By Andrew Cohen
Three award-winning scholars—a political theorist, a property law expert, and an African-American history specialist—recently joined the Berkeley Law faculty.
Joshua Cohen — One of the world’s leading political theorists, Cohen examines issues at the intersection of democratic norms and institutions. He is a distinguished senior fellow at the law school who holds similar positions in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science.
“UC Berkeley is an amazing school and I’m thrilled to join it,” Cohen said. “It’s the greatest public university in the country. I have a lot of personal and professional connections here—most notably my wife, Ellen Eisen, who teaches in the School of Public Health.”
Previously, Cohen was a professor at Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At Berkeley, he will lead a weekly course that brings in outside speakers to present works-in-progress in legal, moral, and political philosophy. It will alternate between the law school’s Kadish Center for Morality, Law & Public Affairs and the College of Letters and Science’s Social Sciences Matrix.
“The course is built around interesting people who are working on meaningful projects,” said Cohen, who will also serve on dissertation committees for Berkeley Law’s Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) Program. “We’ll convene scholars in law, political science, philosophy, and sometimes other disciplines to expose students to compelling ideas from a wide range of fields.”
The author of 10 books, Cohen has written extensively on issues of democratic theory and global justice. Since 1991, he has also served as the editor of Boston Review, a bimonthly magazine of political, cultural, and literary ideas.
Cohen is currently on the faculty at Apple University, the technology company’s internal training program for employees.
“We get them thinking about topics, concepts, and issues that may have importance in their decision-making and engagement with the rest of the world,” he said. “One of my courses is called ‘The Best Things,’ which came from a remark by Steve Jobs. His premise was that if you want to produce great products, you have to ‘expose yourself to the best things humans have done, and bring those things into what you are doing.’”
Sonia Katyal — Katyal’s recruiting visit to Berkeley Law fueled an already turbo-charged interest in joining the school.
“The students are a vibrant, inspiring, brilliant bunch of individuals,” she said. “I’m also very excited about joining a world-class faculty that excels in two areas I care deeply about: intellectual property and gender and sexuality.”
Katyal taught for 13 years at Fordham University School of Law, where she also served as associate dean for research. Her current scholarship focuses on the legal design of proprietary entitlements and their distributional effects.
“What are the factors behind who becomes included and excluded from law-related protections?” she said, explaining her interests. “In examining gender, sexuality, and other social justice issues, how do these areas intersect with technology and property frameworks, including intellectual and cultural property law?”
Katyal comes to Berkeley Law through a national search conducted by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society LGBTQ Cluster. She will teach courses on gender and sexuality, trademark law, property law, and international intellectual property.
Her scholarly work focuses on intellectual property, civil rights, artistic freedom, advertising, and innovation. Katyal’s past projects have studied the relationship between copyright enforcement and privacy as applied to new media, and the intersection between civil disobedience and innovation in property and intellectual property frameworks.
Some of her honors include winning the Dukeminier Award, which recognizes the best legal scholarship on sexual orientation, and Yale’s Cybercrime Writing Competition. She also won the Andy Warhol Foundation’s Creative Capital Award—the first law professor to receive a grant devoted to writing on the visual arts and law.
“As a woman of color, I know firsthand how important it is to have accessible faculty, so I try to be available to my students as much as possible,” she said. “They inspire me to get up every morning—to write, teach, and share ideas—and it’s an honor to support their work in return.”
Dylan C. Penningroth — Increasingly heated discussions about race in America over the past year are no surprise to Penningroth, who specializes in African-American and U.S. socio-legal history.
“Issues of race, rights, and unequal treatment have long been simmering in this country,” he said. “As a historian, it’s my job to take the long view. And with respect to African-American experiences in the courts, the way people talk about these issues is deeply influenced by a legal language that goes back centuries.”
A history professor at Northwestern University for the past 12 years, Penningroth now has a joint appointment in law and history at UC Berkeley. His teaching in the upcoming school year will include a JSP graduate course on African-American legal history.
“At Berkeley, there’s a constellation of faculty coming together in my fields of interest,” he said. “When you look at what the university offers in terms of legal history, and more specifically in American and British legal history related to race, that’s hard to beat.”
In addition to his duties at Northwestern, Penningroth has been a research professor at the American Bar Foundation since 2007. There, he coordinated weekly seminars and other programming while sharing ideas with other socio-legal experts.
“That experience opened my eyes to what you can do when examining law and legal foundations with the tools of a historian,” he said. “It brought me into this law school universe.”
His first book, The Claims of Kinfolk: African American Property and Community in the Nineteenth-Century South, won the Organization of American Historians’ Avery Craven Prize. Penningroth’s many other honors include a prestigious MacArthur Foundation fellowship.
Currently, he is working on a study of African Americans’ encounters with law from the Civil War to the civil rights movement—which examines the practical meaning of legal rights for black life.
“It’s quite revealing to explore how legal meanings are shaped not only by judges and lawyers, but by a whole range of voices and processes,” Penningroth said.