Skip to main content
Coopers’ Code Podcast

On Brand, Former USF Law Dean Hon Jeffrey Brand (Ret.) – Part III

May 20, 2024 • 33 min

Coopers’ Code Podcast

On Brand, Former USF Law Dean Hon Jeffrey Brand (Ret.) – Part III

May 20, 2024 • 33 min

Today we’re continue with Part III of our conversation with Honorable Jeffrey Brand, recently retired from the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda, also formerly Dean of University of San Francisco’s Law School from 1999-2013.

If you missed Part I and Part II, make sure to stream them first:

Part I
Part II

Part I
Part II

Apple Podcast
Part I
Part II

During this time Dean Brand oversaw the transformation of the law school’s facilities, including faculty expansion, a new library, and complete reconstruction of the main hall. Simultaneous to this he expanded clinical offerings, international course, internships, and global justice programs including efforts in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, and East Timor.

He’s twice been a judge, his prior stint being as an Administrative Law Judge for the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, been a Title VII civil rights litigator, a criminal defense lawyer, public defender, and let’s not forget managing partner of – wait for it because it’s not a law firm – the Reno Silver Sox, a Class A minor league ball team in the California League.

Judge Dean’s University of San Francisco School of Law biography page:

We are now on video as well. You can watch the episodes on our Youtube channel!

Hosted by Miles Cooper
Produced by Mauro Serra | Kenji Productions
Recorded & Co-produced by Zach Morvant
Music by The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble


Miles Cooper: Howdy and welcome to the show. Coopers’ Code focuses on legal issues and noble practitioners distilling wisdom so we all achieve the best results for our clients. I’m Miles Cooper. Thank you for joining us for this part three of our three part series with judge and Dean Jeffrey Brown.

We keep getting close to it and I keep then taking us down a different direction in terms of talking about your experience as a professor, then Dean at USF. And before we get there, it sounds like you were teaching at Lincoln all the kind of all the way through as a practitioner as well.

Jeffrey Brand: Correct.

Miles Cooper: Okay.

Jeffrey Brand: Yeah. That’s how I got the job teaching at Lincoln was because, they were just looking for somebody that was applying the rules of evidence Kind of on a daily basis and as a public defender, that’s what happened. But, it wasn’t until 1986 that I stopped, doing any practice and then went full time into teaching.

Miles Cooper: What led to that decision?

Jeffrey Brand: First of all, I love teaching. I found it exciting. I found the idea of educating future generations of lawyers inspiring. And I had fun with it. And I thought, actually, that I, I was pretty good at it in the sense that, students responded and I felt like we could learn together.

And so a position opened up at USF. They were just starting a course called Lawyering Practice. It was an attempt to bring practical skills training to the curriculum, which, to this day remains less than it should be, although it’s just eons beyond what it was in the 1980s. And they asked if I would want to teach and help to create that course along with another colleague.

Who became a lifelong friend. And, I decided, yeah, it was time to do that. And I want to say the rest was history. I had taught, as a visitor at USF. ‘79,’ 80 or 80-81, so I knew what it was like to be there full time and, I decided this was a great opportunity and I wasn’t going to pass it up.

Miles Cooper: So one of the things that, and I’m fast forwarding a bit on your involvement at USF, you went from being a driver in the professor role to in the dean role, at least from the outside, driving an expansion and improvement of this school that seems unprecedented, at least from my awareness. What led to your, in essence, your drive in that regard?

Jeffrey Brand: First of all, just as a precursor, and I, I feel this strongly, what I did built on what others did. I remember when we dedicated Kendrick Hall, the, we had, not everybody’s familiar with USF, but originally there was Kendrick Hall given by the Kendrick family. That was the law school. And then, Dean J. Fallberg, was primarily responsible for fundraising for, the library, which became the Durain Z. Flaw Library. Just a beautiful building. And, I had the privilege of just kind of executing what Jay had done with the library, but at the same time, the original building had to be gutted. So, we ended up redoing all of the facilities. I just wanted to be clear that there were other deans and others who deserve, you know, as much credit as anybody.

And given that, you were not Dean fully while I was taking some finals, and I remember pile driving for the library going on during my finals, I should, I should give Dean Fulbright that credit.

Jeffrey Brand: Yes, definitely.

Miles Cooper: Okay.

Jeffrey Brand: But it, it, what drove me to teaching, and there were two things that drove me to teaching. One was I loved teaching. I had fun with teaching. We laughed a lot in class. And I found that the more fun the students were having, the more they wanted to learn. so I, it was just my, joy in, in, in being a professor. That was, that was one thing, but there was something special about USF and that was, that built on and was related to the Jesuit community that I first encountered.when I had been working with Frank Newman, and I got to know the Jesuit community at USF and their commitment to, justice and their commitment to the common good, was astonishing. Steve Prevett, who was the president of the university most of the time that I was there and a very good friend now, the first time I, he ever came to the faculty, I was already Dean, and he knew I was Jewish, and we did it, you know, I always joked about it, the, the, moniker for the, Jesuit community is, for example, Stephen Prevet S. J., which means, Society of Jesus. And my moniker, I always used to joke, was Jeff Brand S. J., Still Jewish. It got a laugh, but the point was that the Jesuit mission was extraordinary. And, so Steve came to lunch when he first became president. And I asked him an unscripted question, after he had given a little introductory talk to the faculty.

I said, Steve, from your perspective, what is the mission of a Jesuit law school? And he came back with this sentence, to train lawyers who hunger and thirst for justice. And I thought to myself, as he was saying, and I thought, this is unbelievable. A particular political agenda has nothing or a particular political leaning has zero to do with this.

As a matter of fact, in an educational context, once somebody injects their own politics, it becomes an indoctrination session, not a learning session, and it also ignores the fact that. We need great lawyers who are concerned about the common good, who hunger and thirst for justice for their client, in every context, the business context, the criminal context, the more civil rights, as we commonly use that phrase context. So this was a universal mission focused on the common good. And, that’s also what led me to become Dean; because I thought, my God, what a great way to wake up in the morning to have the opportunity to tell people. This is what we’re about. And, I love doing it for that reason.

People always say to me, how could you fundraise like that for all those years? It was easy. It was something I believed in. And it was also if people wanted to contribute, wonderful. And if people didn’t want to contribute, fine. I understand. People have other priorities, people may not be interested in what I was talking about, but the idea that I was trying to raise money for an institution that was going to train lawyers, skilled ethical professionals, was worth the effort because it was so important as a pillar of society. And again, I, you know, maybe that all sounds trite. But, I believed it deeply then, I still believe it today.

Miles Cooper: I don’t feel like it sounds trite. I think part of the reason why you were probably so effective in the role that you served is because it’s evident, at least on this side of the table, how deeply you believe in what you do.

Jeffrey Brand: I appreciate that.

Miles Cooper: The other piece that I believe you were involved in, in some expansion of, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, are some of the work, the outreach work to other countries and, and involvement in on kind of an international level. And rather than have me muddle through a question, can you, can you elaborate a little bit on, on what your involvement was there and what drove you to do that?

Jeffrey Brand: Yeah, I’m smiling. Again, because, I’m actually working on a book right now related to all of that. and again, this was, not, initially the driving force between, for this was a professor at the law school who I knew before I got to the law school, Dolores Donovan. I mention her name specifically because She had this idea that it was important to bring, Cambodians in particular to the law school after the Khmer Rouge devastation, and to help Cambodia rebuild its legal infrastructure.She had been there doing work there. And, initially in 1994, I guess it was ‘93 that we got the grant. She wrote the first grant to bring five Cambodians to, USF. The, USAID folks at that time who had been roundly criticized for their not staying in their lane during the sixties and during the Vietnam War, actually, were a group of people that understood the need to train lawyers, but not based on what.our system necessarily was, but what their own needs were as they perceived it. And, this started a series of grants and work that lasted at least 20 years. And, it was work that originally started in Cambodia where we had our Cambodia Law and Democracy Program. we brought, I don’t know, 30 Cambodians who had some legal education to USF to further that legal education.

I was in and out of Cambodia two times a year, spending enormous amounts of time there. We created textbooks, we created law schools, we created a Cambodian legal education center that, was, its charge was to provide basic legal education to people who might need it in the new, government structure that was developing. And we assisted other people who were there also doing interesting things, setting up a legal aid structure, setting up a bar association. So this went on for decades and it took various political turns that have been difficult. The government in Cambodia now is not the government that I think any of us envisioned at the time, who the, there was initially a coalition government formed with the UN in 1993 that imploded in 1997 in the middle of a coup, which, where I was with my students at the time that the fighting broke out. That’s another story. but nonetheless, I do think that we had a large impact in helping to resurrect a legal infrastructure for Cambodia that had been completely decimated, which implies that something is left standing. I don’t think decimated does it justice, that had been destroyed during the time of the Khmer Rouge. That program led to other things as well. So, for example, we did a judicial training with judges in Cambodia that I really liked and I, to this day, I think the materials really worked. It was a comparison of their legal system, our legal system, with case files based on their cases, not our cases, all translated.

in, using Khmer, their language, not our language, and I went to a funder who’s actually the Dutch. And I said, you know, we ought to do this in Vietnam because at the time the U.S. had not reengaged. It was just, beginning to, and I went knocking on doors there, ended up with the Minister of Justice, ended up who we did, but multiple efforts in Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, training judges, do working with law schools, doing seminars in various topics. Again, all comparative based. Did work in Indonesia, we did work in East Timor, did some work in China, And so it was an extraordinary adjunct to my time as Dean. Eventually we established the center for law and global justice. And, through that, many of the programs were managed and USF had a rich history of, doing international human rights work. another professor established what I think was the first international human rights clinic. Again, which Frank Newman, after his death, his wife helped to fund.

So, that’s the long answer to a short question about an important topic.

Miles Cooper: Were you able to continue some involvement in that once you took the bench?

Jeffrey Brand: Before I took the bench, my wife and I made one last trip to Cambodia. And I, by this time, I had a whole community of friends in Cambodia, Cambodians. And, we interviewed 12 of them. And I had maybe 40 hours of tapes about their whole lives, the Khmer Rouge, the Vietnamese occupation, the time of UNTAC, which was the United Nations. And beyond.

When I got back, I started to put together a, a book of sorts. I wasn’t sure what it was going to be, but I did a lot of writing. And then I was appointed to the bench. And, since I’ve retired, I’ve come back to it. And honestly, I’ve been kind of writing feverishly, writing profiles of each of the 12 that we interviewed. Have the tapes. We have very good notes. I have all that I put together before. And, for the last four months, I’ve kind of been immersed in their lives and it’s reminded me of how inspiring and moving the international work that the law school did was. You know, so as I look back on a lot of things I did, it was, a lot of it was serendipity. An opportunity was there and I think I have seized those opportunities, but a lot of it’s just luck, you know, being in the right place or at a place where something came up that looked interesting.

Miles Cooper: There is a, seems to be a common refrain amongst some of the very, I don’t want to use the word successful necessarily, but people have made an impact and then they oftentimes will use the phrase luck.

And I’ve said that, you know, chance favors the prepared, those who take the opportunity and do run with it.

Jeffrey Brand: Yeah. And I think that goes back to the conversation we had earlier. It’s real easy to say if an opportunity comes up and you’re passionate about it, run with it. And I like to think I did that, or, and continue to do it. But, that said, there’s also a reality check in all of this. And for some people, the opportunity to run with it is not necessarily there. My generation, I think in some ways grew up in a, in an incredible time. particularly those of us that were lucky enough to be able to go to schools and, the opportunities were there. And there, as I said before, and I don’t mean to repeat it, but the opportunities are sometimes difficult, more difficult to run with than they were for me. And I know that. And again, I think I was lucky that way. But I think part of the other reason that we kind of retreat from impact, Who knows what impact any of us make. And I, for myself, I don’t like to either be self righteous or to somehow say that I’m having an impact in ways that I may think I am, but I’m not sure. So there’s a modesty and I hope it’s not a false modesty about it because I think humility is really important.

Miles Cooper: I won’t get the lines to Ozymandias right, but the, look all you upon this and weep.

Jeffrey Brand:Yeah.

Miles Cooper: On a plaque sitting in dust.

Jeffrey Brand:Yeah.

Miles Cooper: Your book, is it a point where you have some concept as to when people should start looking for it?

Jeffrey Brand: There’s an anniversary coming up, which is poignant and horrifying. On April 17th, 1975, the Khmer Rouge, entered Phnom Penh and evacuated the city. And it remained evacuated and empty for five years while he slaughtered two plus million of an 8 million population. And the anniversary of that, the 50th anniversary is April 17th, 2025. I would love to have something together, but again, the stories I’m telling are not my stories. It’s, it’s, it, there’s parallels everywhere. They’re the stories of the Cambodians. And so, you know, I’m working with them to help craft a story. I’m writing the stories based on what they told me, but you know, where we’ll all go is not going to be my decision. It’s going to be their decision. And so, but I would love it if something in 2025 could, could be in the works.

Miles Cooper: Will you touch on your experience with your students in 1997 being there when there was a coup in that?

Jeffrey Brand: Yes. Yes, definitely. And it led to other things about hope and, what resilience and why people remain hopeful in the face of complete devastation. And that will be, I hope, a focus of the book along with the importance, and again, this gets back to what I was talking about as being a judge, the importance of the rule of law, the importance of fair rules, fair decision making, listening to both sides, coming to a, determination, whether you’re trying to settle a case or you’re trying to settle a case. Where people feel heard. This is a conversation. It’s not supposed to be a fight. And I know people feel inclined to fight because they’re, they, they feel wronged. Both sides.

Miles Cooper: It is described as the adversarial process and some people take it too seriously.

Jeffrey Brand: Yeah. Well, I don’t know about taking it too seriously because I don’t know what, I forget what the line is, but the adverse adversarial process in the courtroom, I think can lead to some semblance of the truth. Better than other systems might. So I have tremendous admiration for the adversarial process, but there’s got to be a point where we can help put that aside and sit down and talk in a way that people feel heard and be able to resolve whatever the dispute may be, no matter how small or how large it is. I always felt that when I was doing the small claims calendar, it was as important as the hundred million dollar asbestos case with the horrible consequences of whatever might have happened.

Miles Cooper: And I smile only because I seem to recall having heard from a small claimants judge that it is the most dangerous place to rule from the bench.

Jeffrey Brand: Never. Never. There are it’s a competitors. I also did the civil harassment calendar. That’s a very depressing calendar. People really are at each other’s throats. The elder abuse calendar. It’s another one. But this, these are important calendars. And, yeah, that’s why being a judge was wonderful and also a real challenge.

Miles Cooper: I’m going to have a very clumsy segue, but I want to lighten it for a moment or two. How did it come to pass that you became a managing partner, not of a law firm, but of a, a ball team?

Jeffrey Brand: First of all, I grew up loving baseball and I came from Brooklyn. We moved to California in 1956. My father was convinced, or 1954, my father was convinced that when the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, they moved because he had moved.

And so I grew up loving the game and remained a fan, for forever.

Miles Cooper: A Dodgers fan?

Jeffrey Brand:No.

Miles Cooper: Okay. I just..

Jeffrey Brand: No, no way.

Miles Cooper: and knowing where we are.

Miles Cooper: Okay. I just..

Jeffrey Brand: That’s an important question.

Miles Cooper: Okay.

Jeffrey Brand: And there will, I completely switched allegiances, although some of my friends tease me that I never changed allegiances, but I assure you I did, and actually became more of an A’s fan than a Giants fan. But now, the Giants and the A’s are teams that I follow probably too much. But in any event, this was in 1985 to ‘89. It, it, it, minor league teams were available for almost nothing. So I, I said to a friend of mine, let’s go to the major league meetings. This was in Los Angeles in 19, I think it was ‘89. I said, let’s go down there and just see if we can find a team. These guys, I mean, it’d just be fun. And sure enough, we ended up buying, investing in an ongoing partnership that at the time owned the Reno Silver Sox. Which was an independent team at the time, we later became a minor league, partner of the A’s and then ultimately the Seattle Mariners.

So that’s how we did it. It was my love of the game. And again, just cause I thought it would be fun. And it was fun. Although it turns out just to, and I, I’ll keep this short, that owning a minor league team has precious little to do with baseball. Okay. Trust me on this. No major league team is going to trust their talent, even in the early nineties, to two guys from Berkeley who decide they want to run a minor league baseball team.

So really. It was more about like, running a movie theater. The major league team would use the facilities and supply the coaches and make all the decisions. And we had, you know, sold popcorn and cokes and hot dogs and had stupid contests, like the dirtiest car in the parking lot or that kind of thing. But we had a great time and did interact with a lot of the baseball people who actually were very nice, very smart people. at the time,

Miles Cooper: That feels very old timey and Bull Durham-ish in certain ways.

Jeffrey Brand: And it was, yeah, it kind of was. And of course that, you know, where that’s all gone now is a whole other discussion.

Miles Cooper: Also on the lighter side, my understanding is you had some involvement in announcing Cal football.

Jeffrey Brand: I did. I did. This is kind of embarrassing, but, when I was a freshman at Cal when I first came to California, I didn’t know anybody obviously. I mean, I was 10, and, I used to sit on the curb in the San Fernando Valley and make up baseball games, pretend I was announcing the, So anyway, then I, you know, played baseball some and became passionate about the sport and went to Cal. And I guess I must have done something similar because at some point, this was when KALX was KAAL. We had a listenership of, I don’t know, a hundred people? It was the radio station that at the time went to the dorms. And so that guy came up to me and said, You know, rather than talking about baseball games in the hallways, would you be interested in doing it on the radio? And I said, sure. So, we ended up myself and, A dear friend, Henry Weinstein, who’s, was the labor, reporter for the L. A. Times for decades now, a professor at UC Irvine Law School, he and I and another friend, John Simmons, the three of us, all who had come from the San Fernando Valley, ended up broadcasting football, baseball, and we tried to do the basketball games.

That is impossible, but

Miles Cooper: Too fast?

Jeffrey Brand: Way too fast, but the baseball games were fun. The football games were kind of the premier thing that we did. Ultimately, KALX became a serious radio station, which it is to this day. And, Of course, the whole field of announcing has changed dramatically, but we did have a booth next to KSFO, at Memorial Stadium and, Bud Foster, who was the announcer for the Cal games at the time, tried to get us kicked off the air because he thought we were competing with him.

Miles Cooper: Interesting.

Jeffrey Brand: I mean, that was a joke. I mean, we, we had no listeners as near as I could tell, but it, but it was a lot of fun and, It was always the same opening.

Miles Cooper: And what was that?

Jeffrey Brand: It’s cool, clear and crisp and a great day for football. Jeff Brand, KAAL Sports, the stadium. It didn’t matter what the weather was.

Yeah, we had a lot of fun with it.

Miles Cooper: Nice. As we come into our home stretch, is, is there anything that we haven’t touched on that you feel is important for our listeners to know?

Jeffrey Brand: I guess, what I would come back to is the, importance and responsibility and privilege of being involved in the trial and lawyering process.

Great lawyers are an inspiration and they’re critical to making sure society functions in ways that we want. Judges who can set aside their personal views and really as flawed as the system often is really try and seek the truth and apply the law as it is presented. The importance of that cannot be overstated.

And I just feel lucky to have been able to be involved in all of this in so many different roles for as long as I have.

Miles Cooper: Well, as somebody who was a direct beneficiary of being in your class and who has a number of lawyers who I’ve worked with over the years who’ve come out of the USF system, I, I’m very appreciative for your dedication to the craft.

Jeffrey Brand: Thank you, Miles. And it was, this was a pleasure too.

Miles Cooper: Well, thank you. Thank you for taking the time.

Jeffrey Brand: You’re welcome.

Miles Cooper: And thank you for listening today. Please email us at podcast at with questions, comments, feedback, and suggestions.

Like what you heard? Share us with a colleague. And leave us a five star review on Apple podcasts.

To all of you doing justice, happy hunting.