Only a few weeks ago, Jeff Brown was mulling the possibility that after his term as a commissioner at the California Public Utilities Commission, he would just sit in his garden reading great literature.

Then a call came from Chris Kanios, professor at John F. Kennedy University School of Law and chair of its search committee. Kanios invited Brown to talk with faculty and administration about a possible deanship.

On Monday, the school announced Brown’s appointment as dean, a job he’ll begin on Jan. 1.

Brown’s career has taken him through the San Francisco public defender’s office, which he headed from 1979 to 2001. Gov. Gray Davis appointed him to CPUC in 2001 for a six-year term.

Peter Arth, the chief of staff to the commission’s president, said Brown’s legacy will be two-fold: maintaining a strong position on consumer protection measures, and keeping a careful eye out to ensure procedural fairness to the parties appearing before the commission.

“He had a very strong bent toward fairness. He was neutral to all parties but in terms of the philosophy he applied to his decision-making, I would say he is the champion of the little guy,” Arth said.

Brown has taught evidence and constitutional law as an adjunct professor at several Bay Area law schools and sits on the board of trustees of San Francisco Law School, where he earned his J.D. in 1970.

JFK law school, which offers part-time day and evening courses, will add a full-time program next year. Brown said his vision as dean will include raising the Pleasant Hill school’s profile in surrounding counties, boosting graduates’ job prospects in the legal market through increased interaction with members of the legal community, and a wider selection of clinical programs.