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Head of the class

Erwin Chemerinsky is providing a solid foundation for UC Irvine's new law school.

July 26, 2008

We applauded when UC Irvine, after an initial misstep, named Erwin Chemerinsky as the dean of its new law school. Now, he is working to build the staff and faculty for that institution, and our early enthusiasm is giving way to full-throated jubilation. His work in progress already promises to be a welcome addition to the intellectual and cultural life of this region.

Chemerinsky is sometimes categorized under the simplistic shorthand of "liberal constitutional scholar," but that does not do justice to this Los Angeles treasure. He is a writer and teacher, one of the principal architects of the Los Angeles City Charter and a warm and welcoming civic leader. Yes, he's a liberal, but law school deans can and should come in all ideologies -- Kenneth Starr has won justified accolades for his stewardship at Pepperdine Law School, and his conservatism is at least as pronounced as Chemerinsky's liberalism. It is those who lack conviction who give us pause, not those whose convictions we do not share.

Chemerinsky's credentials are so long and his reputation so sound that only those unfamiliar with them will be surprised to discover that he has assembled a list of 18 sterling academics and others who make up the first team of his developing academy. That's a heartening achievement in his important mission, as UC Irvine is setting out to create this region's first new public law school in generations. Students are expected in the fall of 2009, and they will undoubtedly be joining a promising institution.

At a time when government is struggling, when houses are in foreclosure and one company after another is subjecting its employees and customers to cruel reductions, the birth of a new school is a joy to witness. Moreover, it's always a pleasure to be right, and we're delighted to see that our abiding confidence in Chemerinsky has proved justified.

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