Judge Lisa Tremewan, Judge Peggy Hora (Ret.) and Judge Ema Aitken
I was born as one of the first Baby Boomers into a blue collar family in Oakland CA. My dad was a sheet metal worker and my mom was a housewife. It was a typical 50s family with a new Plymouth every four years and two weeks of vacation spent fishing on a lake in Northern California. All was pretty idyllic until I was in 7th grade and my father died of cancer. It was the defining moment of my childhood.
We had moved to the suburbs in a pique of urban flight the previous year. I was to live in that house in Castro Valley for the next 51 years. Junior High passed without incident. I was a good student and stayed out of trouble but adolescence was rearing its ugly head. By the time I hit high school I was still getting good grades but also doing things like smoking cigarettes and sneaking alcohol. Shortly after graduation I got married. Because you know everything when you are 17.
I spent seven years as a stay-at-home mom involved in parent co-op nursery school, ceramics classes, early childhood ed meetings, PTA and doing what one does as a young mother. I think of those days as “Diary of a Mad Housewife.”
When my youngest son started Kindergarten, I started community college at Chabot in Hayward. I was in student government, worked on the newspaper and participated in politics rallying around feminism and protesting the war in Viet Nam. After graduating with highest honors and a journalism degree, I went on to Cal State, Hayward where I graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in political science; a minor in mass communication; and, an interdisciplinary minor in women’s studies. I was the first student to graduate from the women’s studies department. At both Chabot and Cal State I was a work/study student and had office jobs during the summer to keep us afloat.
The first two class cards I pulled at Cal State were Law and the Poor and Women and the Law. I already knew that a legal career was what I wanted. And I was determined that a lack of money was not going to prevent me from going. I was admitted to the University of San Francisco with some financial aid and I commuted back and forth over the Bay Bridge for the next three years. After graduation I spent three months studying for the Bar Exam and passed on the first try.
During the second year of law school I became a clerk at the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County, providing civil legal assistance to indigent people. I had cases about landlord/tenant law, consumer contracts, unemployment insurance and other areas peculiar to people living in poverty. After I was sworn in as a lawyer I was hired by LASAC and eventually became Managing Attorney of the office.
To become a municipal court judge in California at that time a lawyer had to have practiced for five years. Just as I reached that benchmark, one of the local judges decided to retire and leave his seat open to election. For the next nine months I ran for office – raising money, walking precincts and attending two or three functions every night. In a field of four I came in first in the primary with 48% of the vote. In the general election I won in 319 of 323 precincts and with the highest percentage in any judicial election in the state. I had walked over 100 precincts and my supporters had walked 100 more. And on Nov 6, 1984 I was elected the first woman on the San Leandro-Hayward Municipal Court.
I was 38 years old and I had much to learn about criminal law and procedure, how to conduct trials, and about the art of being a judge. I took to judicial education like the proverbial duck and within a year was teaching at New Judge Orientation. I eventually became the Dean of the California Judicial College and also began teaching at the National Judicial College in Reno NV.
Drug courts, that focus on solutions rather than punishment, became my passion. I learned very quickly in my first year that if we did not address the alcohol and other drug use in the high risk/high need offender we were just contributing to further crime. I took a class in chemical dependency to better understand the addicted brain and discovered that everything we were doing was wrong. No wonder 75% of people who get out of prison go back in within 3 years. I’ve done trainings all over the U.S. and I’ve taught all over the world. I had a very satisfying career and retired in 2006. Throughout the 21 years I spent on the bench, the best part of my job was presiding over the drug court.
I’ve now traveled to 76 countries; dote on my eight grandchildren and one great grandchild; and live a charmed life. In 2014 three associates and I started Justice Speakers Institute offering dynamic and proven speakers, effective trainers, and complex, cutting-edge research and analysis on contemporary justice issues.
I am a film buff, voracious reader, gourmet cook, love theater and dance and travel, travel, travel. I am still going strong and loving what I do so see no reason to stop any time soon. I can say, looking back, I never did one thing the easy way. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.