Jim Meehan / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript


Jim Meehan / Louis Goodman Podcast Transcript

Louis Goodman

Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, 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. He is currently an Assistant District Attorney in Alameda County. He is on the Officer Involved Shooting Critical Incident Team and has served on the Special Circumstances Committee. He has also served on the Consumer Protection Team and has litigated every type of felony and misdemeanor matter. He has tried numerous cases to jury verdict. He has traveled to several African nations under the auspices of Rotary International. He is active in a Men’s Ministry, and perhaps most impressive, he has been inducted into the Bay Area Men’s Senior Baseball Leagues Hall of Fame. Jim Meehan, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.



Jim Meehan

Thank you Lou, and you buried the lead on that Hall of Fame.



Louis Goodman

The reference, tell me the lead?



Jim Meehan

Well, you know all about this because it was your brother in law, Dave Rapson that gave me a chance to play initially when I turned 30 and then playing in the league ever since. But it’s a pretty liberal set of criteria that would allow someone into the Hall, so your listeners shouldn’t be overly impressed.



Louis Goodman

Well, that’s the only liberal thing about you that I know. Where is your office right now? Where are you practicing out of?



Jim Meehan

I’m working out of the Oakport building right across from the Oakland Coliseum up on the seventh floor where our whole team for the unit is located. You already mentioned that I’m currently working in the Public Assistant, Fraud Division. So we got the whole seven floor with the exception of maybe one other office.



Louis Goodman

And how long have you been in that assignment?



Jim Meehan

It’s actually a fairly new assignment. It was kind of one of the dominoes that fell when Kevin Dan Levy got appointed to the Superior Court Bench in San Mateo County. So I moved up to Public Assistant Fraud when Eileen McAndrew got transferred over to run our Oakland branch. So just essentially, since August of this year.





Louis Goodman

How long have you been in the DA’s office?



Jim Meehan

I hate to admit it, but in a few weeks, it’ll be 35 years.



Louis Goodman

Wow. Congratulations.



Jim Meehan

Thank you, sir.



Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?



Jim Meehan

Born in San Francisco. I’m a proud fourth generation San Franciscan, but I’m told that when I was only nine days old, my family moved to Daly City. Lived in the Westlake area of Daly City until around six years old, and my parents made the move over to San Rafael in Marin County. Famously, it was when my older brother Matt, apparently in the middle of summer announced that he knew it was summer because the fog was rolling down the street in Daly City, and my parents decided that was it and moved us out of the fog belt.



Louis Goodman

Now speaking of your parents, your father was the elected District Attorney of Alameda County at one point, and I have to say that I really need to thank him for my career in Alameda County, both as a Deputy District Attorney and as a practicing lawyer. But you really come from a long line of San Francisco law enforcement Bay Area royal.



Jim Meehan

Yes, I can claim heritage with the San Francisco Police Department. My dad’s father, the original big Jack was a career police officer for SFPD started in the 1930s and rose through the ranks from officer to Sergeant to Lieutenant and ultimately a Captain and retired in 1968. So he had, I think, over a 40 year career with the San Francisco Police Department.



Louis Goodman

Where did you go to high school?



Jim Meehan

I went to Turlock High School in San Rafael, home of the Trojans. I was given the option by my parents either to go to Marine Catholic or go to St. Ignatius, but I chose to avoid buses and became a proud member of the Class in 1979 at Turlock High School.





Louis Goodman

How was that experience for you?



Jim Meehan

I loved it. Yeah, I was really fortunate that I fell in with a great group of friends. I was kind of a band geek my first couple years playing in the marching band but also was on the baseball team. So that kind of served to put me out of the geek stereotype. I also got involved in a lot of activities, including being on the student newspaper there.



Louis Goodman

Well, what instrument did you play in the band? And what position did you play on the baseball team?



Jim Meehan

I’m just gonna say classically trained. But that would be an overstatement. I started playing trumpet in elementary school, and I wasn’t good enough as a trumpeteir to advance in the chair. So for those of us that were second or third trumpet they nudged us into French horn. So I actually played French horn in junior high school and my first two years of high school and then I convinced my parents to let me drop out of band. So when I was marching, it would have been as a French horn player, and for baseball, I was primarily a first baseman, but I would also play outfield positions. My first love was catching but I only did that in Little League through about age 12. Then by the high school, I was a first baseman almost exclusively and didn’t return to catching until I hit the 30 and Overlake.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from high school, where’d you go to college?



Jim Meehan

I went to UC Davis, and at the time was much easier to get admitted to UC Davis. I just went through the application process with my daughter a couple years ago. And even though she was a 4.0, and off the charts on the LSAT, she couldn’t even get into UC Davis. But I never even gave it a second thought back then in 1979. And there was about 2530 of us from Turlock High School that went to UC Davis and it was just a great four years.



Louis Goodman

I knew it was going to be a great four years. And I’ll tell you why. When I came to California, and I started meeting people from around California in law school at Hastings every single person that I ever met who went to Davis said they had a phenomenal experience. You know, other people said, yeah, it was okay it was this was that whatever. But Davis, people universally said they had a great experience in college. And I’m not sure exactly what it is about Davis but I’ve always remembered that. Maybe you can shed some light on that.







Jim Meehan

Sure, well, I gravitated toward Davis because I have this misplaced idea that I was going to be able to play on the baseball team there and I had gone to the UC Davis baseball camps after my sophomore and junior years of high school and thought I had an in with the baseball program there but shockingly enough when it came to handing out uniforms my freshman year my name wasn’t on the list. So I didn’t end up playing college baseball after all. But I got involved in a fraternity my spring quarter of my freshman year and join the Chi Phi Fraternity right up there on Russell Boulevard across from Tumi field and was fortunate enough to serve as a resident advisor in the dorms on the international relations floor and two summers working with the register’s office in the summer advising program. And my senior year in college, I was elected president of my fraternity which was a good deal because I got free room and board. So just really enjoyed the time there made a lot of friendships very involved in intramural sports. And essentially, as a poly sigh major, started preparing for what I pretty much knew was going to be law school.



Louis Goodman

When did you first start thinking about going to law school and having a sense that you wanted to be a lawyer?



Jim Meehan

Probably earlier than most just because of my lineage. My dad, Jack started as a Deputy District Attorney the day after my older brother was born. And for the record, that would be October 10, 1960, that Jack was first sworn in as a DA and I was only vaguely aware of what he did, probably into the 1970s. But then I started paying more attention and just saw how much he loved being in the District Attorney’s Office and the name backup spoken most prominently at the kitchen table was first the chief referencing J Frank Coakley, and then later Lowell Jensen, and by the time I was probably a sophomore in high school, I pretty much knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. And I also got to confess that by my senior year, I pretty much wanted to be a prosecutor.



Louis Goodman

Did you take any time off between college and law school or did you go directly to law school after graduating from Davis?



Jim Meehan

I actually went straight through and to this day, I kind of regret that I did, but I was actually already kind of young for my year just as in September baby and I really didn’t have any sort of gap year plans and so I just went straight from being a summer advisor coordinator after my senior year at UC Davis right into USF Law School.



Louis Goodman

What did you think of being in San Francisco after being a Davis? You know, you’re back there in the fog belt.



Jim Meehan

I loved it. Actually, I had just for financial reasons. I actually commuted from San Rafael for my first two years and kind of pined for the idea of being able to live in San Francisco. I finally was able to do so my third year and rented a flat with two roommates. So at 710 Clayton Street right at the corner of Clayton Waller, one street up from Haight Street and was there for about two, three years before moving to the East Bay. And I have to tell you, those were some pretty fun couple of years living there in the Haight Ashbury.



Louis Goodman

When you graduated from USF, what was your first legal job? Did you go right to the DA’s office?



Jim Meehan

I did as a student at USF, I first had a summer position with the Sacramento County DA’s office this summer after my first year. They really didn’t have a program that catered to one else. So I was shipped off to Juvenile Hall in Rancho Cordova. I didn’t mind because I still had so many friends at Davis. I actually lived in my fraternity house that summer, work days at the juvenile division of the Sacramento DAS office and then work nights as a bouncer at The Graduate, right offer Russell Boulevard. Then after that, during my second and third years, I clerked at the California Attorney General’s Office and the Criminal Division doing mostly response briefs. But I was concurrently assigned with the Prison Litigation Unit and handled habeas corpus petitions from the correctional facilities and then was a member of a summer lock work class of 1985 for the DA’s office, and that has the distinction of being the last summer class that the Honorable Carol Corrigan of our California Supreme Court was the recruiter and trainer that handled the summer law clerk program. And then right after taking the bar, I was the Post Bar Law Clerk at the DA’s office and was fortunate enough to pass the bar and was sworn in by Judge Bill McGinnis, as an attorney along with the other members of my class that passed the bar and away we went.



Louis Goodman

Was your dad, the DA at the time?



Jim Meehan

He was yeah, he as you mentioned, he was elected from 1981 to 1995. So I was sworn in in December of 1986, and served at the pleasure of John J. Meehan for essentially nine years before he retired beginning of 1995.



Louis Goodman

What was the sense of that? Working in the office when your dad was the DA and you were Deputy DA, presumably answering to a whole chain of command in between?



Jim Meehan

Sure, sure. Um, well, it was something that my dad and I discussed. And I was first thinking that I should not work in the Alameda County DA’s office just because of him being the quote, unquote, the boss, but he kind of persuaded me that it should not work to my disadvantage, just because he’s the DA. And, you know, he strongly felt to the day he died, that tells me the County District Attorney’s office was best District Attorney’s Office in the United States, and then think that I should not have the opportunity to work there just because of him. And from my perspective, I knew there was some precedent because Lowell Jensen’s daughter, Marcia, who my assumption is you worked with, had already kind of in the trailblazer in the nepotism department can use that term. And yeah, so it could have been worse if he wasn’t such a popular District Attorney. But he was, you know, pretty much beloved.



Louis Goodman

You’ve been in the district attorney’s office quite a while, as we’ve already established, what do you really like about practicing law as a District Attorney?



Jim Meehan

Well, first and foremost, it’s my colleagues. So whether it be other Deputy DA’s, whether it be our investigators, whether it be our support staffers and members of Victim Witness, yeah, it’s all about relationships. And just from the time I was a summer law clerk guy, I’ve just been so blessed to be able to work was such a great group of professionals.



Louis Goodman

If a young person was coming out of college, UC Davis perhaps, and thinking about a career choice, would you recommend going into law and specifically going into criminal prosecution?



Jim Meehan

I’d say yes. And yes, I know, you always hear the comment, oh, there’s already too many lawyers that but then then come back to that as well. There’s always room for a good one. And from my perspective, if one is interested in criminal law, you can’t go wrong working for a District Attorney’s Office. It is always been my view that as a member of the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, I have been given the authority to pursue justice, whatever that looks

like.



Louis Goodman

What do you think’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?



Jim Meehan

Well, the best advice I ever received, it came in the form of what I’d like to think would be normal fatherly advice. Yeah. And that was my dad, Jack, just telling my brothers and I, when we were younger, that it doesn’t matter what you decide to do in life, just make sure you strive to be the best at whatever that may be. And then when it came to interacting with others, my dad also gave my brothers and I advice that treat everyone with respect. And when I came into the office, I got the same speech as everyone else, which was essentially there’s nothing more important than your integrity. And I think Jack would famously tell all new deputies that no matter how long you stay here at the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, you will never handle a case that is more important or more significant than your integrity. And if you don’t maintain your integrity, then you aren’t worth anything, either to yourself or this office.



Louis Goodman

Do you think the legal system is fair?



Jim Meehan

Yeah, that’s a question I struggle with. And I sincerely believe that the criminal justice system we have here in the United States is the best in the history of mankind, but at the same time, it’s only as good as the men and women that are involved in it, and nothing is perfect. So certainly, in instances, there’s going to be unfair results. And there is also going to be results that are not consistent across the board, because you’re relying on the judgment of individuals, and you can get 10 people in the room, let’s say 10 Deputy District Attorneys, and they might view the same set of facts differently and might have a different assessment in terms of, “what that case is worth.” So I think there are certainly instances in which there are miscarriages of justice and where there are unfair or unjust results. But I think by and large as a system, we have a fair system here in the United States. And in California in particular.



Louis Goodman

I touched on this in the introduction, you’ve had some interesting travel experience. I was wondering if you could share a little bit about that with us.



Jim Meehan

Sure. I never really traveled growing up. I think the first time I was ever on a plane was to fly down to San Diego for California District Attorneys Association Summer Conference when I was probably a freshman in high school, but I ended up getting the travel bug. And this was, I’ve been married once before, in my first marriage. And before that marriage, my girlfriend and wife was a dual citizen, US and Belgium. And also worked for the airlines and so is the old saying for those that are familiar with working in airlines marry me and fly for free. And so we’d be able to travel extensively. And so I I call it my first life and my first life I traveled fairly extensively through Europe and also to the Far East. And then through Rotary International. As you mentioned, I was a member of a group study Exchange Team sponsored by the Rotary Club of San Lorenzo, which is where I was living at the time, and was able to spend several weeks traveling through the rotary district in Southern Africa. So that included the Zimbabwe Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, Botswana, one of the independent homelands at the time and Venda. And it was incredible because we were being home hosted the entire time. And then later on, I was able to travel to Cairo, Egypt for a legal conference with the Institute for the Study and Development of Legal Systems. And then I threw baseball, I traveled down to South Paulo, Brazil for a baseball tournament, which was a lot of fun. But with my current wife, Arlene, we haven’t really yet begun to do extensive traveling. We’ve been to Mexico a couple times, and she’s originally from the Philippines, so is on me to travel to the Philippines but we got a lot of countries on our bucket list that we’d like to visit together.





Louis Goodman

What sort of recreational things do you do to sort of clear your head after a long day in court or the office?



Jim Meehan

Well, I’m still playing in the adult hardball league gets it’s funny. I’ve gone from the 30 and over league to the 40 and over league and now I’m in the 50 and over league. I love getting out there and still playing baseball, my catching days are mostly by me. And so I play mostly first base. I also enjoy hiking and essentially I’m getting involved with my church doing a lot of outreach through Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore which includes working with some ministries that are involved in food distribution, Tri Valley Seek and Save, and essentially enjoying wining and dining with my wife, Arlene, and to get together with friends, you know, go to the occasional concerts and things of that nature. Family time as well.



Louis Goodman

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, is there some other profession or job that you think you might like to have?



Jim Meehan

I know when I was in high school, I mentioned that I worked on the student newspaper, and there was a time that I thought I’d gravitate toward journalism. And I did not end up going that direction. But currently, in addition to my day job, I have a side gig teaching, Chabot College in the Criminal in the Administration of Justice Programs. And so I really enjoy teaching.



Louis Goodman

How would you define success?



Jim Meehan

I think family first walking with the Lord being able to provide in being able to put it in an honest day’s work in whatever profession one chooses.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say you came into some real money, like $3/$4 billion. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?



Jim Meehan

Well, I think I would definitely dig deeper in terms of tithing at my church. I would want to get more involved in various ministries that that my wife and I support. I think it would also be cool to be able to use some of that money to really provide financial support to not only ministries and such, but for educational pursuits for those that might not otherwise be in a position to afford them. And to see the world. I’d love to do some more traveling as such.







Louis Goodman

Let’s say I had a magic wand and there was one thing in the world that you could change in the legal world or otherwise, what would that be?



Jim Meehan

Well, how big is the you wand?



Louis Goodman

Can be any size wand, you get to choose the wand.



Jim Meehan

I would really want to wave that magic wand and just completely do away with a bigotry and hate. Where there is hate or despair, replace that with joy.



Louis Goodman

Let’s say that you had an opportunity to have 60 seconds on the Superbowl. You could say anything you wanted. You could put out an ad with a huge microphone to an enormous audience. What would you like to say?



Jim Meehan

I wouldn’t want to chase off that Super Bowl halftime audience. But I would want to relay the message of you know, against bigotry and hate and preach joy and salvation.



Louis Goodman

Thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It’s been a delight to talk to you.



Jim Meehan

Thank you, Lou, and I really enjoy your podcast. And that’s not just to gather recon on defense attorneys that have been guests.



Louis Goodman

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 as always to my guests who share their wisdom, and to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support, and Tracey Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.



Jim Meehan

I think the second game of the season when I turned 30 that the catcher on the team went down with a knee injury and there was no other catchers and the coach asked for a volunteer and so I got behind the dish and spent pretty much the next 14 years exclusively catching in the Bay Area men’s baseball league




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