ERKELEY, Calif., Dec. 10 — The University of California, Berkeley, has selected Christopher Edley Jr., a law professor at Harvard University and a Clinton administration official, as the dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law.
The appointment, which will be announced Thursday, ends a yearlong search to replace John P. Dwyer, who resigned in November 2002 after a student accused him of sexual harassment.
Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl said Professor Edley, in addition to his duties as dean, would establish a "West Coast expression" of the highly regarded Civil Rights Project at Harvard.
"We are fantastically excited," Chancellor Berdahl said. "This is just a wonderful outcome to this search process."
Professor Edley, a founder of the Civil Rights Project, said the offer to reinvent the research center at Berkeley made it easier to leave Harvard, where he has taught since 1981 and has become a leading voice in civil rights law.
"I tried to withdraw from this dean search, citing my deep commitment to the Harvard Civil Rights Project," Professor Edley said in a telephone interview. "And the committee's response was that I should come to Berkeley and build a West Coast Civil Rights Project, because California is ground zero on issues of race and ethnicity. That was an extremely persuasive argument."
In addition to his academic work at Harvard, Professor Edley, 50, has a long history of work with the Democratic Party.
He served as a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, overseeing the administration's review of affirmative action policies. He is now a top adviser to Howard Dean's presidential campaign. He also served in the Carter administration and worked on the presidential campaign of Michael S. Dukakis.
His wife, Maria Echaveste, who served as Mr. Clinton's deputy chief of staff and is an adviser to Dr. Dean, will also join the Berkeley faculty. Professor Edley said that he would leave the Dean campaign in July, when his appointment at Berkeley takes effect but that his wife's role with the campaign might last longer.
Berkeley officials said Professor Edley was chosen from a field of 200 candidates that included three other finalists: Edward Rubin of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, E. Thomas Sullivan of the University of Minnesota Law School and Stephen Yeazell of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law.
University officials said that Professor Edley, who is African-American, would become the first black dean of a top-ranked law school, a distinction Professor Edley said was not unimportant.
"We are not past those days quite yet," Professor Edley said, referring to such milestones warranting mention, "in part because leading law schools are important gatekeeper institutions, to positions of leadership, not only in the profession but in the top tiers of public and private life."
Chancellor Berdahl said recruiting top academics to posts at Berkeley had been made more difficult in recent years because of California's budget problems and big cuts in state financing for the University of California. In that regard, Professor Edley's appointment could not have come at a more opportune time, he said.
"Recruiting people like this is reassuring to the faculty that is here," Chancellor Berdahl said. "A part of saving a place like Berkeley is preventing a bank-run mentality from developing within the university."