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|Education||Northwestern University (BA)|
Harvard University (JD)
Erwin Chemerinsky (born May 14, 1953) is a modern liberal American legal scholar known for his studies of United States constitutional law and federal civil procedure. He served as the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law from 2008 to 2017, and is currently the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
A study of legal publications between 2016 and 2020 found Chemerinsky to be the most frequently cited American legal scholar.
Chemerinsky was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. The National Jurist magazine named him the most influential person in legal education in the United States in 2017. In 2021, Chemerinsky was named President-elect of the Association of American Law Schools.
Raised in a working-class Jewish family on Chicago's South Side, Chemerinsky attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools for high school. He earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Northwestern University in 1975, where he competed as a debater. He then attended Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law with a Juris Doctor in 1978.
Chemerinsky taught for over 20 years at the University of Southern California Law School and at DePaul University College of Law before moving to Duke University on July 1, 2004, and then UC Irvine in July 2008. In July 2017, he started a five-year term as dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law, where he is also the Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law.
Chemerinsky has published eleven books (three of which have been printed in multiple editions) and over 200 law review articles. He also writes a regular column for the Sacramento Bee and a monthly column for the ABA Journal and Daily Journal, and frequently pens op-eds for prominent newspapers across the country. Chemerinsky has also argued several cases at the United States Supreme Court, including United States v. Apel, Scheidler v. National Organization for Women. Lockyer v. Andrade. and Van Orden v. Perry, and has written numerous amicus briefs.
In 2011, National Jurist magazine described Chemerinsky one of the "23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die".
Other notable work includes:
Chemerinsky supports gun control and disagreed with the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. He thinks that even if an individual's right to bear arms exists, the District of Columbia was justified in restricting that right because it believed that the law would lessen violence. George Will specifically mentioned and responded to Chemerinsky's argument in a column that ran four days later.
Chemerinsky believes that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. He says, "Judicial activism is the label for the decision that people don't like." He also believed that gay marriage should be legal many years prior to the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Chemerinsky also represents a client held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center. He supports affirmative action. In January 2017, Chemerinsky, along with other high-profile lawyers, sued President Donald Trump for refusing to "divest from his businesses".
In an opinion piece following the 2020 presidential election, Chemerinsky wrote that "the Electoral College makes no sense as a way for a democracy to choose a president." He writes that it was intentionally designed to be anti-democratic and came about as part of "compromises concerning slavery that were at the core of the Constitution's drafting and ratification."
In a New York Times op-ed in August 2021, Chemerinsky argued that California's recall process is unconstitutional. Chemerinsky wrote. "(The court) could simply add Mr. Newsom's name on the ballot to the list of those running to replace him. That simple change would treat his supporters equally to others and ensure that if he gets more votes than any other candidate, he will stay in office."
In 2010, students who were protesting against UCI's invitation of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren interrupted his speech several times. Chemerinsky, referring to the heckler's veto, asserted that their protest was a form of punishable civil disobedience and not protected by the First Amendment. However, he also strongly criticized the prosecutors' decision of filing criminal charges against the students.
Chemerinsky's hiring as dean of the UCI School of Law was controversial. After signing a contract on September 4, 2007, the hire was rescinded by UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, who felt the law professor's commentaries were "polarizing." Drake claimed the decision was his own and not the subject of any outside influence.
The action was criticized by both liberal and conservative scholars, who felt it hindered the academic mission of the law school and violated principles of academic freedom, and few believed Drake's claims that it was not the result of outside influence. The issue was the subject of an editorial in The New York Times on Friday, September 14. Details emerged revealing that the university had received criticism on the hire from the California Supreme Court's Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who criticized Chemerinsky's grasp of death penalty appeals and a group of prominent local Republicans, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who wanted to stop the appointment. Drake traveled over a weekend to meet with Chemerinsky in Durham, North Carolina, where he was a professor at the Duke University School of Law at the time, and the two reached an agreement late Sunday evening.
On September 17, Chemerinsky issued a joint press release with Drake indicating that Chemerinsky would head the law school. The release stated that the chancellor was "commit[ted] to academic freedom." On September 20, 2007, Chemerinsky's hire was formally approved by the Regents of the University of California.