Cablefax The Magazine - July 2013 - 17

2013 Top Ops Awards
CABLE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Judge Daniel Brenner
Anyone who has spent some
time in cable knows Daniel
Brenner. He spent nearly 20
years as SVP for Law and
Regulatory Policy at NCTA,
serving as chief legal and
policy counsel, after spending
years in private practice
and as Senior Advisor and
later Legal Advisor to the FCC
Chairman. " Intellectually, he's
the real McCoy, " says Rob
Stoddard, NCTA's SVP for Communications & Public
Affairs. " From pole attachment to music licensing to
network neutrality-and everything in between-his
mastery of telecom law and regulation is unmatched. "
But it's Brenner's ability to bring wit and levity to any
situation that always stood out. " His sense of humor is
so fast and sophisticated that a lot of people just don't
get it, " says Steve Villano, the former Cable Positive
chief who might be the only cable person who experienced
the Brenner legal brilliance as a student: Brenner
guest lectured at Hofstra Law on Long Island when Villano
matriculated there.
Shortly after Brenner left NCTA we again were reminded
that behind his sardonic wit was a tremendous legal
resource. Hogan Lovells, arguably D.C.'s top law firm,
quickly made Dan a partner, a testament to the tremendous
reputation he had forged with cable operators,
guiding them through the regulatory thicket of Washington,
D.C. His latest iteration, though, puts Brenner
on an even higher level: The Stanford Law grad is now
a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles, appointed by
Governor Edmund " Jerry " Brown (D).
We spotted Brenner years ago at one of those superearly
industry breakfasts we're all so fond of, especially
after a long night. Despite the hour, Brenner, emceeing the
breakfast, had the crowd in stitches. Later, we discovered
Brenner was a ringer-he'd done stand-up for years.
Dan Trigiboff, a lawyer and comic who paid his bills
* Among many awards, Brenner received NCTA's
President's Award (2008) and CableFAX's
Community Service Award (2009)
for his work on behalf of Cable Positive.
* Brenner has served on the Board of
Trustees of Stanford University and
the National Law Committee of the
Anti-Defamation League.
CableFAX: The Magazine
July 2013
writing for cable trade pubs. " I'd see him on stage at
night at the Comedy Cafe or Crystal City Comedy Club,
and sometimes call him in the daytime on a story, " Trigiboff
says. " He was very frank and very funny in either
situation. " Later, when Brenner directed the communications
law program at UCLA, Trigiboff and he were part
of a show composed entirely of lawyer-comics. Now
a professor at Methodist University in North Carolina,
Trigiboff, indeed everyone we spoke to about this profile,
had the same question: Has Brenner been able to
maintain his sense of humor on the bench?
This was more than a softball question. While this
Lifetime Achievement award honors Brenner's accomplishments,
humor played a part. " Dan was the Ben
Franklin of NCTA, " Stoddard says. " At one moment,
brilliantly insightful and innovative, steeped in telecom
history; then cutting tension with an impromptu quip
or rapid-fire one liner. His humor was a great tool to
put people at ease as they were working on intractable
problems. "
It had to be our first question: Can you tell jokes in
court? " Well, it is a different job, " Brenner said by phone
without a trace of humor. We pressed ahead. Establishing
that he had to don robes daily, we asked if L.A.
picks up the dry cleaning bill. " No, " he responded seriously.
This was becoming a disaster.
You must be ruling on an interesting point of communications
law today, right? " No. I'm in traffic court,
dealing with people who've run red lights. " A joke? " I'm
serious, " Brenner said. " They don't start you on the
Supreme Court of the United States. You have to work
your way up. " At last, a glimmer of levity; then, a larger
crack in the armor. " Sometimes, when I think of something
funny, I'll turn to the court reporter and make a
joke. " We had our answer.
Then the stories flowed. From getting to know Jane
Fonda during Ted Turner's cable days to working with
Dr. John Malone to board meetings at Brian Roberts'
home in the Berkshires to leading important cases for
NCTA-Gulf Power and Brand X- " they insured the
long-term future of a highly deregulated, innovative
product like residential broadband, " Brenner said.
" I miss cable, especially the people, " Brenner admitted.
They miss you, too, Dan. And that's not a joke.
- Seth Arenstein
cablefaxmag.com
17
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