Hosted by Attorney Louis Goodman
Jan. 26, 2022

Annie Esposito ACBA - Cal

Annie Esposito ACBA - Cal

Annie Esposito joins the LTL podcast to talk about some of her duties and experience as Chief Assistant District Attorney of Alameda County, where she has been for over 21 years. She has worked in several different industries since she was 15 years old before graduating from Golden Gate University School of Law and starting her legal career at the DA’s office through the Summer Law Clerk Program.

Having started out in misdemeanors trying DUIs, batteries and theft, she eventually moved up to serious felonies including murder, child molestation, sexual assault, robbery and carjacking. She talks about how growing up with domestic violence throughout her childhood influenced her into wanting to help people and shares some details of the sacrifice of being committed to the trials despite personal issues or family problems.

Annie describes how attorneys as well as judges have taught her so much throughout her career, and she comes to the conclusion that this is a profession where you’re constantly learning, but also, that sometimes it’s important to be quiet and listen (despite how hard that might be for a lawyer).


lovethylawyer.com

A transcript of this podcast is easily available at lovethylawyer.com.

Go to https://www.lovethylawyer.com/blog for transcripts.

 

In collaboration with the Alameda County Bar Association, Love Thy Lawyer presents an interview with: Chief Assistant District Attorney Annie Esposito.

https://www.alcoda.org/

Alameda County Bar Association

The Alameda County Bar Association (ACBA) is a professional membership association for lawyers and other members of the legal profession. The ACBA provides access to ongoing legal education; and promotes diversity and civil rights in the Alameda County legal community. Our mission is to promote excellence in the legal profession and to facilitate equal access to justice.


 Louis Goodman
 www.louisgoodman.com
louisgoodman2010@gmail.com
510.582.9090
 
 

Special thanks to ACBA staff and members: Cailin Dahlin, Saeed Randle, Hadassah Hayashi, Vincent Tong and Jason Leong. (https://www.acbanet.org/)


 Musical theme by Joel Katz, Seaside Recording, Maui
 Technical support: Bryan Matheson, Skyline Studios, Oakland
 
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Louis Goodman

Attorney at Law

www.lovethylawyer.com

louisgoodman2010@gmail.com

 

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. She is the Chief Assistant District Attorney of Alameda County. She has prosecuted hundreds of serious and violent felonies including murder, sexual assault, child molesting, robbery and carjacking. She has headed a cold case DNA team and supervised teams of prosecutors. She is the co founder and president of the Asian American Prosecutors Association, and a member of the California District Attorneys Association. And Annie Esposito Welcome to the Alameda County Bar Association and the Love Thy Lawyer Podcast.

 

Annie Esposito  

Thank you. I'm so happy to be here.

 

Louis Goodman  

I am delighted to have you here. You have had a fantastic career and I want to talk to you a little bit,  tell us right now, where are you?

 

Annie Esposito  

I am at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse on the ninth floor that the historical building. My office is right across from the District Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office, and in her office is Earl Warren's actual desk.

 

Louis Goodman  

What are your duties now as Chief Assistant District Attorney?

 

Annie Esposito  

I provide a lot of support for the District Attorney. It is really in charge of operations. And so operations runs from personnel to helping in assisting with what the attorneys need in terms of their prosecution of the cases to just the operation of the DA’S office.

 

Louis Goodman  

How long have you been with the district attorney's office?

 

Annie Esposito  

21 years.

 

Louis Goodman  

Wow. Congratulations. 

 

Annie Esposito

Thank you. 

 

 

Louis Goodman

Where are you from originally?

 

Annie Esposito  

Well, I was born in Taiwan and I came to this country when I was five. We settled in San Francisco. Then when I was 12, we moved to Fremont. I've been in Alameda County since I was 12 years old.

 

Louis Goodman  

Did you go to high school in Fremont?

 

Annie Esposito  

I did. But I did not finish high school. So when I was about 15 and a half my mom got sick. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia. My dad lost his job. So I quit high school and I've been working full time since I was 15 and a half.

 

Louis Goodman  

What did you do when you were 15 and a half for work?

 

Annie Esposito  

I worked for about 12 hours as a hostess, restaurant hostess and waitress. I then quit that job because I soon realized that they were not paying me legally because the end was under minimum wage. Then I went and found the job and I was working as an import export company in there inside sales rep for Japanese autoparts and worked there until that's where I met my husband and then got married. I was 18. And then I decided to go back to school and law school and this is where I am.

 

Louis Goodman  

So did you get some sort of a high school diploma?

 

Annie Esposito  

I took the GED when I was 16.

 

Louis Goodman  

Okay. And then where did you go to college?

 

Annie Esposito  

I went to community college at his San Jose City College for about a semester then I transferred to Diablo Valley College in Contra Costa County. And then I went to Cal Berkeley. So UC Berkeley transfer there when I was a junior working the whole time, as I was a commuter student never really got involved with the campus which is too bad  it's such a beautiful campus. Then I went to Golden Gate University School of Law as a nighttime student, part time for four years. That was brutal.

 

Louis Goodman  

Law schools always brutal. Did you go directly? Did you go directly from Cal to Golden Gate, or did you take some time off?

 

Annie Esposito  

I took some time off. I worked. I went I had to save some money up and so I worked for about I think,  I took about three years off.

 

Louis Goodman  

And what did you do during that three year period of time?

 

Annie Esposito  

I worked in the appraisal industry, I also worked in the stock brokerage industry.  I have my, also got my real estate license to be a mortgage broker. So did quite a bit. But then I realized I really, I really wanted to do something I thought was more meaningful.

 

Louis Goodman  

So presumably, that means that you started thinking about being a lawyer. So let me ask you this, sort of a two part question. When did you first start thinking about being a lawyer? And then when did you actually apply to law school?

 

Annie Esposito  

I actually thought about being a lawyer back when I was in community college. It was a professor who asked after it was a speech class that I took, and he asked me what I wanted to do. And at that time, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. And he asked me, have you thought about law school? And that's when I thought about being a lawyer. And then I did research about what kind of law.   I knew I wanted to do something where I actually can make a difference than and help people and also to try cases.  I liked the court, the courtroom setting. And so it was just financial reasons that it took me longer to get to law school and I knew I wanted to be a DA going into law school. 

 

Louis Goodman

Really? 

 

Annie Esposito

Yes. I went to law school to be a DA.

 

Louis Goodman  

What made you think about criminal prosecution as a career even before you were in law school?

 

 

 

 

Annie Esposito  

Well, I think it has a lot to do with perhaps, my background, my childhood growing up with a lot of domestic violence in my childhood, and recognizing that my mom had no one there for her. And so I wanted to do something where I can be there for someone.

 

Louis Goodman  

What did your friends and family think and say when you told them that? You want to be a lawyer, you want to go to law school, you want to be a prosecutor?

 

Annie Esposito  

They were really supportive? They were really happy for me. And it's,  I think that this profession is a very honorable profession. And they were so proud of me. And they are still so proud of me.

 

Louis Goodman  

They should be. When you got out of Golden Gate, did you immediately go to the Alameda County District Attorney's office?

 

Annie Esposito  

Yes, I did. I came here for Alameda County was one of the probably the first if not definitely one of the first, if not the first days offices to hire from summer law clerks. And we had paid internships for the Summer Clerkship Program. So it's a wonderful program, the law clerks actually gets a try cases. And I think we were the first in the state to do that. And so I was part of the Summer Clerkship Program.

 

Louis Goodman  

When you got hired on as a Deputy District Attorney, what sort of work did you start doing? And where did you start doing that?

 

Annie Esposito  

Well, we all start off in misdemeanors. And so we all have to try your DUIs and misdemeanor batteries and status at a very, I remember trying to case as a misdemeanor deputy. And it was a battery on a professor at Cal Berkeley, UC Berkeley. And it was during a protest. So as a protest case, slash battery case. And so it was really something else. There were a lot of protesters in the courtroom itself.

 

Louis Goodman  

It always seems that the best stories come out of the misdemeanor departments.

 

Annie Esposito  

Yeah, there are a lot of good stories.

 

Louis Goodman  

Now, you later moved into trying felony cases, trying very serious cases. How did that go?

 

Annie Esposito  

It was a obviously a learning experience, right? We're constantly learning and I think as professionals and practitioners, you have to keep learning. And we have some of the most amazing trial lawyers here. Who I was when I was on trial staff the first time, I fell on the trialstaff. Some of my mentors were people like Daryl Stallworth and Matt Golde, and just  these amazing attorneys and so I feel extremely lucky and fortunate that I was able to learn from some of these generous and talented attorneys. And I will never forget, I always learn from judges to the most. I will always say that,  I don't say this very often, but I  loved this man judge out. And he has taught me more about being a well rounded attorney and a well rounded person in the legal profession that anyone has ever done for me just watching him. I mean, I wasn't off of that man. He was amazing. And so he's taught me so much about patience. And I am forever indebted.

 

Louis Goodman  

Now that you've been in the district attorney's office for over 20 years, it's the only legal job you've ever had. So there must be something about it, that you find really compelling. I'm hoping you could share with us what it is that you like so much about being a prosecutor and being in the Alameda County DA’s Office?

 

Annie Esposito  

I alluded to the fact that obviously, it's feeling like we're doing something good every day. And it's not, it's there's some times it's tangible, but there's a lot of the intangibles. And I love the camaraderie that I have with my fellow prosecutors within the office, the DA’s Office, but I also love the camaraderie I share with members of the defense bar. One of the people that I absolutely adored was Jim Geller and I and so he has taught me a lot about how to be a fair and reasonable prosecutor. And I'll just did I have to say the Alameda County practitioners it's, there's just so many talented people and amazingly intellectual that I think it's that kind of connection that you have with people because criminal law people are drawn to criminal law is the human interest. The relationship that we establishing we have with each other. And that's why it's that keeps me and so many of us stay in the office or state in this type of practice.

 

Louis Goodman  

How has actually working as a Deputy District Attorney, actually met are different from your expectations about it?

 

Annie Esposito  

So I knew doing this job, I didn't want to be no offense to anyone in civil that I did not want to just be behind the desk and actually just write papers all day long and write and do research all day long. I do research and I do write, but there's so much more involved in being a DA. And I think what I did not expect is just how much more public interaction we actually have, and how much community certain that really is entailed with being a prosecutor and there because we are a public servant. And I think there's been a lot of emphasis in earlier on. And when I first became a DA 20 something years ago, there's a lot emphasis about the art of trial, the art of prosecution, but as being the role of prosecution and the role of a prosecutor evolves, there's so much more community service involved as well.

 

Louis Goodman  

Answer this question one way or the other, or both, what do you think's the best advice you've ever received? And what advice would you give to a young attorney starting out?

 

Annie Esposito  

The best advice I received was, listen more and talk less. That's hard for attorneys. It's hard for lawyers. But if we can just listen more, we actually can learn so much more. And we talk less we may not get ourselves in some of the trouble sometimes we get into. 

 

Louis Goodman  

We should all exercise our right to remain silent more.

 

Annie Esposito  

Yes, absolutely. I think silence is absolutely a not enough used skill. So that is the best advice I ever got. And it was from Judge Delucchi. But the advice I would also give to young attorneys don't burn bridges. This is a small world. So don't burn bridges.

 

Louis Goodman  

Do you think the legal system is fair?

 

Annie Esposito  

I think the legal system aims to be fair.

 

Louis Goodman  

I'm gonna shift gears here a little bit. What's your family life like? And how is practicing law affected that?

 

Annie Esposito  

Well, I've been married 35 years. And so obviously, my husband has been my rock, so I could not do this job without him. We have a daughter, she's 18. Now she's a freshman at UCLA. Go Bruins even fell on Palma bears. But I have to say there were sacrifices because of the job that it's there's, I think people don't realize how much work is entailed in trying cases. The trial days in our office, the PX deputies are absolutely some of the most dedicated public servants and put in so many hours in preparing these cases. What happened to me when I was in the middle of a really complicated trial case, murder case, and my youngest sister was diagnosed with brain cancer. And I could not leave to go be by her side. And because I was in trial. And so it's, that is not unusual. That has happened to many of us where we have to put aside our own personal struggles and whatever we're going through, because we are so dedicated, and the public and the community and the victim deserve our absolute 100% for it. And so that's those are behind the scenes sacrifice that many people do not know about.

 

Louis Goodman  

What sort of recreational pursuits do you have that you use to kind of clear your head a little bit after being in court? Being in the office, being in trial?

 

Annie Esposito  

Well, anyone who knows me, they will know I love to shop. So if I weren't doing this as a DA I buy actually, because there's always that practical and pragmatic side of me. But there's another side of me that's a little bit more artistic that i would love to delve into some kind of fashion. Right? So yeah, shopping a bit. Obviously, that's not the only thing we mean.

 

Louis Goodman  

Can we just call that retail therapy?

 

Annie Esposito  

I love that. Retail therapy, let's go with it.

 

Louis Goodman  

How would you define success?

 

Annie Esposito  

I think if you have serenity and peace in your life, then there's success.

 

Louis Goodman  

Let's say you and your husband came into some real money, a few billion dollars. What if anything, would you do differently in your life?

 

Annie Esposito  

I think I like to help children and hunger is you can't you don't have enough food to eat. There's nothing that can be you can do after that.

 

Louis Goodman  

Okay. Is there anything that you want to talk about, that we haven't discussed, before I open it up to the three other people who are here who may have a question or a comment?

 

Annie Esposito  

I can’t think of anything else. I'm open to any suggestions.

 

Louis Goodman  

Jason Leon, do you have a question for Annie Esposito? 

 

Jason Leong

Sure. Thank you, Louis. And thank you, Annie, for coming to this program today. I know any one of the assignments you were recently involved in and have been involved in is working in the Special Response Unit to address some of the anti-Asian targeted crimes in and around the county. And for me that hit particularly close to home. What might you suggest for people who sort of share perhaps a sense of outrage at some of the conduct that has been targeted towards Asians recently in the last few years?

 

Annie Esposito  

Thank you, Jason, for that question. I shared the outrage as well-being Chinese American and it really hurts. I think bottom line is we're all paid about that. And because it brings up with a lot of our personal struggles and stories growing up I've encountered I'm sure as you have Jason growing up where we been made fun of and teased about our  foods that we eat, perhaps the languages that we speak and also to not because we want to be treated differently. It's because we actually want to be acknowledged that more than anything else. I mean, Jason, would you agree is that we're oftentimes we feel overlooked, we feel like that word, because part of our culture is that we don't like to draw attention to ourselves. We don't like to discuss our struggles. And so it's, in some ways we consider it shameful, that we talk about our struggles. And so if we can acknowledge that we just don't want to be overlooked, and as well in this country.

 

Louis Goodman  

And I'd like to follow up on that. What has your experience been over the years, in terms of the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, it seems to me that it has become a far more diverse place of employment. And I'm wanting to comment on that.

 

Annie Esposito  

We are I mean, I think it's a learning process. Certainly. And I obviously feel like we're much more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, gender than we ever have in the history of this. But it's also you know, we're also diverse in terms of background as well. And  we want to be able to have socio economic backgrounds that are a reflective of the communities that we serve.

 

Louis Goodman  

Taylor Moudy

 

Taylor Moudy

Thank you, Annie for holding this event and for giving us your time. Fascinating background. So it truly is a privilege to hear that and I think, and even to an amazing jahana place to be at just feet away from that desk. I have just general short question as a relatively new attorney. What advice would you give to new criminal defense attorneys? What are common mistakes you might see in older new defense attorneys pitfalls to avoid is calculations to make any advice kind of avoid burning those bridges? Because I do see that Alameda County is a bit of a small world and I would hate to you know, stumble up the gate.

 

Annie Esposito  

Taylor, first of all, I actually I know you and I really like you. So you are, I don't see you as one with the pools gonna burn bridges. You just don't seem to have that personality at all. But you're very personable. I think. That's a good question. I think it applies to all attorneys, not just defense attorneys, but prosecutors as well.  When I train young DAs and this is coming from someone who made the same mistakes, who made the mistakes when I was a young DA and and it took someone like Judge Delucchi pulled me aside say, Well, you know, Annie you know, that made me sense, you may do that, but look at the big picture here. And so it is when  we talk about listen more and talk less, I don't mean that don't talk, I just mean that listen to what people have to say, listen to your witnesses, what they have to say, listen to what the your opponent of the opposing counsel has to say, listen to what your supervisor has to say. Listen to what other people have to say before you form an opinion. And so I think if we can try and we can be very strong advocates, this is an adversarial system, but we don't have to be adversaries.

 

Louis Goodman  

If a young person in law school had an interest in getting into the Alameda County District Attorney's Office Summer Clerk Program, how do they go about doing that?

 

Annie Esposito  

Well through their law school, because we conduct a lot of office on campus interviews. And so if you are unable to contact anyone for your law school, just contact us directly. You're either Mr. Nieto or to me directly, but we are really trying to increase our recruitment efforts.

 

Louis Goodman  

Annie Esposito, thank you so much for joining us today at the Alameda County Bar Association on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

 

Annie Esposito  

Thank you so much, Lou, thank you so much for having me today on the Alameda County  Bar. It's been a privilege,  it's actually fun to.

 

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 Steve Randall, Hadasa Hayashi, Vincent Tong and Jason Leon. Thanks to Joel Katz for music, Brian Matheson for technical support. And Tracey Harvey. I'm Louis Goodman.

 

Annie Esposito  

People feel secured then they have some entity that peace and then they have real joy