Legal Organizations Urge Reinstatement Of Professor Erwin Chemerinsky As Dean Of UC Irvine Law School
One week after renowned legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky was offered the position of dean of the new law school at the
University of California at Irvine, Chancellor Michael Drake withdrew the offer, informing Duke Law Professor
Chemerinsky he had proved to be "too politically controversial."
Art. 9, § 9 of the California Constitution, which sets forth the powers and duties of the Regents of the University of
California, provides, "The university shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept
free therefrom in the appointment of its regents and in the administration of its affairs."
Professor Chemerinsky is one of the most eminent law teachers and constitutional law scholars in the country. Author of
a leading treatise on constitutional law, he has written four books and more than 100 law review articles. In 2005, he
was named by Legal Affairs as one of "the top 20 legal thinkers in America." He has handled many cases in the appellate
courts, including the Ninth and Fourth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, and has testified many
times before congressional and state legislative committees.
Professor Chemerinsky has represented Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose identity was revealed by members of the
Bush administration; a Guantánamo detainee asserting his right to habeas corpus; a man sentenced to 50 years-to-life
under California's three strikes law; and a person challenging the Texas Ten Commandments monument.
Professor Chemerinsky is devoted to public service as well as legal scholarship and education. He was elected by voters
to be a Commissioner and chaired the Los Angeles Elected Charter Reform Commission; the new Charter was adopted by
voters in 1999. He also spearheaded the Los Angeles Independent Analysis of the Board of Inquiry Report on the Rampart
Police Scandal, Prepared at the Request of the Police Protective League, September 2000.
One of the "controversial" matters Chancellor Drake cited to Professor Chemerinsky was an August op-ed the professor
wrote in the Los Angeles Times criticizing a proposed regulation by then-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales to shorten the time
death row inmates have to file habeas corpus petitions. In an op-ed in the Sep. 14 Times, Professor Chemerinsky
explained, "There are more than 275 individuals on death row in California without lawyers for their post-convictions
proceedings. The effect of the new rule would be that many individuals, including innocent ones, would not get the
chance to have their cases reviewed in federal court."
Chancellor Drake's action, which sends a clear message to academics that they must avoid speaking out or writing about
controversial issues, is a threat to academic freedom. As Professor Chemerinsky wrote, "Without academic freedom, the
reality is that many faculty members would be chilled and timid in expressing their views, and the discussion that is
essential for the advancement of thought would be lost."
The National Lawyers Guild, the Society of American Law Teachers, and the Center for Constitutional Rights oppose an
ideological litmus test for academic appointments and abhor the firing of Professor Chemerinsky. They urge Chancellor
Michael Drake to immediately reinstate Professor Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of the UC Irvine Law School.