Dean Erwin Chemerinsky and UCI School of Law are in the news. WSJ Law Blog reports on a little scuffle between Chemerinsky and Second Circuit Chief Judge Jacobs about the purported public interest mission of the law school whether it entails a distinct political leaning. Here’s Chemerinsky:
Implicit in Jacobs’ remarks is the assumption that pro bono work is inherently liberal. That is just wrong. Much pro bono work has no ideological content, such as in helping a victim of domestic violence get an essential restraining order . . . Sometimes, pro bono work is in a direction conservatives applaud, such as in representing the property rights of home owners who want to challenge a city’s use of its eminent domain power. Sometimes, it is in a more liberal direction.
That’s a fine argument in theory. There are a ton of conservative leaning public interest groups and causes. It will be quite interesting to see how the public interest specialization operates in practice. As a big fan of law school specialization, including specialization between rather than within law schools, it wouldn’t bother me a bit if Chemerinsky’s law school openly marketed itself as an ideologically left-leaning law school oriented toward particular public interest causes. Competition between law schools who differentiate on these margins is a healthy thing. But thats not going to happen. Indeed, this isn’t the first time that Chemerinsky has claimed that the law school will not have a political ideology. Here’s a picture and profiles of the inaugural faculty thus far. I think a consensus view has emerged that this is a very impressive initial faculty who is going to do very well by most objective quality measures. But as Professor Bainbridge notes, the proof that UC Irvine is committed to a non-ideological faculty will be in the pudding.
To be honest, the lack of ideological diversity is far less interesting to me than what I perceive to be the nearly complete absence of commercial law faculty. Who is going to teach core courses like business associations? What about antitrust? Securities? Bankruptcy? Is there going to be a transactional curriculum? Or is business law outside the scope of public interest? I certainly hope not. At least, that’s not what I tell my students.