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Berkeley names new law school dean

 Christopher Edley Jr.
Christopher Edley Jr.
A conversation with Christopher Edley Jr.

– Christopher Edley Jr., a Harvard University law professor and national leader in civil rights law and public policy, has been named dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall).

Edley, who will be the first African American dean to lead a top-ranked U.S. law school, brings with him a wide range of high-level policy expertise. He served in both the Carter and Clinton administrations and currently serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Among his first efforts at Boalt Hall will be to establish a West Coast counterpart to his highly regarded Civil Rights Project at Harvard.

"This is the single most important appointment we could have made," Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl said today (Thursday, Dec.11). "Christopher Edley is one of the great leaders in legal education. This appointment makes a statement about who we are and reinforces UC Berkeley's commitment to providing California and the nation with exceptional leadership on issues of social justice and the law."

Edley, 50, has taught at Harvard Law School since 1981. He is the founding co-director there of the Civil Rights Project, a multidisciplinary research and policy think tank that has conducted research and policy briefings for congressional staff, journalists and civil rights organizations.

Its research has figured in congressional hearings, led to changes in federal legislation and been cited in federal court decisions, including several references in the U.S. Supreme Court decision last June upholding the constitutionality of affirmative action at the University of Michigan.

"I have turned aside deanship inquiries in the past, but this opportunity is unique," said Edley. "California is ground zero for the transformation of America into a multiracial society, and the challenges of creating equity and opportunity are nowhere more urgent. Boalt Hall and Berkeley can lead the nation by providing research-based analysis and prescriptions to help meet those challenges."

As special counsel to President Clinton, Edley led the White House review of affirmative action programs and helped develop Clinton's "Mend it, don't end it" position on affirmative action. He also served as the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for economics and government in the Clinton administration.

Edley said he is eager to assume the leadership of Boalt Hall. "The mission of a great public law school is different from that of an elite private school because we must consider not only the excellence of our training and scholarship but also the access to and inclusiveness of our enterprise," he said. "We must also provide intellectual capital and leadership to the state, nation and world.

"With its outstanding scholarship and work in intellectual property, international law and environmental law, Boalt Hall has a distinguished history and is poised for even greater things. Our challenge is to build not merely an excellent law school but a preeminent law school," said the newly appointed dean.

Edley's central research interest involves issues of racial justice, particularly topics that the courts, institutions and communities struggle with in trying to define equity, fairness and opportunity in a multi-racial context. His Civil Rights Project at Harvard has produced five books and more than 250 research papers, exploring such issues as the perils of high stakes standardized testing at the K-12 level, the relationship between segregated housing and school quality; the impact of the elimination of affirmative action in higher education, and the benefits of racial diversity in education.

"My interest in civil rights and public interest matters is inherited," said Edley. "I grew up thinking about these issues."

Edley's father was Christopher Edley Sr., a lawyer who was active in the support and creation of civil rights institutions and a longtime head of the United Negro College Fund.

"One huge point of sadness is that my father passed away in May and wasn't around to counsel me in this decision and to celebrate with me," said Edley.

The younger Edley was born in Boston and raised in Philadelphia and New Rochelle, New York. In 1973, he received his bachelor's degree in mathematics and economics from Swarthmore College. In 1978, he received a master's degree in public policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and a law degree from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of Harvard Law Review.

After completing law school, he joined the Carter administration serving as assistant director of the White House domestic policy staff. His responsibilities included welfare reform, social security and a variety of anti-poverty measures.

Following his work with the Carter administration, he began teaching at Harvard Law School. His academic work focuses primarily on racial justice matters but also administrative law and the role of law in the policy-making process. He has taught courses as well on environmental law, federal income taxation, federal budget law, federalism, defense department procurement law, national security law and public interest litigation.

Books written by Edley include the treatise "Administrative Law: Rethinking Judicial Control of Bureaucracy" (Yale University Press, 1990). His book "Not All Black & White: Affirmative Action, Race & American Values" (Hill and Wang, 1996), grew out of his work as special counsel to Clinton. It dissects the moral, legal and social science arguments for and against race-sensitive affirmative action and explains society's sharp disagreement on the issue.

Edley has served on numerous national commissions and committees. In addition to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he serves on several panels of the National Research Council, the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

He was a member of the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by Carter and Ford. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

Edley has advised various Democratic presidential candidates including Michael Dukakis, Clinton and Al Gore. Currently, he and his wife, Maria Echaveste, volunteer as policy advisers to Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

Echaveste, who served as the White House deputy chief of staff during the Clinton administration and now leads a public policy and political strategy consulting firm in Washington, D.C., has strong ties to California and Boalt Hall.

The daughter of immigrant farm workers who was raised in the Central Valley and Ventura County, Echaveste received a law degree from Boalt Hall in 1980.

Echaveste will join the UC Berkeley community as a researcher and lecturer at Boalt Hall and the Goldman Graduate School of Public Policy, focusing on issues of immigration policy, Latin America, and Latino political participation. She will also continue some of her national consulting work.

Edley and Echaveste, who have two preschool-age children, will move the family to the Bay Area.

Edley succeeds John P. Dwyer, who stepped down from the deanship in November 2002. Boalt Hall Professor Robert Berring will continue to serve as interim dean until Edley assumes the deanship by July 1, 2004.

"This is a great coup for Boalt Hall and the University of California," said Berring. "I think that Chris Edley will take us to the next level of excellence, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun to be at the law school over the next few years. He's going to introduce new ideas. He's going to take seriously the fact that we should be a top five law school, and he's going to challenge the faculty, students, alumni and community to be part of that process."

An 11-member UC Berkeley committee held a nationwide search for a new dean. The committee, which received more than 180 nominations and applications, was comprised of Boalt Hall faculty, students, staff and alumni as well as UC Berkeley faculty members from outside of the law school. The committee gave its recommendations to Chancellor Berdahl, who made the final selection.

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