Mourning a Law School Titan

Eleanor Swift

Professor Emerita Eleanor Swift — a pathbreaking Evidence scholar who was both a trailblazer for women in legal academia and a beloved mentor to countless students — died Sept. 20, Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky announced. Swift joined the faculty in 1979 and retired from teaching in 2014. 

In an email to the law school community, Chemerinsky noted Swift received the school’s Rutter Award for Teaching Distinction as well as UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award and served as associate dean under Herma Hill Kay. Over many years, she played “a crucial role in the development of every aspect of the law school’s clinical, skills, and legal writing programs.”

“None of this begins to capture how vital she was to Berkeley Law and the Berkeley campus for decades,” Chemerinsky wrote, adding that the school will hold a memorial service for Swift. 

The fifth woman hired to the law school’s faculty, Swift became an eminent scholar, particularly in Evidence. She also made it her mission to mentor women, both inside the classroom and in her research field. She twice chaired the Evidence Section of the Association of American Law Schools, and received the 2022 John Henry Wigmore Award for Lifetime Achievement from that section. For all her public achievements, it was her devotion to creating the clinical programs and her personal inspiration of students and her mentoring of younger women faculty that most capture her career.

“She has inspired generations of female law professors to ‘think big’ and enter an area of research that has historically been shaped by the work of male law professors,” Penn Law Professor Jasmine E. Harris said.

Add your memories to this In Memoriam page for Professor Swift