By Susan Gluss
Sujit Choudhry, a renowned expert in comparative constitutional law, has been named dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Choudhry, the Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and founder of its Center for Constitutional Transitions, will begin a five-year term beginning July 1, 2014.
The appointment culminates an open, national search that considered both internal and external candidates.
UC Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele today called Choudhry a “brilliant scholar, professor, and mentor,” who would inspire and lead with “big ideas” during a time of rapid change in the legal profession.
“Choudhry’s enduring commitment to social mobility, diversity, and educational excellence will bring renewed energy to the law school’s core mission of public service and community engagement.” Steele said.
Choudhry’s recent work has had an international focus that dovetails closely with the university’s global outreach and scholarship. At the Center for Constitutional Transitions, he led a network of academics in two dozen countries that provided research and policy guidance for civic leaders engaged in constitution drafting. Law students employed by the center’s clinical arm also provided research and real time on-the-ground support.
Choudhry is a member of the United Nations Mediation Roster, and has served as a consultant to the World Bank Institute and as an expert in support of constitutional transitions in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Choudhry, 44, called the Berkeley Law deanship “the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“Berkeley Law is simply a remarkable institution,” Choudhry said. “It is among the very best law schools in the nation, and is an integral part of one of the world’s great research universities. I am deeply attracted to Berkeley Law’s public mission; it is committed to equality of opportunity, academic excellence, and diversity like no other law school that I know.”
In his visits to campus, Choudhry said, he was “struck by how members of the Berkeley Law community—faculty, staff, students and alumni—strongly identify with, and love, this law school. I am thrilled, and humbled by this honor.”
A prolific scholar, Choudhry has published more than 70 articles, book chapters, working papers, and reports. His core work addresses basic methodological questions in comparative constitutional law. He also studies constitutional design as a way for states to transition from civil war to peaceful democracies, especially in ethnically divided societies.
Referring to the changes facing legal education, Choudhry said the future belongs to law schools that “seize upon this moment as an opportunity for innovation” with “energy and imagination.”
“Berkeley Law is poised to be a global leader in equipping its students to thrive in this changing environment,” he said. “In the 21st century, the very best law schools will integrate research, experiential education, and policy engagement to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The best law schools will also be global crossroads for people and ideas from around the world. I am confident that, together, we will ensure that Berkeley Law will thrive in this environment and reach new heights.”
Prior to joining NYU, Choudhry was an associate dean and the Scholl Professor of Law at the University of Toronto. Described as “highly interdisciplinary,” Choudhry held cross appointments in the university’s political science and public policy departments. He was a member of the blue ribbon Governing Toronto Advisory Panel and sat on the board of directors at Legal Aid Ontario, one of the world’s largest publicly funded legal assistance programs. In 2011, the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto named him Practitioner of the Year.
A Rhodes Scholar, Choudhry holds law degrees from Oxford, Toronto, and Harvard. In 2010, he was one of four Canadians to receive the Trudeau Fellowship, Canada’s equivalent of the MacArthur awards. He served as law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada and was counsel of record in a number of major cases before the court.
Choudhry will serve as Berkeley Law’s 12th dean. He relieves Interim Dean Gillian Lester, and replaces Christopher Edley, Jr., who stepped down in December 2013 after nearly ten years as dean.