Would you recommend the law to a young person thinking about a career choice?

Seth Steward 12:12
Absolutely. But I would also say that that it’s also a person specific. And I think that there’s enough things about the law that are interesting. I think a lot of people would find it a good career choice, absolutely. Because the law covers everything. Everything that we do, there’s a law covering it. And so it’s worth, I think, thinking. But you know, if somebody wants to be an entrepreneur, you could definitely be a lawyer. If somebody wants to really focus on, I don’t know, white collar crime, or if they want to make sure, get into mergers and acquisitions. I mean, there’s all kinds of stuff that you can do as an attorney.

Louis Goodman 12:42
What about a military career?

Seth Steward 12:44
I think it’s great. It was great for me, both personally and professionally. Being in the Air Force in particular is a wonderful opportunity to serve your country, to do something bigger than yourself. And I’ll say just briefly, the motto for Air Force Rescue is, “These things we do, that others may live.” That means something to me and it’s gonna mean something to me for the rest of my life. And I think that that type of thing, when you give yourself some to something bigger than who you are, to an idea, to, to morals and principles that you believe in, and you put your life on the line for it that holds some value.

Louis Goodman 13:16
Do you think that having taken some time off between college and law school helped you really focus when you were in law school?

Seth Steward 13:24
Absolutely, absolutely. For me anyway, I definitely needed some time away and having a chance to have a break is a great benefit. I always tell everybody that I’ve talked to, if they’re thinking about going to law school, I mean, if they can take at least a year gap or more would be, it’s great to be able to, I’ll tell you why this is important.

Louis Goodman 13:48
Please.

Seth Steward 13:49
Lawyers need good judgment.

Louis Goodman 13:52
True.

Seth Steward 13:54
There’s this funny joke, but it makes sense, right? The way you get good judgment is through experience and then what you get experience is through bad judgment, right? It’s kind of funny and it’s also kind of true. It’s hard to have really good judgment at 22 years old. It’s really hard. And if all you did was go straight through law school, it’s really hard to develop judgment once you’re already a practicing lawyer and you’re trying to figure out what this case is worth. If you’ve had some outside experiences, you can use those experiences to help build your judgment.

Louis Goodman 14:25
Well, how has actually practicing law as a district attorney met or differed from your expectation?

Seth Steward 14:33
I would say, I didn’t really know what it was going to be like, except for watching maybe Law and Order or something like that before I went to law school. But once I got to law school and I was able to both intern at the San Francisco DA’s Office, intern at the Manhattan DA’s Office, where I met some of the people that they based the characters on, that was cool. And so once I did those things, I had a much better idea about what to expect coming in the door, because I’d already done it.

Louis Goodman 15:07
You are currently running for district attorney. When did you start thinking about that as a career move? Have you always wanted to be an elected district attorney? Have you thought of yourself as an elected official, as opposed to someone who’s working for the government?

Seth Steward 15:25
I’ve always thought about trying to find ways to help people and I’ve always thought about trying to find ways to make situations safer and better and more just. Those things have always been true regardless of what type of job I’m doing. If so, the current job, for example. I’m working for Councilmember Dan Kalb and we got some legislation passed banning choke holds and carotid restraints following the death of George Floyd. I’m always going to find ways to make a difference where I live, to make people safer, to make the community safer and to make it more just, and I think that regardless of the particular role that I happen to, that’s my focus.

Louis Goodman 16:01
Well, what prompted you to get involved at this specific time in this race?

Seth Steward 16:08
What’s happening in Oakland, and what’s happening in the Bay Area generally, what’s happening in Alameda County. And what I mean by that is our current system is failing. It’s failing in a number of ways. People don’t feel safe. We had 134 murders in the city of Oakland alone last year. The number of freeway shootings have skyrocketed. The types of retail theft that we’ve seen, whether it’s throughout the whole county, whether it’s, or it’s in San Francisco or Walnut Creek or Livermore or Hayward, all of these things are causing huge problems and it’s making people change our behavior. This needs to stop. The policies of the past, the policies that we’re living under now are the ones that have created our current conditions and we need new ones.

Louis Goodman 16:59
Can you think of a specific policy that you would change?

Seth Steward 17:03
Be smart on crime and follow the science. That’s to me, the level of data that we have is just unclear and there’s no policy regarding data integrity. And so we don’t really know what’s actually happening in the DA’s Office. So how can you do anything or change anything if you don’t even know what you currently have?

Louis Goodman 17:21
Yeah, I guess if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.

Seth Steward 17:24
No you can’t.

Louis Goodman 17:26
Well, how’s the campaign going? You know, what do you think of campaigning? How about raising money? I’m a former candidate, and I know what it’s like.

Seth Steward 17:36
I would say, well, first off I think the campaign is going great. We’re picking up endorsements, that’s going well. Endorsements are a thing as you know, people use it as a proxy and money to your second question. People use endorsements and money as proxy to figure out how good is this campaign, how meaningful is it. I can tell you, we raised over a 100 thousand dollars in the first two months, that’s really hard to do, and we’re excited about it. And in terms of being able to move forward, to bring a message to the people of Alameda County that we’re gonna have different, we’re going to have responsible, thoughtful change here in the DA’s Office. We’re going to focus on violent crime, we’re going to make sure that people have the resources they need and by people, I mean, DA’s and investigators and paralegals, et cetera, to be able to do their jobs. Right now, they’re short on attorneys. We need to staff up and be able to hire as many people as possible to be able to do the job. So that’s another thing that I’m also focused on as well.

Louis Goodman 18:31
How much money do you think it’s going to take to run a serious campaign county-wide for district attorney?

Seth Steward 18:37
I’d say 300 thousand dollars, which is a lot of money.

Louis Goodman 18:40
Do you have a 30 second elevator speech?

Seth Steward 18:44
I don’t know if I have a 30 second one, but I might have a solid, maybe I don’t even know, maybe a minute or so.

Louis Goodman 18:54
Well, let’s hear the elevator speech. We’ll hope that the elevator is moving slowly between the floors.

Seth Steward 19:03
Sounds good. So as a long time Alameda County resident, I can’t sit back while our criminal justice system fails to keep us safe, fails to do justice and fails to keep peace in our community. We need change. In my diverse lived experiences make me the best candidate to bring change in Alameda County. I was raised by a single mother and there I learned the values of service, excellence and fairness. I spent 13 years as a prosecutor handling hate crimes, domestic violence, arson, and while collaborating with alternative courts and diversion programs. I’m a proud Air Force veteran, and the Air Force motto is, “These things we do, that others may live.” I bring that same level of duty and commitment to the District Attorney’s Office. As district attorney, I will prioritize safety. I will stem the rise in violent crime, expand access to alternative courts, address the root causes of crime, hold law enforcement accountable, fight racism and bias, eliminate the death penalty and expand victim price.

Louis Goodman 20:05
Well done. I think you brought it in at under a minute. What, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?

Seth Steward 20:14
I think we’re starting to get into that now in the sense of the way these alternative courts are working. And so I’d say two things, one that, and then two leading outside the courtroom. And I’ll have a couple of examples for that. So in terms of the way the legal system works, a lot of it is adversarial, as it should be. But there are times when we need to be collaborative. And alternative courts do a good job of bringing together what would normally be considered adverse parties along with the case manager and a judge to try to figure out what’s actually the best outcome in a case. And I think that collaborative courts do a really good job because they have lower recidivism rates than the traditional court systems. So we know the crime goes down when people go to alternative courts. And so I would definitely expand access to alternative courts. The other thing, in terms of changing the system is, we also need to change the, and this is going, I think a little bit outside your question, but I’m hoping I answer it. We need to change the systems on how people get into the criminal justice system in the first place, right? So we know that one of the best ways to lower the crime rate is increased the high school graduation rate. So how can I, as district attorney work with the Alameda County Department of Education, Alameda County School Board, the other school boards in town, the Department of Public Health, all of these other, what I would call support agencies, how can we support the growth and development of people so they don’t become either victims or defendants in the criminal justice system. I absolutely believe in trying to support people further on upstream so we don’t have to catch them as many of them downstream. I believe in financing trauma counseling, violence prevention programs, job development, educational opportunities, that kind of stuff. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 21:59
I’m not asking you to make a campaign commitment here, but it has struck me as a practicing attorney, you know, former Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, criminal defense attorney in Alameda County, that other than murder cases, 99% of criminal cases in Alameda County are resolved at some point before going to trial as a result of some sort of negotiation. And whether it’s a plea bargain, whether it’s a diversion program, whether it is something that happens before going to trial, most cases are resolved that way. And I’m wondering if as district attorney, you think, or just as Seth, you think that getting away from this adversarial system and trying to use more mediation, more understanding with each other, more work in trying to come up with appropriate negotiations might be helpful going forward?

Seth Steward 23:08
Absolutely, absolutely. I’d say a couple of things. One of the knocks on the criminal justice system is the concept or the idea of overcharging. That district attorneys may go and charge things that they know they can’t really prove, but they do it anyway because they think they might get a better negotiated agreement. And that’s the kind of thing that to me is unconscionable. You can never do that and we need to make sure that that doesn’t happen. Absolutely cannot happen. It destroys trust in the system and makes it impossible to have fairness. I would also say that working together to achieve an outcome where everybody feels like there’s some benefit in there, some value to it and most importantly where safety is improved, I think is a wonderful thing. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 24:06
It has occurred to me that in many ways the judges have become overwhelmed with judicial responsibilities. And I’m wondering if there might be some way to do some sort of collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office, with the judges to have some sort of mediators special masters, people who would be involved with the line DAs and the line public defenders and the private bar to be able to talk about and negotiate cases?

Seth Steward 24:48
That’s a good question. I think that’s a good idea generally.

Louis Goodman 24:54
I’m not asking you to make a campaign commitment about this. I’m just like Louis talking to Seth about this, you know?

Seth Steward 24:59
I hear ya, I hear ya. What I think is interesting, right? So when I was a young attorney, collaborative courts weren’t really a thing, diversion wasn’t really a thing. And now I think there’s, there’s 10 or so collaborative courts here in Alameda County. I’d like to add a couple of more neighborhood courts and community courts. Those are great opportunities for people and it’s a chance to where people can really try to figure out what’s the best way to move forward, where everybody is safe, people get their cognitive or their emotional needs met. Whether it’s something that somebody might have a drug problem or a veteran’s court issue, where they’re suffering from some type of issue and be able to get them the services they need, and then also be able to keep people safe all at the same time.

Louis Goodman 25:50
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Seth Steward 25:53
When I was younger I saw the riots in Los Angeles and I lived in Portland, Oregon. I saw them on TV. And I know what happened before that. I saw the video of Rodney King being beaten, and I saw the people that beat him get found not guilty. I also saw, I think in two years later, the white Bronco driving down the freeway on TV and a man was accused of killing his wife and another man that was there. OJ Simpson was accused of killing two people and I saw a documentary about it later, just recently, not the movie, but the documentary part. I think it was, it was put on by ESPN or something. And they talked about the defense attorneys, making sure that OJ didn’t take his medicine to make his hands, make it hard to put the glove on and that they changed all the photos in his house to try to change what the jury’s perceptions of OJ were. Those were the only two examples that come to mind when you asked me this question. I would say the other one most recently is Derek Chauvin and then the Ahmaud Arbery cases. I can tell you, I did not know how those were going to go. I know that some people have really strong opinions like, oh, of course they were going to find him guilty. I had no idea, none.

Louis Goodman 27:23
I don’t think anyone who’s tried cases in front of a jury will tell you they have an understanding of what’s going to happen because juries, as you and I well know, can do things that are really unexpected.

Seth Steward 27:38
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Louis Goodman 27:41
What sort of issues do you think you’ll be facing as DA if elected?

Seth Steward 27:47
Well, I think we’re in this interesting time right now where there was this swing towards maybe law enforcement should be doing things differently, following the death of George Floyd. And there were all of these arguments happening, and then there’s been this huge uptick in crime, unbelievably historic rise in crime, actually. And so the main thing we need to do is make sure that we are doing our jobs to focus on violent crime and making sure that people are safe.

Louis Goodman 28:19
Well, you know, there’s a lot of talk these days about so-called “woke” or “progressive” DAs, and I’m wondering what your take on progressive as opposed to more traditional philosophies of criminal enforcement and prosecution are?

Seth Steward 28:40
So I would say that there’s some things that we can take from both that are effective in making people safe. And there’s things that we can lose, I think, from at least from traditional that I can think of, traditional prosecution that we can make people say. I consider myself a progressive DA. I believe that for example, you shouldn’t be able to be free out on bail based on how much money you have, I know the law has just changed on that recently with the Humphrey case. But I would say that it’s just important to note that for traditional DAs, if you’re a poor person, you’re generally in jail pending your case. And if you’re a rich person, you’re generally not. And so I would say that it’s important to be able to try to work on some things that can change the system. Also, we need to be able to prosecute law enforcement police officers who violate the law. Absolutely. We need to be able to prosecute those folks and we need to be able to do that independently in an effective, meaningful way, and still be able to have relationships with that particular police department.

And that’s, that’s important to be able to, to balance and have it. It’s critical that everybody has to know that if you break the law, regardless of whether you’re wearing a uniform or you’re not wearing uniform, you’re going to get prosecuted the same way. People have to know that. That has to be true.

Louis Goodman 30:03
I want to shift gears here a little bit, Seth. What’s your family personal life been like and how has practicing law and now running for office affected that or fit in?

Seth Steward 30:18
It’s mostly non-existent, my personal life. I would say that I am in an incredibly wonderful relationship and she’s amazing. She’s an incredible woman. And yeah, so I do my best to try to balance that stuff, but I would say that that balance in this case is usually picking up one thing while you’re dropping something else and then picking up something else and dropping that and dropping some other thing. That’s generally how it works.

Louis Goodman 30:51
So you’re not balancing, you’re juggling.

Seth Steward 30:55
Yeah. Not well, not well.

Louis Goodman 31:00
Now when you’re not practicing law and when you’re not running for office, I think you probably can remember back to such a time, what sort of recreational pursuits do you have? I know that you were very involved in running it one time.

Seth Steward 31:18
I do a lot of athletics. I was a coach, I was a boxing coach for a long time. I was an amateur fighter a long time ago, but then I started coaching. I like it, I get a lot out of it, actually. While I was at Harvard, I was the assistant boxing coach. And so that, that was a great experience. I try to coach, anytime we get deployed, I usually ended up coaching boxing to whoever’s there. So that’s always fun. I used to play soccer in high school and college. So as many times I get a chance to kick a ball, I like to do that. Yeah. I’m not on a team right now, so I’m looking for a team.

Louis Goodman 31:45
There are four candidates running for district attorney of Alameda County now. All four are African-American. So no matter what happens, we are going to end up with an African-American district attorney of Alameda County for the first time. And I’m wondering if you have a comment about that?

Seth Steward 32:06
It’s a wonderful humbling opportunity to be part of a group of people that are in the process of changing the world.

Louis Goodman 32:13
Let’s say you came into some real money, several billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?

Seth Steward 32:22
That’s a lot. That’s not millions, that’s like, I don’t even know who has that. That’s like Oprah money, maybe?

Louis Goodman 32:28
It’s Oprah money, it’s Bezos money, it’s you know, Musk money. I mean, you wouldn’t have any trouble paying to run a campaign for district attorney of Alameda County. You wouldn’t need to ask for another campaign contribution from anybody.

Seth Steward 32:43
Well, I keep running my race, absolutely. I’d make sure my mom has, I’d make sure the rest of my family was okay. I would, that’s a lot of money. I would definitely think about creating opportunities for other people. I really like what LeBron James did in terms of creating a school. I think that was amazing. In the school, the amount of resources that he put into it. It was incredible. I definitely try to give back in that way to make sure that the people who currently don’t have educational opportunities and opportunities for success and get those opportunities. Absolutely.

Louis Goodman 33:16
Seth, if someone’s listening to this podcast, they want to get in touch with you, they want to get in touch with your campaign, they want to learn more about you and your campaign, how can they go about doing that?

Seth Steward 33:30
Well, thank you so much for asking. They can go to sethstewardforda.com. It’s S E T H S T E W A R D as in Delta and an F O R D A.com. That’s my website. You can check it out, read all about what we’re doing, what we stand for, who’s endorsed us, all that good stuff. If you want to email me, you can email me at [email protected]

Louis Goodman 33:56
Seth, is there anything that you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed, we haven’t covered that you’d like to put out there?

Seth Steward 34:03
I want to say it’s also critical for the DA to argue for things like, Hey, you know what? We need to make sure that for example, the Pleasanton Mental Health Response Program or the heart program in Hayward is getting the resources that they need to be successful. We also need to make sure that we fight for resources for disenfranchised communities. We need to make sure that the schools are good, that the parks work, that the public transit works, that people are able to get to and from. Those are the things that are stopping people from being successful and those are the things that the DA needs to fight for.

Louis Goodman 34:39
Seth Steward, thank you so much for joining me this afternoon on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It really has been a pleasure to meet you and to talk with you.

Seth Steward 34:48
Louis, thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate it.

Louis Goodman 34:51
That’s it for today’s episode of Love Thy Lawyer. If you enjoyed listening, please share it with a friend and follow the podcast. If you have comments or suggestions, send me an email. 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.

Seth Steward 35:29
Being in a combat search and rescue helicopter is inherently dangerous and there’s always a number of things that can go wrong. And then there’s a couple of times where things do go wrong. It does make you question your time, if your time has been well spent and what you want to do with the rest of it.


Seth Steward / Louis Goodman Transcript

It is prohibited to operate a vehicle while under the influence of any alcoholic drink, according to California Vehicle Code 23152(a). “Under the influence” indicates that your physical or mental functions have been impaired to the point where you are no longer capable of driving a vehicle with the caution of a sober driver, exercising reasonable diligence, under comparable situations.

Furthermore, anyone with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08 or greater is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. This implies that even if your driving ability is unaffected by your degree of intoxication, operating a car with a BAC of .08 or more is still illegal.

You may face harsh legal implications if you are involved in a car accident while driving intoxicated. DUI in California is a wobbler violation, which means that authorities can prosecute you with a criminal offense based on the facts of your case.

Here are some key points to remember about serious offenses and sentence increases in DUI-related incidents, injuries, property destruction, and fatalities.

Contact Louis J. Goodman today to get a free no obligation consultation for your DUI case.

DUI Accidents without Injury

A rear-ender is a common type of collision in which nobody is hurt. Although two cars crashed and considerable damage was caused, everyone was unharmed.

You are unlikely to face any charges besides a DUI in these conditions (plus any traffic rules that were violated). As if there had been no mishap at all, you will suffer the same upper and lower limits punishments. The prosecutor, on the other hand, will pursue a punishment on the upper end of said ranges.

A first-time DUI, for instance, can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to half a year. If there isn’t any mishap, you may be sentenced to the bare minimum punishment of two days in prison. Even if no one was wounded, the prosecution may pursue three to six months in prison if there would be an accident.

DUI Accidents Involving Minor Injuries

If anyone engaged in the collision, including your own companions, files an injury, your case alters. When minor injuries occur, the offense is upgraded to violation DUI Causing Injury, which involves a longer term. It entails a min five-day prison term and a one-year loss of license, along with the standard DUI punishments. You would also be required to pay the fines and reparations to the parties who have been injured. It’s worth noting that if you’ve had past DUI arrests, particularly DUI Causing Injury convictions, you might face a more severe accusation with even harsher consequences.

What constitutes a “small” injury is a matter of opinion. Nausea, severe bruising, or a tiny cut from shattered windscreen glass are examples of minor injuries.

Increased Punishments for DUIs Resulting in an Accident

The spectrum of punishments you’ll encounter for a motor vehicle accident under the influence is determined by legislation and is based on your previous DUI offenses. However, most state statutes include aggravating circumstances that can raise the standard penalties for a DUI arrest. And the conditions of an incident, even if they aren’t considered aggravating by the law, might influence plea negotiations and the punishments courts decide to apply.

A DUI accident might potentially result in criminal penalties besides being charged with a DUI accusation.

Accidents Caused by DUI and Other Exacerbating Factors

Injury, property damage, and fatalities are usually the triggering elements in places where there are DUI enhancements for accidents. In other regards, the upgrades are a result of the harm caused by the accident, not the accident itself.

A DUI with accident-related injuries, for example, can be charged more harshly than a simple DUI. 

traffic lights in the night

In California, a DUI (driving under the influence) that causes serious bodily harm is known as a “aggravated DUI.” A first-time DUI is usually considered a misdemeanor. Although the judge’s decision is based on your individual circumstances, the maximum punishment of six months in prison and a $1,000 fine for a DUI charge is rarely imposed. In California, a person convicted of a first DUI faces fines ranging from a $390 fine which is convertible to 13 days of Cal-Trans highway labor or 13 days in prison.

Each state has its own set of guidelines when it comes to DUI enhancements due to accidents. However, there is a general consensus that these enhancements considerably increase the possible penalties a driver might face if charged with DUI.

DUI Accidents and Sentencing Discretion

When a defendant is guilty of a DUI, the court gets to determine what sanctions to inflict, as long as they are within the legal limits. Judges often examine the aggravating and contributing factors of the incident and the defendant when making this decision.

A DUI accident is likely to be considered a significant strike against the offender by a court, especially if there were major injuries or deaths. As a result, judges in DUI situations involving accidents are more likely to impose harsher penalties.

Assume someone is charged with their first DUI in California. A first DUI can result in a sentence of five days to one year in prison. A judge could be tempted to use the five-day minimum for first-time offenders. However, if a first offender causes an accident that results in injuries, the court is more likely to impose a term that is closer to the maximum of one year.

How a DUI Accident Affects a Driver’s Capability to Plead Guilty

Plea negotiation is used to resolve the vast majority of DUI cases. The purpose of plea negotiating for the defendant is to get an agreement that is in the lower range of the permitted penalties. Judges, on the other hand, are usually only ready to accept this sort of plea agreement in circumstances where there are no significant aggravating elements. When a DUI incident involves an accident, the plaintiff’s chance to reach a favorable plea agreement is severely hampered.

DUI-related incidents, injuries, and fatalities often result in criminal charges.

If there are injuries or deaths as a result of a drunk driving event, the liable motorist may face penalties in addition to a DUI charge.

In certain places, drivers who cause injury to another person negligently (or while under the influence) can be prosecuted with vehicular assault. When a drunk driver kills another person, accusations of vehicular manslaughter or even murder may be filed.

a black SUV in the moving traffic

All of these violations are usually felonies and they come with hefty jail sentences and hefty fines. Furthermore, drivers who are charged with several crimes are usually subjected to different sentences for each offense.

Was it you who caused the Accident?

Note that just because you were driving while inebriated doesn’t necessarily mean you were the one who caused the incident. For instance, if you were stopped at a red light and a vehicle rear-ended you, they are responsible. Whether you were drunk or not, they would have hit you.

Authorities may find it difficult to establish that you were the cause of an accident. What appears to be a hopeless case may frequently alter radically after a DUI lawyer begins investigating on your behalf. When a DUI lawyer intervenes, a case that started out as a DUI Causing Injury charge is often lowered to a typical DUI, or even Reckless Driving.

When you engage a DUI lawyer, they will examine all aspects of the accident—road circumstances, environment, and how the cars collided—to determine whether there is any proof that you were to blame.

Defenses that Can Be Used

If you have been arrested with any of these felonies, as a result of a DUI accident, you should contact a professional DUI lawyer immediately. A professional DUI lawyer will be familiar with the legal defenses to these criminal accusations and can assist you in retaining your driver’s license. Among the possible defenses are:

  • At the time of the occurrence, you were not intoxicated. Your behavior did not result in damage or death.
  • At the time of the incident, you did not act irresponsibly.

DUI Attorney

A felony charge can severely restrict your freedom. If you are convicted, your future can be limited. You may lose your eligibility for state housing, food assistance, and/or educational funding, for example. Even if you are innocent of the allegations, clearing your name might be tough.

Furthermore, if properly handled by an experienced attorney, even a successful trial might damage your reputation. As a result, anybody accused with a crime should contact an Alameda County criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney can help you safeguard your rights and provide you peace of mind.

Finally, a qualified criminal lawyer will try to get the accusations against you dismissed or reduced. Contact The Law Offices of Louis J. Goodman if you have been accused of a crime in Alameda County, California. Mr. Goodman has over thirty years of work experience as a criminal defense attorney in the area.

Our criminal defense firm knows what techniques can reduce your risk. Louis J Goodman is a former Alameda County Deputy District Attorney.  We can review evidence, evaluate reports, and cross-question witnesses with the help of a competent team. If required, our criminal defense attorney in Alameda County can work with prosecutors to safeguard your rights.

Contact Louis J. Goodman today to get a free no obligation consultation for your DUI case.

This is a very complicated area of law, and there are no absolute answers.  Different states handle things quite differently and you may need to contact an attorney in the jurisdiction that is taking action against your driving privilege.  As a practical matter, if you have prior DUI convictions outside of California, it is unlikely that they will be charged as part of the new criminal case in California.  But, and this is a big but, California DMV will probably see out of state DUI convictions and treat your California driving privilege accordingly. Below is some general information, but if you’re in one of these situations you need to contact an attorney to deal with the specifics of your circumstances.

Some General Information:

Let’s say you got caught in Alameda County for a possible DUI charge, but you were planning to leave the state. If you are found guilty of the offense, you might face severe consequences that could prevent you from relocating. Even in the best-case scenario, the consequences of a DUI are likely to migrate from state to state.

If you’re facing a DUI accusation in the Oakland, Dublin, Alameda County  region,  you’ll benefit from getting your case reviewed by a knowledgeable attorney. We can connect you with a DUI lawyer who has the experience you need to manage your criminal case as well as clarify how the offense may affect your future plans.

For a free consultation, contact Alameda County DUI Attorney Louis J Goodman.

Driver License Compact (DLC)

If you are charged with a DUI in California, the conviction will likely follow you out of the state. Similarly, if you were convicted of a comparable DUI in practically any other jurisdiction, California will consider it as if you were convicted there.

Since California is a part of the Driver License Compact, it receives reciprocal treatment (DLC). This is a 45-state agreement that holds drivers to the same standards and allows member states to share information. States can use this information to check if a motorist from another member state has been charged with a driving offense, such as a DUI.

The following are the five jurisdictions that have not joined the DLC:

  • Massachusetts
  • Georgia
  • Tennessee
  • Michigan
  • Wisconsin

This does not, however, imply that individuals relocating to or from these states will be immune from the repercussions of a DUI charge. These states may exchange information with the DLC’s member states on a voluntary basis. Similarly, irrespectively of where you travel, a DUI will have an effect on your insurance for years beyond the date of conviction.

How Out of State DUIs work in California?

Although California is a part of the DLC, a DUI offense from another member state might not always immediately carry over. California mandates that certain requirements be completed before a DUI charge can be transferred from one state to another. Those requirements are as follows:

Statutes need to be essentially comparable to those in California. The laws accompanying a DUI charge must be largely similar to those in California. If a motorist can be charged with the same offense for the same actions in either state, California will carry over the DUI.

There need to be similarities when it comes to enforcement. California mandates that the implementation of another state’s DUI laws be similar in content to the penalties imposed on drivers in California.

California is not obligated by the requirements of the DLC if a DUI conviction in another state is not reported as such. In order for California to recognize a conviction under the DLC, the accusation must be substantially similar to the charge of driving while intoxicated.

an attorney and a client are sitting at a brown table

What if you get charged with a DUI in California and then relocate to another state?

If you were charged with DUI in California or even had your license taken away for a DUI by the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the repercussions will follow you even if you relocate to another state. There are, however, ways to make the process go more smoothly, and you may not have to fulfill all of your California DUI penalties.

We’ll go over all you need to know about relocating after a California DUI in the sections below:

  • Which fines will you face if you leave the state?
  • What to do if you have to go to court?

Which DUI consequences from California will follow me after I leave the state?

In the vast majority of situations, all of them will. Often DUI drivers are unsure how to manage their out-of-state relocation, which they may have planned for months prior to their arrest or may be required for their career, education, or family reasons. All of these are solid reasons to relocate out of state. However, relocation should not be viewed as a strategy to avoid facing DUI charges. It will not work and may have serious consequences.

You will be compelled to appear before a judge following your DUI arrest. If you fail to appear in court, the court may issue a warrant. If you are charged with a felony DUI in another state, the state of California may request that you be extradited and sent to California. But, because DUI is usually a misdemeanor, you would not be repatriated. That said, the order may cause complications, and you may be arrested and suffer far worse consequences.

Furthermore, your driver’s license will be revoked in both California and your new state. You won’t be allowed to receive a driving permit in your new state until the DUI case in California is resolved. You will be unable to drive lawfully anywhere in the United States.

Even if you have relocated out of state, the wisest thing you can do is to keep working on your California DUI charge.

I don’t reside in California, therefore do I have to go to court there?

No, you typically don’t. In court, you can also have your attorney represent you. If you give your attorney permission, he or she can attend your court hearings on your account, so you don’t have to. But, you may be asked to return to California for certain procedures.

a criminal defense attorney is shaking hands with a client

 

Final Thoughts

Are you facing a DUI conviction in Alameda County?

For a free consultation, contact Alameda County DUI Attorney Louis J Goodman.

Is your life being disrupted by allegations of drunk driving? Do you want to cleanse your name after being arrested? Are you unsure about your legal rights and what defensive methods will help you avoid danger? You’ll need a local and experienced attorney who can immediately address your issues if you’ve been charged with a DUI. You’ll also need someone who can represent you right away and help you get back on your feet.

Our California DUI attorney can assist you in reducing risk, gaining peace of mind, and strengthening your defense.

Operating a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above, is illegal in California. Motorists charged with a DUI in California are subject to sentence guidelines. In other words, a court can impose a variety of consequences for a DUI conviction.

The acceptable range is established by a number of factors, including the defendant’s criminal history and the specific facts of the present conduct. Judges employ “mitigating” and “aggravating” elements to decide an acceptable punishment within the relevant range. When negotiating a plea deal with authorities, aggravating and mitigating factors might also come into play.

DUI charges and aggravated DUI charges are similar but different. In this article, we’ll look at some of the alleviating and aggravating elements, as well as some of the conditions that influence DUI punishment levels and punishments in California.

Fighting an aggravated DUI charge alone is confusing and stressful. Don’t do it alone, call Louis J. Goodman today to get a free consultation.

Aggravated DUI

Operating a motor vehicle on California roadways with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above is illegal, as it is in every other state. As a result, anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above this level is considered legally intoxicated, irrespective of their competence to drive. Minors drivers (those under 21) are also prohibited from driving with any level of alcohol in their system (a BAC above 0.00 percent), while regular vehicles are considered intoxicated if their BAC is 0.04 percent or above.

You can also be charged for DUI if you refuse to give a breathing, blood, or urine sample to a police officer so that he or she can ascertain your precise BAC—a practice called chemical analysis to the state’s Implied Consent Law. You may face criminal prosecution for driving under the influence if you refuse to take these tests.

A drunk driving arrest, irrespective of the basis for your conviction, has a variety of consequences, along with a fine, driving ban, and jail time. If it’s your first violation, the prosecution may issue a penalty anywhere from $390 to $1,000, as well as a four-month suspension of your driver’s license. You may also be required to serve four to six months in prison, attend DUI school, conduct community work, and/or have a vehicle ignition interlock system put in your car, depending on the circumstances of your case.

Consider this: if you have a past DUI conviction on your record, a second violation may result in a one-year jail term, a $1,000 fine, a one-year driving ban, and 3 to 5 years in jail. These punishments only come to bear with subsequent DUI charges. If you had an exceptionally high blood alcohol concentration (over 0.15 percent), were driving with a child under the age of 14, or if you were going 20 miles or more over the legal limit at the time of the arrest, you can expect severe penalties for aggravated DUI.

Luckily, there are several options for contesting a drunk driving charge. Your convictions may be dropped if the officer who pulled you over did not have probable cause to do so. If you have acid reflux disease or if you used breath mints, mouthwash, or gum immediately before the test, you may be eligible to challenge your chemical test findings.

law inforcement officers arresting a drunk driver

Mitigating Circumstances

Extenuating circumstances are factors or situations that decrease a defendant’s guilt or justify leniency in punishment. For instance, if a motorist was affected by legitimately prescribed medicine and was just above the legal speed limit, or if the driver completed voluntary chemical addiction treatment after being arrested, the court and prosecution may tend toward a punishment at the low end of the scale of the permitted range. In deciding on a suitable punishment or plea deal, prosecutors and judges may consider variables such as whether the offender is working or a high achiever.

Aggravating Factors

Events or conditions that heighten the seriousness of a criminal conduct or the plaintiff’s responsibility and demand tougher sentences are known as contributing circumstances. Previous offenses, significant BACs, negligent driving, excessive speeding, possessing a revoked license, inflicting casualties or property destruction, and carrying a kid in the car at the time of the incident are all common aggravating circumstances in DUI cases. Even though the offender has no past DUIs, a judge or prosecution may be hesitant to be sympathetic if the offender has a lengthy criminal history for other charges.

DUI Felony in California

While most California DUI charges are filed as misdemeanors, resulting in penalties, DUI school, and maybe a brief jail sentence, authorities can prosecute a California felony DUI in specific circumstances.

If you are charged with felony DUI, the repercussions are far more severe. To begin with, a misdemeanor DUI carries a potential term of six months to a year in a correctional facility. Although most offenders serve little or no time behind bars. A felony DUI, on the other hand, can put a defendant in California state jail for three years or more. Furthermore, a felony DUI arrest that results in probation necessitates criminal probation as well as official monitoring by a probation officer.

Only three specific situations allow authorities to prosecute felony DUI. To begin, a California DUI that results in harm or death can be charged as a felony (or in more serious cases vehicular manslaughter). Secondly, a fourth DUI conviction might result in criminal prosecution. Finally, every future DUI case may be filed as a felony if the defendant has a previous felony DUI record for whatever reason.

a law enforcement officer is talking to a driver

Felony DUI cases are frequently plea-bargained down, as are all criminal matters. A prosecutor may begin a prosecution by submitting a criminal charge. However, after detecting evidence flaws and negotiating with defense counsel, he or she will frequently agree to lower the accusation to a misdemeanor in consideration for a guilty or “no contest” statement.

Vehicle Manslaughter Laws in California

After a few beers with dinner, a person passes out on the ride home. Someone is tragically harmed or dies.

The CHP jumps to the judgment that the person who had consumed alcohol was to blame. The District Attorney reacts by pursuing extremely serious charges such as DUI with bodily harm, vehicular manslaughter, and even murder.

The evidence is rarely straightforward. Frequently, the accused had consumed alcohol but was not “drunk” or incapable of driving. Frequently, the other motorist, the road circumstances, the environment, or other external variables are to account for the collision.

It may be possible to get the charges reduced or even dropped if the case is well contested, and to stay out of prison.

Child Endangerment DUI conviction

If you’re captured driving under the influence in California with a child under the age of 14, you’ll almost certainly be convicted with Penal Code 273 (a) child endangerment on top of the DUI.

Based on the circumstances involving your California DUI indictment, like your driving pattern, if you were involved in a crash, your alcohol level density (BAC), and your previous criminal background, you could face up to one year in a correctional facility or up to six years in California State Prison. It’s possible that you’ll lose custody of your child or children. Remember that these are merely the penalties for child endangerment allegations. In addition to these fines, you will be punished for your DUI.

Consult a DUI Attorney

A professional DUI lawyer can assist you in spotting legal nuances in pending DUI amendments such as these.

There is no guarantee of a positive outcome in a DUI case. Previous alcohol-related charges, whether careless driving was determined to be a component in the penalty, and the appropriate local and state DUI statutes are all things that our clients will have to deal with in the court of their legal case.

a dui lawyer is shaking hands with a client

An competent, reputable law firm or attorney may frequently make the difference between success and failure in a DUI case.  An experienced DUI attorney who is familiar with the terrain will be prepared to evaluate the prosecution’s case against a client from the top down. They’ll be able to give crucial legal guidance to help the client get the greatest possible conclusion in their case.

In the courtroom, Louis J. Goodman has over 20  years of legal experience. We’ve established a reputation for providing thorough, competent, responsible, and powerful counsel. We’ll be there for you throughout your case to ensure you receive the results you want and get through this trying time with your finances, image, and livelihood undamaged.

Trust the attorneys at the Law Office of Louis J. Goodman to assist you in putting your best foot forward during this trying time.

Call today to get a free consultation so you don’t have to deal with a serious case alone.

Domestic violence is often thought about as using violence or force against a spouse, partner, or cohabitant. In reality, the term encompasses a much larger breadth of offenses, such as violence against the elderly or children, threatening behavior, and online harassment.

Many crimes can get enhanced with a domestic violence designation. Regardless of whether a defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, domestic violence violations usually result in a minimum jail sentence. This could extend up to 25 years or more, depending on the defendant’s criminal history and the nature of the alleged abuse.

In this article, we will discuss some of the common charges and resulting domestic violence jail time penalties for each. We will also look at which circumstances aggravate more severe penalties, which ones may mitigate them, and how your lawyer can help you construct your defense.

Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyers Office

If you or a loved one have been accused of domestic violence, it’s important to act fast. Enlisting the help of a highly-trained criminal defense lawyer who is well versed in California domestic violence laws is the best way to protect your rights in court.

A proficient California  lawyer like Louis J. Goodman can provide the legal support you need to win your case or negotiate a favorable plea bargain to lessen the severity of the resulting penalties. Do not delay contacting Louis J. Goodman to help defend yourself against criminal charges.

Is Domestic Violence a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Domestic violence allegations are serious in California. A domestic violence charge is a designation, meaning it can enhance the severity of consequences when it coexists with other crimes.

For this reason, domestic violence is known as a “wobbler” in California. The term “wobbler” refers to a crime where the defendant can be convicted of either a misdemeanor or a felony, according to:

  • The circumstances surrounding the offense
  • The defendant’s criminal record
  • The extent of injuries the alleged victim sustained

Felony Domestic Violence

A felony is the most weighty classification of a criminal offense in the United States. Those convicted may be sentenced to serve jail time in state prison. Under Penal Code 273.5, ‘Corporal Injury’ to a spouse or cohabitant is one classification of domestic abuse that often results in a felony arrest but misdemeanor charges in Alameda County,  California.

Domestic violence can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Domestic Violence

Misdemeanors are crimes penalized by up to one year in county jail. The abuse-related offenses below may be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the case: 

  • Child Abuse
  • Child Endangerment
  • Elder Abuse
  • Stalking
  • Criminal threats
  • Aggravated trespass
  • Damaging a phone line

Certain mitigating or aggravating factors associated with the case may increase or decrease the classification and seriousness of sentencing.

What May Increase the Severity of Penalties?

In short, the gravity of the crime or allegation will impact the severity of sentencing. Aggravating circumstances in a domestic violence case are specific facts relating to the alleged offense that can be used against you in court or increase the severity of the charge. For example, a misdemeanor may escalate to a felony in the presence of certain aggravating facts.

A few of these situations may include:

  • Whether you have previous criminal convictions.
  • The number of charges made against you.
  • Whether you have broken “no contact” rulings or restraining orders leading up to the case.
  • Situational circumstances, such as whether the victim was pregnant with your unborn child at the time of the alleged offense.

Defending Domestic Violence Charges

When you contact a criminal defense lawyer, they will look at the mitigating circumstances around your case. Mitigating circumstances can help in negotiating for a favorable plea bargain to reduce the severity of the sentence. They may even get you off a charge. Alternatively, in situations when the defendant needs help, they may receive treatment rather than jail time. Some mitigating circumstances might include:

  • The alleged offense was an accident.
  • The harm caused was not a result of the defendant’s actions.
  • The defendant acted in self-defense or defense of another party.
  • The alleged victim made false accusations because of:
    • Anger or jealousy,
    • Divorce or child custody proceedings.

Working with a domestic violence attorney is the best way to defend yourself in court.

If you or someone you care about was arrested for domestic violence, it’s imperative to enlist the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible. Louis J. Goodman has been exclusively practicing criminal defense in California for over 20 years. As a highly trained legal expert, he can build a dependable defense for any felony or misdemeanor charges. Contact Louis J. Goodman today for a free consultation to learn more about your case.

While domestic assault itself is broadly defined, the State of California has constructed an intricate set of legislation outlining situations under which it arises. Now let’s look at specific cases where domestic violence charges may be prosecuted as crimes.

Common Crimes and Penalties for Domestic Violence

Domestic violence in California can include battery, threats, neglect, and other forms of emotional, psychological, or physical harm. A few common domestic violence crimes are discussed below, along with the typical sentencing they carry.

Corporal Injury to a Spouse or Inhabitant

The act of inflicting serious bodily injury to a spouse or cohabitant is criminal, as outlined in Penal Code 273.5. Even when actions result in only slight physical harm to an intimate partner, you can be charged.

Corporal injury is a felony, and first-time offenders may face penalties from one year in county jail to up to four years in California state prison.

Domestic Battery

According to Penal Code 243(e)(1), California’s domestic battery legislation rules it a misdemeanor to use force or violence against an intimate partner. The alleged victim is not required to show signs of bodily injury.

Penalties for domestic battery can include fines of up to $2000 and up to one year in county jail.

Child Abuse

Under Penal Code 273d, it is illegal to impose corporal punishment on, or injure, a child. Reasonable spanking and discipline are not included in this law. However, any action deemed cruel taken against a child or that cause bodily injury are regarded as child abuse.

A first-time offender may receive a sentence of up to one year in county jail or up to three years in state prison.

Child Endangerment

Penal Code 273a states that it is illegal to allow a child under your care to suffer harm or be wilfully put in a situation where his or her safety becomes endangered. An example may be a child’s father letting his partner beat the child or a parent operating a methamphetamine lab in the home where the child lives.

When the danger presented is extreme or bodily harm caused is significant, this may be classified as a felony. If risk or injury is less severe, the crime is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in county jail.

Causing undue harm to a child is illegal, according to California domestic violence laws.

Elder Abuse

In California, elder abuse is a wobbler. Under Penal Code 368, it is illegal to inflict any of the following abuse forms onto an individual aged 65 years or over:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Endangerment
  • Neglect
  • Financial Fraud

As a misdemeanor, defendants may be sentenced to up to one year in county jail. As a felony, state prison sentences can be up to four years.

Stalking

According to Penal Code 646.9, California’s stalking legislation makes it illegal to harass or threaten another person to the extent that they feel concerned for their safety or the safety of their family members.

Depending on the defendant’s criminal history, stalking can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. For misdemeanor domestic violence, county jail sentences may be up to one year. Alternatively, you may face up to three years in state prison if charged with a felony.

Criminal Threats

In line with Penal Code 422, criminal threats include threatening someone with serious harm. Criminal threats are a wobbler, and one may be penalized by up to one year in county jail if they are charged with a misdemeanor.

On the other hand, felonies may face up to four years in state prison. Additionally, a criminal threat charged as a felony counts as one strike under California’s three-strike law.

Aggravated Trespass

As per Penal Code 601. aggravated trespass is charged when someone has made a criminal threat against another individual, and then enters that person’s home or workplace to act upon those threats in the next 30 days.

This crime is a wobbler. A felony conviction may result in up to three years in jail.

Damaging a Phone Line

Penal Code 591 outlaws cutting or damaging a phone line. Situations where this may arise include when an abuser tries to prevent the victim from making a call or seeking help.

Damaging a phone line is considered a wobbler offense. When the defendant is charged with a felony, they may face fines of up to $10,000 and face jail time of up to three years.

Online Harassment

Harassing somebody online by dispersing personal information or media that causes harm to an individual is also considered a form of domestic abuse in California. It is a relatively new addition to the California legislation on domestic violence. The following two examples are criminal acts of online harassment:

Revenge Porn

Under Penal Code 647(j)(4), this type of cyber harassment occurs when someone intentionally distributes sexual images of an individual (such as an ex-girlfriend or ex-husband) to cause emotional affliction.

Revenge porn convictions can be penalized with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in county jail.

Distributing Harmful Information Online

Penal Code 653.2 criminalizes the act of sharing or emailing harmful information about a person to try to cause other people to harass the victim.

In domestic abuse situations, this may be used to get revenge on somebody during a dispute. Charges may result in fines of up to $1,000 and up to one year in county jail, depending on the severity.

California’s Three-Strike Law

Under the Three Strike Law, the repercussions for felony domestic violence can be significant for those who already have a prior conviction. California’s three-strike law was initially enacted in 1994 and underwent amendments in 2012. If the defendant has already been charged with two felonies and gets charged with a third serious or violent felony, the law mandates a state prison sentence of at least 25 years-to-life.

Penalties can be extremely severe, with California's Three Strike Law.

Many domestic violence charges are considered by California law to be serious or violent felonies. If you have an existing criminal record, it’s best to pursue the help of experienced and highly trained California domestic violence lawyers like Louis J. Goodman to prepare a reliable defense. If you need a lawyer that can appropriately handle confidential or sensitive information and that guarantees a discrete attorney-client relationship, get in touch with Louis J. Goodman today.

Can a Defendant Receive Probation Instead of Jail Time?

There are occasions when a judge may be willing to sentence a domestic violence defendant to probation rather than sentencing jail time. Usually, this is more common where:

  • The injuries inflicted are not significant,
  • Or it is the defendant’s first offense.

Felony domestic violence charges typically arise when injuries or harm caused are significant. For this reason, probation is a more likely outcome when a case is prosecuted as a misdemeanor domestic violence.

The defendant may still receive a mandatory minimum jail time, and many of the below consequences still apply if the defendant is found guilty of committing the domestic violence incident. Furthermore, should the defendant choose to violate probation, the judge may revoke probation and send the defendant to serve jail time.

Additional Consequences For a Domestic Violence Conviction

Domestic violence convictions do not necessarily stop at fines and incarcerations. They can impact the lives of the convicted in many ways. Here is a brief description of additional consequences associated with a domestic violence conviction. Depending on your case, some or all of these may apply.

Jail Time

It’s common for many counties in California to impose a minimum jail time sentence of 30 days for domestic violence convictions. This includes those who have committed a first-time offense and those who are charged with a misdemeanor.

Payment of Fines

In addition to any fines ruled in sentencing, you may be liable for paying victim restitution that covers expenses such as the victim’s medical bills, mental health support, loss of income, or property damage.

The defendant is also required to pay $500 to fund domestic violence programs locally.

Participation in Batterers’ Course

It’s common for judges to send convicted domestic abusers to attend a 52-week counseling and treatment program. This is usually the case even when batterers have been sentenced to a misdemeanor or felony probation, instead of part or all of the defendant’s sentence.

Permanent Criminal Record

If the defendant receives a domestic violence conviction, it will go on their permanent criminal record. This can negatively impact professional opportunities, housing, state licensing, and other civil opportunities.

A criminal record can impact your professional opportunities.

The California Fair Chance Act prohibits employers from conducting a criminal background check before making a job offer. However, many offers get drafted with contingency clauses based on the outcomes of a background check. This is particularly relevant if you work in education, healthcare, and other client-facing professions.

Loss of Child Custody Rights

It is common for a domestic violence convicted parent to lose custody rights over their children. To determine custody, a family law judge does not necessarily need a conviction to discern that there has been violence in the household. That said, with a domestic violence conviction of one parent against another in the past five years, they will understand there was domestic violence present.

Many parents who lose custody of their children can still obtain visitation rights under specified conditions.

Revocation of Gun Rights

According to Penal Code 29805, a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction will result in a 10-year firearms ban. If the misdemeanor is convicted as a crime in violation of federal law, it will result in a lifetime revocation of gun rights.

Similarly, if the defendant is convicted of a felony it will result in a lifetime loss of gun rights according to both California and federal law.

Immigration Consequences

In many cases, domestic violence convictions are counted as aggravated felonies. Any non-US citizen convicted may be subject to:

  • deportation from the United States, and/or
  • ineligibility to reenter the United States or apply for a green card.

These consequences, along with the potential for a hefty prison sentence from the judge, underpin the importance of contacting an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a strong track record of success as soon as possible. There are many legal defenses your lawyer can help you build, such as pre-trial diversion or negotiating a plea bargain for a more favorable outcome. In the case that a false domestic violence allegation was made against you, your attorney will help you prove that this is the case.

Final Thoughts

Domestic assault is a serious offense that results in broad consequences in California. Penalties, including domestic violence jail time will affect almost every aspect of your life, including your family, your career, and possibly even the place where you live for years to come.

Regardless of whether a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, they will usually receive a minimum jail sentence and criminal record. To protect your rights in California courts of law, it’s important to have a highly trained criminal defense attorney at your side.

If you have been accused of domestic battery, Louis J. Goodman will ensure that your side of the story is accurately and diligently represented in court to achieve justice. Contact Louis J. Goodman today to speak in confidentiality about your case.

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
Congratulations.

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.

Hon. Tamiza Hockenhull / Louis Goodman - Transcript


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