Judge Michael Isaku Begert

Judge Michael Isaku Begert

Veteran Justice Court and Superior Court

Judge Begert is the youngest of five children to his immigrant Japanese mother, Sono Nishimura, and father, Carl Begert. He grew up in a biracial household and attended public school in Washington. Judge Begert’s father was a 20-year US Air Force veteran. His parents met in Tokyo during the US occupation. When the military transferred Carl to California in 1949, Sono took a steamship to San Francisco where they were reunited. They married and raised a family.

In 1989, Judge Begert moved to San Francisco after law school. He was married at Convent of the Sacred Heart. Judge Begert’s three children were born at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) and attended Nihonmachi Little Friends in Japantown.

Serving San Francisco for 13 years
Judge Michael Isaku Begert has served San Francisco as a Superior Court Judge since January 2011. He was chosen to build and lead San Francisco’s Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) Court, created by Governor Newsom to help people with certain mental health disorders receive the support and care they need. Since 2019, he has presided over three treatment courts: Veterans Justice Court (VJC), Community Justice Court (CJC) and Drug Treatment Court.

Prior judicial assignments include Assistant Supervising Judge of Unified Family Court (child custody, dissolutions, child/spousal support), Juvenile justice and Dependency (CPS cases), civil trials, criminal trials and traffic.

Before joining the bench in 2011, Judge Begert volunteered with numerous community based and national agencies. He served on the board of directors for Asian Law Caucus, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Judge Begert has courage, compassion, and respect for the law and the community. He has been part of the San Francisco legal community for over 34 years.

Before he was appointed, Judge Begert was an attorney for 20 years with McCutchen, one of San Francisco’s oldest and most respected law firms. He has devoted his entire legal career – spanning more than three decades – to San Francisco. Judge Begert is proud to serve San Franciscans because we have the courage to be compassionate.

Judge Begert understands difficult challenges all San Franciscans face. Those challenges impact real people with families and loved ones. He understood this as a pro bono lawyer working on civil rights cases side-by-side with the Asian Law Caucus and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Judge Begert’s 13 years of judicial service has been focused on these difficult problems and on the people experiencing them. He sought out assignments in Family Law, Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Dependency, Drug Treatment Court, Community Justice Court, and Veterans Justice Court – particularly because his father was a service veteran. Over the past year, Judge Begert built one of the first-ever CARE Courts in the State. He also helped create a Restorative Justice project to promote real healing and pioneered Nuevos Destinos to partner with the community in a culturally competent way.

In each role, Judge Begert has battled against the challenges of criminal behavior, drug addiction, inadequate treatment, the housing crisis, mental illness, racism, wealth inequity, and the relentless degradation of humanity that these leave in their wake. This has been his life’s passion, and he has pursued it while respecting the dignity and humanity of everyone who appears before him.

Reentry Conference Event Page

10:30 am - 12:00 pm
HALL B | St. Mary's Cathedral - Event Center

Veterans Justice: Insights, Avenues and Solutions

Mick Gardner
Mick Gardner - Manager C.O.V.E.R. In-custody/Out-of-custody Program/Swords to Plowshares


Judge Michael Isaku Begert
San Francisco Veteran Justice Court and Superior Court Judge
Ron Self
Executive Director - Veterans Healing Veterans, Formerly Incarcerated
Megan O’Leary
(Staff) Attorney - Veteran Upgrade - Swords To Plowshares
Jenna Ferrara, LCSW
Veterans Administration - Veteran Justice Outreach Specialist
Tim Healy
Health Care Reentry Veterans - Peer Specialist, Formerly Incarcerated


This Veterans Justice Panel is a dedicated group comprised of legal experts, veterans' advocates, justice-impacted supervision, and representatives from relevant community-based and VA agencies. The purpose, of this panel presentation is to demonstrate the impact of collaborative service provisions that veterans receive and the fair treatment within the justice system as they address their unique legal challenges. The panel discussion will include issues such as access to legal services, diversion programs for veterans with mental health or substance abuse issues, understanding and navigating veterans' benefits, addressing life skills strategies for Veterans to gain during their in-custody tenure, and advocating for policies that support veterans' rights. Utilizing this collaboration with various stakeholders, our panel aims to promote justice, support, and rehabilitation for those who have served our country.