Faculty Spotlight: Professor Mark Brodin

I had Professor Brodin for Civil Procedure during 1L, and I had a great time in his class. I also ended up taking Evidence with him during my 2L year, which was actually one of my favorite law school classes. I am currently in his employment discrimination class this semester, as well. I recently had the chance to interview him and learn a bit more about his background, his BC Law story, and his hidden talent for music.

To begin, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I was born in the Bronx and then moved to Queens as a young child. Around age 9, we moved to Long Island, where I went to public school. I moved back to Manhattan for both college and law school at Columbia. After law school, I moved up here to Boston since I ended up clerking for a judge at the federal district court here.

How long have you been a Professor at BC Law? 

I started at BC as a half time visiting professor in 1983 and began as a full time professor in 1985, so it’s been almost 40 years. I teach Civil Procedure and Evidence, and I alternate between my Scientific and Forensic Evidence seminar and Employment Discrimination class. 

What do you like most about teaching at BC Law?

This is an easy question. What I like most about BC Law are the students who are bright, committed, and energetic. Even our graduates who go into Big Law are likely to be involved in pro bono work in their careers. It’s the students, with their passion and dedication, that energize me from year to year.

Do you have a favorite BC Law memory that stands out to you?

In 2014, there was an event at BC Law celebrating the exoneration of Dennis Maher, who had been wrongfully incarcerated for a number of crimes on the North Shore. With the help of the BC Law Innocence Program, he was reunited with his family and friends and was beginning to rebuild a new life. At this event was Jay Carney, a BC Law alumnus, who had been Maher’s prosecutor for his trial. Carney related his profound misgivings about trying Maher on the meager evidence that they had and recalled the guilt he had felt in hearing the jury’s conviction. Within his ethical bounds, Carney had set out to participate in and help with Maher’s exoneration. He became part of the moving forces that ultimately got Maher exonerated. 

There was a point during this event where Carney and Maher embraced. Maher said that he had long ago forgiven Carney. Now, the two families are close friends; they have dinner together every week and their children play together. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house during this moment. To me, the entire event underscored the legacy of this school and its ethos. Even amongst the people who are prosecuting, the mission is always to do justice, to do what is right.

What are your research interests?

I have a wide range of research interests spanning from criminal procedure to evidence to employment discrimination, mainly with Title VII. A couple years ago, I also wrote a biography of William Homans, an iconic Boston civil rights lawyer.

I’m particularly interested in civil rights research. Ten years ago, I was incensed watching the trial of George Zimmerman. I was appalled at his acquittal and the prosecutorial mishandling of the case. I watched the whole trial and wrote a short article for the Howard  Law Journal. The article was a critique of the prosecutors’ case, arguing that they essentially deliberately exonerated him. 

Do you think the legal system has made strides towards racial equity in the decade since the Zimmerman trial?

I do think the conviction of Arbery’s killers is some cause for hope, indicating a shift towards racial justice. However, I still think there are major barriers to justice. We live in a nation where it is too easy for civilians to access military weapons and where we have an out of date self-defense doctrine. These issues play into injustices such as Kyle Rittenhouse’s acquittal. Again, there’s some reason to think things have gotten better, but we are still stuck in the mindset of “the American vigilante.”

I think my generation is leaving this coming generation with enormous challenges that our current governmental structures might not be able to meet. I have hope that this budding generation will do better in terms of addressing head on challenges including climate catastrophe, wealth inequality, and systemic racism.

I’m sure teaching and research keeps you busy, but we’d love to hear what you do for fun outside of BC.

Whenever we can, my wife and I spend time with our grandkids. That’s what it’s all about! I also like to play the piano a bit. I try to play for thirty to forty minutes every day if I can. I don’t really have a goal when I’m playing; it’s just my hobby. 

If you weren’t a lawyer, what would be your dream career?

I think I’d have to say a jazz musician. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had an incredible admiration for jazz musicians because they can take the most pedestrian tune and turn it into a symphony right in front of you. The way they improvise is truly inspiring. 

What’s one thing your students might be surprised to learn about you? 

When I was younger, I used to play the drums as part of a wedding band. We’d perform at events like weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. In college, I was playing with a bossa nova trio, which was quite the craze in the 60s. At one event, a classmate came up to me and asked me to join the group as a drummer. He described his dream as a group that would play 1950s music with greasy hair and dirty t-shirts, would jump around a lot and be wild and crazy on stage. I declined the offer at the time, and the group later became Sha Na Na. Just last week, I was listening to a Woodstock album from that concert and the group has 5 tracks in there. In an alternate life, I could have ended up with greased hair, jumping up and down on stage to doo-wop music!

Roma Gujarathi is a third-year student at BC Law. Contact her at gujarath@bc.edu.

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