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USC's Chemerinsky Leaving L.A. for Duke School of Law

The professor is known for his involvement in civic affairs.

By Henry Weinstein
L.A. Times Staff Writer

March 4, 2004

USC constitutional law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who served as chairman of the commission that rewrote the city charter in 2001 and on the independent board that investigated the Los Angeles Police Department's Rampart scandal, is leaving the city to become a law professor at Duke University Law School in Durham, N.C., next fall.

Chemerinsky's wife, Catherine Fisk, a noted labor law professor, also will leave USC to take a position at Duke in the fall.

"Erwin Chemerinsky is one of a kind, and exactly the kind Duke Law School wants: a first-rate constitutional law scholar, extraordinary teacher, highly visible public intellectual and a serious lawyer who finds time to advance the legal reforms about which he is most passionate," said Katharine T. Bartlett, dean of the school.

Bartlett also praised Fisk as an "emerging leader in the complex field of employment law."

Both Chemerinsky and Fisk worked at the Justice Department in Washington before becoming law professors.

Chemerinsky's contributions to USC "and our community have been tremendous," said USC Law School Dean Matthew L. Spitzer, noting that Chemerinsky, 50, has taught at the school for 21 years. He also praised Fisk, 42, for the "valuable contributions" she has made to the school in the year she has been there, after a decade of teaching at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She has written numerous scholarly articles and is the author of a forthcoming book "Labor Law Stories."

Chemerinsky, who also taught undergraduate political science classes at USC, has written books on constitutional law and federal courts.

He has written or co-written briefs in the appeals of numerous high-profile cases, including the currently pending dispute in the U.S. Supreme Court on the confinement of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay naval station who were captured during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Chemerinsky also has argued many cases in federal appeals courts around the country, frequently as a court-appointed lawyer. Last year, in his first case at the U.S. Supreme Court, the high court ruled 5-4 against his client, Leonardo Andrade, in a case that upheld California's three-strikes law.

In addition, Chemerinsky frequently wrote op-ed pieces for the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily Journal, a legal newspaper.

Earlier this year, Mayor James K. Hahn tapped him to head a panel to review city contracting practices. Chemerinsky said he planned to finish that task by July, shortly before his scheduled departure date.

Asked if there was anything that he preferred about Duke, Chemerinsky quipped, "I like college basketball more than college football," referring to Duke's perennially powerful team.