University of California, Berkeley Law School has announced that preeminent law expert and founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky will be the next dean of the school.
According to Law.com, Chemerinsky’s five-year term will begin on July 1. He will replace Interim Dean Melissa Murray who took the position in March 2016 following former dean Sujit Choudhry’s stepping down during a sexual harassment scandal.
Chemerinsky is one of the biggest names in legal academia, and is one of the most-cited legal scholars in the nation. The author of ten books and almost 200 law review articles, he frequently appears in the opinion pages of major newspapers to give commentary on the U.S. Supreme Court and important legal issues. He is probably best known in legal educational circles for his daring plan to start a new public law school which would be in the top tier of the U.S. News & World Report’s influential law school rankings. UC Irvine School of Law – the school in question which debuted in the rankings at number 30 – currently sits at number 28. In order to attract top applicants, UC lrvine offered the entire inaugural class of 2009 full-ride scholarships, and continued to subsidize tuition for the next several years. Irvine received its provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association in 2011 and full accreditation in 2014.
Berkeley Law’s reputation took a hit following Choudhry’s scandal. Its U.S. News ranking dropped four spots to number 12 this year. This decline has been attributed to the negative publicity surrounding Choudhry. He was accused of sexual harassment by his executive assistant, who later sued. The case was settled in April, with the University paying his accuser $1.7 million.
In the announcement of his appointment, Chemerinsky said that Berkeley “should aspire to be one of the top five law schools in the country, by any and every measure.”
Sonia Katyal, a Berkeley law professor, believes that Chemerinsky is the man to enhance Berkeley’s image. He’s a “living legend – a person who exemplifies the very best that the field of law has to offer: brilliant, warm-hearted, thoughtful, open-minded, and deeply engaged in the culture of public service.”