Reinstatement Of Prof Erwin Chemerinsky Urged
Legal Organizations Urge Reinstatement Of Professor Erwin Chemerinsky As Dean Of UC Irvine Law School
One week after renowned legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky was offered the position of dean of the new law school at the University of California at Irvine, Chancellor Michael Drake withdrew the offer, informing Duke Law Professor Chemerinsky he had proved to be "too politically controversial."
Art. 9, § 9 of the California Constitution, which sets forth the powers and duties of the Regents of the University of California, provides, "The university shall be entirely independent of all political or sectarian influence and kept free therefrom in the appointment of its regents and in the administration of its affairs."
Professor Chemerinsky is one of the most eminent law teachers and constitutional law scholars in the country. Author of a leading treatise on constitutional law, he has written four books and more than 100 law review articles. In 2005, he was named by Legal Affairs as one of "the top 20 legal thinkers in America." He has handled many cases in the appellate courts, including the Ninth and Fourth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, and has testified many times before congressional and state legislative committees.
Professor Chemerinsky has represented Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose identity was revealed by members of the Bush administration; a Guantánamo detainee asserting his right to habeas corpus; a man sentenced to 50 years-to-life under California's three strikes law; and a person challenging the Texas Ten Commandments monument.
Professor Chemerinsky is devoted to public service as well as legal scholarship and education. He was elected by voters to be a Commissioner and chaired the Los Angeles Elected Charter Reform Commission; the new Charter was adopted by voters in 1999. He also spearheaded the Los Angeles Independent Analysis of the Board of Inquiry Report on the Rampart Police Scandal, Prepared at the Request of the Police Protective League, September 2000.
One of the "controversial" matters Chancellor Drake cited to Professor Chemerinsky was an August op-ed the professor wrote in the Los Angeles Times criticizing a proposed regulation by then-Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales to shorten the time death row inmates have to file habeas corpus petitions. In an op-ed in the Sep. 14 Times, Professor Chemerinsky explained, "There are more than 275 individuals on death row in California without lawyers for their post-convictions proceedings. The effect of the new rule would be that many individuals, including innocent ones, would not get the chance to have their cases reviewed in federal court."
Chancellor Drake's action, which sends a clear message to academics that they must avoid speaking out or writing about controversial issues, is a threat to academic freedom. As Professor Chemerinsky wrote, "Without academic freedom, the reality is that many faculty members would be chilled and timid in expressing their views, and the discussion that is essential for the advancement of thought would be lost."
The National Lawyers Guild, the Society of American Law Teachers, and the Center for Constitutional Rights oppose an ideological litmus test for academic appointments and abhor the firing of Professor Chemerinsky. They urge Chancellor Michael Drake to immediately reinstate Professor Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of the UC Irvine Law School.