ELECTION ’12//SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE
May 30, 2012 | In September 2011, I called 18th Assembly candidate Joel Young to talk about, at the time, a little-known domestic violence allegation filed by an ex-girlfriend in March of that year. Young said he couldn’t comment on advice from his lawyer. But, because everybody in local politics is within a few degrees of separation from each other, it is not surprising that Young’s attorney was Tara Flanagan—the same Tara Flanagan running for Alameda County Superior Court judge next week rebranded as a fighter of domestic violence and anointed star of the LGBT community.
Transcripts of Young’s domestic violence case reveal not only conflicting narratives of a women’s advocate representing a man who alleged struck his girlfriend in the face so viciously that an emergency room nurse initially believed she had sustained a broken orbital bone, but also of a gruff and unruly lawyer who refused to obey judge’s orders just a year ago. Flanagan’s involvement in Young’s case last year and his support for his candidacy is not known among many of her supporters until now, nor is it very well understood. Why would a attorney set to run for a well-sought after spot on the bench represent a politician running for state office rapidly gaining political baggage at a break neck press, not to mention the detestable allegation of striking a woman nearly half his size? Flanagan’s campaign Web site even trumpets her awarding of “Outstanding Domestic Violence Prosecutor.” At a candidate’s forum in Hayward in April, Flanagan said her involvement as Young’s attorney does not merit support for the person or the issue, she was just practicing law. “People don’t understand that,” she added.
However, Flanagan’s involvement in attempting to cleanse Young’s tarnished reputation after litigation piled up in May 2011, ultimately became more than that of a client and attorney. Sometime last summer, female acolytes of Young, mostly from Oakland’s African American community, cobbled together a group of over 50 women to help Young’s now faltering campaign for the Assembly. Led by Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks, they called themselves “Women for Joel.” On that list of community leaders and public officials was Flanagan. Her name also pops up on Young’s infamous list of campaign endorsers, albeit, willingly, in this case.
In court transcripts from Young’s hearings to block his ex from obtaining a restraining order against him, Flanagan exhibited a bulldog demeanor towards the accuser and showed odd disdain for Alameda’s Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobsen’s authority in the court room. Solidly built with a sturdy head, Flanagan, at one point refused to approach the bench after the judge summoned her audience with the opposing attorney. Jacobsen then questioned Flanagan’s line of disparaging remarks against Young’s accuser. Just as difficult it was to call Flanagan to the bench, it was far more difficult for Jacobsen to rid her from his presence. In the middle of a packed courtroom, in attendance for a murder trial scheduled to follow Young’s hearing that day, Flanagan became unruly in open court. The ruckus was so great that Jacobsen instructed a bailiff to escort Flanagan from the court room. Flanagan loudly protested saying she had a right to be in the court room and it was open to the public.
At Young’s next hearing, Jacobsen unleashed a long rant chastising Flanagan for her past behavior. The fallout from the spectacle ran a collision course with Flanagan’s prospects of running for judge. Soon, thereafter, Flanagan switched from imposing stares of a mountain lion into a perfectly purring pussy cat in short time. She apologized profusely to Jacobsen in court and proceeded to take hold, once again, of her signature issue defending battered women. Flanagan spoke at numerous events on the subject in the time since representing Young, but aside from some in the law community, very few known about Flanagan’s unsavory link to Young. To the political establishment, it’s just water under the bridge. Over the past few month’s hundreds of signs dot the East Bay touting Tara Flanagan for county judge—the pick of the Democratic Party.