Statement from the Dean's Office

October 15, 2012
Statement by Christopher Edley, Jr., dean of UC Berkeley School of Law, about the actions of two students in Las Vegas, Nevada:

"I’m extremely troubled by news accounts of the students’ actions off campus, but it’s up to the Nevada legal system to examine the facts and rule in this case.  It’s premature to speculate about any possible consequences; the justice system must run its course." 


October 18, 2012

Dean Edley released this statement to the law school community on October 18:

Earlier this week I issued a very brief statementconcerning the alleged involvement of Boalt students in killing a 14-year-old helmeted guinea fowl, a felony under Nevada law:

“I’m extremely troubled by news accounts of the students’ actions off campus, but it’s up to the Nevada legal system to examine the facts and rule in this case. It’s premature to speculate about any possible consequences; the justice system must run its course.” I write to offer some modest elaboration.

I have no first-hand knowledge of the facts, and long personal experience has taught me to never assume that media reports are fully accurate. Indeed, in matters about which I have deep knowledge or personal involvement, at least half of reputable news reports have some kind of error.

More importantly, I believe that all of us—the Berkeley Law community—have a professional, ethical and communal responsibility to let the legal system make its findings of facts and conclusions of law. Others have rushed to judgment and are critical of us for not doing so. So be it.

A word about sanctions, if the justice system eventually finds guilt, the University’s campus counsel has instructed us that “[T]he Student Conduct Code severely limits our ability to discipline off-campus behavior.”1 The logic, I assume, is that as a public (i.e., governmental) institution, we cannot punish someone because of behavior in Las Vegas or elsewhere that tarnished our image or offended widely shared values. Even if criminal.

On the other hand, as all entering J.D. students are told, becoming a lawyer carries an additional test:  Admission to a state bar requires a determination, generally, of good moral character—not just a degree and passing the bar exam. The law school is required to alert bar authorities of relevant issues. A conviction or even arrest will trigger heightened scrutiny and a substantial burden of persuasion for the applicant.

Finally, a few students and alumni have expressed to me their feelings of embarrassment or shame for Berkeley Law. I understand. But there are innumerable ways in which we are an extraordinary community, and I want our collective response to this sad matter to provide yet another.


[1] The relevant provisions are:

“These provisions govern student conduct on, or as it relates to University property, or at official University functions and University-sponsored programs conducted away from the campus.… Student conduct that occurs off University property is subject to the Code where it a) adversely affects the health, safety, or security of any other member of the University community, or the mission of the University, or b) involves academic work or any records or documents of the University.”

(http://campuslife.berkeley.edu/sites/campuslife.berkeley.edu/files/UCB-Code-of-Conduct-new%20Jan2012.pdf at p. 17.)