Harvard Law School Names New Dean

John Manning with former Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan. Courtesy photo

On July 1, John Manning will become the 13th dean of Harvard Law School, replacing Martha Minow, who has led the school for the past eight years.
Manning, who previously served as deputy dean, is a constitutional law scholar who has been on the Harvard Law faculty since 2004. The New York Times reports that he has been involved in significant decisions and changes at the school, including the decision to accept GRE scores in place of the LSAT, and the decision to extend the deferred enrollment program to juniors at other universities. Both of these changes were meant to increase diversity at the school.
“I plan to do a lot of listening,” Manning told The Harvard Crimson in a report published Friday (June 2). “I plan to have a lot of conversations with students, staff, faculty, and alumni to get ideas about what we want to accomplish as we begin our third century.”
Manning, Class of 1982, clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Judge Robert H. Bork prior to joining the Harvard Law faculty. He twice held positions in the Justice Department: as attorney-adviser to the Office of Legal Counsel during the Reagan administration, and an assistant to U.S. Solicitor General Ken Starr.
Manning also worked as an associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; before joining Harvard Law he taught at Columbia Law School for a decade.
“Having admired John Manning since we were law students together more than 30 years ago, I know he will lead Harvard Law School with the energy, intelligence, collegiality, and good judgment that he brings to everything he does,” said Elena Kagan, who served as Harvard Law’s dean from 2003 to 2009 and who now sits on the U.S. Supreme Court. “He embodies a blend of scholarly accomplishment, devotion to teaching, engagement with practice, and passion for the law that represents the best of our profession.”

Martha Minow. Courtesy photo

Manning has argued nine cases before the Supreme Court and is known as an expert in statutory interpretation and structural constitutional law, according to The New York Times. 
Students, however, have expressed frustration with a lack of transparency in the dean selection process. The leaders of 10 student affinity groups had endorsed Law School professor David B. Wilkins for the deanship, The Crimson reported earlier this year.
In an open letter addressed to Harvard University President Drew Faust, the student groups wrote, “We, as a University, as a Law School, and as a distinctly privileged group of individuals, cannot afford to squander the opportunity to appoint Professor David Wilkins as Dean of Harvard Law School.”
The students also noted that of 86 tenured professors at Harvard Law, there are only nine black, one East-Asian, and two South-Asian individuals. “Placing professors with diverse identities and socioeconomic backgrounds in front of students at HLS encourages the discussion of different views that shape the motivated reasoning behind legal decisions and emphasizes the importance of different perspectives in shaping the law,” the groups’ letter reads. “It also demonstrates to women, students of color, LGTBQ students, first-generation students, and low-income students that their identities are seen, reflected, and valued by Harvard.”
Outgoing Dean Martha Minow, however, says that Harvard Law School will be fortunate to have Manning at the helm.
“John Manning’s generosity of spirit, his superb judgment and integrity, his commitment to respectful and vigorous consideration of all points of view, and his longstanding contributions to strengthening community illuminate our crucial values, and I look forward to the splendid next chapter for this exceptional School,” The Harvard Gazette reports her saying.
Manning says his priority is to engage in discussion with members of the law school to ensure that the school supports a vibrant exchange of ideas. He told The Crimson: “I love Harvard Law School. It’s where I learned to love the law and I’m very grateful to come to work here every day. It’s a great place and I’m so delighted to be taking on this new role.”

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