The Volokh Conspiracy

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Ex-San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin Appointed Director of Berkeley Law's new Criminal Law & Justice Center


Chesa Boudin graduated Yale Law School in 2011. After two judicial clerkships bracketing a year as a post-doc fellow (!!??) at the San Francisco DA's office and several years practicing criminal law as a public defender, he ran successfully for San Francisco DA as a left-wing anti-racist reformist candidate. His tenure as DA was such a disaster that San Francisco voters recalled him by a 55% majority vote in June 2022.

I'm sure we're all happy to know that Chesa landed on his feet. Berkeley Law School has announced that he will be the founding executive director of Berkeley Law's new Criminal Law & Justice Center:

"Since coming to Berkeley Law, I have wanted to create a criminal law and justice center to further advance the important work of our tremendous faculty and clinics in this area," Dean Erwin Chemerinsky says. "I am delighted to launch the center and that Chesa Boudin will be its first executive director. Chesa was chosen after a national search and has substantial experience across the criminal justice system. He has thought deeply about the system, and I cannot think of anyone better to create and direct this important center."

Just in case it seems like Boudin may not be the best possible candidate for the position, the Berkelely Law press release assures readers that he has a "lifetime of experience." How so, given that he is only twelve years out of law school?

Boudin's parents, former members of the radical political group Weather Underground, spent more than six combined decades in prison for participating in a 1981 Brinks truck robbery that led to the death of two police officers and a security guard. Boudin was 14 months old at the time. His mother was released on parole after being incarcerated for 22 years, his father after 40.

"Led to the death." Hmmm. Anyway, lest you think that this is the mere awkward musings of a pr flak, Boudin agrees:

I wanted a job that draws on three personal and professional experiences that have been defining for me: a lifetime of direct experience with my biological parents spending 62 combined years in prison, my career as a public defender doing direct service work through individual client representation where I saw the everyday injustices of our so-called justice system, and my time in elected office where I focused on broader system change.

I certainly don't think we should disqualify people from academic positions because of their parents' actions. But the notion that having parents incarcerated for felony murder is a qualification to run an academic center is… interesting.

But wait, we also learn that Angela Davis endorses him! Then again, Davis herself narrowly escaped an almost-certainly deserved long prison term for her role in a courthouse takeover that resulted in multiple murders. So it's not surprising that she likes incompetent prosecutors. It might be a bit more surprising that Berkeley Law does.