Don Nobles / Louis Goodman - Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman
In collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association, this is Love Thy Lawyer, where we talk with members of the ACBA about their lives and legal careers. I’m Louis Goodman, the host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association. He has substantial criminal litigation experience. He has tried numerous felony and misdemeanor cases to jury verdict. He has served as an Alameda County Deputy District Attorney, he has handled juvenile proceedings and preliminary hearings. He has represented police officers in disciplinary matters, an officer involved shootings. While majoring in history at Cal, he earned a football letter for three of his years, Don Nobles, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.

Don Nobles
Thank you.

Louis Goodman
It’s a pleasure to have you. We’ve known each other for quite a while and we were both prosecutors in the Alameda County DAS office at one point, and we’ve both moved on from there. Where is your practice right now?

Don Nobles
Walnut Creek

Louis Goodman
And where are you physically right now as we’re speaking?

Don Nobles
At home, I have little home office, working from home these days?

Louis Goodman
How long have you been practicing law?

Don Nobles
22, almost 22 years?

Louis Goodman
What type of practice do you have right now?

Don Nobles
Essentially, it’s criminal defense. I do some civil matters, with unions.

Louis Goodman
Where are you from originally?


Don Nobles
Born in San Francisco, pretty much raised in Berkeley, California. That would be South Berkeley, or the Oakland /North Oakland border. So yeah, I grew up there went to junior high school at Willard and then on to West Campus, which is closed these days. And then to the big campus, Berkeley High.

Louis Goodman
What did you do in high school? What sort of things did you participate in? Or were you interested in at that time?

Don Nobles
I played all the sports, baseball, basketball, football. And so I was always busy playing various sports, ended up running track in my last year, and a blue chip person in football. For that the school put me in their Hall of Fame.

Louis Goodman
Wow, that’s exciting. After you graduated from Berkeley, you went on to college at Cal? Is that correct?

Don Nobles
That is correct. And as a freshman, I made the varsity team. And the rest is pretty much history.

Louis Goodman
Tell us a little bit about what it was like playing Division One ball at a big school like Cal?

Don Nobles
Surreal to put it lightly. I mean, you just, you’re going into these arenas, and you see 1000s upon 1000s of people and you just can’t believe it. And you know, and the big games always something special that you just know, it was USC playing. USC was a big game, I had a player, I made a play of the game, we had beaten SC and Nelson 85 for the first time and I don’t know how many years I saw I got a little honor from Joe Joe cap at that time. But you know, those games are crazy the crowd into it never had anything like that Berkeley, small crowd 1000 people, maybe 2000. We go from that to playing a big game is 60,000/ 80,000 if you’re down in Stanford with their old state, and you know, play it at Tennessee, there’s 100,000 people out there and you know, just going around the country and even playing in Japan. It was an awesome experience. And then, you know, you just bond with your teammates, and these are lifelong friendships that you have, and we stay together and meet at least once a year, we have a golf tournament. And so we all get together. Talk about the old days a little bit.

Louis Goodman
Yeah, and I think that the experience of playing as a varsity athlete, as a division one school, it makes the whole experience of going to college somewhat different than that of most people who go to college.

Don Nobles
Very different and it’s really structured. They tried to what the school will do, what the team will do is they’ll ask you what your courses are, and then they’ll slot you in to the early class. So you’re done by two o’clock and you got to rush up, to practice to get taped to get treatment if you’re injured and just get prepared for meetings and then eventually practice which most days back then it’s a little different now very physical days, you know, all out, you know, contact and tackling and hitting nowadays, I don’t think they do. Maybe they may do that once, once a week or so.

Louis Goodman
At some point, you decided that you were going to go to law school?

Don Nobles
Yeah, well, it was, at some point, I graduated, and I just wanted to take a break. And a couple of things happened. One of my best friends from high school ended up getting into some trouble. And his mother hired a great lawyer, Lincoln. And I believe, you know, it was one of those things. I was following his case and trying to figure out what was going on. And I think towards the end of Lincoln’s tenure as an attorney, things kind of went sideways for him and it didn’t end up well for my friend, but you know, he managed to get through it. So that was an experience. I kind of visited almost all the prisons throughout the state. He bounced around quite a bit. And so wherever he went, I went to go visit him. And it was just a learning experience. The other thing that happened is one of my good friends when I was a freshman, in graduated years before me, he went off to Harvard Law. And I think he was there at the same time, Barack Obama, but you know, he came back and we’re at neighborhood barbershop and comes in, they done all this stuff. I got something for you in my car. Oh, sure. You know, I get my hair cut. I go out to tell them his books, you know, preparing for the bar. What is this for? You going to law school? Like, really? So you plan it? Okay, I guess I should because yeah, you’ll be good. You’re fair guy. You’re good. So I ended up going to USF.

Louis Goodman
How much time did you take off between your graduation from Cal and you’re starting at USF?

Don Nobles
It was four years.

Louis Goodman
What did you do during that interim?

Don Nobles
You know, I did fun things. First of all, I was a stockbroker, I didn’t like that, because I think they hired me because they wanted me to kind of churn and burn my friends who were playing in the professional football league. And I just didn’t want to do that. So I put them in conservative investments and one time and just saying, just stay away and let it grow. And they like that too much. So I didn’t like it either. I like the pressure of trying to bring them in and just to make money off of them. So moved on to banking. And then I was a loan officer. And that was okay, but wasn’t too fun. But it was kind of just mundane, you know, making loans or approving loans. And then from there moved on, and I’ve worked for Miller Bear Company. And that was fun. So what’d you do for that all? We were managers for the community. So I was working out in East Oakland. And then I just happen to say, you know, it came back to me what my friend said, and I said, Man, I think I’m applying for law school. I think I’m gonna move on. I ended up with Alameda County clerking there, and while I was clerking with Alameda County, I had the pleasure to meet Kamala Harris. And, you know, she, I think she saw me and, you know, like most of us, we were just kind of figuring trying to figure things out. And she said, you know, you look like a deer in headlights. She said, let’s sit down and talk. And I said, Sure. So she sat me down for about an hour and just everything is awesome. She didn’t have to do that. She shortly thereafter left for San Francisco, but never forgot that gesture that bestowed upon me, just kind of opened my mind was able to also when I did get to the office, serve with Daryl Stallworth, who was team captain on the football team with me at Cal. So there was some familiarity there. And then few of my teammates wives also work there. So it was kind of like being around a lot of familiar faces and friendly faces from that standpoint, but it was it was Darrell Stallworth who said, you know, cuz I said, you know, I’m not sure I’m good bit, you know, growing up where I grew up, and I had been harassed by police and that sort of thing all the way from, you know, when I was 12, or 11 years old, up through high school, and I just told they’re all in Delta, that’s exactly why we need you, you’ve been through it. You know what it feels like, and you’re going to use that to be fair to people who deserve fairness. And so when I think about it like that, but I said, Okay, well, I’ll give it a shot.

Louis Goodman
Let me, I want to go back for a moment and ask you, if you think that taking some time off between graduating from college and going to law school helped you focus once you got to law school?

Don Nobles
It did, because I was in such fear of not making it on the one hand, you know, having stepped up from school, in the mode of, doing all the work, discipline, sitting down doing it. And then moving on preparing for taking the series seven, or series six. And, you know, that was a study program. And then moving on from there, there was just new areas that I was still learning, still using those tools. But I knew law school is another level. And so I was kind of intimidated by it, to be honest. And so I kind of had to really, really focus in.

Louis Goodman
How long did you stay in the Alameda County District Attorney’s office?

Don Nobles
Almost 12 years? Let me see. Yeah, yeah, I was 12 years. It was amazing. We’re amazing time we still close friends there. We still, you know, travel together and do trips together. And you know, still great friends.

Louis Goodman
Yeah, I always have thought very highly of my experience in the Alameda County DAS office. I thought it was really one of the highlights of my life working there telling the truth. At some point when you did leave, what sort of practice did you go into?

Don Nobles
Talk to Mr. Rain, so I started out with him and San Francisco. And so I pretty much just stayed busy between working those two programs. And then, you know, slowly developed my own practice, and one of the people that assisted me in that was Deon Choyce. So Deon and I were partners, and he started, I think, a year before he did, and then we were tuned together for the misdemeanor case, you know, guys used to harass us call us the 54th. You know, from here, Civil War Days and Glory Movie, and, you know, we would go in with 23 trials, going into slaughter. So they gave us a hard time. So he and I bonded over that time period. And then he left well, before I did. And then when I came out, he was there with open arms gave me the cases and, you know, just kind of kept me busy on the criminal side. And then, before you know it, I’m getting referrals, getting business that way, as well. So it just kind of blended together.

Louis Goodman
What do you really like about practicing law?

Don Nobles
Well, I like the independence of it. And you know, so you’re your own boss, you make the mistake, it’s your fault. And you do serve your clients, and you want to do as good a job as you can for them. You can’t please them all the time, but I try to be honest and realistic with them and work hard. And I like the feeling that you get from it when things go well, or as well, could be because in a lot of cases, you know, dealing with murder case or attempted murders and murder for hires, you know, those can be some very devastating life changing situations to clients. And I try to prevent that. And so far, knock on wood, have been successful. Some of those cases where they didn’t, well, one of them unfortunately, this person was already had a major strike and four counts of attempted murder and facing 100 years or so. And I got a nine year offering to clients. And then we went to prelim and that was the end of my contract promises and enter upon a trial and losing ended up with 60 something years. So I was hard to hear that because I put a lot of time in on that case. And he was hopeful that given you know, the facts that would come around it. So you see, you see that happens. Sometimes you’re going
to trial is often not a great thing from a defense point of view.

Louis Goodman
I think when I was a DA and maybe this is your experience as well, you know, when I was a DA, I was pretty good trial lawyer. And then as I got out on the defense side, I started to realize that, you know, not having the judge, the law and the facts on your side sometimes can make a difference in the way the trial comes out.



Don Nobles
Yeah, that’s the reality. Yeah. And so Yeah, you’re right, the DA had a lot of success. And there were nine felony trials in a row and I picked the jury the way I wanted to pick them. And a lot of times in that picking people with dreadlocks, people who came from the community like me, and I didn’t have a problem with that I want them to be a part of this experience as well. And for the most part, I grew up in these poor areas. And, you know, we had crime all around us that people in the community were tired of, you know, the crimes. And so, you know, I knew full well that, if they had an opportunity to participate, they would do the right thing. And oftentimes, they did. So I didn’t have traditional or normal looking juries from the standpoint for some in my office, but they, I had confidence in him because I was familiar going on to the defense side, very different.

Louis Goodman
Don, would you recommend the law to a young person thinking about a career?

Don Nobles
Well, my daughter, just so happened to just graduated from Santa Clara. Yeah. I told her, I was like, Hey, you better really want because it’s something that, you know, you don’t want to come in just because it sounds great. It sounds prestigious, you know, kids are very competitive. And she has friends doing that same thing.

Louis Goodman
Yeah, no, I think it’s something that you have to sort of have a calling for on some level, how was actually practicing met are different from your expectations?

Don Nobles
It can be stressful, just the same, you know, because the dean’s office, you under low pressure, you got eyes on you, and people are watching and evaluating and that sort of thing. And then under Orloff, you know, his thing was, hey, it’s hard enough to get a spot to get in here, once you get in here, we trust that you’re going to do the right things. And he kind of let it run, you know, run your home situation, for the most part, unless you’re doing you know, a murder case or something like that, then you definitely want to get everything checked. And so that was that was a great experience. And then, you know, it kind of switched, or it was a little different under Nancy O’Malley. And so you can see kind of both sides of it, when you’re practicing on your own. You know, it is just you and so it can be stressful, because you know, you have someone else’s interest in their life or kind of in your hands, so to speak, and you want, you know what’s best for them too. So they can have some kind of, you know, value left for their life. And so dealing with a lot of the clients that I get are younger African American men. And I tried to reach out and mentor them, which is one of the things you know, I did for the Cal football team, Darrell and I would go and talk to the guys about staying out of trouble and keeping a nose clean and staying away from the parties and because things just happen and not always good. And so we did that for, you know, the Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch’s and all those guys who came through the system, Darrell and I, I think we did that for 12 years or so, you know, 10 years at least.

Louis Goodman
Wow. That’s great work. I mean, that’s just great work, you know, not just football players. But, you know, people who are in college, in general and young people in general, I think it’s a time in one’s life when all of a sudden you’re exposed to a lot of alcohol. And as we all know, that tends not to mix well with the criminal justice system.

Don Nobles
No, no, it doesn’t, you know, so Darrell and I, you know, we kind of had the same approach on it. He’s from Compton, and it had its reputation. And, you know, he was able to maneuver through, go to law school, and, me coming from where I came from the same thing, and it just doesn’t happen that often, particularly with athletes, you know, we’re going to things so we understood, where some of these guys were coming from on the team who were dealing with those same issues that we dealt with, you know, just for me, and I think Darrell was the same way. I just didn’t have any time to go out and party. So you know, when I came in one of the senior players who was coming out, sat me down to say, you know, all the party, booth and all that stuff is going to be there. You get your degree first and the irony of that is like got my degree before he got here? Four years ahead five years. But he got it. So he did go back and coaching in the football ranks.

Louis Goodman
When you’re talking, it brings back because I interviewed Darryl for this podcast some months ago. And he also told me a little bit about what you and he did for the team and for the students.

Don Nobles
Yeah, it was meaningful. And I would just say this, you know, a lot of times, I would start by telling the team, I was in their seat. And I recall having a similar meeting like this, and I remember some players coming in, in their suits and looking clean. And I said, you know, this is why I came, you know, to Cal and a lot of choices out of high school could have gone to the USC, and have gone to the tan or, you know, great schools. But you know, I was looking for the academic experience. And I just happened to grow up in Berkeley. So my family’s like, you can’t go to Stanford.

I guess at least Cal, so I was okay with that. And so I wanted that experience. And so when I was in the room, as a player, and I saw the guys coming in, that’s something that I can do.

Louis Goodman
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Don Nobles
You’re always somewhere in the middle. Some people who are better off as people are worse off, you’re in the middle of that you keep pushing towards the better end is simple stuff.

Louis Goodman
Do you think the legal system is fair?

Don Nobles
Not all the time. I don’t think it’s fair. And it needs, it needs some work and needs the right people in place. But what goes along with that, unfortunately, is sometimes the kind of justice that’s given out is not always fair and equal.

Louis Goodman
How do you define success?

Don Nobles
It’s a good question. For the most part, it’s making sure that you’re taking care of your family, the important things, you try to stay in good health, if you can.

Louis Goodman
Yeah, let’s say you had a magic wand, there was one thing you could change, what would that be?

Don Nobles
Change, as you’re now changing about me, or about

Louis Goodman
Change about you, change about the world change, about the legal system, just change something that if you could wave a magic wand and change it, what would you want to do with that?

Don Nobles
Interesting, what I would just like, you know, equality and fairness, to be honest with you. Put everybody on an equal playing field. And, you know, let them kind of make their way with all things being equal.

Louis Goodman
Is there anything that you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed?

Don Nobles
Not really, I mean, I think you’ve done a superb job of kind of covering a lot of different areas. There’s other things to go into. But maybe that’s for another time. But yeah, I fully appreciate the opportunity to be on the program.

Louis Goodman
Don, how do we get in touch with you? If someone’s listening to this podcast, and they go, you know, I really want to talk to Don Nobles about my case, how can they get ahold of you? Is there a website that they can look up, they can always go to the State Bar

Don Nobles
My email, and my phone numbers on there, but they can, also email me at [email protected]

Louis Goodman
We’ll get all that in the show notes. Don Nobles, thank you so much for joining me today with the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to talk to you.

Don Nobles
My pleasure as well. Thank you.

Louis Goodman
That’s it for today’s edition of Love Thy Lawyer in collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association, please visit the LovethyLawyer.com website, where you can find links to all of our episodes. Also, please visit the Alameda County Bar Association website at ACBAnet.org where you can find more information about our support of legal profession, promoting excellence in the legal profession, and facilitating equal access to justice. Special thanks to ACBA staff and members Kaylin Daylin, Saeed Randall, dasa Hayashi, Vincent Tong, and Jason Leung. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.

Don Nobles
I remember when I was coming home from the library from Cal and, you know, police were surrounding my house, have the yellow tape out, you know, outline the body I thought, you know, maybe my mother was for my grandmother and ran up to the tape. They stopped me I’m like, hey, my house and my mother and grandmother were okay but they saw what happened

Louis Goodman

Louis Goodman

Louis J. Goodman is a former Deputy District Attorney and experienced Alameda County Criminal Defense Lawyer, and can help you understand and exercise your Constitutional Rights.

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