John B. Oakley

John B. Oakley

Position Title
Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus

1129 King Hall

Professor John Oakley's teaching and scholarship focus primarily on the process of adjudication. He seeks to integrate practical expertise in the daily workings of rules of jurisdiction and procedure with a philosophically informed awareness of "the nature of law and judicial power, how the power to create and decide disputes over the law should be distributed and exercised, and what sorts of questions judges should ask themselves when deciding 'hard cases.'"

"The rules by which courts operate are among the most volatile and reform-sensitive areas of modern law, and often have a dramatic impact on the substantive law," said Oakley. "In recent years, for example, there has been something of a backlash against the expansion of plaintiffs' rights to recover for tortious personal injuries or for a denial of civil rights. But for the most part conservative reformers have sought to achieve their goals by creating procedural and jurisdictional obstacles to enforcement of the rights in question, rather than by flatly overruling the legal rights themselves."

"Adjudication is governed by law, but reflects history, politics, psychology, social values, and cultural myths," said Oakley. "This is true even when the subject of adjudication is mundane and to all appearances deadly dull. The express terms of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are dry, detailed, and anything but poetic. They would not appear likely to engage the interpretive imagination. But when seemingly technical disputes arise over their meaning and effect, they can often be shown to turn on philosophically interesting questions. I make it a point to highlight these questions, so that even a first-year course in civil procedure becomes in part a course in the philosophy of law."

Education and Degree(s)
  • B.A. History, University of California, Berkeley, 1969
  • J.D. Yale University, 1972
Honors and Awards
  • Vice-chair (2005-2006) and chair-designate (2006-2007) of the Academic Senate of the University of California. (Professor Oakley will be on full-time leave from the School of Law for the academic years 2005-2007.)
  • Faculty Representative to the Regents of the University of California, for two years beginning Sept. 1, 2005 (non-voting member of the Board of Regents)
  • Visiting Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley (2001)
  • Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (2001)
  • Associate, Department of Philosophy, University of California, Davis (since 1996)
  • Reporter for the American Law Institute’s Federal Judicial Code Revision Project (1995-2004)
  • Member, Appellate Process Task Force of the California Judicial Council (by appointment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California) (1997-2001)
  • Member, Board of Directors, American Judicature Society (1996-1998)
  • Keynote Speaker, National Conference on the Future of the Judiciary (1996)
  • Reporter for the Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction of the United States Judicial Conference (by appointment of the Chief Justice of the United States) (1991-1996)
  • Appointed Counsel for the Defendant, Automatic Appeal of a Death Penalty Judgment to the Supreme Court of California (by appointment of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of California) (1984-1996)
  • Visiting Scholar and Member of the Senior Common Room, University College, Oxford University, England (1982-1983)
  • Scholar-in-Residence and Senior Trial Attorney, Civil Rights Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. (1979-1980)
Research Interests & Expertise
  • Civil Procedure (Including Civil Litigation And Complex Litigation)
  • Constitutional Law
  • Jurisprudence
  • Federal Jurisdiction
  • Judicial Administration


FEDERAL COURTS: CASES AND MATERIALS (with Charles Alan Wright), Foundation Press (11th ed. 2005), (10th ed. 1999 and Supplements 2000-2004), (Supplements 1995-1998 to 9th ed. 1992)


AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ANGLO AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM, (with Jean C. Love), Thomson-West (4th. ed. 2004), (3d ed. 2001), (2d ed. 1988), (1st ed. 1980)

CIVIL PROCEDURE, (with Rex R. Perschbacher), Casenotes Publishing Co. (3d ed. 2001), (2d ed. 1996), (1st ed. 1991)




LAW CLERKS AND THE JUDICIAL PROCESS, (with Robert S. Thompson), University of California Press (1980)

The Natural, Friedrich K. Juenger, CHOICE OF LAW AND MULTISTATE JUSTICE (Special Ed. 2005)

The Story of Owen Equipment v. Kroger: A Change in the Weather of Federal Jurisdiction, Chapter 2 of K. Clermont, ed., CIVIL PROCEDURE STORIES, Foundation Press (2004)

Civil Procedure—United States of America, (with Vikram D. Amar), in P. Lemmens, ed., INTERNATIONAL ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LAWS—CIVIL PROCEDURE, Kluwer Law International (2001)

Edgar Bodenheimer, C. Gray, ed., THE PHILOSOPHY OF LAW: AN ENCYCLOPEDIA, Garland Publishing Company (1999)

Memorandum on Divisional Organization of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, WORKING PAPERS, Commission on Structural Alternatives for the Federal Courts of Appeals (1998)

Twenty-First Century Justice: Problems and Proposals from a State-Court Perspective, CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS: NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE JUDICIARY, National Center for State Courts (1996)

Edgar Bodenheimer, (with Carol Bruch, Daniel Dykstra, and Friedrich Juenger), in IN MEMORIAM 1991, Academic Senate of the University of California (1992)

Screening, Delegation and the Values of Appeal: An Appraisal of the Ninth Circuit’s Screening Docket During the Browning Years, (with Robert S. Thompson), Chapter 4 of Arthur D. Hellman, ed., RESTRUCTURING JUSTICE, Cornell University Press (1990) (pp. 97-137)

The Legality of a Political System: Positivism, Political Morality and the Point of Theories of Law, E. Kamenka, R. Summers & W. Twining, ed., RECHTSTHEORIE BEIHEFT 9: SOZIOLOGISCHE JURISPRUDENZ UND REALISTISCHE THEORIEN DES RECHTS [Sociological Jurisprudence and Realist Theories of Rights], Proceedings of the 11th World Congress on Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Helsinki, August 15, 1983, Duncker & Humblot (1986)

Sociobiology and the Law, E. Bulygin, J. L. Gardies & I. Niiniluoto, ed., MAN, LAW AND MODERN FORMS OF LIFE, Proceedings of the 11th World Congress on Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy, Helsinki, August 19, 1983, D. Reidel (1985)

A Fresh Look at the Federal Rules in State Courts, 3 Nevada Law Journal 354 (2003)

Introduction — Symposium: Federal Judicial Selection in the New Millenium, 36 U.C. Davis Law Review 583 (2003)

Joinder and Jurisdiction in the Federal District Courts: The State of the Union of Rules and Statutes, 69 Tennessee Law Review 35 (2001)

Fiat Lux, 51 Duke Law Journal 699 (concluding contribution to Colloquy — Supplemental Jurisdiction, the ALI, and the Rule of the Kroger Case) (2001)

Kroger Redux, 51 Duke Law Journal 663 (initial contribution to Colloquy — Supplemental Jurisdiction, the ALI, and the Rule of the Kroger Case) (2001)

Comparative Analysis of Alternative Plans for the Divisional Organization of the Ninth Circuit, 34 U.C. Davis Law Review 483 (2000)

Integrating Supplemental Jurisdiction and Diversity Jurisdiction: A Progress Report on the Work of the American Law Institute, 74 Indiana Law Journal 25 (1998)

Prospectus for the American Law Institute’s Federal Judicial Code Revision Project, 31 U.C. Davis Law Review 855 (1998)

Federal Jurisdiction and the Problem of the Litigative Unit: When Does What ‘Arise Under’ Federal Law?, 76 Texas Law Review 1829 (1998)

Introduction — Program: AALS Section on Civil Procedure — Summing Up Procedural Justice: Exploring the Tension Between Collective Processes and Individual Rights in the Context of Settlement and Litigating Classes, 30 U.C. Davis Law Review 787 (1997)

The Myth of Cost-Free Jurisdictional Reallocation, 543 Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 63 (1996)

William W Schwarzer: A Judge for All Seasons, 28 U.C. Davis Law Review 1097 (1995)

Defining the Limits of Delegation, 3:1 The Long Term View 85 (Symposium — Law Clerks: The Transformation of the Judiciary) (Spring 1995)

The Pitfalls of ‘Hint and Run’ History: A Critique of Professor Borchers’ ‘Limited View’ of Pennoyer v. Neff, 28 U.C. Davis Law Review 591 (1995)

An Open Letter on Reforming the Process of Revising the Federal Rules, 55 Montana Law Review 435 (1994)

Proceedings of the Western Regional Conference on State-Federal Judicial Relationships, 155 Federal Rules Decisions 233 (1994)

The Future Relationship of California’s State and Federal Courts: An Essay on Jurisdictional Reform, the Transformation of Property, and the New Age of Information, 66 Southern California Law Review 2233 (1993)

Conceptions of Natural Law Within the Philosophy of Adjudication — Metaphorical, Metaphysical, and Metatheoretical, 26 U.C. Davis Law Review 509 (1993)

Remarks in Honor of Edgar Bodenheimer, 26 U.C. Davis Law Review 503 (1993)

In Memoriam: Edgar Bodenheimer, 1908-1991, (with Carol Bruch, Daniel Dykstra, and Friedrich Juenger), 39 American Journal of Comparative Law 657 (1991)

In Memoriam Edgar Bodenheimer 1908-1991, (with Carol Bruch, Daniel Dykstra, and Friedrich Juenger), 11 Vera Lex no. 2, at p. 43 (1991)

The Screening of Appeals: The Ninth Circuit’s Experience in the Eighties and Innovations for the Nineties, 1991 Brigham Young University Law Review 859

Recent Statutory Changes Affecting Federal Jurisdiction and Venue: the Judicial Improvements and Access to Justice Act of 1988 and the Judicial Improvements Act of 1990, 24 U.C. Davis Law Review 735 (1991)

Conference on Empirical Research in Judicial Administration, (with Michael A. Berch, Thomas W. Church, Jr., Jerry Goldman, Arthur D. Hellman, D. Marie Provine, Maurice Rosenberg, John R. Schmidhauser, and Stephen L. Wasby), 21 Ariz. St. L.J. 33 (1989)

The Federal Rules in State Courts: A Survey of State Court Systems of Civil Procedure, (with Arthur F. Coon), 61 Washington Law Review 1367 (1986)

From Information to Opinion in Appellate Courts: How Funny Things Happen on the Way through the Forum, (with Robert S. Thompson), 1986 Arizona State Law Journal 1

The United States as Participant in Public Law Litigation: Recent Developments, 13 U.C. Davis Law Review 247 (1980)

Foreword — Problems of Intervention in Public Law Litigation: A Symposium, 13 U.C. Davis Law Review 211 (1980)

Law Clerks in Judges’ Eyes: Tradition and Innovation in the Use of Staff by American Judges, (with Robert S. Thompson), 67 California Law Review 1286 (1979)

Taking Wright Seriously: Of Judicial Discretion, Jurisprudents and the Chief Justice, 4 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 789 (1977)

From Hearsay to Eternity: Pendency and the Co Conspirator Exception in California — Fact, Fiction and a Novel Approach, 16 Santa Clara Law Review 1 (1976)

The Ins and Outs of IATA: Improving the Role of the United States in the Regulation of International Air Fares, 81 Yale Law Journal 1102 (1972)