Law Schools

Liberal UC Irvine Dean Hired, Then Fired


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Erwin Chemerinsky courtesy of Duke Law

Updated: Erwin Chemerinsky, a renowned constitutional law scholar at Duke University, reportedly agreed to be dean of the new University of California law school slated to open at Irvine next year—but was then fired a week later due to his controversial political views.

So says a University of Texas law professor on his Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports blog, and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog has since confirmed the news by talking with Chemerinsky himself.

Chemerinsky, who was to start work at Irvine’s Donald Bren School of Law next summer, said he was told yesterday by UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake that he “hadn’t expected that I would be such a target for conservatives, a lightning rod,” the WSJ Law Blog reports.

Further details were provided later in the day by the Los Angeles Times, which reports that Chemerinsky said Drake told him the “difficult” decision resulted from “concerns” of UC regents who would have created a “bloody battle” over approving Chemerinsky’s appointment.

“I’ve been a liberal law professor for 28 years,” Chemerinsky tells the WSJ Law Blog. “I write lots of op-eds and articles, I argue high-profile cases, and I expected there would be some concern about me. My hope was that I’d address it by making the law school open to all viewpoints.”

He said he had begun to put together an advisory board that was to have included conservatives such as Georgetown University law professor Viet Dinh and Deanell Reece Tacha, a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the blog. Andrew Guilford, a Bush appointee to the federal bench from Orange County, Calif., would also have been on the board, reports the Times.

Among those Chemerinsky approached about teaching at Irvine was Laurie Levenson, a television commentator who teaches at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “For a new law school to start infringing on academic freedom even before it opens its door does not bode well for this institution,” she told the Times.

Noting that conservative constitutional scholars serve as the deans of Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu and Chapman University School of Law in Orange, she added: “If there’s room for Ken Starr and John Eastman to be the dean of a law school, there’s room for Erwin Chemerinsky.”

Eastman, the dean of Chapman, agreed, calling Chemerinsky’s dismissal “a serious misstep.”

More coverage is here.

(Updated at 6:23 p.m., CDT.)

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