Former San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin was appointed to lead the new Criminal Law and Justice Center at Berkeley Law, where he will serve as the executive director.
The center, which has been in discussion within the law school for years, aims to act as a regional and national “hub” for research in the criminal justice space. According to Boudin, the center will focus on combining education, legislation, litigation and advocacy.
“I am thrilled to be joining a phenomenal group of scholars and students whose work and ideas inspire me everyday,” Boudin said. “Their creativity, their energy, their vision — I am excited to be part of this team and am excited for all of the work we will do together.”
Boudin — whose criminal justice background consists of both personal and professional experience with the incarceration system — began his career in San Francisco as a public defender. He was elected as San Francisco District Attorney in 2019 before being recalled in 2022.
His time as district attorney was marked by a controversial public image, with both criticism and support for his policies regarding police accountability, decarceration and restorative justice.
Richie Greenberg, who led the recall campaign against Boudin last year, alleged that his tenure as district attorney led to an uptick in crime in San Francisco and expressed disapproval of Boudin’s new role at the law school. Greenberg is not alone — the decision has been met with public backlash.
Supporters of Boudin, on the other hand, applaud his efforts in police accountability and reducing jail populations; the group Stand with Chesa Boudin, created to defend Boudin from the recall, claimed that crime dropped 30% during his term.
In response to the concerns regarding Boudin’s appointment, Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky noted the nationwide search for the position conducted by criminal justice faculty members.
“Chesa Boudin emerged from that search as the top candidate,” Chemerinsky said in an email. “He has impeccable academic qualifications and experience as a public defender and a prosecutor. He is eminently qualified for this position.”
As director of the new center, Boudin aims to develop data-driven policies and intends to meet with elected officials, publish impact litigation and advocate for relevant legislation. Chemerinsky also noted that the center will work with the law school’s faculty and students.
Funding for the center will come from the law school for the first three years, after which it will be self-sufficient, according to Chemerinsky. Boudin added the center is already in the process of raising money from external donors, as well as establishing a faculty advisory board.
“We hope to be able to advance policies based on research, data and evidence: evidence-based policies and practices that make our community safe and our legal system more just,” Boudin said.