By Andrew Cohen
Professor Emeritus David Caron ’83, a prominent international law expert and Berkeley Law professor for 26 years, died in London on February 20. Admitted to a hospital last weekend after falling ill, he was 65.
A leading scholar, judge, and arbitrator, Caron taught at Berkeley Law from 1987 to 2013, gaining a reputation as a warm and generous peer and teacher. Colleagues recalled him as an international law “superstar,” an innovator, a mentor, and a nurturing father.
Caron became dean at Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s College in London in 2013. He continued there as a professor after leaving the deanship in 2016.
“David was very successful and reached the top in all he did,” says King’s College faculty member Jan Dalhuisen, a regular visiting professor at Berkeley Law since 1998. “Both being international arbitrators, he gave me generous and very necessary advice in my most difficult cases, for which I remain eternally grateful. I was delighted when he became our dean at King’s College, where he made all the difference and turned the law school around in a very short time.”
Caron held numerous high-level roles in international law and dispute resolution. He served as an arbitrator, lead counsel, and expert in private and public proceedings, including commercial arbitration administered by the International Chamber of Commerce.
Caron was also a member of the UN Compensation Commission for claims arising out of the 1990 Gulf War. In 2015, the U.S. government appointed him as a judge at the Iran-US Claims Tribunal in The Hague, where he also sat as an ad hoc judge at the International Court of Justice.
Just last week, he was in The Hague presiding over a dispute between the U.S. and Iran related to decades-old foreign military sales contracts.
Last fall, Caron and Asa Solway ’09 created a new field placement program for Berkeley Law students to spend a semester in The Hague. The program provides externship opportunities at international criminal tribunals, arbitration courts, and other bodies.
“David possessed the rare ability to be both larger than life and immensely personable,” Solway says. “Conversations could flick in the blink of an eye between an arbitration focused on a distant part of the world, a Tintin adventure, a salvage diving expedition, and a song playing in the background given to him by his daughter. I’m forever grateful to have known him as a friend, colleague, and mentor.”
Scholar and arbitrator
Caron joined the arbitration chambers at London’s 20 Essex Street in 2009, focusing on international dispute resolution. One of his cases under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), arising from a Mexico tax on beverages containing high fructose corn syrup, ordered Mexico to pay more than $77 million in damages—then the largest-ever NAFTA award.
He also presided at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes and served as counsel for the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal, which decided compensation claims arising from U.S. nuclear testing in the South Pacific.
A prolific scholar, Caron sat on the editorial board for the American Journal of International Law and was co-editor-in-chief of the World Arbitration and Mediation Review and the Social Science Research Network International Environmental Law Ejournal. He also chaired the International Law Section of the Association of American Law Schools, and was president of the American Society of International Law and the Institute for Transnational Arbitration,
At Berkeley Law, Caron taught public international law, resolution of private international disputes, ocean law and policy, and an advanced international law writing workshop. He co-directed the school’s Miller Institute on Global Challenges and the Law and was instrumental in bringing to Berkeley the Law of the Sea Institute, an internationally recognized forum for ocean law scholarship and analysis.
“It goes without saying that Professor Caron had a brilliant mind and an undeniable mastery of his chosen professional and academic fields,” says former student Sarah Wright-Schreiberg ’09, Berkeley Law’s director of advocacy competitions. “But what made the greatest impact on me was how his obvious brilliance was matched by a genuine warmth and generosity of spirit.”
Caron was born on June 28, 1952, in Hartford. He attended the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, graduated in 1974 with high honors, and served in the Arctic and off the California coast. Caron received a medal for his achievements and resigned from the service as a lieutenant in 1979.
He attended the University of Wales as a Fulbright Scholar, obtaining a master’s degree in marine law and policy, before attending Berkeley Law and graduating Order of the Coif. Caron then served as a legal assistant at the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague from 1983 to 1986, and earned an international law diploma at The Hague Academy.
After a one-year research fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public and International Law, Caron spent a year at a San Francisco law firm before joining Berkeley Law’s faculty.
Claudia Polsky ’96, who directs the school’s Environmental Law Clinic, credits Caron for persuading her to attend Berkeley Law after several years in the working world.
“David got me wildly excited about coming here to become an international environmental lawyer, my then-intention,” she says. “I learned an enormous amount as his research assistant in my 1L and 2L years … What I remember most fondly, though, was David’s administration of the final exam in his International Law class.”
In what Polsky calls “a particularly socially intelligent move, David had his adorable 5-year-old daughter distribute and collect our final exams,” notably reducing the students’ exam stress. “I can still see her tiny figure in a navy cardigan smiling at us all as she walked up and down the aisles.”
In 2000, Caron received the first Stefan A. Riesenfeld Award, which honors the longtime Berkeley Law professor and recognizes outstanding contributions to international law. At the school’s annual Riesenfeld Symposium on February 21, a moment of silence was held to honor Caron’s passing.
Caron and his wife Susan served as gracious hosts to many Berkeley alums passing through the Bay Area, and later Washington D.C., London, and The Hague. Their ability to bring together different communities under one roof has been fondly remembered by friends, former students, and colleagues.
Berkeley Law community members recall him singing “Amazing Grades” at past Am Jur shows, when faculty performed alongside students, and how he dressed up as and played Santa Claus at the school’s annual holiday party.
Professor Emerita Andrea Peterson ’78 knew Caron as a “talented teacher and scholar” and as a “a loving and nurturing parent.” Her son and his daughter played on the same co-ed soccer team—coached by Peterson’s husband, with Caron his assistant.
“David was so supportive of the kids and so encouraging and he never lost his patience,” Peterson recalls. “That deepened my admiration for him … David was a wonderful human being and will be greatly missed.”
Caron is survived by Susan, his son Peter, daughter Marina, and their extended family in the United States.
His family welcomes stories from friends and colleagues via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. These will soon be shared on a hub at www.davidcaron.life. Information about commemorative services will be available in due course.