Campus, community react to appointment of Erwin Chemerinsky as Berkeley Law dean

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Erwin Chemerinsky, a leading constitutional scholar and the founding dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, was recently appointed by incoming campus Chancellor Carol Christ to serve as the next dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.

Shauhin Talesh, a professor of law and director of the Law and Graduate Studies Program at the UC Irvine School of Law, called Chemerinsky’s appointment “a great move.” He added to the extent that Berkeley Law has met a couple “speed bumps,” Chemerinsky’s leadership will help the school go in the right direction.

“My goal is to maintain the excellence of Berkeley Law and look for ways to enhance it,” Chemerinsky wrote in an email. “I hope to help retain and recruit great faculty and students, and sustain and enhance the excellence of the many terrific programs.”

“Speed bumps” that Berkeley Law has recently faced include its fall to No. 12 in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Law School” rankings released in March — the first time Berkeley Law has sat outside the top 10 since 2005. In April, the UC Board of Regents paid $1.7 million to settle a lawsuit with Tyann Sorrell, who accused former Berkeley Law dean Sujit Choudhry of sexually harassing her while she was his executive assistant.

Chemerinsky comes to UC Berkeley with a reputation as one of the country’s leading constitutional scholars and was recently named by the National Jurist the most influential person in legal education for 2016.

As the founding dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, Chemerinsky wrote in an email that he tried to emphasize experiential learning and public service. Talesh added that Chemerinsky “walks the walk” in terms of his commitment to diversity and issues of social justice during his tenure at UC Irvine.

“I think (Chemerinsky) is going to do a fantastic job. I don’t think they could have picked a better person for this time. I think he is going to bring a tireless work ethic and tremendous dedication to the Dean’s office,” Talesh said. “I am sad for UC Irvine, but at the same time, happy for UC Berkeley Law.”

Noah Ickowitz, a recent Berkeley Law graduate and former co-president of the Boalt Hall Student Association, said in an email that Chemerinsky will bring “his academic and administrative experience, name recognition, and an unfettered commitment to excellence” to Berkeley Law. According to Ickowitz, when the BHSA gathered student responses to gauge student body preferences of candidates for the deanship, Chemerinsky was the most popular candidate according to survey results.

Maddie Miller, an ASUC Senator-elect and intended pre-law campus student, said in a Facebook message that she hopes the initiative Chemerinsky demonstrated at UC Irvine will carry over to Berkeley Law.

“I am hoping … the start of his five-year term demonstrates leadership in the direction of integrity and scholarship, so that Berkeley Law can be restored to the glory and earn the recognition its students deserve,” Miller wrote in a Facebook message.

Bobby Lee is an assistant news editor. Contact Bobby Lee at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @bobbylee_dc.