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Six Professors Appointed to Faculty Chairs at Berkeley Law Ceremony

New chair holders
Gergen, Volpp, Lester, Guzman, and Doremus

By Andrew Cohen

Six Berkeley Law professors received faculty chairs May 1 during a ceremony at the University Club inside Memorial Stadium. Nominated by a committee of faculty colleagues, the professors were honored for their scholarly achievements and teaching excellence.

The new chairs are: Holly Doremus, James H. House and Hiram H. Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation; Mark Gergen, Robert and Joann Burch D.P. Professor of Tax Law and Policy; Andrew Guzman, Jackson H. Ralston Professor of Law and Associate Dean, International and Graduate Programs; Gillian Lester, Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of Law, Acting and Associate Dean; Russell Robinson, Distinguished Haas Chair in LGBT Equity Professor of Law; and Leti Volpp, Robert D. and Leslie Kay Raven Professor of Law in Access to Justice.

“The true foundation of any great law school isn’t its bricks and mortar, but rather the strength of its educators,” Berkeley Law Dean Christopher Edley, Jr. said. “We’re committed to giving our students what they deserve—an exceptional faculty driven to providing the best possible legal training. Honoring these deserving professors solidifies that effort.”

Prior to the ceremony’s cocktail reception and dinner, emceed by Professor Robert Berring, five of the honored professors gave a short presentation on an aspect of their current research.

Doremus, faculty director of the environmental teaching program at the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment, is analyzing what conservation goals should be in an era of rapid global change. “I conclude that protecting wildness is both a desirable and feasible goal,” Doremus said, “and explain that wildness means allowing nature to respond to environmental conditions with minimal human guidance.”

Gergen is immersed in two projects on California, one dealing with a state carbon tax and the other investigating patterns of disagreement on state supreme courts. His state carbon tax study focuses on the design of such a tax, as well as its constitutionality and likely societal value. The other project—an extension of a study Gergen and colleague Kevin Quinn conducted on the New York Court of Appeals from 1900-1940—explores 20th-century patterns of disagreement on the California Supreme Court.

Guzman’s scholarship underscores the impact of international law lacking both the tools for coercive enforcement and a legislative body. “My work has sought to shed light on how states make promises to one another and the ability to solve problems through those promises,” he said. “Why would the act of making a promise alter the behavior of a state? Why would other states ever change their own behavior in reliance? Perhaps most importantly, how much help can international law provide as we try to respond to the world’s most important problems?

Lester is studying the interplay between the use of labor markets and social legislation as a tool of economic distribution, and the process by which individual preferences evolve with respect to work and the state’s role in supplementing economic security. Her work emphasizes “the critical importance of how we design social welfare regulations, how we finance them, and how we educate the public about the relationship between the two.”

Volpp’s timely presentation examines the case of the Tsarnaev brothers—responsible for the two bombs set off during the recent Boston Marathon—from the vantage point of her scholarship on citizenship, immigration, and identity. Both were Chechen immigrants who Volpp said “were able to gain legal permanent residence as derivative beneficiaries of their father’s successful 2002 application for asylum.”

Robinson, out of town at a previously scheduled conference, focuses his scholarly and teaching interests on antidiscrimination law, race and sexuality, law and psychology, constitutional law, and media and entertainment law.