UC Irvine Law Dean Named Dean of UC Berkeley Law School

UC Irvine Law School's founder and dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, will take the helm of the UC Berkeley School of Law on July 1, it was announced Wednesday.

The renowned constitutional legal scholar's new appointment comes nearly 10 years after his hiring as dean at UCI and several months after National Jurist magazine honored him as the "most influential person in legal education in the United States." 

Chemerinsky told City News Service that he had planned to step down next year as UCI law school dean.

"Ten years, I think, is generally the right amount of time to be a dean,'' Chemerinsky said. "There's a long learning curve in any learning institution and then it takes time to learn, it takes time to implement things, and then at a certain point it's time to let someone else take over and examine things and see whether it should be taken in a new direction.''

Chemerinsky said he is proud of how UCI's law school has progressed. U.S. News and World Report ranked it as the 28th best law school in the country, he noted.

"And just yesterday, a blog came out saying it's seventh in placing students as federal judicial clerks,'' Chemerinsky said. "We're second only to Stanford in California.''

The biggest challenge at his new job will be funding, he said.

"I think they've got great faculty, students. The important challenge for the new dean is revenue generating." 

That's true of all of the UC schools, which are "all suffering financially," he said.

Carol Christ, interim executive vice-chancellor and provost at UC Berkeley, believes Chemerinsky is up to the task.

"Dean Chemerinsky is an acclaimed researcher, gifted teacher and accomplished administrator, and I believe he will be a phenomenal leader for our law school, someone who will ensure that Berkeley Law remains not only a powerhouse of legal scholarship and training, but also a community built on mutual respect and inclusion," she said.

Former UCI Chancellor Michael Drake hired Chemerinsky in September 2007 to head and found the university's new law school. Then, following pressure from some who thought he was "too liberal," Drake rescinded the offer, but then reversed course a week later when that decision drew howls of protest from the legal community.

Chemerinsky found himself again generating headlines locally when he led a group of legal scholars calling on the U.S. Department of Justice in November 2015 to investigate the use of jailhouse informants in Orange County following allegations of violations of constitutional rights of defendants in criminal cases.

Last year, Chemerinsky represented the Orange County Superior Court in the Fourth District Court of Appeal in a legal battle over mass disqualifications of Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals by prosecutors following his ruling to recuse the Orange County District Attorney's Office from prosecuting Scott Dekraai, the worst mass killer in the county's history, based on violations of the rights of defendants in the confidential informant system in the Orange County jails.

Chemerinsky lost that case, but the justices said they agreed the mass "papering" of Goethals was wrong and called on lawmakers to change the law on judicial disqualifications.

Chemerinsky is one of the legal scholars who filed a federal lawsuit in New York challenging the Trump administration on the emoluments clause, which prohibits the receiving of gifts from foreign powers. The plaintiffs are awaiting Trump's motion to dismiss, Chemerinsky said.

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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