Skip to content

End of Year Message from the Dean

Posted By Kevin R. Johnson, May 2, 2013


As the academic year draws to a close, we congratulate the Class of 2013 on its upcoming commencement. I want to express my sincere appreciation to the King Hall student body for its ambition, spirit, and devotion to UC Davis School of Law. In a time of challenges for law students and law schools, the past year has been one of remarkable achievements.


Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, will deliver the 2013 Commencement address at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, May 17, at 4:00 p.m. Pelosi previously served as Speaker of the House, the only woman in American history to do so. Many thanks to 3L representatives Jacques Baritot and Monica Crooms for securing Leader Pelosi as our commencement speaker.

Student Achievements

King Hall students achieved great things in 2012-13, excelling in the classroom, competitions, and community. This year, the King Hall Negotiations Teams hosted the Intra- School Negotiations Competition. The 44th Annual Irving L. Neumiller Moot Court Competition was a huge success, with great oral advocates and a distinguished panel of judges. Student teams also excelled in a wide range of regional and national competitions.

King Hall students took an active interest in the welfare of the School of Law, as exemplified by the formation of the Law Students Association Budget Committee. This committee will provide a formal mechanism for students to obtain law school financial and budgetary information and to provide advice to the administration on finances. King Hall is the first law school in the UC system to have a law student budget advisory committee.

This year, our students once again demonstrated their dedication to our public service. During spring break, students with the Humanitarian Aid Legal Organization (HALO) travelled to Mississippi, where they aided residents with fair housing, consumer protection, elementary education, and disaster relief issues. The King Hall Legal Foundation awarded summer grants to ten King Hall students to work in public interest law. Students launched the King Hall Veterans Association, a new group for law students who served in the military. The Black Law Students Association collaborated with alumni to host the first-ever King Hall Black Alumni Reunion in April. A coalition of student organizations marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” with a lecture by Dr. Clarence B. Jones, counsel for Dr. King and co-author of the speech.

New Scholarships, Fellowships, and Services for Students and Alumni

Our development success ($4.3 million in 2011-12, $2.3 million and counting in 2012-13) enabled us to add new student scholarships and establish important new programs for students and recent graduates. Support for a new Academic Success fund will enable the law school to enhance its academic support programs and provide additional assistance for practice exams, tutors, and other resources to graduates studying for the bar examination. Our Academic Success program soon will announce new initiatives to assist students in passing the bar.

The new Career Support fund also will support the expansion of the law school’s post- graduate fellowship program, which will place 2013 graduates in newly created positions for one year with Legal Services of Northern California, the Immigration Law Clinic, and UC Davis campus offices, among others. See this news story on our website for information on the post-graduate fellowships program.

Our Rankings

UC Davis School of Law continues to rank among the very best law schools in the country in national polls and assessments. As you know, we experienced a decline this year in one rating, the U.S. News & World Report ranking. The primary reasons for this were a change in the magazine’s methodology for calculating employment outcomes and a stagnant California legal job market, both which adversely impacted all UC law schools. Employment figures under the new methodology improved for the Class of 2012. We hope for continued improvements for the Class of 2013. In addition, the law school is increasing Career Services support for our students and, as noted above, expanding the post-graduate fellowship program.

Importantly, the Law School’s peer reputation score in the U.S. News survey remained very high – indeed the highest ever – and we ranked 23rd in that category. We were also ranked at 23 by University of Chicago Law Professor Brian Leiter, whose rating system is often regarded as the most systematic evaluation of American law school quality. Leiter wrote that King Hall “has improved significantly in the last generation” and is “now solidly top 25.”

Amazing Alums

UC Davis School of Law alumni give their time and knowledge throughout the year, serving as coaches and judges in moot court and mock trial programs, teaching courses, meeting with prospective students, speaking at Career Services events, and more. It is impossible to list all of the alumni accomplishments but here are a few examples: Sister Simone Campbell ‘77 spoke at the Democratic National Convention; Darrell Steinberg ‘84, California Senate President pro Tem, was listed among the Wall Street Journal’s list of “13 People to Watch” in 2013; Kristina Pickering ‘77 was named Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court (and hired a member of the Class of 2013 as a law clerk); Chief Justice of California Tani Cantil- Sakauye ‘84 continued her superb leadership of our state’s judiciary.

Special Events

The 2012-13 academic year brought an extraordinary series of special events – too numerous to list – to King Hall. Last fall, the law school hosted oral arguments of the California Supreme Court and California Third District Court of Appeals. Former Solicitor General Drew S. Days III (Yale) delivered the 2012 Edward L. Barrett, Jr. Lecture on Constitutional Law. Washington University School of Law Professor Susan Frelich Appleton delivered the 2013 Brigitte Bodenheimer Lecture on Family Law. Professor Geoffrey Stone (Chicago) presented the Central Valley Foundation/James B. McClatchy Lecture on the First Amendment. Therese Stewart, Chief Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco and a key figure in the legal battle over same-sex marriage in California, gave the 2013 Bill Smith Memorial Lecture.

Faculty Excellence

At the heart of any great law school is a great faculty. This year, the King Hall faculty once again demonstrated why they are among the nation’s best. Here are a few faculty achievements: Alan Brownstein and Thomas Joo were elected to the American Law Institute, joining 17 other Law School faculty as members of the nation’s most prestigious law reform institution. Peter Lee was selected as a UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellow, one of seven faculty across campus so honored by Chancellor Katehi. Leticia Saucedo was honored with the Distinguished Teaching Award. An article by Angela Harris was named one of the most-cited legal articles of all time. An article by Jack Chin was cited by the U.S. Supreme Court. Professor Emeritus Harrison “Hap” Dunning was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award from the Bay Institute. Madhavi Sunder published a cutting-edge book, From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice (Yale University Press, 2012).

Outstanding new faculty colleagues include Karima Bennoune, Rose Cuison Villazor, and David Horton. We also hired four new professors this year, Andrea Chandrasekher, Lesley McAllister (San Diego), Darien Shanske (UC Hastings), and Brian Soucek. Former counsel to Professor Anita Hill, Emma Jordan of Georgetown University Law Center joined us as a visiting professor in the spring.

Building Completion!

The past year brought to near completion the decade-long of expansion and renovation of King Hall. It has been enlarged, upgraded, and improved with the addition of the state-of-the-art expansion wing, completed in September 2010. Since then, we have completed most of the renovation of the “old” King Hall. Students experienced improvements to study areas, the student lounge, student organization offices, and the Mabie Law Library. All the “old” classrooms were renovated. Thank you all for your patience throughout the long construction process.

Outstanding Clinics

This year the School of Law established the first law school clinic focused on briefing cases before the California Supreme Court; in the California Supreme Court Clinic, students researched and drafted briefs in a number of cases. In a year in which the Immigration Law Clinic celebrated its 30th anniversary, clinic faculty and students won a series of impressive victories. Moreover, the Immigration Law Clinic, in collaboration with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and the Mexican Consulate, counseled more than 2,400 immigrant youth seeking relief under the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A team of Immigration Law Clinic students travelled to Mississippi to offer legal assistance to exploited immigrant workers.

Academic Centers

This year, the California Environmental Law and Policy Center (CELPC), California International Law Center at King Hall (CILC), and Center for Science and Innovation Studies (CSIS) made important contributions to King Hall in environmental law, international law, and intellectual property. CILC and CSIS collaborated with the UC Davis Law Review to present a symposium entitled “Brand New World: Distinguishing Oneself in the Global Flow.” CILC also presented a series of regular lectures and panel discussions featuring distinguished speakers such as Judge Ricardo Ramírez-Hernández, Chair of International Trade Law at the Mexican National University (UNAM). CELPC was instrumental in bringing the “Planning and Conservation League’s 2013 Symposium on the California Environmental Quality Act” to UC Davis.

This year, a group of faculty and students produced a series of events in conjunction with the Aoki Center for the Critical Study of Race, Immigration, and Nation. This emerging center will be a topic for faculty and student discussion next year.

Staff Hires

Excellent staff have made it possible for the Law School to operate more efficiently and effectively for students. The additions include Brett Burns, the new Senior Assistant Dean for Administration; he has been working extensively with the new student budget advisory committee. Natalie Butcher '08, the new Associate Director of Career Services and Judicial Clerkships, will add to our ability to counsel students and place them in judicial clerkships.


These many achievements—and the many others too numerous to mention—confirm UC Davis School of Law’s place among the nation’s very best law schools. With your help, enthusiasm, and energy, we will build on these successes and reach new heights in the coming years.

Kevin R. Johnson