Despite only having practiced as an attorney for almost two years, Marshall Hammons has plenty of experience under his belt. He was an intern at the San Francisco Department of Police Accountability helping mediate lower level conflicts between citizens and police officers under a restorative justice model. As an intern at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office he worked on murder sentencing and police misconduct and helped implement different ways of bringing police accountability to light. Marshall even helped co-write and research the habeas petition for California's longest serving death row inmate while helping his pro bono representation team. Now working at the Silver Law Firm, he has been successful in dismissing cases, suppressing evidence and even argued a motion to dismiss on a life case, and has since become the firm’s lead “post-conviction” attorney helping end probations early, reducing felonies to misdemeanors and expunging records. Listen to the episode to learn about how his beliefs about justice play into his practice and why negotiations class in law school could be critical to success in court.
A transcript of this podcast is available at lovethylawyer.com.
Go to https://www.lovethylawyer.com/blog for transcripts.
Marshall Hammons has a proven track record of success in both misdemeanor and felony cases, including serious and punishable-by-life cases. He prides himself in working on some of the most difficult cases and litigation projects with a tailored approach to each case. In addition to the numerous clients for whom he has achieved favorable results, Marshall has successfully argued a motion to dismiss on a life case which resulted in a dismissal of the charges and life enhancements. Effectively saving the client from life in prison, the case ended up settling for only 6 years.
Marshall has argued successful motions to suppress evidence that resulted in dismissals. He regularly argues for bail release from jail over vehement objection by the prosecution. Marshall also has had domestic violence cases, DUIs, and theft cases dismissed by arguing for court diversion over DA objection, and saving the unnecessary criminalization of good people who made a mistake. As the firm’s lead “post-conviction” attorney, he also has been able to get countless probations ended early, reduced felonies to misdemeanors, expunged records, sealed arrests, even vacated pleas due to immigration issues, and has removed clients from the sex offender registry.
He graduated cum laude from U.C. Hastings College of the Law, and holds a B.A. English and a B.S. in Political Science from Santa Clara University. Before joining Silver Law Firm, Marshall was an integral part of Curtis Briggs’ and J. Tony Serra’s pro bono representation of California’s longest serving Death Row inmate. As an unparalleled example of police, prosecutor, and other misconduct, Marshall learned first- hand how the system is stacked against the accused, and how important it is to have a team that will fight your case.
In his final year of law school, Marshall interned at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office where he aided in the representation of numerous felony and misdemeanor cases and trials. Marshall will stop at nothing to get the best result possible.
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Attorney at Law
Marshall Hammons - Transcript
Louis Goodman 00:03
Hello and welcome to Love Thy Lawyer, where we 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!
Marshall Hammons has a proven record of success representing clients charged with misdemeanors and felonies. He also has substantial experience in post-conviction remedies. He is a strong believer in avoiding the unnecessary criminalization of good people. He has a record of being unafraid of taking on the police, prosecutors and the courts.
Marshall Hammons, welcome to Love Thy Lawyer.
Marshall Hammons 00:57
Thank you so much, Louis. Thank you for having me.
Louis Goodman 01:00
Where is your office located right now?
Marshall Hammons 01:04
My office is located at Silver Law Firm on the Embarcadero, in Oakland.
Louis Goodman 01:08
What type of practice do you have?
Marshall Hammons 01:10
We do primarily criminal defense work, really only local state level. We don't really do very much federal. I'm not federally barred, so I don't handle any of the federal stuff, but we do do some restraining orders, domestic violence, civil harassment and the like throughout the Bay Area as well, but pretty much 90 to 95% of our practice and what I do is criminal defense work.
Louis Goodman 01:32
How long have you been doing that?
Marshall Hammons 01:34
Well, that's a great question. I've been fully barred as an attorney for just over a year, actually. However, because of the pandemic, I was a provisionally licensed attorney for about six months before that. So about a year and a half working as an attorney. I actually cold called Elliot Silver, my current boss, gave him my elevator pitch and he brought me on and I wasn't even fully barred yet or had the provisional licensing program set up. He just brought me on because he and I really clicked and he saw how I could help his firm.
Louis Goodman 02:06
Elevator pitch. I love elevator pitch. Do you still remember your elevator?
Marshall Hammons 02:12
Yeah, so it was after the bar, I was just quite literally cold calling really any criminal defense attorney I knew or I could find, and I said, Hello, my name is Marshall Hammons. I just took the bar and I'm hoping to pass. They have a new provisional licensing program, so it should be able to practice very soon.
I have interned at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office, working on felony murder sentencings, working on police misconduct, and most recently I've been working with Curtis Briggs and Tony Serra on a death row habeas petition for California's longest serving death row inmate, which I did and helped co-write and research while studying for the bar. I'm eager and ready to learn.
Louis Goodman 02:50
Well, that's a good elevator pitch. It's pithy, it's to the point, it's quick. I like it.
Marshall Hammons 02:57
Louis Goodman 02:58
Where are you from originally?
Marshall Hammons 03:00
I was actually born in New York, just outside of New York City, and then moved out here to California in Pleasanton when I was 13, lived in Pleasanton until I went to college at Santa Clara University and then went directly to law school in San Francisco where I lived at UC Hastings. And currently I am living in Napa, California.
Louis Goodman 03:19
So did you go to high school in Pleasanton?
Marshall Hammons 03:21
I did, I went to Foothill High School.
Louis Goodman 03:23
How was that experience for you?
Marshall Hammons 03:26
I liked it a lot. The people at Foothill were really nice. I found some good friend groups there and really tried to make the most of it. Really enjoyed civics, economics, history, things like that and I found the teachers to be really stellar and going into college I felt very well-prepared.
Louis Goodman 03:42
Where did you go to college?
Marshall Hammons 03:44
I went to Santa Clara University.
Louis Goodman 03:45
What did you think of Santa Clara?
Marshall Hammons 03:47
I absolutely loved Santa Clara University.
Louis Goodman 03:51
Everybody seems to say that.
Marshall Hammons 03:53
Yeah, it's a great school. It's very small compared to some of the other schools, but there's, it's kind of hard to describe, it's like, everybody's a friend there. You can just walk around and because you've seen someone in a class it's always, "Hey, how you doing? How's it going?" It's almost like you're you have your own little social circle built in just because the way the school is. And that's aside from just the education. I was very fortunate to have some very wonderful professors that really helped hone my love and passion and eagerness to learn Law. And really try to take as much advantage of my classes as I could.
Louis Goodman 04:27
What did you take up there at Santa Clara? What was your major?
Marshall Hammons 04:29
I was an English and Political Science double major. So I focused a lot on political science, I tried to do as much kind of pre-law classes, so to speak as possible, really things such as constitutional law seminars, history of American, you know, the U.S. Supreme court as well as just kind of the more general civics types of classes.
And then in English, I actually did a lot of studying of Medieval and Renaissance literature. In fact, I actually almost ended up with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance studies, but I really couldn't get the last credit, just timing with my senior year. But I had a wonderful professor there named Cory Wade, who is being somewhat of a mentor in my legal career as well.
And she really introduced me to some really great medieval and Renaissance literature. And I really fell in love with reading these old texts and learning the foundations of, you know, old English law and common law jury trials, things like.
Louis Goodman 05:25
So if there was a piece of Medieval literature that I wanted to take a look at, which one would you recommend?
Marshall Hammons 05:31
The Icelandic Sagas. So the Icelanders, the vikings, they had a whole series in oral tradition that they had for hundreds and hundreds of years that eventually was transcribed and the stories are fascinating and hilarious at the same time. A combination of brutality, comedy just mixed in with some mythical aspects of it. It was just really fun to read.
Louis Goodman 05:54
When you graduated from Santa Clara, where'd you go to law school?
Marshall Hammons 05:58
I went to UC Hastings in San Francisco.
Louis Goodman 06:01
When did you first start thinking I'd like to be a lawyer?
Marshall Hammons 06:06
So when I was going to school kind of growing up, I actually thought I wanted to be a scientist working for NASA or something involving space or rockets, planes, things like that. But I slowly began to realize I'm not actually that good at math.
So when I was in my freshman year at high school, I did a presentation on Jimi Hendrix, actually of all people, and I found that I really actually enjoyed researching something, putting it together and then public speaking. And I thought, well, I'm learning in some of my other classes about these lawyers in the civil rights field that are being able to make an impact based on their writing and words and that's really what started to prompt me doing that.
I had originally wanted to go into psychology somewhat, thinking maybe I want to do something in the legal sphere one way or another going into college. But really, as soon as I actually got to college, I decided, no, I want to be a lawyer. I had seen a lot of things, not necessarily on social media, but in the news about police misconduct, the ongoing issues with the criminal justice system, racial disparities, disproportionate sentencing, and I really have always wanted to help people. And so it was kind of at that time that I really wanted to devote myself to helping people by being a lawyer.
Louis Goodman 07:24
What did your friends and family think or say when you told them you wanted to be a lawyer?
Marshall Hammons 07:30
My friends and family have been nothing but supportive. Everyone has been really happy to help see me through this. I am currently engaged to my fiancé that I met in my sophomore year of undergrad. And she has been my number one cheerleader throughout this entire process. I really couldn't have done this without her. My parents have been extremely supportive, helping me in any way they can. I have a sister who is a doctor and she's likewise been one of my best friends. And also one of my number one cheerleaders. They've all been very happy.
The only thing I will say is sometimes I get the odd question of, well, you defend bad people, right? And get the, "what if someone did this, or what if someone did that, would you still represent them?" And I just say, it's really not about necessarily what they did, it's about making sure the process is there and making sure that the constitution and all the rules and regulations and everything that goes into a case are actually upheld.
Louis Goodman 08:29
So even though you defend bad people, you defend a good constitution?
Marshall Hammons 08:34
That's my firm belief. I'm a very firm believer in the constitution. I really think that that's the backbone of our country and our democracy. And I will say that I defend all kinds of people. I don't believe that people are simply good people or bad people. I think that there are always shades of gray and defining some person by a single act or a particularly bad day or series of days, I don't think it should mean that they necessarily go behind bars or have all the adverse consequences that typically come with a criminal charge.
Louis Goodman 09:07
Right at the beginning of this podcast you explained how you got to the Silver Law Firm, but you've had some experience before that working in the criminal justice arena. You want to tell us a little bit about that?
Marshall Hammons 09:22
Yeah, so I had really started my work in the criminal justice arena the summer between my first and second year at law school. I interned at the San Francisco Department of Police Accountability, helping not only with language access for the department and interfacing with the public, but also with mediations and helping kind of lower level conflicts between members of the community and police officers come to some kind of resolution through a restorative justice model, that I actually found to be very effective where not only the community members felt like they were heard, but I actually would see police officers come away from that going, "Yeah, you know, maybe I should've approached that situation differently." which is something that was incredibly powerful.
Between my second and third year of law school, I interned at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office under Jacque Wilson, where I was brought in because I had interned at the Department of Police Accountability. They knew my desire to see some change and to push back against police misconduct. And they helped bring me into the integrity unit where I worked on creating processes and looking into different ways of bringing police accountability to light in San Francisco through the Public Defender's Office. As well as working on a felony murder re-sentencing, doing my court appearances as a certified legal intern. I did a motion to suppress brought at the preliminary hearing and actually won it in my very first appearance. And that was perhaps my most favorite time as an intern, was at the San Francisco Public Defender's Office. Just really getting that real in-court experience and learning from some of the really best practitioners in San Francisco.
Louis Goodman 11:10
What do you really like about practicing law?
Marshall Hammons 11:12
What I really like about practicing law is helping clients and navigate the system. Really getting to know them, understand their situation, and then really diving into each case like a little puzzle. Making sure that I have all my ducks in a row looking through everything, reviewing it, checking the case law, going through and really just trying to come to what is the best answer here. What are the different ranges of possibilities that could happen and really making sure that my clients understand everything that are going on. And having a client at the end of the day saying, "Hey, you know, thank you so much for everything you've done", that is something that it's hard for me to put into words, as what keeps me going here.
Louis Goodman 11:57
If someone were just graduating from college, thinking about a career, would you recommend law as a career?
Marshall Hammons 12:04
It would depend on the person. In the practice of law that I found in my short time so far, there's a lot of reading and writing. And reading, comprehension, writing, and ability to public speak is so important for someone who's an in-court trial attorney, then you would really have to love those types of things.
So I think it would depend on the person, but I would say if you want to be able to spend a lot of time reading, writing, speaking with people, thinking about things, looking things up, coming up with creative arguments, coming up with different ways of solving puzzles then that's an absolutely wonderful profession. If that's not something that you want to do, I'd recommend looking somewhere else for a job.
Louis Goodman 12:44
How has actually practicing met or differed from your expectations about it?
Marshall Hammons 12:49
I would say it's met my expectations in the sense of kind of coming up to actually handling my own cases, knowing that no two cases are the same. It's like a snowflake, each one is different, each one has its own wrinkles, each one has its own unique circumstances and that's the part that I kind of expected coming in.
The part that has been different and has not necessarily, I guess, imparted on me as much coming into the field was really just how much negotiations are involved. Kind of going back and forth with DAs, really making sure that you're advocating in the best way possible and really trying to get to the bottom of something is something that I didn't really expect as much coming into the profession but I've grown to really learn to love that aspect and trying to hone on my skills on that.
Louis Goodman 13:40
Do you think that law schools ought to spend a little more time on those kinds of skills?
Marshall Hammons 13:45
Absolutely. I actually took an introduction into negotiations class and just in the first little bit of the class, I learned so much about interest-based negotiations and how to actually approach a situation that's different than the I start at, you know, on one end here, they start on the other end and somehow be but heads until we meet in the middle and that's not actually an effective way of negotiating. That class, negotiations, as a lawyer should absolutely be taught in law school, because it teaches you exactly how to actually approach a situation, understand people's interests and how to actually come to the right answer.
Louis Goodman 14:23
Is there anything that you know now that you really wished you knew before you started practicing law?
Marshall Hammons 14:28
I think the thing that I wish I had known before coming into actually practicing law would be how important it is to be as organized as possible. The more organized and the more documentation, the more I use a lot of spreadsheets to keep track of cases, to keep track of different things, knowing that coming in and really having some perhaps training or particularly templates or things like that would have been really helpful coming in, just so I wouldn't have to start from the ground up, so to speak using my own techniques.
Louis Goodman 15:02
Is your firm using any specific law practice management software?
Marshall Hammons 15:10
Yeah, we use Clio. It's a very good platform. It has really anything and everything we could need. My only criticism of Clio is that I can't do a lot of the things that I would be able to do on the computer, on my phone. And because I’m usually the one going in person to a lot of courtrooms or doing different things, it means that I can't do a lot of my work until I actually get stationary at a desk.
Whereas, you know, I definitely come from the generation of everything is on my phone. It would be great if I could open a new matter or modify this or modify that or easily share documents, things like that directly from my phone.
But otherwise we do use Clio and it's a great way to keep track of cases. It's a great way to, you know, make sure we have all our documents and have everything together.
Louis Goodman 15:54
What do you think is the best advice you've ever received?
Marshall Hammons 15:58
The best advice I've ever received came from Curtis Briggs. And that was, "Listen to your clients.L listen to what they have to say.” It doesn't matter how potentially crazy it may sound. It doesn't matter how little of an emergency you may think it is, listen to your clients. They're the ones going through this, they are the ones facing the brunt of this.
Louis Goodman 16:21
And what advice would you give to someone who was just coming into the practice now that you have the vast experience of 18 months as a practicing attorney?
Marshall Hammons 16:30
I would say do your best to try and see as many different lawyers as possible practicing. The more, you see other lawyers doing an appearance, doing certain types of motions, negotiating the DAs, if you have the opportunity to sit in on that or over here, that the better that you will be, because you'll get an opportunity to actually see different techniques, different ways of approaching things and see how it actually ends up working in reality, when the rubber meets the road.
Louis Goodman 16:59
You have some fresh eyes on the system. What, if anything, would you change about the way the legal system works?
Marshall Hammons 17:06
Well, there were a lot of things that I would love to change about the legal system, but the number one thing for me is just really the incarceral system as a whole. The idea that we keep people behind cages for particular acts is, to me, very barbaric.
Louis Goodman 17:23
Can you tell me about a case that went particularly well for you, where you really felt like your being there helped the client a lot?
Marshall Hammons 17:32
Yeah. So one of the cases that went really well was a case that our firm had had for some time that had kind of aged a bit during the COVID pandemic and I ended up getting assigned to it. I looked at it and found out, hey, there's actually a pretty good motion to suppress in here. I spoke with the client, I made sure to explain to him, you know, hey, this is what we're looking at, this is what could be done, here's the potentials of what could happen, what might work.
And I was able to write a suppression motion that ended up being one on the papers alone, the DA actually conceded in court and all the charges were dropped including a resisting arrest.
Louis Goodman 18:12
What's your family life like. And how has practicing law and being in law school affected that?
Marshall Hammons 18:19
Well, my family life right now, I don't have as much time as I used to, you know, in college or in law school to spend with them. I live with my fiancé. She, like I said, has been my number one cheerleader and she supports me in so many different ways to make sure that I can be as effective in the courtroom and be as communicative and there for my clients as possible. But we don't have as much time as we used to, like I said, you know, in college or law school, to spend time together.
My family and parents would probably say something similar. I did get lunch with them just today, before coming on the podcast and trying to find the time to see them, but keeping up with them over text message and in social media has been very helpful, but it doesn't replace that kind of face to face presence with your family and loved ones.
Louis Goodman 19:05
I think you said you're living in Napa. Is that correct?
Marshall Hammons 19:10
That is correct, yeah.
Louis Goodman 19:11
So how's that in terms of the commute to Oakland, where your office is and the courts in Alameda County?
Marshall Hammons 19:19
Well, that's a great question. So a few things, one, I will say that Elliot Silver is a very kind boss and that he doesn't actually make me come into the office.
I get to work from home unless I'm going to court, which makes things a lot easier. I basically have a small law office in my home with a full printer scanner, all my paperclips, staplers, everything. So really I'm only commuting if I'm going to court, but we do practice all over the Bay Area.
Louis Goodman 19:45
Have you had any interesting travel experience?
Marshall Hammons 19:48
Well, going back to my medieval Renaissance literature, I've actually been to Iceland twice. And that was absolutely beautiful going to the different natural hot springs, seeing the beautiful mountains of landscapes and glaciers, and really just seeing the sheer beauty of the, you know, they call it the way into fire and ice and it really is.
Louis Goodman 20:10
Well, that's one place that has been on my bucket list, but I haven't been there yet, so.
Marshall Hammons 20:16
You should really go. It is an incredible experience and I will give you all the ins and outs and insider tips of where to go.
Louis Goodman 20:24
How about recreational pursuits when you're not practicing law? What sort of things do you enjoy doing?
Marshall Hammons 20:29
My favorite thing to go do is hike. I really enjoy hiking and just kind of going into the woods or different places throughout the Bay Area and just seeing the different sceneries.
Louis Goodman 20:40
Is there any book or movie about the law that you've experienced that you think is particularly good?
Marshall Hammons 20:49
Yeah, I think my favorite law movie is called True Believer and it's kind of an older movie, but it has James Woods playing Tony Serra. It's loosely based on one of his cases that he handled and actually has a young, naive, eager, just out of law school new lawyer played by Robert Downey Jr. and they go at it together and they figure out and crack the case and ultimately end up with the right result.
Louis Goodman 21:20
And I'm sure you're aware that the courtroom scenes there were filmed at the Alameda County courthouse?
Marshall Hammons 21:26
I did. I recognize that after going into some of them, I was like, this looks oddly familiar.
Louis Goodman 21:32
If you couldn't be a lawyer, is there some profession that you would choose other than the Law?
Marshall Hammons 21:38
I think working in kind of the science field would be really cool. I've always loved space, science, things like that, that would be really fun, I always love going to air and space museums learning about airplanes and the space shuttle, rocket ships, everything like that.
So it'd be really cool if in another life with a more math inclined brain to work for someone like SpaceX or one of the new and upcoming space ventures, would be really cool.
Louis Goodman 22:06
How do you define success?
Marshall Hammons 22:08
I would define success as making sure that I'm using every day to help other people in the best way possible while still making sure that my loved ones and myself are cared for. Meaning that not only am I dedicating myself and putting as much time and effort as I really can into my cases for my clients to get the best results, but also making sure that I'm there both physically, mentally, emotionally for my family and my loved ones.
Louis Goodman 22:35
What keeps you up at night?
Marshall Hammons 22:37
Some of my cases. I mean, just very realistically, some of my cases really keep me up at night. People who are in a very tough spot that may or may not have done something that is illegal, but the punishment that they're going to be facing, if we're unsuccessful in a motion, or if we can't be successful in our negotiations with the DA, would have some very serious impacts on their life. And that's really what keeps me up at night, is thinking about what could happen to my clients, if I don't do the best job I really can.
Louis Goodman 23:09
Let's say you came into some real money, several billion dollars. What, if anything, would you do differently in your life?
Marshall Hammons 23:17
I would probably use it to start a kind of like a public defender's-esque type of law firm where we wouldn't charge any money, anybody who has a case could come in and we would represent it the best level that we could as well as using that money to go and explore every single possibility talking to any potential expert, talking to any potential investigator, making sure that stone is uncovered for free for anybody, but not just at the trial level, but also at appeals and habeas levels because there's so many people who've been wrongfully convicted or convicted on things that they really shouldn't have been at the trial level that are facing serious consequences when they really shouldn't be.
Louis Goodman 24:03
Let's say you had a magic wand and there was one thing that you could change in the legal world, the world in general, or otherwise?
Marshall Hammons 24:11
Making sure that when DAs are in court that they actually have the authority to negotiate cases to the level that it should be negotiated to. And so making sure that whenever we're talking about a case or going and doing something that the DAs and the prosecutors in court have the professional independence and uphold their ethical duties to be an arbiter of justice to actually find the right result, instead of saying, well, I got to talk to my supervisor.
Louis Goodman 24:37
Let's say you had 60 seconds on the Super Bowl. Someone gave you a one minute ad on the Super Bowl and you had a really big platform to say whatever you wanted to the nation, to the world. What message would you like to get out there?
Marshall Hammons 24:54
I would say, "Free Chief." Douglas, nicknamed "Chief" Stankewitz is California's longest serving death row inmate and he is innocent.
Louis Goodman 25:04
If someone wanted to get in touch with you interested in legal representation, or just wanted to talk to you, what would be the best way to get in touch?
Marshall Hammons 25:17
That's a great question. I would say LinkedIn is probably my only real active social media. You can find me just by looking up my name there, you can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org , happy to speak with anyone anytime, if they have any questions or concerns. And then also we have a wonderful office as well. If people want to, they can always come in.
Louis Goodman 25:42
What's the website for the Silver Firm?
Marshall Hammons 25:46
It is esilverlaw.com. E like Elliot, who owns the firm, Silver as in his last name and the law as in what we practice.
Louis Goodman 25:54
Marshall Hammons 25:57
Louis Goodman 25:58
Marshall, is there anything that you want to talk about that we have not discussed?
Marshall Hammons 26:02
No, I would just say that it's been very fascinating being kind of a young lawyer and a fairly new lawyer going into these experiences and fields and really understanding the amount of power that a lawyer has, that the amount of hard work, diligence and eye for detail can really bring about great results in cases. And that's been an incredible learning experience and something that I've found extraordinarily fulfilling in my life.
Louis Goodman 26:27
Marshall Hammons, thank you so much for joining me on the Love Thy Lawyer podcast. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.
Marshall Hammons 26:35
Thank you, Louis. It's been an absolute pleasure.
Louis Goodman 26:37
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.
Marshall Hammons 27:15
Not to restart on that one.