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Jonathan Derby - Pepperdine University

Jonathan Derby

Delhi, India

Title: Founder

Company: Counsel to Secure Justice 



School of Law Class of 2004



What does being one of Pepperdine's Outstanding Alumni Abroad mean to you?

I have deep gratitude. My time at Pepperdine, my relationships with faculty, and the experiences I gained were formative and played important roles in where I am now. The honor humbles me. It connects me with other outstanding Pepperdine alumni who have made significant contributions in their fields around the world.

Describe any significant achievements in your life in vocation, service, and/or philanthropy.

One of my most significant achievements is remaining faithful to pursue a career aligned with my values and to help the vulnerable who suffer injustice. Tangibly, this resulted in forming Counsel to Secure Justice (CSJ) in Delhi, India, which gives legal and psychosocial support during criminal proceedings to children who have been sexually abused. Another achievement is seeing how CSJ has provided opportunities for bright and talented young Indian professionals to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable in Delhi, and to see how the team—individually and collectively—has gained credibility and developed as leaders in the field.

How has Pepperdine played a role in these achievements?

Professor Bob Cochran has been a friend and mentor, and a main reason I attended Pepperdine. His voice, encouragement, and the way he lives his life are inspiring examples to me. Bob was a founding director on CSJ's board in the United States. Professor Jeff Baker serves on the board now and continues the Pepperdine connection.

As I prepared to start CSJ in spring 2012, Jay Milbrandt (MBA '07, JD '08), who used to be the director of Pepperdine Law's global justice program, helped connect me with Pepperdine Law as a Nootbaar Global Justice Fellow. The Fellowship and Pepperdine's backing gave me greater credibility as I networked and prepared to start CSJ. Later that summer, before CSJ even had an office, the global justice program sent a law student, Steven Roberts (JD '13), to intern with CSJ in Delhi. Working from my home, Steven conducted research on rape trials in Delhi district courts to help understand the justice system's response to rape victims in the area.

Who inspires you and why?

Mahatma Gandhi. His values and choices were shaped by a deep faith in God and by the injustice and suffering he saw. The decisions he made in the face of injustice, such as civil disobedience, non-violence, and treating others (even enemies) with respect aligned with his values. He refused to compromise his values, regardless of how unpopular or even absurd his decisions seemed to others. His unorthodox approach worked, and India gained independence largely through his leadership.

What's next for you? Five-year outlook? Ten-year plan?

My goal is to support CSJ as we incubate restorative justice programs in response to crime within Delhi's justice system. I also plan to raise up these pilot programs as models that can be used across the country. Eventually, CSJ can bring what it has learned and apply those case studies to the US criminal justice system.

What is your "secret sauce?"

My wife Sylvia. Her wisdom, love, and unwavering belief in, and support of, me.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

When I wake up, I sit on my sofa with a cup of coffee and spend time with God.

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

Living in Delhi, I long to be near the ocean and I love traveling to places where I can spend time at the beach. Most recently, my family and I visited my sister's home near the beach. In the early mornings, I would take my baby daughter, Diya Teresa, in her stroller for a walk and spend time with her at the pier.

What is your favorite quote?

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." — Mahatma Gandhi

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would love to serve as a mediator or facilitator in resolving societal disputes based on race, ethnicity, class, religion, or politics. I'm inspired by South Africa's response to the fall of apartheid—specifically by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's role in the country's transition to a new government as it healed from violence and deep societal trauma.