Monday, September 17, 2007

Intellectual Freedom in the OC

As everyone knows by now, Erwin Chemerinsky was hired to be the dean of the soon-to-start-up Donald Bren School of Law at the University of California Irvine, and then promptly fired for reasons that seem apparent to all observers but are described differently every day by the participants. As explained in an article by Garrett Therolf and Maura Dolan in Saturday's Los Angeles Times:
[UCI Chancellor Michael V.] Drake has insisted that Chemerinsky didn't lose the dean's position because of his politics, saying that it was only because he expressed himself in a polarizing way (emphasis added).
Oh, good, I'm glad we cleared that up.
Saturday's LA Times lists three examples of Chemerinsky's flaming liberalism:
He worked against California's three strikes law, argued in support of judicial review for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and represented Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA agent whose cover was blown by members of the Bush administration.
Now, Chemerinsky is certainly an outspoken liberal and advocate and has been for decades--how this could come as a surprise to Chancellor Drake is beyond me--but the three positions listed in the LA Times are not exactly very far out there (out here?). Moreover, it would be very hard to find a prominent constitutional lawyer who has not advocated for one or the other pole of the issues in question--our adversary system of adjudication depends, for good or ill, on lawyers championing opposed positions.
Always a paragon of moderate expression himself, long-time Republican member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Michael Antonovich commented that appointing Chemerinsky head of a law school "would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security."
Yeah, just like that.
Update: Here's an open letter and petition to Drake from professors and students at Irvine.
And here is Chancellor Drake's version.
Professor Chemerinsky's statement is here.

Another update: In again, out again, in again. Legal education is funnier than you think!
Official UCI statement here.

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