It looks like the political equivalent of riding off into the sunset for former SF District Attorney Chesa Boudin, as he’s starting up a UC Berkeley department called the Criminal Law & Justice Center.
If you are somehow on former SF DA Chesa Boudin's campaign email list, you received an email at 7:15 a.m. Wednesday morning entitled “I want you to hear the news from me first.” But the email is not on campaign letterhead, it’s on UC Berkeley School of Law letterhead. And it breaks the news where Boudin says, “I want you to hear the news from me directly: today is my first day as the founding Executive Director of the brand-new Criminal Law & Justice Center at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.”
Welcoming @chesaboudin! As founding executive director of Berkeley Law’s new Criminal Law & Justice Center (@BerkeleyLawCLJC), Boudin sees an exciting opportunity to build on his work of transforming the criminal legal system in profound ways. https://t.co/Eo6jMkHf3s— UC Berkeley Law (@BerkeleyLaw) May 31, 2023
But Boudin put this in more starkly political terms in a Wednesday morning Chronicle op-ed entitled “Why I’m not running for office in 2024.”
JUST IN: Former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin on why he is not running for office in 2024. https://t.co/h3rlFb0DKJ— San Francisco Chronicle (@sfchronicle) May 31, 2023
“As I learned during my two-and-a-half years as San Francisco’s elected district attorney, it takes far more than winning elections to achieve lasting progress,” Boudin says in his op-ed. “Winning a few big elections isn’t enough, on its own, to create lasting change. I learned a lot while in office, including that how people feel often matters more than data and facts.”
You’ll notice Boudin did specify that he was not running for office “in 2024.” And yes, the San Francisco district attorney position is on the ballot for the November 5, 2024 election. When Brooke Jenkins won the DA election this past November, that was a special, mid-term election because hers was an interim appointment.
And Boudin’s Chronicle essay does seem to get in a swipe at Jenkins, noting that under her tenure, “The city is suffering its most fatal year of overdoses on record, by far.”
The email announcement has (of course) a fundraising link which explains that this new Criminal Law & Justice Center "advances legislative initiatives, impact litigation coalitions, policy papers, and statistical analysis.”
Apparently one of the group’s first initiatives will be promoting enforcement of the new California Racial Justice Act, which seeks to eliminate harsher sentencing for people of color.
The UC Berkeley announcement of Boudin’s hiring explains that “The United States confines a greater percentage of its population than any nation, with over 2 million people currently incarcerated and about 5 million more on probation or parole. Studies show that Black men have a 1 in 4 chance of being incarcerated compared to 1 in 23 for white men, Black women are six times as likely to be imprisoned as white women, and ethnic minorities are arrested more often and punished more severely than white people for the same offenses.”
For Chesa Boudin, this is probably a cushier and higher-paying job than being San Francisco's district attorney. Maybe he will get to go on MSNBC from time to time, and likely land more speaking gigs as his center puts out policy papers.
Maybe this is a period of image rehab for Boudin, and maybe he’ll run for another office someday. Burt as far as being San Francisco district attorney again, it sure looks like Boudin is letting that ship sail.
Image: Berkeley Law