UC Berkeley’s chief attorney killed in hit-and-run crash in Sonoma County

Christopher Patti. Photo: UC Berkeley/Impact Fund by Alain McLaughlin

The chief attorney for UC Berkeley, who also served a long stint in UC’s Office of the President, was killed Sunday in a hit-and-run crash while he stood on the side of a road in Guerneville.

Christopher Patti, 59, had been riding his bike on State Route 116 and had stopped to look at his phone around 8:45 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol. He was around 20 feet off the edge of the road, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. A male driver in a black BMW lost control of his car, slid onto the shoulder and hit Patti, who was thrown 100 feet away. The car then sped off. Patti was pronounced dead at the scene.

The CHP found a license plate at the crash scene and has pronounced that Jonathan Ritter, 28, of Rio Nido/Monte Rio is a person of interest in this case. CHP is asking that anyone with information call 707-588-1400. After normal business hours use extension 218. No arrests had been made by Tuesday morning.

The news of Patti’s death has shaken the UC community. He had a deep knowledge of the issues facing UC as he had been working for the institution since 1990 when he started in the office of the general counsel at the Office of the President. He worked there 20 years and then came to UC Berkeley


“I speak for the Berkeley community in saying how grief-stricken we are at Chris Patti’s untimely death,” Chancellor Carol Christ said in a statement. “He was an extraordinary colleague. He loved the university and he had a deep core of integrity that motivated everything he did. He was smart, he was compassionate. He was everything you wanted the counsel of the campus to be,” Christ said. “We offer our sympathy to his family and his friends for this tragic loss.”

Charles F. Robinson, general counsel and vice president of legal affairs with the University of California, echoed those sentiments.

“Chris was a wonderful colleague and friend who cared about people and doing the right thing,” said Robinson. “He was an extraordinary lawyer to whom we all turned for advice and counsel. His loss is unfathomable.”

Dan Mogulof, who has known Patti for years, told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that Patti had been intimately involved in figuring out the legal ramifications of Cal’s response to free speech issues.

“He was involved in every single significant issue facing the campus that had any connection to the law,” Mogulof told the Press Democrat. “Just the support he’s been giving to the chancellor and campus leadership about free speech — he was a real expert in the First Amendment and related law. … It sends a shiver down everybody’s spine to think about confronting what lies on the road ahead without him here at our side.”


Prior to joining the UC system, Patti practiced general corporate litigation at Heller, Ehrman, White & McAuliffe in San Francisco. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Virginia School of Law. He also served for one year as law clerk to the Honorable Frank M. Johnson, Jr. on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

Patti is survived by his wife, Jocelyn Larkin, and two sons Vincent and Gabriel.

Services are pending.