That didn’t take long.
Two weeks ago, Columbia Law named Gillian Lester, acting dean of Berkeley Law, as its new dean. Just two weeks later, Boalt Hall has already found her replacement.
Today (May 6), the University of California at Berkeley appointed Sujit Choudhry, 44, a constitutional law professor at New York University, as Lester’s replacement. He will assume his position on July 1.
“A Sensational Appointment”
In a press release, Claude Steele, U.C.-Berkeley’s Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, described Choudhry as “brilliant” and full of “big ideas.” “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 future peers were equally impressed. “This is a sensational appointment,” Robert D. Cooter, a Berkeley Law selection committee member and professor, tells The Daily Californian. “The job of the dean is impossible because it combines so many skills that you can’t expect to find in a single person. I think that Sujit combines those skills to a degree that is truly remarkable.”
Former Finalist to Be NYU Law Dean
At NYU Law, Choudhry founded and directed the Center for Constitutional Transitions, a group of academics from two dozen nations that provides research and support to leaders involved in drafting national constitutions. Along with being a member of the United Nations’ mediation roster, Choudhry has worked as a consultant for the Work Bank, helping with constitutional transitions in hot spots like Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and Sri Lanka.
Before joining the NYU faculty in 2011, Choudhry spent 12 years on the faculty of the University of Toronto, including three years as the associate dean of the first-year program. Along with lecturing at the law school, he taught in the university’s public policy and governance school and its political science department. A Rhodes Scholar, Choudhry holds law degrees from Oxford’s University College, Harvard Law, and the University of Toronto. He also served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Antonio Lamer of the Supreme Court of Canada.
For his scholarship and service, Choudhry was awarded Canada’s Trudeau Fellowship in 2010, the equivalent to America’s MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. In 2013, Choudhry had been a finalist for the dean opening at NYU Law, which eventually went to Trevor W. Morrison.
“Polished, Engaging and Thoughtful”
During the interview process, Choudhry was amazed by the pride and loyalty demonstrated by Berkeley Law’s “faculty, staff, students and alumni.” He was equally attracted to the school’s mission. “It is committed to equality of opportunity, academic excellence, and diversity like no other law school that I know.”
Choudhry himself has set the bar high for both himself and the law school. “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.”
One of Choudhry’s NYU Law colleagues is already betting on him to make a splash at Boalt Hall. “Sujit is the kind of person who’s comfortable talking to and interacting with anyone from first-year students to heads of state and CEOs,” Robert Howse, professor of international law, tells The Daily Californian. “He’s a very polished, engaged and thoughtful leader, and I think he’ll make a great dean.”
Sujit Choudhry on Demographics and Democracy