Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. announced the appointment of ACBA member Noël Wise to the Alameda County Superior Court on November 12, 2014. We asked Noël a few questions to get to know our newest judge! Read Noël’s bio from the last edition of the ACBA e-Newsletter here.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
It was a bit fortuitous. I came from a family of educators, but no one was in the legal profession. When I was doing my student teaching I saw a sign about dates to take the LSAT. I had been considering several different options for graduate school, but law wasn’t one of them. I signed up to take the LSAT and that started me on this journey.
Who are the people who have had the greatest influence upon your legal career?
My father had a significant influence on my career even though he was not a lawyer. He taught by example the importance of helping others, particularly those who are disenfranchised, and the parallel importance of taking responsibility for your own actions and choices. Other people who significantly influenced my legal career include: Judge Harry Lee Anstead, I clerked for him right after I graduated from law school; John Cruden, Steve Solow and Janet Reno during the years I worked for the United States Department of Justice; and Judge Barry Kurren, who was the judge assigned to a case I worked on for numerous years.
What are you most proud of so far in your legal career?
There was a question similar to this on the judicial application. My initial reaction was to write that I was the most proud of receiving the Attorney General’s distinguished service award at the United States Department of Justice. After further reflection, however, I concluded that the moment that has meant the most to me occurred while I was at the U.S. Attorney’s office. I negotiated a plea agreement with a defendant with no criminal record. The agreement allowed him to return to college after one semester in jail. I don’t know whether he later finished college. If he did, he would have been the first in his family to do so. The fact that he had the opportunity to finish college, regardless of whether he made that choice, is something that was very important to me in my legal career.
Is there a community activity that is important to you outside of the practice of law?
I am on the board of Girls Inc., which is an organization that helps girls, primarily from low-income communities, improve their math, science and technology skills and ultimately help them go to college. I regularly attend meeting and events that support Girls Inc. as their mission is meaningful to me.
What tips can you give other lawyers interested in becoming a judge?
Once I decided I wanted to be a judge I reached out to many people who had successfully navigated the judicial appointment process. I was overwhelmed with gratitude by the number of people who were willing to share their insights and experiences with me, particularly when some of them did not know me at all. So, my best recommendation is to reach out to lawyers and judges and learn from them. Talk with them about why you are drawn to this profession and what you hope to bring to the judiciary as a well-rounded human being. My only other tip is to be patient.
Do you know what your assignment will be?
Family court at the Hayward Hall of Justice.
What are you looking forward to the most about your new appointment?
Mediation has been a part of my legal practice for more than a dozen years. I enjoyed the neutrality and the closure that often came quickly compared to my experience as a litigator. Now I am looking forward to being able to stay in the role of the neutral. I’m also looking forward to doing my best to respectfully and thoughtfully administer the law and do justice in every case, every day.