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January 3, 2007

WWaJD?: Welcome Dean Levi

In this post congratulating contributing editor Jim Chen on his new position as Dean of the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, I noted the buzzing throughout the law school world about "What Will Jim Do?" to innovate at his new institution.  Today, as covered well by Peter Lattman and How Appealing and Orin Kerr,  the question is "What Will a Judge Do?" as dean of a law school.  To be more specific, what will Judge David Levi, who currently serves as the chief federal judge for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, do when taking over as Dean of the Duke Law School later this year?

As Peter Lattman's post highlights, Judge Levi has an academic pedigree: Levi's father "served as dean of the University of Chicago Law School and then as that university's president, before being appointed by President Ford as Attorney General in 1975."  And yet, Judge Levi's bio indicates that he has never before been a law professor.  (The official announcement from Duke notes that Judge Levi "will be teaching a course on complex litigation this spring at the University of California at Davis School of Law, where he is one of the founders of the American Inns of Court chapter.")

It is fun to speculate about how a long-time federal district judge will adjust to, and seek to shape, the peculiar academic environment of an elite law school.  I am hopeful that Judge Levi, once he is Dean Levi, will be an innovator.  (Notably, in Duke's announcement, a quote from Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh describes Judge Levi as an "innovative federal judge."  I'm not quite sure what this means. If one accepts the Chief Justice's view of judging in umpire-terms, I doubt it would be a compliment to say the umpire working the plate is an "innovative" umpire.) 

I am especially eager to watch how Judge Levi will handle the (growing?) divide between legal scholarship and legal practice.  On this theme, I was struck by this quote from Duke's Provost concerning Judge Levi's appointment:

He will serve the university well in enhancing the distinctive identity of Duke Law School as a place that recognizes the importance of aligning the highest standards of academic scholarship with a real commitment to addressing challenges within the profession and making law school relevant to the changing world of legal practice.

As I have argued in this paper and try to prove in my chief blog, I think scholarly blogging is an effective way to align "the highest standards of academic scholarship with a real commitment to addressing challenges within the profession and making law school relevant to the changing world of legal practice."  I wonder if Dean Levi will agree.

January 3, 2007 in Deans and innovations | Permalink

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