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Panel names three finalists for LSU law school post

By JORDAN BLUM

Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Published: Apr 27, 2007 - Page: 1a

LSU’s three finalists to run its law school include two candidates the faculty supports and one it does not.

The LSU search committee met in closed session for an hour Thursday before publicly approving Eric Chiappinelli, associate dean at Seattle University School of Law, and Michael Krauss, law professor at George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va.

The third finalist named, who does not have approval from a majority of the faculty, is Jack Weiss, a New York partner for Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, a law firm with more than 800 lawyers.

The selection of finalists came one day after the LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center faculty met behind closed doors for three hours before announcing it only supports the hiring of Chiappinelli or Krauss.

Greg Smith, LSU law professor and member of the search committee, said some faculty members expressed “concern” that the LSU Board of Supervisors and LSU System President Williams Jenkins might hire Weiss, who has limited university experience.

Weiss is a nationally known First Amendment lawyer from New Orleans who has represented The Advocate. But his only academic experience has been teaching classes part time at LSU, Tulane University and Columbia University.

Smith said he was “not particularly” pleased with the outcome of the meeting Thursday that included Weiss as one of the three finalists for the job of leading the law school.

The finalists are vying to replace Chancellor John Costonis, who is stepping down in July.

Committee Chairman Tom Stagg, a U.S. senior district judge from Shreveport, said any of the three finalists would be very capable chancellors.

If Weiss is ultimately selected without majority faculty support, Stagg said, “that does not make him less of a chancellor.

“Whoever is chancellor is chancellor,” Stagg said, “and all this other stuff goes away.”

American Bar Association standards state that a university should not hire a law school dean “over the stated objection of a substantial majority of the faculty.”

LSU has a law chancellor rather than a dean.

Stagg said he is not worried about any potential accreditation concerns for the LSU law school. While Weiss was not included on the faculty’s list, he did not receive “majority opposition” from the faculty either, he said.

Faculty members were given the choice of supporting or opposing, Stagg said. Enough faculty abstained from voting either way on Weiss that when the ballots were counted there was no clear majority for either opposition or support, he said.

Stagg said he picked Krauss first and Weiss second.

Faculty represents more than one-third of the search committee and none voted for Weiss, he said.

Five of the seven committee members who are not part of the faculty — judges, lawyers and a student — picked Weiss as their top choice.

The search committee selected the three finalists from a pool of six semifinalists who interviewed this month. The finalists were the only three of the six to receive any votes Thursday.

President Jenkins said he intends to bring each of the finalists back to campus with their spouses for interviews. Then the Board of Supervisors will have the final vote. But there is no timetable, he said.

Although the media were barred from Wednesday’s faculty meeting, the draft minutes released Thursday indicated that a motion to start the entire search process again failed.

A former LSU law center chancellor, Winston Day, said the faculty needs to stop closing their meetings.

“This is an irrational position with no legal basis except that many law faculty feel they do not answer to the public,” Day said Thursday.

“I know of no other entity in the state that feels it can take formal actions and perform the public’s business in private with no accountability whatsoever,” he said.