UC Berkeley School of Law professor Jesse Choper received a prestigious award from the state’s bar association Friday for his contributions to legal scholarship.
At an award luncheon, Jon Streeter, president of the State Bar of California, presented Choper with the 2012 Bernard E. Witkin Medal. Sreeter said Choper has been committed to public service through his teaching at a leading public university.
“We try to recognize someone who through a lifetime of service has made a huge difference to the law and the justice system,” said Streeter, who is Choper’s former student. “He has for decades been one of the leading scholars in constitutional law and is well known to academics and judges.”
Choper has long contributed to scholarship analyzing the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in judicial review. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1960, Choper served as law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Choper joined the UC Berkeley School of Law faculty in 1965 after a brief faculty appointment at the University of Minnesota Law School. He served as dean of UC Berkeley’s law school between 1982 and 1992 and continues to teach at the school as the Earl Warren Professor of Public Law, a position he has held since 1991. Throughout his academic career, Choper has taught as a visiting professor at universities worldwide, including Harvard Law School, Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and the University of New South Wales in Sydney, among others.
He has also published numerous books exploring the role of judicial review, including one that received the Order of the Coif Triennial Book Award in 1982. As a result of his scholarship, Choper is also often quoted in articles and reports on Supreme Court rulings.
“He is a scholar of the highest order, but he has never lost touch with the issues of interest to the practical operation of law,” said Kevin Cole, a member of the Witken Medal selection panel and a professor at the University of San Diego Law School, in an email. “Through his service at Boalt Hall and otherwise, he has shaped and assisted more California attorneys than we could reasonably estimate.”
Established in 1993, the Witkin Medal is awarded annually to recognize attorneys, judges and legal scholars who have altered the legal landscape, according to the State Bar of California website. Previous awardees have included California Supreme Court justices, district court judges and attorneys working in public service. Choper said he feels humbled by the recognition.
“I am very pleased to have received it,” he said. “I have studied the names who have received it in the past, and they all have very distinguished careers. I feel privileged and honored to join them.”
John Yoo, a professor at UC Berkeley’s law school, called Choper a “long-time servant” of the law school and the campus whose work studying judicial review and the rights of religious minorities has had a considerable impact on the legal community.
“It is fair to say that in both fields, Choper has published leading works that have moved his field forward and influenced generations of scholars,” Yoo said in email.
Contact Andrea Guzman at [email protected].