Chemerinsky: Gravely Wronged by the University of California . . . But Still a Shameless Partisan Hack Who Gets It Wrong All The Time
Erwin Chemerinsky was recently hired to head a new law school at U.C. Irvine — and now the offer has been rescinded. Here’s Brian Leiter:
About a week ago, Erwin Chemerinsky, the well-known constitutional law scholar at Duke, signed a contract to be the inaugural Dean of the new law school at the University of California at Irvine.
Yesterday, the Chancellor of the University of Ca[li]fornia at Irvine flew to Durham and fired Chemerinsky, saying that he had not been aware of how Chemerinsky’s political views would make him a target for criticism from conservatives.
This has to make the Chancellor of the University of California the biggest bonehead on the face of the planet. More on the story is available here, including a confirmation from Chemerinsky himself.
I am torn in different directions on this.
It is — at a minimum — very weaselly to sign a contract with Chemerinsky and then withdraw it. I think the reason given is complete nonsense; anyone who doesn’t understand that Erwin Chemerinsky is going to arouse conservative opposition is a numbskull. Nor do I agree with the premise that a law school dean cannot have strongly held and expressed political views. If that is the reason for rejecting Chemerinsky, that is not a valid reason to back out on a contract. I agree with John Leo, who says:
If the blog report is accurate, the treatment of Chemerinsky is a test case for conservatives who support free speech and argue vehemently against political tests for faculty and administration appointments. Do these principles apply only to conservatives, or do they protect liberals as well?
Leo is absolutely right. As Laurie Levenson notes, Ken Starr and John Eastman are deans of their respective law schools, and they have strong conservative views. If it’s OK for them to be law school deans, then it’s OK for a leftist partisan to be a law school dean too.
I agree with all that. Entirely.
And I have spoken to U.S.C. grads who took classes from Chemerinsky and said he was a good teacher.
I also think that Chemerinsky would have been good for the U.C. Irvine law school in many ways. He would have brought prestige to the school, along with, no doubt, a number of talented scholars.
But . . .
But Chemerinsky really is an intellectually dishonest weasel and a shamelessly hypocritical hack. And if the school had rejected him — not backed out of a signed contract, but simply rejected him outright — on that basis, I’d be hard pressed to get too upset about it.
It pains me to say this. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when liberals say that I am a reasonable conservative (and many often do!). And many reasonable conservatives are praising Chemerinsky in the wake of his shabby treatment at the hands of the Chancellor. Over at the L.A. Times, Matt Welch has assembled quotes from a distinguished list of conservative commentators who defend Chemerinsky, lauding him as a reasonable guy.
The problem is, he just isn’t. I have reams of links to prove it.
On the issue of filibusters, Chemerinsky has engaged in as stunning an example of hypocrisy as you are ever likely to see from a public figure. Seriously. Click the link and read the quotes. Hugh Hewitt, who regularly has Chemerinsky on his show and is defending him now, failed to call Chemerinsky on the hypocrisy.
During the Alito hearings, Chemerinsky went on the radio to distort the facts of a controversial Alito-penned decision. He later penned a jaw-droppingly dishonest screed against Justice Alito and Roberts, prompting me to say:
The sun rose again today. The sky is still blue. Politicians are still weasels. And Erwin Chemerinsky is still being dishonest on the pages of the Los Angeles Times
Chemerinsky wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on the Michael Newdow Pledge of Allegiance case — which conveniently omitted any disclosure of his own role as an advisor to Newdow on that very case. Is this the sort of honest disclosure he brings to his teaching?
What’s more, he suffers from the Laurie Levenson syndrome: by trying to be an expert on everything, he often ends up overextending himself and looking foolish — at least to people who actually know what they’re talking about. Our own Justin Levine caught him doing this in 2003, on a First Amendment issue. (Justin out-analyzed Chemerinsky again in 2004.) Chemerinsky screws up basic facts so often I once asked, with good reason: does he ever get tired of being wrong?
This is not to say that he is always dishonest or always wrong — but he sure is one or both a shockingly large percentage of the time.
Look, there are some law professors who are plenty liberal, but who nevertheless command my respect. I took Con Law from Jack Balkin of Yale (when he taught at U.T. Austin) and he’s as liberal as the day is long — but I don’t recall ever catching him being blatantly wrong, stupidly hypocritical, or shamelessly promoting a ridiculous hackish argument.
A guy like that could easily make a great dean. Chemerinsky, if his public utterances are any guide, would not — not because he is liberal, but because he is transparently hypocritical, intellectually dishonest, and consistently wrong on legal issues and issues of fact. Would you want someone like that as your dean?