As a long-time prosecutor and deputy district attorney, Richard J. Sachs has always been focused on a singular task: to seek justice. “That’s the main reason I do what I do,” he says, reflecting on his nearly 30-year career with the San Diego District Attorney’s office, headed by Bonnie Dumanis.
An English Literature graduate of Chicago’s Loyola University and John Marshall Law School, he has been an instructor in UC San Diego Extension’s paralegal program for 10 years. Currently, he’s teaching Criminal Law & Procedure and Evidence Law.
Q: In your career with the district attorney’s office, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about yourself and the law?
A: Probably that you never stop learning. You’re always learning new variations of things you thought you already knew. You always have to continue practicing the practice of law.
Q: What’s your specialty with the DA’s office?
A: I focus on parole hearings for those offenders who are coming up for parole after serving long periods in prison.
Q: So it’s your job to make sure they’ve served enough time before being released?
A: It’s my job to represent the best interests of the state. Most of the time, yes, we don’t want them to be released. We want to make reasonably sure they’ve served enough time for the crime or crimes they have committed.
Q: What is your level of empathy?
A: It’s only for the victims. Every crime leaves behind a victim. Sometimes, you can understand why they committed their crimes, because of a bad childhood or something like that. But in this office, we always have more sympathy for the victims.
Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching at UC San Diego Extension?
A: What you teach is twice learned. I’ve always believed that. It’s a chance to stay on top of your field and interact with students who are taking paralegal courses for the first time. It invigorates you, forces you to stay on top of your game.
Q: What lessons do you hope they learn?
A: The basic fundamentals of law, how to be resourceful, how to get to the bottom of things. As paralegal students, they need far less in-depth legal knowledge than a lawyer would need. Most of all, they need the basic principles, so they can speak the language. I teach the basic fundamentals and problem-solving skills.
Q: What are the psychological benefits for you of being an instructor?
A: Teaching slows down my life. Everyday life is so hurried and fast. Our lives are taken up with computers, iPads, smart phones – every conceivable means to avoid slow, deliberate human interaction and face-to-face conversation with real people. For me, teaching turns the clock back a hundred years. It’s just you and the students, talking about fundamental concepts in an ancient discipline – the law.