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Louis Goodman / Joe Penrod – Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
Welcome to the Love Thy Lawyer podcast, where we talk with attorneys about their lives and careers. I’m Louis Goodman. Today, I’m excited to speak with Alameda County Assistant Public Defender, Joseph Penrod. Joe is an aggressive criminal litigator who enjoys the respect of both the bench and bar. He’s tried numerous felony and misdemeanor cases to jury verdict while also handling matters for disposition.
He juggles a busy professional career with the demands of a young family and speaking as the second-best kite boarder in the Alameda County legal community, I can say with confidence that Joe Penrod is clearly the number one kite boarder amongst us. I am unaware of a third.
Joe Penrod, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Joe Penrod 00:52
Thanks for having me, Lou. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Louis Goodman 00:55
I’ve wanted to have you on the podcast for a while. I really do think that you’re an interesting lawyer and in the sense that I always see you when I’m in court and you always seem to be representing someone on a very serious matter. I know you’re a public defender in Alameda County. Can you tell us a little bit about what sort of work you’re doing in the office right now?
Joe Penrod 01:18
Right now, I’m part of the Civil Commitment Unit, and so I have sort of an alphabet soup of assignments. I handle NGRI commitments, MDO commitments, and SVP commitments, which are all civil filings that basically threaten an individual’s liberty due to dangerousness.
Louis Goodman 01:36
And that’s related to, but essentially outside of the criminal justice system.
Joe Penrod 01:41
You’re not allowed to call it criminal justice. No one’s allowed to say punishment. For the NGRIs, they’ve gone through a criminal process and been found not guilty by reason of insanity. So I’m at the very back end of that. MDOs and SVPs have finished some sort of prison term, and before being released, the Department of State Hospitals has filed this petition or brought the petition to the DA to file to keep them from being released into the community. So they’re released into a hospital.
Louis Goodman 02:06
And for someone who doesn’t know what those letters mean, can you tell us?
Joe Penrod 02:12
Yeah. So NGRI, not guilty reason of insanity, MDO, mentally disordered offender and SVP, sexually violent predator.
Louis Goodman 02:21
How long have you been in the Public Defender’s Office?
Joe Penrod 02:25
So I was just thinking about that before I logged on here. I guess it’s actually been 18 years, which shocks myself, but you know, I see the gray hair on the screen here and it didn’t always look like that. Time has gone by.
Louis Goodman 02:36
How long have you been an attorney?
Joe Penrod 02:38
I’ve been a PD my entire career as an attorney. So I graduated law school, took the bar in 2005 and was hired by the PD’s office in 2005. So I’ve spent my entire career at the PD’s Office. I’m sort of, I might be one of the last of a dying breed, but I expect to spend the rest of my career at the PD’s office.
Louis Goodman 02:56
Where are you from originally?
Joe Penrod 02:57
I grew up in Piedmont. So I’m a child of the East Bay and spent my childhood in the Bay Area, East Bay. I went to boarding school for high school. So back in Massachusetts, went to college in Oregon at the University of Oregon and then law school in Pennsylvania at Temple University.
Louis Goodman 03:15
What boarding school did you go to in Massachusetts?
Joe Penrod 03:18
Tabor Academy is the name of it. So it’s down there on Buzzards Bay. It was a sailing school. And it’s the place where I sort of discovered my love for sailing and began sailing there and kept it going ever since.
Louis Goodman 03:30
And after you graduated from Buzzards Bay High, you said you went to college, I’m sorry, I missed that.
Joe Penrod 03:36
Oh, yeah, sorry, I went blazing through my academic career. I went to the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Louis Goodman 03:43
Those are the Ducks, is that right?
Joe Penrod 03:44
Those are the Ducks, yeah.
Louis Goodman 03:46
How was that experience going from one side of the country all the way to the other side of the country?
Joe Penrod 03:52
You know, I think going to boarding school and having to get to school on an airplane convinced me I wanted to go to college somewhere where I could get to and from sort of my home base in the East Bay by car. So Oregon is about as far away as I thought I could reasonably drive. It was, you know, it’s a good experience. Like the winters on the East Coast were hard and not growing up with that around you, I never really adapted to it. Oregon rains a lot, but it’s still West coast. You know, it’s not cold.
Louis Goodman 04:17
Were you able to do some sailing there as well?
Joe Penrod 04:20
I sailed and I skied a lot. I almost majored in skiing and sailing, put the minor in psychology, but they have a big lake right there by the university called Fern Ridge reservoir. I think it’s what it’s called. It’s a giant US Army reclamation project, big lake. So we’d sail there all the time.
Louis Goodman 04:36
And when you graduated from Oregon at some point you went to law school.
Joe Penrod 04:43
Yeah, I had a brief stint working as a professional sailor and sort of in the maritime industry. I worked as a sail maker, built sails and sail loft. I worked as a rigger building masts and rigging for sailboats, and then I sailed on sailboats for money. But eventually I arced my way back to law school.
Louis Goodman 05:00
How long were you working in the sailing industry?
Joe Penrod 05:03
Yeah, it seems like a big part of my life, but I think it was maybe 18 months. It was, I graduated from college in 2000 and it was right around 9/11 caused me to really start thinking about doing something different with my life. And I sort of part of me is I go to law school, join the military and my parents are like, go to law school.
Louis Goodman 05:21
When was it that you first decided I really want to be a lawyer? And then when was it that you decided I’m going to actually apply to law school?
Joe Penrod 05:32
So you know, as a growing up, my father’s a trial lawyer. And I observed his life and I’m the oldest son. So I think it’s sort of a natural inclination to try to follow your father’s footsteps. And I remember I got to go see him in trial when I was maybe 14 years old. It was like my birthday present as a 14-year-old was to go watch and he was cross examining an expert witness. Don’t have any idea what the case was, but it was financial, like economic cross examination. And I remember watching and just being like, this is awesome. Like, this is everything I thought it would be. The expert was refusing to accept some basic math proposition. And it was, I guess it was probably in the early 90s, and they had those overhead projectors with the see through calculator, you know, so the math was being done in front of the jury, and I was hooked at that point.
I think I really like the way, as a lawyer, you get to dive deep into little discrete part bits of knowledge. And then you move on to something else and you keep learning new things and that, you know, it should never end for you as an attorney.
Louis Goodman 06:31
And you went to law school where?
Joe Penrod 06:34
Temple University. Yeah. North Philadelphia.
Louis Goodman 06:38
So you ended up going back to the East Coast. You couldn’t quite drive to Temple.
Joe Penrod 06:43
Well, it’s interesting. I was loving my life as a professional sailor and I was in a relationship with a young woman who wanted to go to law school and I didn’t really want to do the applications. I was really wasn’t making a decision there about what I wanted to do. And she said she’d do the applications if I did all the prep work and did all, you know, wrote the essays, did the, did the study and took the tests. And lo and behold, she’d only applied to things on the East coast because that’s where she wanted to go. And when I got in, I got into Temple, I got into American university. I think I was waitlisted at George Washington, which was my father’s Alma mater. And we walked around back there and I looked at all the places. When I went to Temple, I just, I liked the campus. I liked the library and I was like, I, Philadelphia was a town I’d never even really thought about coming from the West coast.
And when I got there, I’m like, this place is huge and it’s interesting. And I could see myself spending three years here.
Louis Goodman 07:31
So how was that three years?
Joe Penrod 07:33
I loved it. You know, I think law school of all periods of my life was the first time I really engaged with my academic material and it really spoke to me. And I found just in that first year, like my passion for constitutional law and criminal law, like just showing through and I couldn’t really, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.
Louis Goodman 07:50
Do you think having taken some time off, worked for 18 months, essentially, you know, blue collar type industry, do you think that that got you to focus better on your studies once you got to law school?
Joe Penrod 08:06
It definitely made it harder to get back in the gear of studying, but it also, I think you’re right. It made me appreciate like what the workload was, you know. I was getting up to go to work and physically tired or beat up from the weekend of working on a sailboat, sailing and getting into work and I was able to at least appreciate the pleasures of white collar work, you know, the benefit of being able to sit in a room and this is what I do. So I appreciated that for sure. And I knew the time was money at that point. I really began to appreciate that.
Louis Goodman 08:33
What did your friends and family say when you told them, Hey, I’m going to law school. I’m really doing this.
Joe Penrod 08:40
I mean, I think everyone was happy to see me engage with that. You know, I think I’d spoken about wanting to do it before. Being a professional sailor and working in the maritime industry. It’s a hard road. I mean, it’s a path, but I think my parents thought perhaps I could engage my intellect a little more. So I think everyone was happy.
Louis Goodman 08:57
How did you happen to get to the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office from Temple?
Joe Penrod 09:03
So, you know, we have deep connections here, my family does, to the legal community. I was going to meet one of my dad’s really good friends, Paul Dresnick. I was going to meet him for lunch. I don’t know if you know him, but he’s a solo practitioner in Hayward forever. He’s sort of, we used to refer to him as the King of Hayward. And I was meeting him for lunch. I was just beginning law school. And I sat down next to this crusty old guy at the bar waiting for me, for Dresnick. And this guy, I’d never met this guy before and he starts asking what I want to do. He said, Oh, you’re here to see Dresnick, we have friends in common. And he starts sort of saying pro death penalty stuff and he was just setting me up and I kind of got like dug in on him and engaged with them. And it turned out he was an Alameda County Public Defender. His name was Jim Pandell and he was pulling my leg the whole time. And he just like, he sort of liked my style of engaging with them. And he said, you know what, if you want to work, come back here and work. If that’s what you want to do, you should let me know. And so when I was looking for internships, I reached out, he connected me with Tammy, and they put me in the first year they weren’t allowing you to do criminal. So I was in the three hundreds and I worked for a little three hundreds division, which is at that point, part of the PD’s Office. And they liked what I was doing. And I came back the next year. I said, can I come work, you know, do a criminal internship. And I did, then I went and did a 2L internship, I came back as a post bar. And I was lucky enough to get hired. I sort of showed up at the right time for a generation X, because we were starting to see the first of the old guard retire and there was, there were jobs to be had, which hadn’t been the case for years before.
Louis Goodman 10:29
Joe, you’re obviously a very talented guy. You’re a bright guy. You could pretty much do whatever you wanted to do. And yet you’ve chosen to stay practicing law as a Public Defender. What is it that you really like about that?
Joe Penrod 10:45
I kind of like the purity of it. And you know, I guess Alameda County is my home. And as time has gone by, I’ve started to realize how much what we do at the courthouse and the quality of it affects what happens out there in other people’s lives. And sort of the fabric of the community and I’m interested in the Public Defender’s Office, I guess, an institution. I mean, it’s set up at the behest of Earl Warren. You know, you can’t say that for too many other PDs Offices because he wanted to have professional competitors who could do a good job and test his lawyers. And I think over time we’ve done that. And as I get to sort of later stage of my career, I feel like A: I can handle heavy cases. I can do it for another 10 or 15 years. And hopefully I can help, you know, impart into the next generation. The spirit that like what the Public Defender’s Office does is important and it has an important role to play in keeping things even and balanced and fair. So that’s sort of what drew me to it.
Louis Goodman 11:41
Would you recommend the law in general and being a public defender in particular to a young person who is just coming out of college and thinking about law as a career?
Joe Penrod 11:54
That’s such a hard question because it’s just so different now than it was when I was getting into it.
Louis Goodman 11:59
In what way?
Joe Penrod 12:01
Well, there’s a lot more lawyers now. Like, if you just look at the state bar numbers people have, like, there’s a lot more lawyers. And so if you recommend someone getting into the law, they may not be as lucrative as a profession going forward. You know, I’ve engaged with ChatGPT quite a few times, just trying to sort of experiment around what it could be doing in my space and it clearly, the future may eviscerate a lot of the lower end legal jobs.
So someone’s got to be really dedicated to it. They shouldn’t be doing it. If someone said they wanted to be a lawyer. Why are they getting into it? And if someone’s passionate about what the law really is, which is trying to regulate human beings’ interests amongst each other for the greater good of everyone else, then that person should be a lawyer.
If they want to get into this career for money, I’m not sure that’s a good motivation for it. If someone is interested in criminal law, then I would always recommend being either a DA or a Public Defender. And I would tell anyone that the fact that I’ve been doing this for a whole career and I intend to keep doing it, that may not be the case in the future, and it certainly isn’t for everybody. But anyone who’s interested in the field should probably engage as a DA or a PD for a couple years. Because they get the opportunity to meet real clients, have real clients of their own, and they get the opportunity to try cases. Which just doesn’t exist elsewhere, but the same thing, I think I’d ask somebody why they want to be a PD and I’d, I’d be gentle with it because people come to it from all different, you know, perspectives and reasons, but as long as it’s really about fairness and about trying to find a little bit of truth out there in the world, then they probably should give it a shot.
Louis Goodman 13:34
How has actually practicing law met or differed from your expectations about it?
Joe Penrod 13:40
You know, I don’t know that it has, because I think I had a real view of what it looked like from watching my father. I mean, my father would work all night, like all weekend long. When he was in trial, he never stopped working and when he was preparing for a trial, he never stopped working. And so I think I had a real eyes open, like what it takes to succeed and what it takes to do like what making you feel you’re good about yourself for your client. So I don’t think that surprised me. The sheer volume of work we have to deal with in the PD’s office. I think perhaps that was an eye opener, but I certainly knew that was probably what was going to happen when I came in, but at various times we’ve been really underfunded and I think often nowadays, I think back to 2008 when we had to lay off a number of lawyers and I was down in Hayward and I got taken off of felonies, I just sort of made it to felonies at that point, and I got put back in misdemeanors and given the caseload of three different lawyers who just been laid off. So I had something, 150 or something cases, and I remember that moment being like, my God, you know, I didn’t ever expect this.
Louis Goodman 14:48
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing?
Joe Penrod 14:54
Again, I’m not sure because I think it’s just this voyage of discovery. Like I came in so passionate, you know, and sort of like the real true believer mindset and that reality and the experience of practicing law and trying cases has tempered that edge and made me a little more circumspect. But I don’t know I’d want to come to where I am now starting out that way. I mean, I think you need to have that passion when you’re young. You need to like run into the buzz of reality and then hopefully emerge from it smarter and, you know, tempered. So, I don’t know. I think it’s just a path you got to walk.
Louis Goodman 15:31
What do you think’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Joe Penrod 15:35
You know, my aunt and also godmother was at the time one of the head ethics prosecutors for the state bar when I passed the bar. And she told me to always tell the truth and that the truth is a guiding light that would get you out of every situation. And that was the best advice I ever received. That, and knowing that she was up there at the ethics place, so if someone ever complained about me, she was gonna see it, you know? Gave me an extra level of don’t ever get in trouble, but there’s so much temptation in the criminal space. There’s so much gray area, and people, you see people who think that, well, I’m just gonna cut this corner because it’s for the good of this client, or it’s the right thing. And it’s just a dangerous path. So that was the best advice I ever received. I’ve, you know, endeavored to follow it ever since.
Louis Goodman 16:22
Do you think the legal system is fair?
Joe Penrod 16:25
It can be fair, but no, I don’t, I mean, I don’t think it’s inherently fair. I think we have a lot of very good ideas and rules about fairness, but it takes everybody trying real hard all the time to keep it there and we’re all human. And so at times it really fails spectacularly.
Louis Goodman 16:42
I want to shift gears here a little bit. What’s your family life been like and how has practicing law fit into that and how has your family life fit into your practice of law?
Joe Penrod 16:54
It’s tricky. So, you know, for most of my life, I didn’t have a family at home and so I could dedicate myself to the legal practice and work on the weekends, you know, like as you mentioned earlier, I was a kite, like a much more of a kite boarder then, and I could get up early, go to work and as soon as it got windy, I’d go kite.
Now that I have a young family, I go for, you know, I live a ways away from the courthouse. I’ve switched over to working early, very early, like 5 a. m. And then putting the pencils down at like 3:30 p. m. so I can be present for my family. So that has got to be one of the number one challenges for my generation and for the younger lawyers because the practice of law doesn’t always fit in with the family. Like any trial, you know, all trial lawyers, you know, Lou, it’s like you try, you set a vacation and then a trial gets set and that’s a constant threat. Somebody really intelligent once told me, you’ve got to realize that other people aren’t necessarily going to see your sacrifice for your clients as noble for them. You know, they may feel noble to you, your clients might appreciate it or not. But your family might feel that loss. So I’ve really tried in the last few years to be sure to carve out big bits of every day to not be missing. That’s a hard one. And especially now that we have, you know, multiple income families are the rule, not the exception, finding a way to get everyone together at the end of the day, it’s important.
Louis Goodman 18:13
Have you had any interesting travel experiences?
Joe Penrod 18:17
I did a lot of travel on sailboats, so I’ve done a lot of sailing. I traveled a lot when I was younger, China and, you know, Australia and all over Europe. I do love travel. That is one of the things that’s hard to pull in these days. I’m supposed to go to Europe this summer, so maybe I’ll be able to get it again. But when the pace of trials picks up, it is hard to spend money on plane tickets, because you just can’t know if you’re going to go. My honeymoon in British Columbia, I thought of when you’re suggested questions because my wife and I chartered a sailboat and just sailed around up in, you know, the fjords and inlets of British Columbia, and that was an amazing trip and we almost got eaten by a mountain lion. So that was an experience I’ve never forgot. I haven’t had a chance to bring that up in a closing argument yet, but it was every bit of the emergency response syndrome occurred to me personally.
Louis Goodman 19:03
Well, what happened with the mountain lion?
Joe Penrod 19:05
Myself and my wife and our, my mother-in-law joined us for a couple of days, cause you can have these seaplanes just bring people in. We were hiking outside of a place called Prudhoe Haven and it was a beautiful hike, but like you’re in the middle, it was a hundred miles or something from a road. So you’re really in the middle of nowhere. And as we were walking back, her wife started screaming, and she had turned around, and this mountain lion’s full size, you know, five, six foot long, 180-pound cat, was like right behind her, stalking along, getting hit, broke a stick or something, she hurt it. So she was screaming, and I came running back, and I saw it, and I was like, oh my god, I couldn’t tell what it was, it was like shimmering in black and white to me. I yelled at it for what seemed like 20 or 30 seconds, and it turned sideways and jumped off the trail, and that’s when I saw its big fluffy tail, and I was like, oh my god, it’s a cat, and it followed us for about half an hour, as we kept walking, it was in the bushes next to us, we were yelling at it, but I was unarmed, and there was, it was a soft forest, there’s like no rocks, there’s nothing to arm yourself with, and we made it about halfway back up this trail, and there was a big sort of ledge that you had to rappel down, so my wife and mother in law climbed up that thing, and I turned around, the cat came back out on the tail, and I was probably, 30 yards away from me, and I was like, I have to turn my back and try to climb the rope. And I did, I kept expecting the claws to go digging into me, but they didn’t. And I got to the top of the little, you know, the rock outcropping and a bunch of other Canadians who’d been hankered and heard us screaming and come up the trail. And so at that point we had like seven of us and the cat turned away.
I will not forget that. I was very traumatized.
Louis Goodman 20:36
We briefly mentioned your kiteboarding. Tell us about that. How’d you get into kiteboarding?
Joe Penrod 20:42
You know, it’s a lot of us sailors started doing it because you could get a lot of the thrill of sailing but it’s something you could put in your backpack and throw on the back of your car and you didn’t need other people, you know, you can do it yourself.
So right when that was sort of started to be the thing, I went down and watched one of my friends demonstrate it and he caught a gust, it was one of the old ones, it was two lines. And it dragged him all the way down the beach at Alameda and skinned him. And I was like, yeah, no, thanks. And I walked away. So it’s like two years later when they came out the four line kites to get deep power, I was like, I’ll try that. And just, you know, got out there and loved it. I was living in Alameda at the time. And as you know, that beach is like a national treasure when it comes to kiteboarding. And so being able to get out there every day and run home from work is an amazing stress relief. Like such a good way to get yourself off of whatever happened in court that day.
It’s kind of like skiing, you know, it’s like, if you start thinking about trial, you will crash. And so it forces you to stop thinking about it for a while, but I’ve missed it in the recent times just because we have a real young child, wo we’d stop with for it right now and everyone’s gone to the wing thing and I’m trying to rehab my shoulder for that, but I’ll get there.
Louis Goodman 21:45
Speaking of skiing, you’re also a pretty good skier, aren’t you?
Joe Penrod 21:48
I’ve skied most of my life, yeah. That’s a real passion and it’s that’s one of the things I hope to be able to do forever. I’ve become much more of a cross country skier now. But I’ve been, you know, take the kids skiing. I still love the downhill, but I’ve come to just love the peace and the quiet up there.
Louis Goodman 22:03
Is there anybody living or dead who you’d like to meet?
Joe Penrod 22:07
Oh, there’s so many people. Probably Obama. Now, I’ve met a lot of sort of famous people through the course of my life, just for randomly. Obama really inspires me. If you could actually meet him and have a conversation where he would tell you what he really felt, you know. I wonder if he feels like he should have gone harder after some of the things he had the opportunity to do. You know, he seems to me to be one of the last presidents who tried to be presidential, and it might have cost him the opportunity to achieve some stuff. So I kind of wonder about that. He’s also so young, I wish they put him on the Supreme Court so we could keep hearing from him. I always thought that’s what was going to happen, but maybe he doesn’t want it.
Louis Goodman 22:40
What mistakes do you think lawyers make?
Joe Penrod 22:43
I think the big mistake I see a lot in our practice of law is thinking they know the truth about anything, you know. They get convinced they know and they forget that they can’t know because they can’t be witnesses or they couldn’t be handling this case and so I feel especially the criminal space stepping back off of that, you know, self-righteous ‘I know the truth and I’m right.’ It will be good for everybody.
I have a sign over my door when I walk out of my little office there at the courthouse. It says it’s not about you and I try to remind myself I put it there to remind myself every time I go out. This is not about me, you know, ever. I forget if it was my father who told me this, but it might’ve been my aunt, essentially between myself and the prosecutor and the judge, we’re the only people choosing to be in there, you know. Everyone else, the jurors, the witnesses, the victims, the defendants, no one else wants to be there. And so we just kind of act like that.
Louis Goodman 23:39
What sort of things keep you up at night?
Joe Penrod 23:41
You know, the normal trial lawyer stuff, I think, like, what am I not seeing? Like, what have I failed to prepare for that’s, you know, the trial lawyer’s anxiety. And especially as you approach trial, you know, there’s always something, you could never be prepared for everything. And as you approach the trial, things start developing and you started going, Oh, man, what if I do this? What if I need to do that? And then once the trial is done, you’re like, why was even worried about that? That’s not where it went. That keeps me up at night. I mean, it’s especially at the higher end of the business with when you’re dealing with just murders, like I was for the last, before I got on the civil commitment, I was on the homicide team so it was just murders for 3 years there. Everyone, I mean, every case is such high consequences for everyone involved and you just want to be doing the right things. You just don’t want innocent people in prison that you were supposed to save.
Louis Goodman 24:29
How do you define success?
Joe Penrod 24:31
You know, the Public Defender definition of success is probably beating the offer. I think real personal success is feeling like you did the job the best you could do it and that you were doing something, you know, that you helped some people. And I’ve been blessed to feel like I’ve done that for the most part.
Louis Goodman 24:49
Let’s say you came into some real money, let’s say three or four billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Joe Penrod 25:00
Yeah, I think I’d be doing similar work. I think, though, a lot of the time in those Supreme Court cases where they’re denying relief over some sort of more minor violations, but that add up, you know. Like the fact that no one ever gets arraigned on time, that sort of thing, like that, the Supreme Court’s always like, well, you could just sue. Well, if I had unlimited funds, I’d actually probably bring class action impact litigation for that. Because someone should be doing it and people really aren’t, at least around us, to make those changes.
But honestly, I think I would just, I’d do what I do now, just with maybe a little less of a caseload, a little more balance.
Louis Goodman 25:38
Let’s say you had a magic wand, and there was one thing in the world you could change, the legal world, or the general world or otherwise. I mean, what would you want to change?
Joe Penrod 25:50
It’s hard to say. I mean, poverty is such a terrible thing, you know, and it seems to be part of capitalism, yet capitalism sort of harnesses people’s inherent selfishness towards a greater, you know, it gets people to work because they can be rewarded and other systems that don’t acknowledge that don’t work so well. So I don’t know how to answer that directly, but I would say if I could just wipe out poverty, I would do that.
Louis Goodman 26:13
Let’s say you had a Super Bowl ad, somebody gave you 60 seconds on the Super Bowl and you could put out whatever message you wanted to, to this enormous audience. What would you want to say?
Joe Penrod 26:28
That’s a good one. God, I mean, I might do something in lines to what we’ve done with our office’s L.Y.R.I.C program. We’re just giving some people the basic idea about what a consent search is and the right to silence, you know, because those are those things that like around here, maybe people are more aware and there’s less of it, but across our country, our justice system still, you know, it still relies on people not knowing what their rights are, which is really a messed up way to run a justice system. So I think I’d just do a pretty brief, here’s what a consent search is. Here’s how to refuse it. Here’s how to remain silent. Here’s how to ask for your lawyer.
Louis Goodman 27:03
You just mentioned this Public Defender L.Y.R.I.C program. What is that?
Joe Penrod 27:07
So we go out and I haven’t been doing it as much in the recent last year. I guess I did one or two in the last year. I used to do it all the time. We go out to high schools around Alameda County, generally juniors and seniors and do it, basically teach an hour long class. Usually it’s like a social studies curriculum where they bring us in and we talk about basic like street rights and like what a consent search is and what your right to remain silent is. And then teaching them that if you’re, you know, you’re in trouble, you need to ask for a lawyer. Do you need to use that specific word and explaining, you know, what the Public Defender’s Office is. It’s really engaging and fun. And, you know, before I came to civil commitments where I was dealing with people who are just sort of a different class of client going to L.Y.R.I.C is one of the only times where I could have a good conversation with people where there was no, there’s no exposure, you know, there’s no downside. Like, I was really helping them understand what, what they could do in the world so they wouldn’t get trapped. And the kids really seem to love the material, which is fun to watch. You’re putting a good face on the Public Defender’s Office and letting them know, you know, despite what might be sort of the attitude towards Public Defenders in the world, that that’s not who’s standing in front of them right now.
Louis Goodman 28:20
Joe, is there anything that you want to talk about that we haven’t touched on, that we haven’t covered, you think might be important to say?
Joe Penrod 28:28
Well, I don’t know. There’s a lot of things out there, Lou. I think we’re all, I mean, it’s too early to speak of the changes that are happening to our system here in Alameda County, you know, it’s too early to speak on it. I’m so hopeful we can do better, but I’m also so hopeful that we could find that even balance where, like what I said at the beginning, like what happens in the courthouse really affects the safety of the population and it’s a, you know, God, it’s such a difficult balance and everyone has to do their best every day, and play fair every day, work hard every day to make it happen. And so I’m just kind of hopeful that happens.
Louis Goodman 29:05
Joe Penrod, thank you so much for joining me today on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. As always, it’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Joe Penrod 29:13
Thanks, Lou. It was great to be here.
Louis Goodman 29:15
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 for music, Bryan Matheson for technical support, Paul Robert for social media and Tracy Harvey. I’m Louis Goodman.
Joe Penrod 29:56
We should probably, you probably edited this question. I guess the straight answer is…