Alumnus’ Generous Gift Creates Robert C. Josefsberg Endowed Chair in Criminal Justice Advocacy

A generous $3.45 million donation from David C. Humphreys, J.D. ’83, will honor a legendary criminal defense attorney and commercial litigator.
Alumnus’ Generous Gift Creates Robert C. Josefsberg Endowed Chair in Criminal Justice Advocacy
David Humphreys, J.D. '83 & Robert C. Josefsberg

Robert “Bob” Josefsberg is widely known for his advocacy skills, professional civility, and compassion for the underdog.  Now, Josefsberg’s deep commitment to criminal justice will inspire Miami Law students, thanks to a generous donation from David C. Humphreys, J.D. ’83, and his wife Debra, to establish The Robert C. Josefsberg Endowed Chair in Criminal Justice Advocacy.

The gift was made as part of the University of Miami’s Ever Brighter: The Campaign for Our Next Century. The most ambitious in the University’s history with a goal of $2.5 billion, the campaign is set to conclude in 2025, when the University will celebrate its centennial.

“Bob is the type of effective advocate Miami Law students should aspire to emulate,” said Humphreys, who is the chairman and CEO of TAMKO Building Products LLC, a Midwest manufacturing company. “In the criminal defense world, Bob has repeatedly shown his commitment to fighting for a client’s personal liberty – the most important thing in their lives. We are very pleased that Bob has so graciously agreed to have this chair bear his name.”

Thanking David and Debra Humphreys for endowing the new chair, Miami Law Dean David Yellen said, “Your gift will help us advance the quality and reputation of the law school, and contribute to creating a fairer criminal justice system. Every endowed chair is vital to the future of our school.”

Reflecting on his legal and business career, Humphreys said Miami Law gave him powerful analytic skills for examining the potential risks and rewards of important decisions. He added, “My legal training played a big role in my business career, and I would encourage other business executives to support Miami Law.”

A distinguished career

With a distinguished legal career spanning six decades, Josefsberg has represented many celebrities, including Jim Morrison, the famous Doors singer who was charged with indecent exposure after a 1969 Coconut Grove concert.  But the 84-year-old attorney is even more proud of his work on behalf of pro bono clients, such as a black high school student pulled over by police while driving in a white neighborhood. “We were able to avoid a conviction, allowing him to keep his college scholarship and keep his life moving ahead on a positive track,” Josefsberg said.

As a 42-year partner at Podhurst Orseck law firm, Josefsberg handles the firm’s white-collar criminal defense work, as well as commercial cases. Through the years, he has been widely recognized for his legal skills and dedication to upholding and promoting the highest standards of legal professionalism.  Among his many honors are the Florida Bar Foundation’s Medal of Honor Award, the Florida Bar Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, and the Dade County Bar David Dyer Professionalism Award. Josefsberg, a past president of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, gave a speech in 1988 on “Civility” that has been reprinted by more than 40 state bar associations – and is just as relevant today as it was 34 years ago.

In his early life, Josefsberg learned the importance of connecting with people from all walks of life. “I take great pride in building relationships which has been a major part of who I am. I enjoy helping people and feel privileged to be able to do so.”

Connecting to Miami Law

After graduating from Yale Law School in 1962, Josefsberg came to Miami and practiced with the late Walter Beckham, Jr., who mentored him and later served as professor and assistant dean at Miami Law. Josefsberg became a federal prosecutor before returning to private practice. During 1980, he served as general counsel to Florida Governor Bob Graham.

Josefsberg has been a guest lecturer at Miami Law for many years and served as co-chair of the Miami Law Mock Trial teams.  His law firm hosts annual Miami Law seminars on class actions. His daughter, Karen Ladis, J.D. ’90, is a Miami Law alumna.

Giving back

In 1983, Humphreys was a 3L student enrolled in a clinical internship program in the Dade County Public Defender’s Office. “When we heard that Bob Josefsberg was in a felony trial, several of us ran over to the courtroom to watch him in action,” he recalled. “Bob was a very effective advocate for an elderly client who had been accused of assault on a neighbor. He conducted the cross-examination in a very professional manner without being confrontational and achieved an acquittal. I could tell he was an outstanding lawyer with tremendous integrity.”

Josefsberg later took on a case for Humphreys, who recalled, “When I thanked Bob for his steadfast support, he told me, ‘I hope someday you will do the same for someone else who needs help.’ Since then, I have tried to live up to his high expectations.”

Humphreys was born in Joplin, Missouri, where his grandfather founded TAMKO Building Products in 1944. His father expanded the company’s markets in the 1960s and ’70s, but  Humphreys chose a legal career and enrolled at Miami Law. “Miami Law offered me a chance to grow and learn within a very different cultural environment,” he said. “I enjoyed law school, learning from great teachers like Beckham and Irwin Stotzky, professor of criminal procedure, and took advantage of the Dade County public defender’s internship program. These experiences changed my worldview and my life.”

After graduation, Humphreys practiced insurance defense in Joplin before moving to New York, where he earned a graduate degree in tax law and practiced corporate tax at Davis Polk & Wardwell’s New York and Paris offices. In 1989, his father asked him to come home and join TAMKO as general counsel.  When his father died four years later, Humphreys took over the leadership of the company’s operations, while becoming increasingly involved in philanthropic causes, such as founding the Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin.

When a deadly tornado devastated Joplin in 2011, David and Debra Humphreys helped search for victims, donated to relief organizations, provided financial assistance to TAMKO employees, and housed two families who had lost their homes. More recently, they have been active in restoring historic homes in Joplin.

As a major donor to Miami Law, Humphreys is grateful to be able to enhance the school’s criminal justice advocacy program. “I think we should all feel a sense of duty to help other people,” he said. “Bob Josefsberg is a great example for students seeking to put that philosophy into action and defend  people who really need a champion.”

Read more about the ways to support Miami Law