A passion for public service and a desire to affect his community drives UC Hastings Law alumnus Eric Casher.
Eric Casher’s gratitude for his gifts and opportunities goes hand-in-hand with a feeling of responsibility to those whose lives have turned out different than his own.
“I feel really fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had, and I try to make the most of them,” he says. “I ask myself how can I be most impactful?”
Early in his career, this question led Casher to a position on the National Finance Committee for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign (and again in 2012), which opened his eyes to the role that government plays in people’s lives and the good that can be done with it.
“That’s part of the reason I decided to get into the area of law I’m practicing now, being a City Attorney and representing public agencies,” he says. “There’s law and policy at a macro level with the federal government, but the rubber really meets the road with local government.”
Today, as a Principal at Meyers Nave, Casher serves as the City Attorney in Pinole, Calif., and General Counsel of the East Bay Discharger’s Authority. He recently completed a four-year term on the California Fair Political Practices Commission as an appointee of then Attorney General Kamala Harris.
“Whether it’s construction of a $50 million water pollution control plant in my city or renovating a park, I do all the contracting for these public projects,” he says. “Contracting for everything from a hospital renovation to literally sealing cracks in the street.”
Casher loves practicing law and enjoys his work with public agencies. He’s good at it, finds meaning in it, and has been able to use it to impact his community. But when asked about his proudest career accomplishment so far, the case he mentions is more personal than most of the work he does today.
“It was a pro bono case that I handled for a client in 2009,” he says. “A middle-aged African American man from Oakland showed up to Federal Court with a claim against Santa Rita Jail, Prison Health Services and others, and he was representing himself. He didn’t have counsel so I took on his case.”
“I feel really fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had, and I try to make the most of them.”
The plaintiff had suffered a stroke after being struck in the head while playing basketball. When he notified the Prison Health Service nurse, he was told he just had high blood pressure and then sent back to his cell. The following day, he had another stroke and passed out. By the time he was rushed to the hospital, he had suffered four strokes. He was 39 years old and halfway through a one-year sentence for a petty drug possession charge, and was released due to the incident because they didn’t want him to die in jail
“I think in some ways I saw myself in Michael,” Casher says. “We were very close in age. He was a black man. I’m a black man. He was a father of a young child and I had just had my first son. He was a local guy, and was very relatable to me.”
Casher won a settlement well into the six figures, enough to pay his medical expenses for the rest of his life and allow him to take care of his family.
“If I hadn’t stepped in, he would have had a very different outcome with our justice system,” Casher says.
Although the settlement did not undo the damage caused by the strokes (the plaintiff lost partial feeling in his left side), justice did prevail, and the Santa Rita jail and Prison Health Services was forced to look at their protocols and training in the identification of early onset symptoms of a stroke.
“What I love the most about practicing law is that there are so many ways to have an impact and make a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s helping to shape and implement law and policy on the local and State level or helping to preserve the rights of individuals in a way that can literally change and save lives,” Casher says.
GAMECHANGER is the way our students–past and present–see the world. It’s the impact our alumni have on local, national and global policy and law. The ideas and events that come from the minds of UC Hastings Law students and faculty help transform the world. UC Hastings Law plans to celebrate its GAMECHANGERS on Thursday, May 9.