Hon. Sandra Bean / Louis Goodman – Podcast Transcript

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, a host of the LTL podcast. And yes, I’m a member of the Alameda County Bar Association. She grew up down south and earned a Master’s Degree in physical education before doing graduate work in neuro muscular integration at UC Berkeley. She currently sits as a judge for the Alameda County Superior Court. She handles a busy probate calendar but has extensive experience in all Judicial functions, including the Criminal Court. She has substantial teaching experience as a Judge, and an impressive background in Civil Litigation and Public Service. Judge Sandra Bean, welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer podcast.



Sandra Bean

Thank you, Mr. Goodman.



Louis Goodman

Well, you know, you and I’ve known each other long enough. You could call me Louis, don’t you think?



Sandra Bean

I don’t really do first names. I can. I’ll call you Goodman.



Louis Goodman

Well, I’m good with that. Where are you working right now?



Sandra Bean

So right now I’m working at the Berkeley Courthouse, and it’s very close to my house. So this is a nice assignment for me. And I’m doing DEP 202 Probate, which is Conservatorships, Guardianships to Seeds, Estates and Trusts.



Louis Goodman

How long have you been in that assignment?



Sandra Bean

So this is my third tour of duty and Probate have come in and out of this department over the years when there needed to be somebody in there. And this is an area of the law that I like, and I’m comfortable with this area, I represented the Alameda County Public Guardian and Public Administrator and Adult Protective Services. So I have some background in this area of law. And it’s one of those places where you come and you feel at home.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Sandra Bean

So I’m from North Carolina, I grew up in North Carolina, and went to Wake Forest University in North Carolina. I’m also kind of on a whim, taking some classes now University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, because one of the offshoots of the pandemic is that you can take classes anywhere, because they’re remote. And I’ve had to learn a lot about technology, not only with the hearings that we’re now doing remotely, but also doing these classes that I’ve been taking.



Louis Goodman

So North Carolina, is where the high school there.



Sandra Bean

I did, I went to high school in Sanford, North Carolina, which is about 45 miles south of Raleigh.



Louis Goodman

How was that experience for you?



Sandra Bean

It was great. I mean, I enjoyed high school, I thought it was fun. I was always thinking that I would not stay there. In contrast to my classmates, I remember standing in line at graduation from high school thinking were people so excited about this, let’s get on with it.



Louis Goodman

What kind of classes are you taking right now at Wake Forest, not a Wake Forest, but at Chapel Hill.



Sandra Bean

So I’m interested because of all the difficulties that the court has with budgets and how we run the court. So I’m interested in that sort of thing. So right now I’m taking an organizational theory class, which talks about how organizations should be put together. And it’s really interesting. I took a professional communications class, and I’ve got some ideas about other things that I want to take. They have a technology class for public institutions. I don’t think it’s offered that often. But I want to take that.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from Wake Forest, did you immediately go to law school, or did you do some other work?



Sandra Bean

No. So when I graduated from Wake Forest, I just really didn’t know what I wanted to do in terms of career, other than that I wanted to be a lawyer at some point in time, but I wasn’t ready to sit and study. So I got a Master’s in Physical Education and studied Exercise Physiology for some number of years and taught because I’m very interested in health and health and fitness and all those kinds of topics. But it’s not something that I like doing for myself. I discovered that teaching it was not as much fun as just doing it. So I did go to law school.



Louis Goodman

Well, at one time you’re kind of headed to a career of University Administration, is that correct?



Sandra Bean

Right. Yeah. So I was interested in being an Athletic Director. And I talked to so the folks at Cal when I was going to Cal, about how one becomes an Athletic Director. And although they were somewhat encouraging, it’s a tough business. And so ultimately, I decided to go to law school because law schools only three years, and you go and do it, and you take a little test, and then you just practice, whereas all of the things that I was doing in terms of academia, were pretty difficult to maneuver. For example, when I was working on my PhD at Cal in Neuromuscular Control.



Louis Goodman

I don’t even know how you knew that we’re in the business doing a little research before we start asking questions. That’s right.



Sandra Bean

Yeah. So my program got cancelled because of funding. And I discovered that a PhD is something that just keeps evolving, depending on what the professor’s think you ought to be doing. Now, there were people in the program that had been there for 10 years, and hadn’t gotten a degree. So I figured, you know, this isn’t, a thing certain. So let me do something that has a start and a stop. And that’s what I did want to go to law school. I think, really, lawyers know the rules of the game. I mean, that’s what we do. We know what the rules are. And if you apply rules that should work.



Louis Goodman

When did you first start thinking, you know, I want to be a lawyer, I want to go to law school.?



Sandra Bean

When I argued with my father over,



Louis Goodman

This started when you were, what, five years old? Six years? Four years old? Yeah.



Sandra Bean

My father and I had a very contentious relationship. He thought it was a lot of fun. I thought it was a lot of fun.



Louis Goodman

So what did the family think when you said, I’m really gonna go to law school, not just argue?





Sandra Bean

I don’t think they were surprised.



Louis Goodman

What was your first legal job?



Sandra Bean

So my first legal job was in civil litigation. I worked for a firm in Pleasanton and they broke up, and then I went with one of the partners or one of the partners took me with him. And so then I worked in Hayward, in civil litigation, then I went to another civil firm, and did civil litigation.



Louis Goodman

And just to back up a minute you went to law school at Santa Clara? Is that correct?



Sandra Bean

That’s correct.



Louis Goodman

How did being in Santa Clara compare with being in Berkeley?



Sandra Bean

I like Berkeley. I mean, I live in Berkeley, obviously, like Berkeley. I think it’s fun and interesting. Santa Clara was fine. I mean, there was nothing bad about it. It wasn’t, I thought the classes were good. They were interesting. And I was teaching exercise classes to pay for law school. So I was able to go to classes in the morning, and pretty much get off at three and then come back and do exercise classes and teach two or three classes when I got done, and then make enough money to support myself and get through law school. So it was fine.



Louis Goodman

Would you recommend law as a career to a young person who was coming out of college?



Sandra Bean

I would, and not necessarily even to practice but that the background is important, that it’s good background information for anybody. And if you end up practicing law, then that’s all the better my impression of the way things are, is that you really have to specialize. I mean, you you know this, I mean, you start practicing in criminal and that’s what you do. And in my case, I started practicing in civil, and then I went to County Council to essentially do civil type work, but I was able to do other things other than litigation. So I think I would recommend it. I think there are a lot of other opportunities for young people these days then perhaps when I was growing up. When I was growing up, it was really most people assumed you’re going to be a teacher, because that was a very acceptable profession.



Louis Goodman

What advice would you give to a young person thinking about getting into law?



Sandra Bean

I thought it was good that when I went to law school that already worked. And I already had done a lot of things, and I had a good sense of who I was, as opposed to go into law school, which right out of college. I think law school is hard. And I think that if you don’t have some perspective and appreciate it could be a real grind. So I think you can benefit by working some before you go live.



Louis Goodman

Yeah, I think so too. Do you think that having done that work, you know, between college and law school really helped you focus in law school on the law school curriculum and having a sense of where you were going and why?



Sandra Bean

So, and I’m a little odd in this respect that I just think learning is fun. I thought law school was fun. I didn’t find it stressful. I mean, you work out three hours a day or more and nothing stressful anymore. So yeah, so when I was in law school, I just Iapproached it as a job.



Louis Goodman

At some point, you decided to run for judge? I remember when you were running for judge, I think that’s when I first met you. Yes. And I’m wondering, what prompted you to decide I want to run for judge, I want to take on this incredible project?



Sandra Bean

It’s a good question. I mean, it’s one of those things that when the idea came up, I just did it because I really wanted to, I really wanted to do it. And, I’m sure there’s an analysis that you could make about why I did it. I mean, I think my father would have been really proud of me for doing it. He was not alive when I ran for judge, but he would have thought it was great. And you’re always looking for approval from your parents, I suppose. And even if they’re not around, and some of the judges suggested that I run in particular McKinstry, if you remember McKinstry, he’s the one Yeah, he’s the one who called me up and had me come over to his chambers. And he told me about it and said, You got to run. So I did.



Louis Goodman

How did the campaign go? Did you enjoy campaigning?



Sandra Bean

I didn’t mind it. I mean, I did a lot of athletic events. I organized tennis tournament side coach tennis and I coach cross country. And I put together tennis tournaments and cross country runs. And I ran the state, the state of Florida Division Three Tennis Tournament when I was a coaching, and I ran some cross country events when I was teaching at Mills College. And so I like putting together events.





Louis Goodman

You’ve been a judge now for, what 15 years, is that right?



Sandra Bean

Yeah, I think so.



Louis Goodman

How does actually being a judge, stack up with your expectations of what being a judge was going to be like?



Sandra Bean

Well, I really had no preconceived notion of what it was going to be like. I was good friends with and I am still with George Hernandez. So I knew something about it from him. I knew something about it from McKinstry and I admired Sandra Margulies and some of the other Judges that were on the bench at that time. And thought that they were really wonderful people. And being a judge is it’s a little different. I mean, you’re isolated from people, you can’t just call up a lawyer and say, Hey, you know, I really want to talk to you about this argument that you made or anything like that, because that’s the next party communication. So it’s isolating, and I didn’t know about that. I knew that it was isolating, but I didn’t know how much it really was. Because it’s you have to experience it.



Louis Goodman

Do you think that the legal system is fair?



Sandra Bean

I think it has a goal of being fair. I think we do everything that we can to be fair, or there are times that it isn’t I’m sure, I’m sure that’s true. But I think that the people that are doing the jobs goal is to be fair. And we do everything possible, to keep ourselves from not keep ourselves from considering things that we shouldn’t.



Louis Goodman

What, if anything, would you change about the legal system, and the way it works?



Sandra Bean

I think that the judicial system suffers from lack of funding. I think that we should have a percentage of the budget. I think that the citizens and the residents of all the counties and states deserve a better judicial system, a better legal system. There should be more notice taken of the legal system, almost like we do with education. I mean, education is one of those areas that a lot of money is put into it and there’s still a lot of problems. So I’m not sure that that budget is the key is the answer, but it wouldn’t hurt. I would say that we suffer from less Funding?







Louis Goodman

Yeah, I mean, I think that in the last, certainly in the last 20 years, probably even longer than that we have, as a society have tended to kind of dump all societal problems at the courthouse door, and said to judges and prosecutors, Hey, you guys figure this out? And I’m not sure that judges and prosecutors and lawyers, you know, really have all the resources to do that.



Sandra Bean

And not only the resources, but what we do, I don’t think can address social problems. I mean, there are social problems that don’t have solutions that the legal, that the judges can impose. I mean, I can order somebody to do something. Whether they do it or not, is another question. But is that the solution? And I think usually it isn’t, I feel like we have one tool. It’s to say yes or no, you give us your possibilities. We can say yes to that, or yes to that, or no to both. I mean, we have that ability to say yes or no.



Louis Goodman

Besides being a judge? What other things do you enjoy doing in your life?



Sandra Bean

Alright, so I’m working out I mean, I exercise every day. And it’s a push to get my workouts in and get to work and spend time with my puppy who was in my lap a few minutes ago. And I have, you know, I like to spend time with, but yeah, I enjoy working out. I have a lot of different things that I do and I enjoy. I mean, I used to love going to movies, I would go see anything. But I haven’t been to the movies a long time. I a foreign channel that I watch to try to study French. I’ve been studying French since I went to France a few years ago. And I’ve been studying French every morning for about 15 minutes. And watching French shows and doing that sort of thing watching movies when I have an opportunity.



Louis Goodman

Now besides going to France, what other travel experience, have you had any other places that you’ve been that you really enjoyed?



Sandra Bean

Not outside of the country, I go to North Carolina quite a bit.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came into some real money, $3 or $4 billion, something a little bit beyond your judicial salary. What if anything, would you change in the way you live your life?



Sandra Bean

I keep my job. I like my job. I mean, in fact, I don’t consider myself working, I just consider myself doing something that I really enjoy. I’d travel more. I try to develop something to do with the money that would be beneficial. I don’t know what that would be. But I want to do something for some social cause. I mean, I think there’s a lot out there that needs to be done. Whether money is the solution or not. I mean, I think sometimes it’s more and one of the reasons I’m enjoying this class that I’m taking is that organizations when they get together and you have collective action can make a lot more difference than just one agency trying to do everything. But yeah, I think it would be important if I had that much money. There’s billions and billions of dollars, Mr. Goodman, to do something meaningful with it.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you had a magic wand. There was one thing in the world that you could change in the legal world, or the world in general. What do you think that would be?



Sandra Bean

Oh, wow. So I would like for people not to be homeless? I think that’s heartbreaking to me.



Louis Goodman

Now I hear the dog barking in the background. So can we see the dog?



Sandra Bean

Sure. Rico, come here? He’s only six months. So he doesn’t know how to come but I’ll go get him.



Louis Goodman

There we go. There’s Rico. Does Rico know you’re a judge and he supposed to follow those orders?



Sandra Bean

He comes to work with me every day. He sees me put on my robe and he gets immediately quiet and just waits for me until I come back. So yeah, he knows. He knows what I do. He’s not impressed.



Louis Goodman

This podcast is presented and supported by the Alameda County Bar Association. ACBA provides a wide range of certified continuing legal educational programs, networking opportunities and social events. If you’re a member of ACBA, thank you. If you are not yet a member, we hope you will consider joining this organization that is by for and in support of practicing attorneys.



And now back to our interview. Let’s say there was one big message that you could get out to the world. And I’m not suggesting that this podcast is the medium for that, I’m talking about if you really had a big microphone, what one message would that be? What message would you like to get out?



Sandra Bean

Oh, wow, that’s a good question. I think the message I would like to get out is that we all need to realize that everybody has their own point of view. And we need to know what it is to be able to really understand each other.





Louis Goodman

Is there anything else that before I open it up to other participants? Is there anything else that you wanted to share with us to say to put out there?



Sandra Bean

I’m just shocked that you want to interview me, Mr. Goodman, because I see that you’ve interviewed a lot of other people that are much more important than I am. So I just was surprised. But I’m delighted. And no, nothing.



Louis Goodman

Well, let me just respond to that very, very briefly. Okay, which is this podcast and to some extent, this barristers club, program with the Bar Association is about all of us, getting to know each other a little better, and being able to have some communication with each other. And the people who I have interviewed in general, are people who I like, people who I respect. People who I think do good work, primarily in Alameda County, but not necessarily exclusively in Alameda County. And, very frankly, you fall squarely within that group of people. I’ve appeared in front of you many times. I’ve always respected the way you’ve handled yourself as a judge. I’ve always respected the way you handled yourself as a person. And when we’ve, on occasion, had an opportunity to talk to each other, you know, privately, I’ve always enjoyed those conversations. So I, I don’t find anything unusual about this interview, or my wanting to interview for the podcast or your level of importance or unimportant side. I think that if you’re someone who practices in the Alameda County Courts, I think that it’s important for all of us to know each other.



Sandra Bean

I appreciate that.



Louis Goodman

Well, having said that, is there somebody want to unmute and ask judge, being a comment, a question or to comment on anything that’s been said, or comment on something that you think we need to say, because if you don’t, if you don’t weigh in, I’m just gonna start calling on people.



Erica Jennings

I’ll say something before I get called on which I did at the last one I attended. So. Okay, my name is Erica Jennings.



Louis Goodman

Hi Erica, thanks.



Erica Jennings

Hi. And thank you for this. This has been very interesting as have the other podcasts you’ve done getting to know judges. I think it’s awonderful program. Judge Bean, I can’t help but ask in light of it being in the news lately, and the fact that you work in this area, what do you think about, So I’m just going to say it Free Britney? And can you just give us a little bit of insight for those of us that don’t have as much experience as you do in this whole realm of conservatorship as a lay person in that area? It seems kind of severe to me, but I don’t know. But also, maybe in a more general sense. Some other people on this webinar may also be in the same situation that I’m in where we have maybe elderly parents and considering maybe what we need to do. I’m just wondering, can you give us some information about the you know, when a conservatorship is appropriate?



Sandra Bean

Right, so obviously, Miss Jennings, I’m not able to talk about any cases. I mean, but I can give you some general information. I don’t know really what the situation is with Britney Spears. I’ve never studied it. I don’t know what kind of conservatorships she’s on. But let me just tell you there are two different types of conservatorships. Well, actually there’s three and I’ll just outline them. There are limited conservatorships that are for people with developmental disabilities. And so those limited conservatorships usually start when the person is 18. And let’s say for example, the person can’t make medical decisions or can’t make educational decisions and that sort of thing. So typically what are called limited conservatorships are people that are developmentally disabled, their clients to the regional center and those that’s one category. Typically that’s just person it’s not a state. So what we heard about with Britney Spears was a lot of the estate part of a conservatorships. So there’s the limited and then for people that have mental illnesses, there’s what’s called an LPS conservatorship. That’s the Lanterman Pietrus Short Act that was enacted in the 70s. And those are limited in duration in Alameda County. We do 30 day conservatorships, six month conservatorships, and one year. The six month is kind of an Alameda County creation. So the idea is to stabilize people who have mental illnesses, get them treatment, so they don’t have to be on a conservatorship.



Louis Goodman

Melody Russell, I see you right there on my screen. I’m wondering if you have a question or a comment for Judge Bean.



Melody Russell

Yeah, sure.



Melanie Rissell

I actually had one for Judge Bean, Do you ever compete in any races running or cycling or anything like that?



Sandra Bean

So I ran marathons when I was in my 30s, which was a while ago. And I have not competed, well I did a few mountain bike races. And I was really good on the uphill and was terrible on the downhill. I have done, I’ve been doing ballet for the last couple of years. Because why not?



Louis Goodman

Think about Eric Liggins.



Erik Liggins

Yeah, good timing, Louis. I actually did have a question. Judge Bean, and good to see you. both Judge Pineda case in front of me a few years back, that’s actually still going but I’m looking into doing some more Probate. And I wanted to know if you had any advice for attorneys transitioning to that and common mistakes or pitfalls in probate practice.



Sandra Bean

Okay. Yeah. I mean, I think Probate is a very pleasant practice. The attorneys who do probate are very nice people, it seems to be a collegial group they get along well. What I would say is that it is a procedural practice at the outset, you need to make sure that you understand the Judicial Council Forms that you have to fill out and it’s just got some technical requirements that have to be met.



Louis Goodman

Let me just follow up on that. Judge. If someone is interested in getting into the probate field, is there any particular course or group that you would be able to recommend?



Sandra Bean

Well, Alameda County Bar Association has a Trust and Estate Section, I believe. And then there’s the MCLE, East Bay Trusts and Estates Lawyers that exists, and really important to do continuing education and to study and read the Probate Code. There’s lots of good materials out there. It’s not rocket science, it’s not that hard. But I think it’s like criminal, it’s like family, or anything else that you need to get kind of a climatized to what the procedure is like and how it works.



Louis Goodman

So Svetlana Kristol, do you have something that you would like to ask Judge Bean or comment on?



Svetlana Kristol

My question is, did you ever see that one of the parties, or both parties try to use probate court as a weapon against another family member? What would you do? How do you react?



Sandra Bean

I wouldn’t be able to answer that question. People are allowed to use the courts and to file cases, I don’t know motivations, I would simply look at what the petition is and rule as I think is appropriate.



Louis Goodman

Jody Phillips







Jody Phillips

I just had one or two sort of question comments. One Judge Bean, congratulations on the new dog. I know we’ve talked about dogs in the past. So that’s very exciting that you got a new one. And my other question is more sort of personal, Have you ever tried Pilates? Because that’s sort of my exercise regiment, cuz I’ve had a number of injuries and chronic issues with pain and stuff. So that’s sort of my go to.



Sandra Bean

Yeah, yeah, no, I used to own a Pilates Reformer and I gave it to my ballet teacher, because she had always wanted one. And I thought it was better used with her because she’s able to use it to the fullest but that’s funny that you say that Miss Phillips because I just got a notice from Oakwood Athletic Club that they’re having everybody’s memberships activated now. And I was going over there to use the Pilates Reformer and I was thinking, Well, now that I’m paying for it. I guess I should go do Pilates.



Louis Goodman

Shannon Wolfe. I noticed that you put a question in the chat, would you like to ask the Judge directly?



Shannon Wolfe

Hi Judge, I was wondering when you are assigned or judges or assigned to a new division, sometimes an area where you haven’t practiced before, how do you bring yourself up to speed in that new area? And also, thank you very much for being here.



Sandra Bean

Oh, sure. Thank you. I appreciate that. All right. So when we get a new assignment, we take classes through the Center for Judicial Education Research. And when I became a new judge, I was really excited about the fact that we had that organization that I could go take classes and so I, and we’re required to do it, too. So if you change your assignment, your primary assignment, you have to go what’s called Primary Assignment Class.



Louis Goodman

Judge Sandra Bean, thank you so much for joining us today at the Alameda County Bar Association, and on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast . Certainly appreciate giving us your time, your energy and your wisdom.



Sandra Bean

Well, thank you. I appreciate people being here and it was a pleasure to see all and to see a few people that I haven’t met before.



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 Caitlin Dailen, Saeed Randall, Hadassah Hayashi, Vincent Tong, and Jason Leon. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Sandra Bean

You want to do what’s right all the time and you hope you get it right. I mean, it’s not an easy job sometimes because you want to, you want everybody to get a good resolution. But you can only make the decisions that you feel are appropriate.



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