You rememember Erwin: he was hired, then fired, then hired again! The usual right-wing rat bastards were making their move, but it backfired. Nyah.
Q. Do you have one main goal for the new school?
A. We want to be a top 20 law school as soon as we can, all the faculty and staff are coming from top 20 law schools, but if we just replicate what other top 20 law schools do then we've failed. We have this wonderful opportunity to create the dream law school. The central tension we face is the need to keep a sufficient number of traditional elements, while adding our own innovations.
Q. Many people have been opposed to creation of a new University of California law school, saying the state doesn't need any more lawyers. How would you answer those people?
A. Orange County has 3 million people but it has no public university law school, nor is there one between Los Angeles and the border with Mexico. I think we can create a law school here that will make a difference.
Q. When the UCI chancellor sought approval for this law school, he said it was necessary to create more public interest lawyers. Critics responded that there are already plenty of students who would like to practice public interest law, but the high cost of law school and hefty student loans drive them into private practice. What would you say to those critics?
A. That's just not true. And I can say that from having been a law professor for 20 years. Wherever lawyers go, in big firms or small, they can spare part of their time to serve the public. They should be doing something with their law degree to make the world a better place. We plan to match the Berkeley (law school) loan forgiveness program for students going into a certain range of employment.
Q. As a former law student and longtime professor, certain things must have irritated you over the years that you want to change in your own school. Can you name some of them?
A. I don't think law schools spend time preparing students for the practice of law. We can do a better job. I want every law student to have some clinical experience with at least one client before they graduate. Most students graduate never having had a client. … I want to teach fact investigation. … I have hired L.A. Times (legal affairs) reporter Henry Weinstein to be a professor and teach it to our students….
Q. Can you remember things specifically that bothered you when you were a law student?
A. I went to Harvard in the 1970s, and, overall, I was disappointed in the quality of the teaching. I had a sense that the faculty that was there then didn't seem to care much about teaching….
Q. Why did you go to law school? Did you know you wanted to be a law professor?
A. I went to law school because I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. I knew someday I wanted to be a teacher. At one point I even became certified as a high-school teacher….
Q. You teach. You write a lot. You argue cases before the Supreme Court. You have a family. How do you do it all? Some of your friends joke that you never sleep.
A. I don't need a lot of sleep. I am just high energy. I have a low stress level. I don't obsess and worry about things too much….
Q. When Chapman University wants to recruit a new faculty member, the president takes them out on a borrowed yacht in Newport Harbor. How did you recruit your faculty?
A. Well, I don't have a yacht and I don't know how to swim. Don't look shocked. I'm from the south side of Chicago. My pitch is to come and create a dream law school….
Q. There was national attention when you were hired, fired and then rehired by UCI Chancellor Michael Drake, which you said at the time was due to political pressure over your liberal politics. What are people saying to you about that now?
A. For the most part, it's in the past. Occasionally, it comes up. I've had a year now of working with Michael Drake and our relationship is better than ever.
Q. How have you changed your outspokenness as a result of your new job as law dean? Have you toned it down?
A. I have an op-ed piece today in the L.A. Times on gun control. I think it's very important for a law faculty to express its opinions to the public on matters of law….
Q. There were some newspaper stories that implied without saying that (billionaire law school donor) Donald Bren was behind the plan to sabotage your appointment. Have you met him?
A. I have met him at functions and he's an important supporter for the law school. Those stories were just false and very unfair to him.
Q. Some Jewish people have described UCI as "the most anti-Semitic campus in America." You are Jewish. What do you think about that?
A. This is something I looked at very closely. I think it's a misapprehension. There was a letter written by students at several Jewish organizations on campus talking about the wonderful Jewish student life here. As a Jew, I have never seen the slightest evidence of anti-Semitism on campus.
There have been some speeches on campus against Israel that crossed over into anti-Semitic speech. But a university has to be a forum for all ideas, even if we don't agree with them.
Q. Now you've bought a house in University Hills. How does that work?
A. You buy the house and the university owns the land. Usually, faculty get put on a waiting list until some older people retire, but we heard the couple who owned this house was selling, so we were able to buy it. One of the things that attracted me to this campus was that we could live on campus and walk to work. There's a real community feeling here, too. That was one reason we left L.A. (for North Carolina four years ago). We didn't like the traffic and we wanted a different type of community.
Q. Have you met any of your neighbors?
A. Oh yes, people have come over and made us feel welcome. It's very nice.