Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hello, my name is Jennifer Schwartz, and this is compassionate Las Vegas. The
Speaker 2 (00:27):
Welcome to compassionate Las Vegas, the podcast I'm your host will Rucker. And I wanna thank you for joining us for this special season, season four, where we're diving into the world of elections and politics and government and really community. So our guest today is none other than Jennifer Schwartz. Welcome to the podcast.
Speaker 1 (00:51):
Thank you for having me.
Speaker 2 (00:52):
I am so glad you're here. So I had the privilege of meeting you actually at an event for Edgar Flores, and I think you had filed maybe that day probably. And so, you know, it was really, really cool just to see your energy and to know that you were entering into this world. So before we get into all of that, I just wanna set our baseline and ask you this. What does compassion mean to you? Or you could say, how do you define compassion?
Speaker 1 (01:23):
So I would say compassion is a combination of action on empathy, um, empathy, you know, understanding, being conscious of other people, their issues, their concerns, but then trying to act on it in order to help people, help people address whatever their issues are, um, giving yourself, or giving myself to other people in order to assist them, uh, to make them feel better and be better.
Speaker 2 (01:51):
I really like that make feel better and be better like that. That's so great. And I like that you include the action as part of that. A lot of folks think of compassion just as the feeling, but one of my goals with this podcast is to really get that feeling into action. Right? So thank you for highlighting that.
Speaker 1 (02:11):
Yes. I, uh, I have found that people like to tout their love for their community, but don't wanna do a lot to help their community, which I think is the antithesis of helping. I don't, I've never understood it. I've never lived my life that way. So I really appreciate this kind of forum, um, and being able to speak with you about all this.
Speaker 2 (02:34):
So before we started recording, we were talking a bit about why you decided to run. So I, I said, let's stop. Let's, let's get the camera going. Um, cause I really want to hear that. And I want our audience to understand, because you didn't plan to be a judge. This is something that you really felt compelled to do. So let's talk about that.
Speaker 1 (02:52):
So, um, I certainly never went to law school with the, uh, anticipation or hope of becoming a judge. Um, I went to law school, uh, for a variety of reasons. My paternal grandparents, uh, are Holocaust survivors. They were among the very lucky few who were forced into concentration camps and were ultimately liberated by the allies. Uh, they immigrated to this country, they learned a new language. Uh, they landed in Flint, Michigan, a little town outside near Detroit.
Speaker 2 (03:23):
Okay. I gotta call you there. Cause I don't think I knew that ah, from Detroit and have a whole bunch of cousins in Flint, so oh yeah, yeah. Really, really cool.
Speaker 1 (03:33):
Yeah. Yeah. So, um, that's where they moved to. They worked in the automotive industry of course and tailor shops. Um, but while living there, they learned, they relearn, they relearn how to be a family, how to be a community, um, and how to live. And they taught me that they taught me that hard work, compassion and integrity truly are the defining characteristics of a good person. Um, you know, they were products of a, the dictatorship government that destroyed destroyed lives, homes, committed genocide. Um, and we needed, they instilled in me the need that we need good people around, uh, whether it's in government, whether it's the power or just people, uh, because if you're not protecting other people, you're not going to be protected later. Um, and so one of that's one of the reasons I ended up going to law school, uh, I, I knew that there was so much out there that needed help and I I'm an able bodied, able minded person.
Speaker 1 (04:38):
And so I wanted to be able to provide that help. Um, and then after law school, I clerked for dis then district court go to Michael Terry in 17, which, you know, foreshadowing, that's one I'm running for now. I'm trying to go home, but then I've worked, you know, I, and then I worked in the public defender's office. I've been there for 18 years. I like my job. I like what I do. I, I help people who no one wants to help. Um, these are people who can't afford an attorney and no one's running in to help them. Uh, and so I, and I've done a really good job of it, but through my 18 years, as a public defender, I've witnessed just, I I've witnessed horrible judges, constantly take the bench. Um, you know, some of them are just straight pirates who think that mass in, you know, uh, what is it tough on crime?
Speaker 1 (05:30):
I think that's the phrasing tough on crime, which really just means mass incarceration, um, that doesn't solve any problems. And frankly, I just got sick of complaining, uh, a good friend of mine, Belinda Harris, uh, used to say stop complaining act. And, uh, this position came open and I'm taking Belinda's advice. I'm, I'm acting, I'm putting myself in a position where I know that I can be the judge that this county needs. Again. I had no intention of ever doing this. My plan was to retire from the public defender's office to continue to help new lawyers grow and teach people how to, how to properly and zealously advocate for our clients. But, you know, I just got sick of complaining. So that's why I'm doing this.
Speaker 2 (06:17):
I love it. And I'm, I'm in a very similar situation. This podcast was birthed out of the fact that I, I wanted to hear something positive and inspirational sometimes. So that's all you have folks like yourself on, you mentioned the tough on crime piece. And one of the things that our network as a whole, uh, compassionate Las Vegas focuses on is restorative justice and our lens restorative justice is really a way for those that cause harm to actually take responsibility for what they've done and to make it right. And you mentioned mass incarceration hasn't been effective. And I think the data really shows that
Speaker 1 (06:53):
For sure. The numbers definitely start show that.
Speaker 2 (06:56):
Can you really bring compassion to the bench? Is that really something that is viable in our world today?
Speaker 1 (07:03):
Yes. I mean, I, I, sadly there's been a, um, there's been a tradition of losing compassion from the bench. Um, looking at people, not as people, but as numbers, um, or just straight judging them, you know, doing the proverbial, judging a book by their cover without actually understanding what's going on. And that's, that's what I want. That's what I will do. It's not that I want to do it. I will do that. I can sit on a bench, um, and look to be perfectly clear. Community safety is obviously the number one priority. Um, there are people that frankly they don't do well when they have their freedoms and their liberties. Um, they create harm and injury and things, you know, there are people that do that, but there are so many people who are in custody that don't, and that's the frustrating part. We have so many people in custody who should not be in custody, but you need that compassion.
Speaker 1 (08:01):
And you need the integrity to understand who they are so that we can have these people who are in custody, have them out, give involved in programs, but also working, building our community. When you have someone who's in custody, they're not working, they're not supporting themselves. They're not supporting their families. They're losing their homes. They're losing their livelihoods. Incarceration is certainly not benefiting them. And if it's not vetting them, it's not benefiting society. Cuz what are we as society gonna do afterwards? They're eventually gonna hit the streets and we're just gonna spend more tax dollars on trying to keep these people away from us versus helping them, teaching them. You know, that's where the compassion comes from. That's where, that's where my compassion, uh, is, is, is focused in on, is understanding. We need to build our community and it starts partially in the courtroom.
Speaker 2 (09:00):
I mean, all of that is so, so right in my view. And um, as you started, one of the things I was thinking is we sadly we tend to have to defend doing the right thing and having compassion for folks. And we have to give all these disclaimers like, yeah, we want public safety and yeah, we, we want to make sure, you know, those that need to be incarcerated are like, and that shouldn't even be a thing. You know, we, that should be like a given and a baseline for us. And it's such a small percentage of the population that, gosh, can't, can't we do better by the majority of, of folks is kind of how I view it.
Speaker 1 (09:39):
Speaker 2 (09:41):
One thing I wanted to ask, uh, kind of in that same vein, uh, is around how you retain that compassion. And here's what I mean when you deal with some of the worst of the worst, it can really harden your heart and Jade you, and, um, it can be hard to even continue to have that empathy because you're seeing some things that are really, really devastating. What are some of the things you do to make sure your self care regimen, I should say, like your, for your own mental health and your wellbeing?
Speaker 1 (10:13):
Um, I don't do enough. I mean, admittedly that I, I don't have the time to do enough, uh, between being a, you know, having a fulltime job at the public defender's office and being a full time, mom and wife, my selfcare is certainly not there, but I, uh, it's an acknowledgement. I, I have an acceptance of who I am. Um, and that's the biggest part of it. Um, look, I've represented people who, um, I, I don't condone their actions, but I constantly remind myself that a, my job is in the constitution. Um, and I love that. I respect that. I think it's powerful. Um, because then ultimately I am giving them the constitutional rights that they're entitled to, that everyone is entitled to. And I always remind myself of that. And frankly, my friends and family, when they ask me, how can we do this?
Speaker 1 (11:07):
How can you represent that person? Because everyone has these rights by virtue of being in this country and it's, and, and I like to preserve and protect our rights, our, our liberties, our, you know, our protections. And so for self-help, it's really just a constant reminder of what I do and why I do it. Um, and then an acceptance that I'm far from perfect. And I probably should be doing more, but man, I'm trying to do the best that I possibly can. Well, not sounding like a 22 year old, we've just graduated, you know, college, this altruistic I'm out to, you know, cure the world of all it's evils. But, um, you know, just, I, I really am. I'm trying to, to do what I can to help because I have been helped. I have received assistance in so many different ways and fashions, and I love to be able to do that. And then also teach my son, my son's 12. Um, and I'm teaching him, uh, both my husband and I teach him that helping people makes you a better person. And so there's, there's a lot of constant reminders. That's, that's how I keep on pushing myself through. And I surround myself by really with really great people. I mean, you know, my friends, my, um, my, my husband, I surround myself with amazing people who inspire me every day.
Speaker 2 (12:33):
I think that is a, that last one, especially is a really good way to, to take care of yourself. And once we're done, we'll talk about that. Self-care regimen a bit
Speaker 1 (12:42):
Speaker 2 (12:44):
But what I heard in your, your answer there is really you're grounded in the purpose of what you do. And I think that's big, you know, in my space, I do work with a lot of corporations that have employees that are just disengaged. Or if you look at the stats at how many people are unhappy with their jobs, it's, it's really frightening. And the that I do to try to help tilt that balance. The other way is remind people that every single job serves a purpose. And if you can find that purpose in related to what drives you, then you'll be happier at work. You'll have a, a general, uh, better sense of wellbeing overall. So I like that you're grounded in purpose. What I wanna dive a bit more deeply into is having to defend the fact that you are defending folks, uh, who are potentially done some things that are, I mean, devastating for sure. And I, I know that I've heard people say, well, we looked at the, uh, Supreme court nomination with our first African American woman, you know, and she had to face charges of, Hey, well, you defended, or, or you were light on those that did things to kids. How could we have you as a Supreme court justice? And she's like, look, that was my job. And this is what I do. So could you talk a little bit about that and kind of help us to understand even having compassion for those who have caused harm?
Speaker 1 (14:04):
Sure. Um, when that nomination process went through, uh, I, I don't wanna say in my blood was boiling, but I was certainly, um, offended. I it's, it's offensive that, you know, the same people who say, how can you do what you do are out there also saying, oh, we're all about freedoms and liberties and you know, our constitution, but I guess only for some, and, and that's, that's the frustrating part is, and it's, I, again, I'm not trying to sound like a idealistic 22 year old, recent college graduate. I love our constitution. I love what it stands for. And I love that my job is to make sure it is protected and that government does its job or liberties are removed. Um, liberties is just the most precious thing that we have as humans. Um, and to have that removed there needs, there needs to be a substantial burden on the government in order to remove that.
Speaker 1 (15:08):
And so when I represent people who are accused and, you know, frankly have committed horrible offenses, it it's, like I said before, I, I remind myself that their constitutional rights are the same as my mothers. And if that person is going to be, um, you know, if that person's going to lose some of their rights, then that means my mom is losing some of her rights. Uh, I love my mom, obviously she's a great lady. Uh, and she built me to be the strong woman that I am as well. But, and so when, again, like going back to that, I, I, I don't condone actions, but why would I want to allow the government to remove the most precious of things that a person can have if they can't prove it, if they can't do the work, if they can't demonstrate, if they can demonstrate it or they do the right, they do the job the correct way then fine, that that's, that's the, the process. But, you know, don't, don't take my mom's rights away from her. So that's why, you know, so don't take anyone else's rights away because that's, that's just how I, I, I always view it. That's how I always focus. It's protect my mom, protect the world.
Speaker 2 (16:23):
Yeah. I love that. And making it personal, we're make it, it's almost as if in my faith tradition, we, we're taught to love each other, um, unconditionally and to treat each other the way we want to be treated. And that's really what I'm hearing in your approach. And you take it a step further with like, look my mom, if this was my mom, how would I want this to be handled? So, right. Uh, that's amazing. Um, I do wanna ask this, and this is kind of a different way to, to go about it, but, um, indulge me, uh, if you had a magic wand and you could make a change that you think would that, that idealistic 22 year old bright eyed rose colored glass wearing person would have, what would that be?
Speaker 1 (17:07):
You know, it's funny, I've, uh, I've always had a line when people like people are at wanting me to do something for them. And I always say, I went to law school, not magic school. I don't have a magic wand. Um, ,
Speaker 1 (17:23):
You know, at risk of sounding cheesy, it's the compassion. I realize we're on the compassion Las Vegas podcast. It's compassion. Um, I don't, we, we, we routinely go backwards. Uh, we, we, we make strides as a society as a whole, and then we starts going backwards and then we start covering of the reasons why we're going backwards, but we're still going backwards. And it's because we're lacking compassion. And, um, but with compassion comes understanding and at least in the judicial system, if I can RA wave the magic wand, it's the, and again, this is gonna sound a little silly. It's the removal of implicit bias. Um, if we can somehow figure out how to remove implicit bias, like there are gonna people out there that are actively an outwardly spewing hate. Can't do anything about that, but it's that implicit bias, the peop the thing that people have, you don't wanna admit, and then you push back when you try to, you know, make them face what they do and what they think, even though it's maybe subconscious.
Speaker 1 (18:31):
Um, if we can, the removal of implicit bias, that would be that that's my magic wand. That's, that's the, that would be the ultimate, because then I think we would have, again, this less tough on crime mass incarceration. Um, let's keep all the poor people in custody and release all the rich people. Um, you know, we would understand that when we walk into a courtroom and I walk into a courtroom all the time, I'm in court as a public defender all of the time, um, it's not lost on me when most of the people who are, who are locked up, who are, who are chained up, are black and brown. Um, and I think that that a lot of that comes with the implicit bias of, we think when we're on this higher bench, that we're better and we're not, although we're judges, you know, I, I see the irony of the, I live without judgment yet I'm running to be a judge. Um, but you know, you, there has to be an acknowledgement and understanding of, of what we do and how we need to fix it. And so that would be it, I think.
Speaker 2 (19:35):
Yeah, well, I'm heading down to ex caliber to grab Merlin's wand for you. Cause that I think we need to do wow. I mean, that, that alone would revolutionize the world, even just an awareness and, and the ability to admit that. Yeah, I, I do have this bias. I, I do see things that way, um, and not being afraid. That being honest is going to, uh, be a hindrance, I think would be, uh, a great outcome from that. Jennifer, I wanna thank you so much for joining the program. I mean, I, I could talk to you all day. I think there's so much that you bring and I'm just so glad that you have honored our community in this way, by, um, putting yourself out for service. And it's not an easy thing that you're doing. So I take my hat off to you and I just wanna say, thank you for doing it.
Speaker 1 (20:27):
Thank you so much for having me. Um, this is quite the adventure. It's quite the journey, but, uh, I, I really like it. I, I enjoy what's happening. I enjoy, I look, I'm meeting people that I ordinarily would not have. Um, and I, I really, I thank you. I thank you for your time and making time for me and having me on the show with you.
Speaker 2 (20:47):
Absolutely. And to our audience, I want to thank you again for tuning in to this episode of compassionate Las Vegas to podcast I'm will Rucker. And as I always remind you, you are not just to drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop and what you do matters. So live compassionately, I'll see on the.