Rave Recruits

faculty group
TOP TEACHERS: (From left) Rebecca Wexler, Abhay Aneja, David Singh Grewal, Manisha Padi, Jonathan Gould, Rebecca Goldstein, Khiara Bridges, Orin Kerr, and Jonah Gelbach.

Transcript Magazine LogoBy Andrew Cohen

Given its prominent stature, inviting location, and collegial culture, Berkeley Law has enjoyed many years of strong faculty hiring. But it will take a herculean effort for the school—or any school—to top what it achieved in 2019.

With the addition of nine (not a typo) stellar educators, Berkeley Law is reaping the benefits of a powerful talent injection.

“This number of appointments, each of them exciting, is a singular accomplishment in the recent history of American law schools,” says professor and former dean Christopher Edley, Jr. “Our faculty renaissance is a powerful indicator of the strength of this scholarly community. It’s a thrilling time to be teaching at Berkeley Law. Apparently, others know that, too.”

University of Chicago Law Professor Brian Leiter, who runs an influential blog on law schools, described the school’s hiring year as “spectacular.” Berkeley Law welcomed four lateral hires who were tenured professors at other top law schools, and five entry-level professors with sterling credentials.

The faculty appointments committee, chaired by Professor Bertrall Ross, “succeeded beyond even my most optimistic dreams,” Dean Erwin Chemerinsky says. “It’s really exciting to have so many terrific new faculty members choosing Berkeley Law. Were this class of faculty measured in the same way as college football or basketball recruits, there is no doubt that we had the best recruitment year of any law school in the country.”

Spanning a huge range of expertise and practice areas, the new faculty are unified by their passion for teaching—and for their new home.

Khiara M. Bridges

khiara bridges
Khiara M. Bridges

Bridges spent nine years as a professor at Boston University School of Law, where she also was the school’s associate dean for equity, justice, and engagement. The author of three books and numerous law review articles, she is a prolific scholar on race, class, and reproductive rights and justice. 

Bridges graduated valedictorian from Spelman College—earning her degree in three years—before getting her law degree and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia. A classically trained ballet dancer, she sits on the board of the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-edits a reproductive justice book series published by UC Press.

“I’ve admired Berkeley Law’s faculty from afar since I joined the legal academy,” says Bridges, who will teach Family Law, Criminal Law, and a Reproductive Rights and Justice seminar. “I jumped at the chance to make these folks my colleagues.” 

Jonah Gelbach

jonah gelbach
Jonah Gelbach

Gelbach comes from a professorship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and has taught students in law, economics, business, and public policy programs at the J.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., and undergraduate levels.

A director of the American Law and Economics Association and co-editor of the Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, he enrolled in law school at 38 after 12 years as an economics professor. He has published in many top law and economic journals, with academic interests including civil procedure, evidence, statutory interpretation, and applied microeconomics.

“There are so many areas in which Berkeley Law excels … and the university-wide community of economists is among the very best in the world,” says Gelbach, who will teach Civil Procedure and Legislation next school year. “As an economist myself, I’m delighted to be able to be part of that community. Plus, the weather and views are pretty good.” 

David Singh Grewal

David Singh Grewal

Grewal was a professor at Yale Law School and held a cross-appointment in the Yale political science department. A Bay Area native “delighted to be returning home,” his interests include legal and political theory, international trade law, intellectual property law, and law and economics. 

Grewal has written articles in leading law journals and major newspapers, and will publish his second book next year. The winner of three teaching excellence awards, he earned his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard and his J.D. from Yale.

“The decision to come to Berkeley was made all the easier thanks to Erwin Chemerinsky, an extraordinary lawyer, academic, and administrator,” Grewal says. “It’s wonderful to see the Berkeley Law faculty being renewed under Erwin’s leadership. The chance to be part of that was simply too good to pass up.” 

Orin Kerr

Orin Kerr

Kerr, a renowned criminal procedure and computer crime law scholar, says Berkeley has “probably the best law school in the country for the study of law and technology. Most of my research and teaching is about technology law, so it was a natural fit. I’m excited to learn from Berkeley’s outstanding faculty, and to meet its legendary students.”

He arrives from a professorship at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. Kerr previously taught at George Washington Law School and won its Outstanding Teaching Award in 2009. More than 3,000 academic papers and 350 judicial opinions have cited his articles, seven of which appear in U.S. Supreme Court opinions.

Chief Justice John Roberts appointed him to serve on the Advisory Committee for the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2013, and on the Judicial Conference’s committee to review the Criminal Justice Act in 2015.  Kerr, who has degrees from Princeton, Stanford, and Harvard, clerked for now-retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He will teach Computer Crime Law in the spring and currently leads a fall seminar called Encryption Workarounds, exploring how the government tries to bypass encryption in criminal investigations.

“Imagine the government seizes a person’s cell phone, but it’s locked,” says Kerr, who has testified six times before Congressional committees. “The government has a warrant to search the phone, but they can’t get in because the device is encrypted. What can the government do to unlock the phone? … There are a lot of hard legal issues and tough technological questions raised by this problem.”

The law school’s five new junior faculty members are:

Abhay Aneja

Abhay Aneja

Aneja completed his J.D. at Stanford and is finishing his Ph.D. at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. A former Fulbright fellow who will join Berkeley Law in 2020, he uses quantitative social science tools to study the interactions between political, social, and economic inequality—and how legal institutions either perpetuate or ameliorate inequality.

His recent research has been supported by fellowships from the Economic History Association, Berkeley Institute for Labor and Employment, and Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Aneja, who will teach courses on election law and local government, has had his work presented five times at the American Law and Economics Association. He grew up in North Carolina and lived in the South until he was 22.

“Growing up in a region with a complicated history of racial tension and discrimination generated my ongoing interest in understanding what institutions can (or fail to) foster economic stability and social progress in multiethnic democracies like ours,” Aneja says.

Rebecca Goldstein

Rebecca Goldstein

Goldstein recently received her Ph.D. from Harvard’s Department of Government. Her main research aims to understand the politics of criminal justice policy, and she has taken on projects related to racial and ethnic politics, bureaucratic politics, and policy evaluation.

Goldstein’s work has appeared in or is forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science, Urban Affairs Review, and the Yale Law Journal. She will teach in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, and says she is “thrilled to follow in the footsteps of other JSP faculty who have been doing important work on those topics for many decades.”

A Boston-area native whose parents both have Ph.D.s, Goldstein enjoys using applied statistics to answer important research questions across the social sciences. Her current research project focuses on the relationships among age, race, and public opinion on controversial political issues. “It’s easy to overlook the fact that whites are much older, on average, than racial minorities, in the U.S. today,” Goldstein says. “I believe that makes age and race an interesting intersection at which public opinion forms.” 

Jonathan Gould

Jonathan Gould

Gould is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review, and is completing his Ph.D. in Harvard’s Department of Government. He writes and teaches in public law, focusing on the legislative process. Gould has worked as a law clerk on the federal court of appeals, at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and at the Public Citizen Litigation Group.

“Too often, when people refer to law they mean only what happens in courts,” he says. “My work uses diverse research methods to shine a light on how legislatures operate, and on why lawyers and legal scholars should care.”

Gould eagerly came to Berkeley Law, which he says “has so many virtues: a great and growing faculty, smart and passionate students, a commitment to a vital public mission, and the world-class university that we share the campus with. “The chance to join such a community was too good to pass up,” he adds. “From my first day on campus, Berkeley Law has lived up to and exceeded my high expectations.”

Manisha Padi

Manisha Padi

Padi, a recent Bigelow fellow and lecturer and National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Chicago Law School, studies consumer financial contracts with a focus on household debt and retirement income. She has a J.D. from Yale Law School and a Ph.D. in economics from M.I.T. Her work has been widely presented at law and economics conferences and has been cited in Bloomberg and by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Having grown up in one of the only immigrant families of her upstate New York suburb, Padi recalls, “What I ate for lunch, the clothes I wore, and the house I lived in were very different from those of my peers,” she says. “Amongst other cultural differences, this was driven partly by my parents’ approach to managing finances and their limited access to financial literacy in their adopted country. I grew to recognize that household financial decisions have enormous consequences not only for young people, but also for the macroeconomy.”

Padi will work with the school’s Berkeley Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice to help advance regulations that benefit consumers and businesses by aligning their incentives and contributing to economic growth. “The center has organized a groundbreaking community of scholars, activists, and policymakers across the country who care deeply about consumer issues,” she says.

Rebecca Wexler

Rebecca Wexler

Wexler, who clerked for federal judges Pierre Leval (Second Circuit Court of Appeals) and Katherine Polk Failla (Southern District of New York), is a rising authority on digital evidence, information law, privacy, and criminal justice. She has degrees from Harvard, Cambridge, and Yale, where she won three law school best-paper awards.

Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Washington Monthly, Slate, and on National Public Radio. “I decided to join Berkeley Law because of its leadership in law and technology, and because of its important public service mission,” says Wexler, who is teaching a seminar on secrecy in courts this semester. “It’s a tremendous honor to get to teach students who are so sharp and engaged, and who bring such diverse and significant experiences to the classroom.”

Wexler spent seven years as a documentary filmmaker, developing films that tackled subjects ranging from the engineering of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to politically motivated computer hackers. She worked with a media collective as a Fulbright senior scholar in Sri Lanka, and taught master classes there for media and communications students. “My time in Sri Lanka initiated an interest in digital video evidence that still motivates me today,” Wexler says.

For Chemerinsky, the excitement of adding nine standout educators is that “all of these new faculty members promise to be great teachers and great scholars. I am very grateful that they chose to join us.”