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Erwin Chemerinsky (born May 14, 1953) is an American lawyer and scholar known for his studies in United States constitutional law and federal civil procedure. He served as the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law from 2009 to 2017, and is currently the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.[1][2]

Erwin Chemerinsky
Erwin chemerinsky 09-2007.JPG
Erwin Chemerinsky speaking at the William & Mary School of Law in September 2007.
Born (1953-05-14) May 14, 1953 (age 64)
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality United States
Alma mater
Scientific career
Fields Constitutional law, civil procedure

A study of legal publications between 2009 and 2013 found Chemerinsky to be the second-most frequently cited American legal scholar, behind Cass Sunstein and ahead of Richard A. Epstein.[3]


Early life and educationEdit

Raised in a working-class Jewish family on Chicago's South Side, Chemerinsky attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools for high school.[4] He earned a bachelor's degree in communications from Northwestern University in 1975, where he competed as a debater. He then attended Harvard Law School, where he was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. He graduated cum laude in 1978.

Professional careerEdit

Chemerinsky taught for over twenty years at the University of Southern California Law School and at DePaul University College of Law before moving to Duke University on July 1, 2004, and then UC Irvine in July 2008. In July 2017, he started a five-year term as dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law.[5]

In 1995, Chemerinsky was a commentator on the O.J. Simpson trial on KCBS-TV, KNX, and CBS News.

Chemerinsky has published six books (three of which having been printed in multiple editions), numerous articles, and a regular column on the United States Supreme Court carried by California Lawyer, the Los Angeles Daily Journal, and Trial Magazine. Chemerinsky has also argued several cases before the United States Supreme Court, including Scheidler v. NOW, Tory v. Cochran, Van Orden v. Perry and Lockyer v. Andrade.

In March 2011, The National Jurist: The Magazine for Law Students named Chemerinsky one of the "23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die".[6]

Other notable work included:


Chemerinsky supports gun control and disagreed with the decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. He thinks that even if an individual's right to bear arms exists, the District of Columbia was justified in restricting that right because it believed that the law would lessen violence.[7] George Will specifically mentioned and responded to Chemerinsky's argument in a column that ran four days later.[8]

Chemerinsky believes that Roe v. Wade was correctly decided.[9] He says, "Judicial activism is the label for the decision that people don't like."[9] He also believes that gay marriage should be legal.[9]

Chemerinsky also represents a client held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.[9] He supports affirmative action.[9] In January 2017, Chemerinsky, along with other high-profile lawyers, sued President Donald Trump for refusing to "divest from his businesses".[10]

Irvine 11Edit

Chemerinsky has defended freedom of speech from the heckler's veto. Following an incident in which nine members of the (UCI) Muslim Students Union disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, Chemerinsky asserted that broad freedom exists to invite speakers and hold demonstrations, but that once a speaker has begun an invited lecture, "You have the right – if you disagree with me – to go outside and perform your protest. But you don't get the right to come in when I'm talking and shout me down. Otherwise people can always silence a speaker by heckler's veto, and Babel results."[11][12]

After the interruptions, Oren completed his remarks and canceled the question-and-answer session.[13] The students were arrested by University of California Irvine Police, which were on hand. However, Chemerinsky also publicly disagreed with the Orange County District Attorney's Office's decision to file criminal charges against the students.[14]

Appointment controversy to head the UC Irvine School of LawEdit

Chemerinsky's hiring as dean of the UCI School of Law was controversial. After signing a contract on September 4, 2007, the hire was rescinded by UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, who felt the law professor's commentaries were "polarizing." Drake claimed the decision was his own and not the subject of any outside influence.[15]

The action was criticized by both liberal and conservative scholars, who felt it hindered the academic mission of the law school and violated principles of academic freedom, and few believed Drake's claims that it was not the result of outside influence.[15][16] The issue was the subject of an editorial in The New York Times on Friday, September 14.[17] Details emerged revealing that the university had received criticism on the hire from the California Supreme Court's Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who criticized Chemerinsky's grasp of death penalty appeals and a group of prominent local Republicans, including Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, who wanted to stop the appointment. Drake traveled over a weekend to meet with Chemerinsky in Durham, North Carolina, where he was a professor at the Duke University School of Law at the time, and the two reached an agreement late Sunday evening.[18]

On September 17, Chemerinsky issued a joint press release with Drake indicating that Chemerinsky would head the law school. The release stated that the chancellor was "commit[ted] to academic freedom."[19] On September 20, 2007, Chemerinsky's hire was formally approved by the Regents of the University of California.[20]

Personal lifeEdit

Chemerinsky is married to Catherine Fisk,[21] who is also a law professor at UC Berkeley School of Law.[22]


Chemerinsky has published several books:

  • "Closing the Courthouse Door -- How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable" (Yale University Press 2017)
  • The Case Against the Supreme Court (Viking Adult 2014)
  • The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (Simon & Schuster 2010)
  • Enhancing Government (Stanford University Press 2008)
  • Federal Jurisdiction (Aspen Law & Business 5th ed. 2007)
  • Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies (Aspen Law & Business 3d ed. 2006)
  • Constitutional Law (Aspen Law & Business 2d ed. 2005)
  • Interpreting the Constitution (Praeger 1987)

In addition, Chemerinsky has published over one hundred law review articles, including publications in the Harvard Law Review, Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern University Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Southern California Law Review, and McGeorge Law Review.


  1. ^ Sernoffsky, Evan (2017-05-17). "Erwin Chemerinsky named dean of Berkeley Law". SFGate. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  2. ^ Haire, Chris (2017-05-17). "UC Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinsky named dean of Berkeley's law school, will begin July 1". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  3. ^ 2014 Scholarly Impact – Leitner Rankings.
  4. ^ Bivins, Larry (January 7, 2010), "Franken hits 6-month mark", St Cloud Times 
  5. ^ Zint, Bradley (2017-05-17). "UCI law school's Chemerinsky takes new position at UC Berkeley". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-05-19. 
  6. ^ Weyenberg, Michelle (March 2011), "23 Law Profs to Take Before You Die", The National Jurist, San Diego: Cypress Magazines, 20 (6): 22–29 
  7. ^ Chemerinsky, Erwin (2007-03-14). "A Well-Regulated Right to Bear Arms". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  8. ^ "My opinion George F. Will : Gun control issue back on the table". The Arizona Star. 2007-03-18. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Judicial Activism: Playing with the Constitution. An Interview with Constitutional Law Scholar Erwin Chemerinsky on Abortion, the 2nd Amendment, the War on Terror and Guantanamo Bay". 2008-09-18. Retrieved 2009-01-22. 
  10. ^ "What to Know About the Ethics Lawsuit Facing President Trump". Time. Retrieved 2017-05-18. 
  11. ^ Lumb, David, "Israel: Interrupted in Irvine", February 15, 2010, New University
  12. ^ Chemerinsky, Erwin, "UC Irvine's free speech debate: Students and others who disrupted an address by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. can't claim 1st Amendment rights", Los Angeles Times, February 18, 2010.
  13. ^ "Oren made his government's points, despite fleeting student outbursts"
  14. ^ Santa Cruz, Nicole (September 23, 2011). "'Irvine 11': UC Irvine law school dean calls convictions 'harsh'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 5, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Garrett Therolf; Henry Weinstein (September 13, 2007). "UC Irvine post is taken from liberal legal scholar - Criticism follows the dismissal of Erwin Chemerinsky as dean. The chancellor says the decision wasn't forced". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 15, 2009. Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  16. ^ Parsons, Dana, "Excuse for UCI's fumble on law school dean not good enough", Los Angeles Times, September 13, 2007.
  17. ^ "A Bad Beginning in Irvine". The New York Times. September 14, 2007. Retrieved May 2, 2010. 
  18. ^ Therolf, Garrett, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 6, 2007. Retrieved February 6, 2016.  "Chemerinsky returns to UC Irvine post", Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2007.
  19. ^ "Statement From Chemerinsky & Drake". OC Blog. Archived from the original on 2007-10-29. 
  20. ^ "Erwin Chemerinsky named founding dean of UC Irvine's Donald Bren School of Law" (Press release). University of California, Irvine. September 20, 2007. Archived from the original on January 14, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk join the Faculty of Duke Law School", Duke Law, March 5, 2004
  22. ^ BerkeleyLaw Profile, Catherine Fisk

External linksEdit