Berkeley law professor emeritus and international law expert David Caron dies at 65

Berkeley Law/Courtesy

David Caron, a Berkeley Law professor emeritus and international law expert who was described by colleagues as brilliant and warm, died in London on Feb. 20 at 65.

Caron’s life was punctuated by accomplishments, including participation in the military, academia, international law and other prestigious pursuits.

“David was not only a brilliant scholar and jurist working at the pinnacle of his field, but also a wonderfully warm and personal human being,” said Lee Caplan, Caron’s former student, research assistant and co-author. “He took an interest and truly (cared) for everyone he knew, especially his students.”

Born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1952, Caron began his career by attending the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. After graduating in 1974 with high honors, he served in the Arctic and off the California coast as a salvage diver and navigation officer.

In 1980, Caron received his master’s degree in marine law and policy from the University of Wales and a juris doctorate from Berkeley Law in 1983. These are but two of the five advanced degrees Caron earned during his lifetime.

Caron worked in many positions while applying his vast knowledge of international law. In particular, Caron served as arbitrator, lead counsel and judge in matters of international court. In 2015, Caron was one of three U.S. government appointees sent as an arbitrator to the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal in The Hague.

“At (his) prime, (he) was arguably one of the top two or three arbitrators in the United States and in the world,” Caplan said.

Caron began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1987, leading classes on public international law, resolution of private international disputes, ocean law and policy, and advanced international law writing workshops. During this time, Caron was renowned for his warm, caring approach to students.

Claudia Polsky, assistant clinical professor at Berkeley Law and director of the Environmental Law Clinic, recalled once, “in a very socially intelligent move,” Caron had his 5-year-old daughter distribute and collect final exams, notably reducing the students’ exam stress.

“I can still see her tiny figure in (a) navy cardigan smiling at us all as she walked up and down the aisles,” Polsky said in an email.

After leaving UC Berkeley in 2013, Caron served as dean to Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College in London, where he was “transformative,” amplifying the school’s strengths, according to Philippa Webb, reader of public international law at King’s College.

“He made such an impact in so many fields,” Webb said. “We all have this huge hole left behind in legal practice. … He had so much more to give — he was full of energy and optimism. He seemed to handle everything beautifully. It’s tragic that we’ve lost that.”

Contact Jarrett Visher at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Jarrett_Visher.