Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the country's best-known constitutional law experts, is a leading candidate to be the first dean of UC Irvine's Donald Bren School of Law, according to someone involved in the selection process.
It is not known whether the school is still considering other candidates, but the university is expected to announce its choice in the next four weeks.
Chemerinsky has been a professor at Duke University since 2004, after 21 years at the USC Law School.
During his time in Los Angeles, he helped write the city charter and has been a frequent legal commentator on television, radio and in print.
In addition, the Police Commission named Chemerinsky to a panel to review the Police Department's response to the Rampart Division scandal, in which officers working the gang detail near downtown were involved in widespread corruption, including framing suspects.
Mayor James K. Hahn also appointed Chemerinsky to a blue-ribbon panel to review city contracting.
In April 2005, the professor was named one of "the top 20 legal thinkers in America" by Legal Affairs magazine.
UCI's law school, which is expected to welcome its first class in 2009, will be the first new public law school in California in 40 years.
The school was first proposed in 1989, but that plan was derailed by a recession and critics who said too many attorneys already flooded the state.
In the end, UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake successfully argued before the University of California regents last year that a law school was "the missing piece" in UCI's repertoire of professional programs, which include schools of medicine, engineering and business.
Two weeks ago, the university announced that Newport Beach billionaire Donald Bren had donated $20 million to fund the salary of the dean and 11 faculty positions.
How to spend the rest will be up to the dean.
Chemerinsky received his bachelor's degree from Northwestern University and his law degree from Harvard University.