Meet Commissioner Toni Mims-Cochran
Past ACBA President Toni Mims-Cochran was sworn in as a Commissioner for the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda on December 2, 2016. Toni has been an active member of the legal community, serving as Co-Chair for the East Bay Diversity Bar Coalition, a member of the Charles Houston Bar Association, Three Term President of Women Lawyers of Alameda County, and Second Vice President of California Women Lawyers.
Prior to joining the Alameda County Bench she ran her own law firm, the Law Office of Toni Mims-Cochran, practicing family law, landlord/tenant litigation, and juvenile dependency trials and appeals in Oakland.
Please help us welcome Commissioner Toni Mims-Cochran to the bench!
Commissioner Mims-Cochran took a break from her new duties to share a little about herself with the Alamda County Bar Association.
Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, so it’s difficult for me to pinpoint exactly when I made the decision. My father’s best friend was a lawyer and I would suspect that had some influence on me but I can’t remember wanting to do anything else.
Who are the people who have had the greatest influence upon your legal career?
I have been blessed to be surrounded by brilliant, creative, kind, selfless, hardworking attorneys, and judicial officers, who have influenced me throughout my career. However, as I look back on my career there are two people who were key.
As a very young attorney my first legal position was a Staff Attorney as the Eviction Defense Center. The Executive Director, Anne Omura has been my friend and supporter for over 15 years. I’ve watched her over the years as she quietly goes about the business of advocating for her clients and going over above what is required. She works tirelessly to improve and strengthen her community never seeking anything in return and she has taught me the true meaning of public service.
I first met Nancy O’ Malley when I joined the board of Women Lawyers of Alameda County and I thought she was amazing. I admired her energy, spirt, tireless dedication to the community and dedication to advancing the interest of women. I wanted to do the same, so one day I asked her how she found the energy and time to dedicate herself to so many worthy causes. She told me she found the time because she loved it. I believe we had that conversation in 2006, and for the next 10 years I said yes, and committed myself, to all of the organizations and projects that inspired me.
What are you most proud of so far in your legal career?
Part of my practice included serving as court appointed counsel, for both parents and minors, in juvenile dependency cases. Years ago one of my minor clients called me and told me about a conversation she had with two other dependent minors. Their conversation led to a discussion of the dependency system, social workers, and attorneys. She told me they all insisted they had the best attorney, and gave facts in support of their positions. Eventually one of them said, “Wait, who is your attorney?” and they all replied, “Toni”. Moments like this made me proud and nothing compares to the acknowledgement that you have made a positive impact on someones life.
I was raised in Oakland and it was exciting for me to run a successful law practice in my community for over 14 years. I am proud to have served as the President of the Alameda County Bar Association, 3 Term President of Women Lawyers of Alameda County, and Second Vice President of California Women Lawyers.
What tips can you give other lawyers interested in becoming a judicial officer?
I’ll start by saying I did not start my legal career with the goal of becoming a judicial officer. When I started my career as a Staff Attorney at the Eviction Defense Center I was in court 3-5 days a week and in trial every Friday, which gave me the opportunity to appear before many judicial officers for settlement conferences, court trials and jury trials. I built relationships through work and bar association activities. I was an active volunteer for the court serving as temporary judge for three years and as a mediator for the Unlawful Detainer Mediation program.
My helpful tip are as follows:
- If you are interested in becoming a judicial officer my suggestion is to invest your time and energy in both your practice and your community.
- I would also suggest building relationships in a genuine way and not solely in pursuit of the bench.
- Examine your experience objectively, or have someone provide you with objective feedback. If you find an area of improvement do something about it, because its never too late.
Do you know what your assignment will be?
I am currently assigned to Department 522, at the Hayward Hall of Justice presiding over family law cases.
What are you looking forward to the most about your new position?
I am looking forward to using my training and experience to serve the people of Alameda County. I am also thrilled to be in a Family Law Department working to protect the best interest of children and families. I look forward to working with Presiding Judge Morris Jacobson, Family Law Presiding Judge Alice Vilardi and the HHJ Family Law Team.