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Prominent Faculty From UC Berkeley, UC Hastings and Arizona Join UC Davis

News Posted on March 7, 2011

Three distinguished senior law professors  -- Angela Harris from UC Berkeley, Ashutosh Bhagwat from Hastings, and Gabriel "Jack" Chin from the University of Arizona -- have joined the UC Davis faculty.  

Harris, who began teaching at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall in 1988, is one of the nation's foremost scholars in the fields of critical race theory, feminist legal theory, and civil rights.  Bhagwat, a tenured member of Hastings' faculty for more than a decade, is an innovative, broad-ranging, and widely published constitutional law scholar.  And Chin, who joined the tenured faculty at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law laterally in 2004 and currently holds the Chester H. Smith Professor of Law Chair there, is a prolific and much-cited criminal and immigration law scholar whose work has addressed many of the most pressing social issues of our time.

"We are thrilled to welcome Professors Bhagwat, Chin, and Harris to UC Davis School of Law," said Dean Kevin R. Johnson.  "The fact that three such accomplished senior faculty would choose to come to King Hall is surely a reflection of our rising status among the top American law schools, as well as an indication that we will continue our upward trajectory for years to come."   

Professor Madhavi Sunder, who served as Appointments Committee Chair, described Harris as "a paradigm-shifting thinker who has always been on the cutting edge" and "perhaps the star in critical race theory."  And of Chin, Sunder said:  "He is incredibly prolific, and is a scholar who has had a real impact on legal reform.  As a public law school, we pride ourselves on being engaged in addressing the most vexing legal questions facing society, and he really fits in with that."

Associate Dean Vikram Amar echoed these praises, adding that "each of the three standing alone is a great catch; getting all three is quite a coup.  I have admired the work of Professors Harris and Chin from afar, and during the decade I was on the Hastings faculty before I returned to Davis, I saw firsthand that Professor Bhagwat was among the most talented people there, both in his scholarship and in the classroom."

Brian Leiter, the University of Chicago law professor whose annual ranking of law faculty is one of the main rivals to the yearly U.S. News rankings, observed in his Law School Reports blog entry at a time when the Harris and Bhagwat acceptances, but not Chin's decision, were public:  "Impressive for Davis to have pulled off two such senior hires in a single year, and let alone under these economic conditions!" Leiter also noted that "both Bhagwat and Harris are past recipients of their school's ‘Teacher of the Year' awards." UC Davis School of Law faculty was rated 23rd by Leiter's most recent comprehensive analysis of faculty impact, and the addition of three more frequently cited professors should over time help continue Davis's momentum.

Commenting on the process of recruiting these new faculty members, Professor Sunder said that while the Law School has excelled for more than a decade at luring outstanding entry-level faculty prospects, recent years have brought an increasing number of inquiries from prominent senior faculty interested in a possible lateral move to Davis. 

"Davis has gained a reputation as a place that is producing relevant, cutting-edge scholarship in a collegial environment, and in a community that is a wonderful place to live," said Sunder.  "It's being recognized that we have the whole package, and that has enabled us to bring in senior faculty from many great places, including Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley."

During the past year, intellectual property historian Mario Biagioli left Harvard University to come to UC Davis, and immigration law scholar Leticia Saucedo came laterally from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  The same year, environmental law leader Richard Frank, a UC Davis alumnus, moved from UC Berkeley to become a full-time member of the King Hall faculty.  The previous year, Miguel Méndez, a renowned scholar in the field of evidence law, left an endowed chair at Stanford Law School to join UC Davis, and tax law scholar Dennis Ventry, Jr. left American University's Washington College of Law to come to King Hall.