UC Berkeley Brings Chesa Boudin Aboard
“The University of California at Berkeley has chosen Chesa Boudin, former San Francisco District Attorney, as founding executive director of the UC Berkeley Criminal Law & Justice Center.
“The center will serve as a national research and advocacy hub focused on critical law and policy changes to advance justice in the criminal legal system,” Boudin explained. “We will participate in impact litigation and help to educate the next generation of frontline advocates, policymakers and thought leaders emerging from the UC Berkeley School of Law.”
Elected in 2019, “Chesa Boudin threw a monkey wrench into the city’s criminal justice system,” recalls Richie Greenberg, San Francisco resident and business consultant. “Amid a series of high-profile cases, his promise to release repeat criminals and to allow quality of life crimes to go unpunished, San Francisco descended into a scofflaw paradise.”
Greenberg spearheaded a recall effort, and in June of 2022, San Francisco voters booted Boudin by a 60-40 margin. Mayor London Breed then appointed University of Chicago law alum Brooke Jenkins, a prosecutor in the city’s homicide division.
Jenkins proceeded to fire 16 Boudin loyalists, part of “important changes to my management team and staff that will help advance my vision to restore a sense of safety in San Francisco by holding serious and repeat offenders accountable and implementing smart criminal justice reforms.”
Last November, Jenkins prevailed over three rivals with approximately 54 percent of the vote.
Boudin will not contend for the job. The rejected DA is “choosing a different path for now—that is still consistent with my lifelong commitment to fixing the criminal legal system, ending mass incarceration and innovating data-driven solutions to public safety challenges.” The new executive director believes he’s uniquely qualified for the position.
“Both of my biological parents were arrested when I was a baby and spent a combined 62 years in prison. A lifetime of visiting them behind bars, together with the years I spent as a public defender and then an elected prosecutor, taught me how catastrophically California and the nation’s current approach to justice are failing.”
His biological parents were Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, members of the Weather Underground. They were arrested for their involvement in a 1981 armored car robbery in New York State that claimed the lives of security guard Peter Paige and two police officers, including the African American Waverly Brown.
Kathy Boudin is the daughter of Leonard Boudin, a lawyer who represented Cuba’s Communist dictatorship. Chesa, named after fugitive cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, worked for Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez but wanted to make a difference in America. San Francisco voters turned him out, but UC Berkeley rolled out the welcome mat.
“Chesa was chosen after a national search and has substantial experience across the criminal justice system,” proclaimed Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. “He has thought deeply about the system, and I cannot think of anyone better to create and direct this important center.”