UC Irvine law school dean
recalls hiring controversy
Erwin Chemerinsky says the episode, in which he was hired,
fired and rehired, was the most difficult of his life. But it feels like
ancient history now, he says.
By Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 26, 2008
Erwin Chemerinsky, the constitutional law scholar hired, fired and rehired
last year to be the inaugural law school dean at UC Irvine, on Thursday
described the experience as "the most difficult of my life" but
said the ordeal now feels like ancient history.
His turbulent recruiting as dean of California's first new public law school
in decades has been overtaken by the warm reception he's had from the
Southern California legal and business community, including some who opposed
his selection because of his liberal credentials, he told a group of civic
leaders at a Town Hall Los Angeles luncheon.
"I hope that once they get to know us they will see that we have a law
school that has no ideology. We want a law school where all views are
expressed," said Chemerinsky, who spent 20 years at the University of
Southern California before his more recent stint at Duke University.
The scandal in which UC-Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake rescinded the offered
deanship under pressure from conservative regents and donors generated so much
publicity that the Donald Bren School of Law that will accept its first
students next fall is the most famous higher educational newcomer in the
country, Chemerinsky joked.
"Thankfully, it feels very much like ancient history now," he said
of the weeks of controversy between his firing and Drake's renewed offer of
the deanship. "That week when I was fired was the most difficult of my
On the stump for scholarship money for law students committed to public
service and helping the underserved communities of immigrants and indigents,
the new dean said the school had sufficient commitment from the university and
private-sector supporters to fund tuition for the first year, when 60 students
are to be admitted. Eventually, the law school hopes to have 200-student
classes, he said.
But in the current economic climate, which has hit the vital real estate
sector in Orange County particularly hard, fundraising is going to be a major
challenge, Chemerinsky conceded.
"It's true of all educational institutions, and all nonprofits, that when
the economy is booming, there are more people with money able to donate
it," he said. "And when times are difficult, as they appear to be
headed now, it's the opposite."