September 15, 2007

Chemerinsky And Drake To Do Beer Commercials?

If UCI has its way, Erwin Chemerinsky and Michael Drake may become the next Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner of academia. Days after firing Chemerinsky, and a few days more after hiring him, UCI has begun an effort to re-hire the legal scholar to resolve the controversy over his dismissal. Also, the Los Angeles Times discovers those who fought Chemerinsky's appointment, and it doesn't quite square with Drake's previous explanations (via Instapundit):

UC Irvine officials on Friday were attempting to broker a deal to once again hire liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of its fledging law school, just three days after its chancellor set off a national furor by dumping him. ...

An agreement would be an extraordinary development after Chemerinsky contended this week that Drake succumbed to political pressure from conservatives and sacked him because of his outspoken liberal positions. The flap threatened to derail the 2009 opening of the law school and prompted some calls for Drake's resignation.

Also Friday, details emerged about the criticism of Chemerinsky that the university received in the days before Drake rescinded the job offer, including from California Chief Justice Ronald M. George, who criticized Chemerinsky's grasp of death penalty appeals. Also, a group of prominent Orange County Republicans and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich wanted to derail the appointment.

Drake has insisted that Chemerinsky didn't lose the dean's position because of his politics, saying that it was only because he expressed himself in a polarizing way.

Further confirmation that Drake fired Chemerinsky for his politics came from Orange County attorney Tom Malcolm, who has worked behind the scenes to repair the damage and get Chemerinsky to return to UCI. He told the LA Times that Chemerinsky has to transform himself from a "very outspoken advocate" to being a dean, strongly implying that UCI will not tolerate a dean who engages in political activity. In the same breath, he says that Chemerinsky's termination had "nothing to do with this academic freedom issue".

In other words, Malcolm says Chemerinsky will have all the academic freedom he wants, as long as he keeps his mouth shut. Huh?

The August 16th op-ed piece that some UCI defenders did play into the decision to fire Chemerinsky, but not because he broke some kind of agreement to stay silent on politics, a requirement to which Chemerinsky would certainly never agree anyway. Ronald George read the piece and saw a rather large error; Chemerinsky claimed that only Arizona supplies lawyers to death-row inmates for habeas corpus petitions. George directed that a letter be sent to the Times (they have no record of it) and George himself gave a copy to Malcolm, who passed it on to Drake.

At the same time, Mike Antonovich had organized an e-mail campaign among conservatives in Orange County to convince Drake to dump Chemerinsky. Another local player in Orange County conservative circles, Michael Schroeder, did the same thing. Schroeder took the added step of including Drake's cellphone number in his communications to harrass Drake into retreat.

Now let's compare all of this to Drake's shifting explanations. Drake claimed that some time after the contract was signed, after a nine-month search and negotiation process, that he discovered that he could not effectively "partner" with Chemerinsky. Before that, he claimed that the regents would never have approved the hire, and changed that only after the regents made it clear that they had no issues with Chemerinsky and had not heard of any controversy over the hiring. Now we find out that not only did local conservatives put significant pressure on Drake to fire Chemerinsky, the judiciary also applied what appears to be inappropriate pressure on Drake as well -- and at least some of that was directly tied to Chemerinsky's politics.

Chemerinsky got fired for his politics. Drake folded under the pressure, and has been dishonest about it almost from the first moment. Neither reflect well on UCI and especially on
its chancellor.

If UCI tells Chemerinsky that academic freedom means silence, he should throw them out of his office. Chemerinsky may or may not have been the best candidate for the job, but Drake hired him knowing full well that Chemerinsky advocates publicly for his positions, and that should have no bearing on his job after both sides signed the contract. In America, we don't fire people for their politcal views, especially after hiring them with full knowledge of their activities. Because the next university to impose silence on its staff will impose it on conservatives -- and probably the next nine after that. And that's why this is important to everyone.


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Comments (19)

Posted by CatoRenasci | September 15, 2007 10:06 AM

I agree that he should not be expected to silent, BUT, there is a legitimate point to be made that as the Dean of a law school, it is critically important to distinguish between what one does in a private capacity and what may be seen as having been done in an official or quasi-official capacity.

A public law school has not only the right, but the obligation, to insist that its Dean, when acting in any capacity than can be reasonably construed as official or even quasi-official, should be scrupulously politically neutral.

On the other hand, a dean should be able to support or oppose anything he pleases in his private capacity.

Is there a potential for conflict? Where, for example, a private position strongly and publicly advocated against the policies of the governor of the state in which the law school is located, could negatively affect the law school? Yes, and there a dean has to decide what's more important, the interests of the institution he leads or his private interests.

And, frankly, if the private positions of a dean are hurting the institution, then the Regents ought to sack him.

Posted by Barnestormer | September 15, 2007 10:23 AM

"Because the next university to impose silence on its staff will impose it on conservatives--and probably the next nine after that."--CE (emphasis
in the original)

Silence? OK, tone of voice may be a consideration, but it seems to me the major concern was advocacy.

Staff? What a charmingly understated reference to the dean of a Law School.

But seriously, it will doubtless come as a relief to conservative faculty everywhere that academic freedom will continue unabated in the U.S. so long as UCI doesn't screw things up. No doubt Larry Summers is hard at work on an essay supporting that very view.

And what's wrong with a law school dean advocating"political" views; and loudly at that? Particularly a specialist in Constitutional law, opining within his area of expertise? It's not as if those views have anything to do with say, how the Constitution should be properly interpreted. After all, how many self-respecting Ruth Bader Ginsburgs are likely to enroll at UCI when they have so many other choices?

Posted by kingronjo | September 15, 2007 10:23 AM

you couldnt be more right about the next 9 not hired being conservatives, probably the next 99.

But because I am not a lawyer, perhaps someone can tell me the ethics of a law school dean being actively engaged in partisan politics. To me it seems unseemly that a state sponsored school would be leading a political fight.

If he were the dean say at Notre Dame he would have more flexibility due to its private nature and the fact it is religious (well supposed to be anyway). But agreed, once he was hired he never should have been fired for any other reason than performance or Ward Churchillism. Thats utter nonsense.

Posted by TokyoTom | September 15, 2007 10:38 AM

Revoking the offer to Chemerinsky - who is highly regarded and seen as personable and a left-centrist - is a great way for UC Irvine, which is trying to get a new law school off the ground, to shoot itself in the foot. Who knows, maybe that was the intention of the conservative critics? But I suppose it`s just one more example of inept institutional management.

More extensive coverage is here at the conservative law blog, The Volokh COnspiracy:

Posted by The Yell | September 15, 2007 10:41 AM

As I understand it, "academic freedom" refers to scholarship. For example, he would be free to pursue and develop a thesis that the 13th Amendment does not prohibit compulsory enforcement of personal service contracts. That would be provocative and outrageous, but serious scholarship and protected.

If he's spotted every morning at 3:00 partying with Paris and Britney--which any American has a right to do-- he might not be Dean of their $100 million Law School much longer.

Posted by theblacksheepwasright | September 15, 2007 10:50 AM

Left-centrist you must be joking... this man is a loon..

Example a quote from the AP: His intent wasn't to make the law school "overly liberal"..overly liberal... I thought they were going to school not a class in idoctrination

Nonetheless if a contract was in place it is a contract..

Posted by viking01 | September 15, 2007 11:22 AM

In many ways Chemerinsky is the perfect front man for modern legalese instruction: A flamboyant, overpriced burden of harassment foisted upon free society.

Posted by Ken Hahn | September 15, 2007 2:29 PM

I am a resident of Orange County. Mike Antonovich is a Supervisor in Los Angeles County. While I generally agree with him, in this case he ought to concentrate on the lunatics in his own neighborhood. There are enough far left faculty at UCLA, Cal State LA, Long Beach, Northridge, Dominguez Hills and other public and private schools in LA County to keep him busy for a long time. Chemerinsky wouldn't be my choice for any position but he won't hurt the culture at UCI which is essentially a chuck of the Bay Area planted down here.

Posted by Laura | September 15, 2007 2:57 PM

So...are the same people who are protesting Chemerinsky's bouncing and the lack of "academic freedom" also protesting Larry Summers from being disinvited from speaking to the UC Regents?

I suspect "academic freedom" is only for politically correct liberals.


Posted by OC Adjacent Resident | September 15, 2007 3:07 PM

I find all this outrage by conservatives in defense of Chemerinsky to be deranged. Similar to Stockholm Syndrome, where the hostages identify with the terrorists holding them and defend their captors. Academia is utterly and ruthlessly dominated by the Left, in large part by using their current control to hire only fellow traveling lefties. A question for my fellow conservatives: How is any academic institution EVER to be freed of this Left totalitarianism if we can't even support the hiring of management who will give some opportunity to conservative academics for a change? Was it wrong to offer and then retract? As a simple matter of basic business ethics yes. It was more wrong to offer in the first place though, and even worse to go through with it and surrender yet another institution to perpetual dominance by the Left. The exercise of power is often not pretty and that is one thing the Left understands very well.

Posted by Shaprshooter | September 15, 2007 3:15 PM

Cap'n sez: "Because the next university to impose silence on its staff will impose it on conservatives -- and probably the next nine after that."

Unlike the past twenty years or so? Unlike the blatant hypocrisy that's been d'rigure since the 60's?

Posted by Dishman [TypeKey Profile Page] | September 15, 2007 4:41 PM

Ronald George read the piece and saw a rather large error; Chemerinsky claimed that only Arizona supplies lawyers to death-row inmates for habeas corpus petitions. George directed that a letter be sent to the Times (they have no record of it) and George himself gave a copy to Malcolm, who passed it on to Drake.

I would regard this as a legitimate criticism, perhaps the only one. Statements relating to scholarship must remain open to criticism.

If you don't want to be subjected to factual criticism, don't present yourself as an expert.

Posted by The Yell | September 15, 2007 4:57 PM

I agree with Dishman. I read the linked LAT article, and one thing led to another, and my discussion of Chemerinsky's error is at my own blog.

Basically, Chemerinsky misrepresents the state's duties under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, to make a political argument. He is now owes a public apology to the Supreme Court of the State of California. That is not the basis for a sound career of leadership in the California legal community.

Posted by David Frisk | September 15, 2007 7:24 PM

Chemerinsky is a political zealot, and as such, he's not a good choice for the deanship of a publicly-funded law school. He is also rather far to the left politically and constitutionally. For both reasons, the reflexive support for him, and reflexive trashing of the UC Irvine administrator, by some conservative bloggers is dismaying. At a minimum, they should have learned more about the situation first. In addition, Chemerinsky is a member in good standing of the liberal legal establishment. As such, he has absolutely no need of conservative help. This kind of situation, if anything, is a "good career move" for him. The liberal establishment takes care of its own. Let's not do their job for them.

The causes of conservatism, constitutionalism, and free speech don't get much breathing space in academe as it is. To waste our breath on the supposedly urgent need for fairness to a man who is one of the leading champions of left-liberal causes is politically wrongheaded.

Again, Chemerinsky doesn't need the help, we don't know the whole story as to why he was rejected, and a political zealot of any stripe should not be made dean of a publicly funded law school anyway.

Some conservatives engage in unilateral disarmament without even knowing it. This seems to be such a case.

Posted by Pat Patterson | September 15, 2007 8:55 PM

I think that Mr. Chemerinsky may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. His positions on some issues indeed could anger some but opposition to creation of the law school had been building for months. Chancellor Drake had simply ignored and avoided any contact with these county groups, lawyers and deep pocket types, Donald Bren or the Segerstrom family.

The funding was going to be strictly from the state and Drake could needed to avoid having to explain the neccessity of a law school devoted to public interest law and the training of public interest lawyers to the locals but mistakenly thought he would be able to convince the UC Regents without too many questions. But after the California Postsecondary Education Commission questioned and rejected the new school and yet planning went forward then it seemed inevitable that something would bring the unhappiness out into the open.

I've included a link to a post by the American Thinker which also links to a few news articles as well as the CPRC. _o.html

Posted by Can't get away from it | September 15, 2007 9:35 PM

Here is the problem with attacking conservatives who brought up issues with Erwin Chemerinsky as a liberal.

1) REAL conservatives are tired of getting tarred and feathered at every turn and being told to "take the moral high ground" on the issue and shut up. REAL conservatives who CARE try to fight back. Erwin may be a really swell guy, but, make no mistake. He will appoint only like minded left wing radicals like himself. I have listened to him several times on the HH show and NOTHING about his arguements has ever made me wish I were a liberal.

Pretending that liberals have not already engaged in "politics as a litmus test" is an act in sticking one's head in the sand. Conservatives and Republicans have been "quietly" barred from several schools for tenure for years. Your simply pretending we are suddenly at some mythical starting line where everyone is "even", when in fact, we have been held back for years.

The fact that so many so-called conservatives are backing him instead of leading the fight to get someone else in there is rather disturbing.

2) Lets say he really is as good of a candidate as folks say, and this becomes a stepping stone to the SCOTUS. As radical and warped as EC is, why the hell would we wish to further his career??? He wants nothing to do with anyone on the right in furthering their careers... how will this "handout" of support be repaid? A knife in the back.

And this is the most important...

3) EC is one who firmly believes that the Constitution is "pliable" and "living" document that can be used to further any view he and other liberals see fit. He is not a strict constitutional scholar, so, why the hell make him a dean of a law school???

Powerline, Captain's Quarters, HH, and other conservatives I have looked upto have lost their minds in this matter. Regardless of how some may not like how the offer was recinded (which appears unprofessional at best, a breach of contract at worst) Erwin is the WORST choice for the position.

So called conservatives need to put personal matters to the side and deal with the raw fact that EC is a raving leftwing radical who would just as soon stab a conservative in the back before appoint them to his department.

Call it "political affirmative action", if you will, but, in reality, its a knock down/drag out fight. Either plan on winning or stay home.

Posted by David Frisk | September 15, 2007 10:25 PM

Exactly. Mega-dittoes.

Posted by Immolate | September 17, 2007 1:32 PM

One should not (attempt to) rescind a contractual agreement over politics, religion or shoe size. Drake was wrong to (attempt to) do that.

One should not offer important academic positions in law schools to non-constructionists. Judicial activism is a virus that is attempting to mutate the constitution into a twisted charicature of itself. It should be stamped out ruthlessly to save the patient.

Posted by David Frisk | September 17, 2007 8:03 PM

A rather inconsistent post, that last one. The second paragraph is right. While the first paragraph is right in principle, the beef with Chemerinsky wasn't "politics" in the sense of viewpoint, but the fact that he is so grossly politicized. In order to keep such a person out of a law-school deanship, less-than-classy means may well be defensible. And in any case, one should not come to the alleged victim's aid. Especially when he doesn't need it and will be compensated by the Blob with more honors, job offers, etc. -- and probably by a left-liberal witch hunt at UCI. All in all, conservatives' response to this overhyped "injustice" should be a thoroughly sarcastic "BOO HOO."

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